Author Archives: Andy Baker

Forgiven Pigs

Happy election day! I live 3,000 miles, and yet I am ready for the ads, the Facebook posts, and the extreme negatively to be over. The toughest thing for me with this election (and to be fair, other elections) is how divisive things are. Even amongst us Christians, we seem so caught up in all sorts of political opinions. This is so much the case that I know families that have been painfully divided, people who have left churches, and friendships that have been obliterated, all because of political viewpoints. What always drives me the craziest about all this division over politics is that, at the beginning and end of the day, there is much more that unites us than divides us. And do you know what one of the biggest things that unites us is? We are ALL sinners and we ALL need God’s forgiveness.

This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. 1 John 1:5-10.

Let me put this is some very Iowan terms. Let’s think about pigs for a minute (ok, many of you think about pigs EVERY minute, but track with me anyway). As dirty, smelly, and generally obnoxious pigs can be that’s not how they came into the world. Pigs are actually born nice and clean. They become dirty because they live in relatively dirty conditions (at least to us humans), which they soon adapt to and becomes normal to them. To be honest, we are all a lot like pigs! We didn’t come into this world full of sin, but we soon started sinning. All of a sudden we got so used to our sinful world that it really wasn’t a very big deal to sin anymore. All the other pigs, err people, were living in sin, so we might as well too. Guys, we are all sinners, and we all need to be forgiven. My friend Dr. Artie Hall likes to say that Christians are forgiven pigs. We’ve all fallen into sin, and we all need Jesus to wash us clean. This election day, when we are so divided, let’s remember what unites us. We are all sinners, but God loves us all so much as to die for our sins. Despite our differences, let’s all rejoice is the love and mercy of our awesome Christ.

Let there be Law, Love, and Light!

Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12

These are some of the most familiar, beloved, and memorized words in all of Scripture. Yet, as familiar as they are, we often don’t know the context in which Jesus uttered them. Jesus spoke these words to the assembled crowd right after he told a group of religious leaders that whoever was without sin should cast the first stone {v. 7}. Do you remember that encounter?

Jesus was at the Temple in Jerusalem early one morning, when a crowd sought him out to hear his teaching. Soon, a group of religious leaders came to him, dragging in their wake a woman who had recently been caught adultery. Adultery was considered one of the two most serious sins at the time, and was thereby punishable by death by stoning (although it was seldom enforced). These religious leaders thought they could use this woman’s case as the perfect trap for Jesus. If Jesus {who was known to preach love and forgiveness} forgave her then the leaders would be able to show that he did not fully follow the law. If he did follow the letter of the law, allowing the woman to be executed, then the leaders would be able to show Jesus’ followers that he was not really all that loving and forgiving after all. All in all, it seemed as if they had laid the perfect trap.

Jesus’ response, however, proved to completely turn the world of the leaders on its head. He turned to them and proclaimed “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her” {v. 7}, to which the leaders all the leaders turned away, letting the woman go. Jesus managed to show that he was both perfectly loving and perfectly followed the law. This encounter speaks to three major teaching about Jesus.

  1. Law Reveals Our Guilt: The commandments and teachings of the Bible are meant both to give us a road map to life and to shine guilt on our sins. God’s commands are not there to simply point out the flaws of others, but to reveal our own sins. This guilt should lead us to confess our sins and, like Jesus told the woman that day, to “go, and from now on sin no more” {v.11}.
  2. Love Reveals God’s Grace: Jesus’ love reveals the grace God has for all of us. This incident shows us that Jesus’ love is so great as to gracefully forgive all of our sins so that we may all avoid the punishment we deserve.
  3. Light Reveals Our Hope: The summary of this whole story, as laid out so beautifully in verse 12, is that Jesus offers his love and forgiveness to all. Jesus shines a bright light into our world, giving us all the hope of a PERFECT eternity with HIM in Heaven.

You. Me. We. He

I’ve been preaching at a church here in Managua about once per month. They are currently in a series in 1 Peter, so I just slotted into their schedule. As “luck” would have it I got to preach on the following: Wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct. 1 Peter 3:1

What a fun passage to preach on as an outsider at a church (if there was a sarcastic font, that sentence would be in it)! Here’s the thing about these passages on wives submitting to husbands. We usually get so polarized by them, either believing that the woman is the submissive helpmate of the husband, or that such passages should be ignored because they are culturally insensitive today, that we miss the point. Specifically, we miss that marriage is a covenant, meaning that GOD is THE Head of every marriage. 

Let me illustrate with a story. I once was on a flight between Milwaukee and Newark. As I waited for the flight I watched as every other flight between the Midwest and East Coast was canceled. Amazingly, the gate agent called my flight. I submissively got in line, handed them my ticket, took my assigned seat, stowed my luggage, buckled my seat-belt, and listened to every word of the safety announcement (ok, maybe not that last one). As our plane flew over the East Coast things got really intense. The plane bounced around like a ping-pong ball, with luggage and people’s half-digested dinners flying around the cabin (yes, it was really gross in there!). When we finally hit the runway it was so icy that the plane started to slide, finally landing at a 90-degree angle with the runway (and continuing to slide at that angle!). We eventually arrived at the gate, and as I got off I noticed the captain was all of about 23 years old and his jacket was three sizes too big (likely because he was so new he hadn’t been fitted for one yet). Come to find out, our flight was never cleared to take-off or land, but the pilot decided to anyway to show how talented he was. It didn’t matter that I had followed all the stated rules of the flight, what mattered was that the pilot had chosen not to. 

