Author Archives: Andy Baker

Getting Weak to Grow Strong

The past year living in Nicaragua has helped me to really appreciate all the innovations that make life in the US much more efficient. I’ve without a dishwasher or a clothes dryer (and we have a four-month rainy season here…), have not had a washing machine the past month, and have had a functioning car about 66% of the time. Lawnmowers are such an extreme luxury I’ve only seen them at a baseball stadium and a golf course. Instead, everyone just cuts the grass (well, actually, everything), with machetes. Oh, and if there is an automatic carwash in the country I’ve yet to find it. At every car wash all the work is done by hand, and it takes at least 45 minutes to get your car washed. Its obviously significantly more work to do any of the above actions without the modern devices that make quick work of them. If I wanted to do my laundry and get my car washed on the same day I better start my day awfully early, because its going to all day.

While nearly all of us love having machines that make our lives easier, its interesting that when we face challenges in life we tend to make things a lot harder, stressful, and time consuming then they need to be. See, we really have two choices when it comes to fighting life’s. Plan A is to go it alone, which is often stressful, time consuming, and not always very successful. Plan B is to fight the battles of life with God’s help. Amazingly, many of us tend to reach for Plan A (the machete) instead of Plan B (the zero-turn radius lawnmower). Yet, look what Paul teaches us in 1 Corinthians 10:3-4:

For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.

God wants to help us as we fight all the battles of life, and He can give us more power than we can imagine. We need to step out of the way and let Him help us. Here’s three things we need to stop doing the hard way, and start letting God help us with:

  1. Stop seeking what you want, and start seeking what God wants. It’s really that simple guys!
  2. Stop thinking about how you “deserve it,” and remember that you deserve death. This sounds blunt, but its true. We live in such an entitled world that we start believing we deserve stuff simply “because.” The reality is, what we really deserve in this world because of our sin is death. Yet, God gracefully gives us eternal life. You deserve some pretty bad stuff, but God gives you eternal life anyway!
  3. Stop thinking you can handle it, and realize you can only handle it with God. Let’s be honest. We can’t handle anything close to all the battles and struggles we encounter. So, instead of fighting a losing battle, let’s handle our battles with God’s help.

Facing Your Kryptonite

Last week I wrote about how we all have superpowers. All of us who have been saved by God’s grace have been powerfully gifted by the Holy Spirit. That’s an amazing gift, and a great responsibility. But if I’ve learned anything from watching superhero movies its that superheros seem to always have a weakness. Superman has kryptonite, Ironman is limited by technology, the Hulk struggles to control his power, Dr. Strange has great hubris, and white noise severely effects Daredevil. While our weaknesses may be a little different, the reality is that we all have krytonites in our lives. We are all have things that tempt us into sin, draw us away from God, and keep us from being the masterpiece God has created us to be. 

I have seen way to many great men of God have their lives and ministries torn apart because they gave into their kryptonite. I had a conversation with my supervisor this week over whether or not we could use a certain book for pastoral leadership training. Its a fantastic book that we’ve seen bless many pastors before. However, since the last time we used it the author has been gripped in a scandal of their own doing. This Christian leader gave into their kryptonite, lost their ministry, and perhaps has lost the opportunity to bless thousands of others. We could argue whether or not its right to have a great career destroyed by one sin, but the reality is that’s how many people see it. I’ve seen this on a smaller scale before too. I once had a recovering addict in my church that was doing a fantastic job or reaching other addicts. On most Sundays there were two rows filled of his previously un-churched friends, and he even helped start an addiction ministry in our community. Unfortunately, he fell back into his addiction, his friends stop coming, and the ministry eventually fell by the wayside. 

The number one way to deal with the kryptonites in your life is to identify them and to make a plan to resist them. Kryptonites are those things that tempt you into sinning and/or not living the life God has created you to live. For many men the list includes lust, greed, pride, entitlement, and selfishness. I can’t count the number of marriages that have been destroyed by lust. I also can’t count the number of bad decisions I’ve seen people make because of their pride or greed. Once you have identified your kryptonites the Bible gives us a number of ways to guard against them. 

  1. Be Careful and Pray: Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak. Mark 14:38
  2. Endure Temptation with God’s helpBlessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised. James 1:12
  3. Pursue Righteousness: So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace. 2 Timothy 2:22

 

Use Your Superpowers!

I remember being called a nerd in middle school for being into comic books. Oh how the world has changed! Comic book superheros now dominate our culture, ruling the big screen and the little screens. Avengers: Infinity War made over $2 BILLION, and it’s joined in the top 10 grossing movies of all-time by the other two Avenger films and Black Panther (who, FYI, is one of the Avengers). There are currently at least 33 superhero shows either on TV or streaming, not including cartoons. Its safe to say we are fascinated by the idea that one can go from normal to superhuman overnight, whether that be because of radiation, aliens, a radioactive spider bite, technology, etc.  I, and you for that matter, have received some amazing superpowers. The problem is that most of us have either turned a blind-eye to them, or having been poor stewards of them. 