When a wife is called to be submissive to her husband she is not being told to submit to his every whim, but to his following of God. As husbands, our task is to be obedient followers of God so that we don’t lead our wife and family on a hazardous journey like the pilot did. We are called to follow God’s plan for marriage, following His Word, connecting to Him in prayer, and following the lead of the Spirit. God is the CEO of our marriage, and we are called to be the Chief Follower. Let’s take that role seriously so that we never get in the way of the plan God has for our family. 

Now, Where Did I Put God at?

Incase you haven’t noticed, life is often incredibly hard. There have been times in my life when I’ve gone through difficult trials and wondered: where is God in all this? I think that’s a pretty common feeling. Where is God in cancer? Where is God when my bank account is empty, but my pile of bills in overflowing? Where is God in a broken relationship? If you’ve ever asked that question you are far from the first. It’s a question asked over and over throughout scripture. Here’s just one example:
“Why have you forgotten me?
Why must I go about mourning,
oppressed by the enemy?”
My bones suffer mortal agony
as my foes taunt me,
saying to me all day long,
“Where is your God?” Psalm 42:9-10

Here’s something I’ve been thinking about. Maybe the question isn’t where is God, but rather, where have we put God? The reality is that God never leaves us. Joshua 1:9 puts it this way: Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” God is always present, loving and guiding us. It is us that tend to push him to the side when things get tough. I think we do this in three big ways:

We wall Him out: We refuse to let God into our problems because we’ve bought into the idea that we can do it ourselves. In fact, as men, we’ve been conditioned to believe that real men never need help. Therefore, instead of enlisting God’s help, we wall Him out when we need Him most.

We compartmentalize Him: We let God into some situations in our lives, but not all. It often becomes “God, enlarged my bank account, but don’t ask me to share it. God, bring health to my loved ones, but don’t ask me to serve you.” I think we all have certain sections of our lives that, for one reason or another, we refuse to let God into.

We Ignore Him: Sometimes we just simply put our fingers in our ears and yell “lalalalala!!!” when God is trying to get our attention. Maybe He is calling attention to our sins, challenging us to do something new, or helping us face a difficult reality. Whatever the case, we far too often choose to ignore his presence, love, and advice.

Here’s what I think is really interesting. While we are doing all of these things to keep God out of our difficulties, do you know what God is doing? He is loving us! While the aforementioned Psalm 42 asks about where God is, it also remind us that God is always present showering us with love: By day the Lord directs his love, at night his song is with me Psalm 42:8. When you are in the midst of difficulties make sure you are not keeping God out, but rather opening yourself to his amazing love for you. Pick up your Bible, turn to God in prayer, and turn on your favorite worship music. Be forever reminded of God’s great, perfect, and ever present love.

He Never Stops Working

There’s a song we’ve been singing in church called Way Maker. The whole song is great, but I’ve been especially grabbed by the bridge: Even if I don’t see that you’re working, you never stop, you never stop working. Its pretty powerful to hear the 600+ worshipers in our Nicaraguan church belt that out (in Spanish), often with tears in their eyes. Since the beginning of civil unrest April 19th over 500 people have been killed (according to human rights groups), many are missing (thousands according to some sources), the unemployment rate is enormous, most universities and colleges are closed, large protests occur regularly, and nearly 30,000 have fled the country for neighboring Costa Rica (where they have faced discrimination and other difficulties). The difficulty and instability is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced in the United States, and its understandable that people would be experiencing lots of fear and anxiety. And yet, on Sunday morning, hundreds gather and passionately sing: even if I don’t see that you’re working, you never stop, you never stop moving. 

I don’t know about you, but there have been times in my life that I couldn’t have truthfully sang that refrain. To be even more honest, pretty much all of those times the problems I was facing were nothing compared to those facing my Nicaraguan brothers and sisters. Yet, when I couldn’t see God working, I tended to get angry and frustrated. At one point or another the following thoughts have sneaked into my mind: 

  • God must be punishing me for something I’ve done
  • God has abandoned me 
  • Is there really a God and, if there is, is He really good? 
  • I’ve done so much good for God, why can’t I have what I want this one time?

The Apostle Paul beautifully lays out an answer to these questions: 

For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. 1 Corinthians 13:9-12

To put it more bluntly, Paul is telling us we simply can’t always know why things happen the way they do. As long as we live we will never see the world clearly, and will always constantly be asking why. But, here is one thing we can know: that God has, is, and always will be working for us:

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28.

As long as we live we will never know why things happen, or don’t happen, the way that they do. What we can know is that God masterfully created us, Jesus graciously saved us, and the Holy Spirit loving guides and supports us. God has, does, and will be working for us, not only now but for all eternity. He really never does stop working! 

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