The superpowers I speak of are the gifts God gives all who have been saved by faith in Christ Jesus. These gifts come via the Holy Spirit.

You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth. Acts 1:8

Here’s what I love about that scripture. You’ve got the Disciples gathered on the hillside petrified about what’s about to happen. Jesus is leaving them, and he is tasking THEM with doing his work on earth. They are looking at one another wondering “how is this ever going to work!” After all, they didn’t exactly have a great track record. While Jesus was with them they constantly misunderstood him, lacked faith, argued among themselves, doubted him, etc. They had mostly been farmers and fishermen from “the sticks” of Israel, Nazareth. Yet Jesus tells them You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you. Jesus knew they, and us as well, needed help. So the Holy Spirit was sent to empower them to do God’s work so that the gospel could be cared to Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.

God didn’t just give superpowers to the Disciples, but continues to gift them to all believers. The Spirit gives us the power to share Christ (1 Cor 2:4-5), strength when we are weak (Romans 8:26), and hope in the darkest of times (Ephesians 3:16-19). The Spirit also gives us individuals gifts/powers, known as spiritual gifts. These include prophesy, service, teaching, encouragement, giving, leadership, mercy, and more. God does not simply throw us out of the nest and into the world of ministry empty handed, but uniquely equips us to serve. My challenge today is to embrace the superpowers God has given you. If you know what they are then use them to their fullest! If you’ve never discovered your gifts take the time to do so this week, and start making a plan to use them. You’ve been gifted amazing powers to serve God. Use them! 

Being “The Man”

In 14 years of marriage my wife has uttered the following phrase, usually preceded by a groan, a head shake, and an eye-roll: “you are such a man.” This is normally because I’ve refused to admit I’m lost, refused to admit I’m wrong, or she is picking up my sweat drenched clothes from whatever spot of the floor I decided to toss them. So yeah, basically when I’m stubborn or smelly! Conversely, I’ve uttered the phrase “grrrr, you are such a woman” more than once. This is typically precipitated by luggage (for example, our last trip to the States included six suitcases, one shared between our kids, 1/2 of one for me, and the rest for her. And she has zero shame about it!). The other major cause of my frustration is the sheer volume of beauty supplies she feels the need to keep in our bathroom (come to think of it, if it’s 95% occupied by one person’s stuff is it still really “our bathroom?” But I digress).

Now, these are admittedly silly examples. But, it brings up a point I want us to think about. Men and women are different! We were purposefully and carefully created that way by God. The fact that men and women are different has become so controversial in this age of gender neutrality, gender choice, and the like that I hesitate to write this post. Look, some of that I totally understand. I think many of our so called gender norms are silly human constructs that we can easily jettison. Women don’t need to be confined to the kitchen, and men don’t need an iron grip on the family finances (I cook 90% of the meals in our home and I don’t have a clue how much we have in our bank account). I have an incredibly empowered wife, and I am greatly blessed by it. But, I also accept that God does indeed form us differently:

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. Genesis 1:26-27

Instead of ignoring our differences we need to embrace them, because that’s exactly why God made us different in the first place! Men, we need to embrace our role as husbands, loving our wives, supporting them in every way, praying for them, and making them better. We need to be father’s to our children, showing them love, rearing them in the faith, and preparing them to be disciples. We need to use our strengths, our leadership, our passions, and all that God has given us to be a blessing to God and others. We should never be ashamed of being a man, nor should we think that makes us inherently better than a woman (the same goes to any women who have snuck onto this site today). Instead, lets embrace who God has made it to be, and use every ounce of our gifts, talents, and personalities for God’s glory. 

Amazing Work

There is this amazing account in Mark where Jesus restores a demon possessed man. The man is possessed by such a quantity of demons that when Jesus’ asks for his name the response is “legion, for we are many.” Jesus miraculously throws all the demons out of the man, sending them into a herd of pigs (who proceed to fall of a cliff). It’s an amazing account of the power, love, and mercy of Jesus. It’s also important that we see how the story ends. Jesus performs this amazing miracle, completely changing a man’s life. As he packs up to leave for the next town the following happens: 

As Jesus was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed begged to go with him. Jesus did not let him, but said, “Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” So the man went away and began to tell in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him. And all the people were amazed. Mark 5:18-20

The recently healed man is on-fire for Jesus, as his life has been completely changed. He is ready to follow him anywhere. Yet, Jesus doesn’t let him into the boat. Instead, he tells him to return to HIS village and share with HIS people there what has happened to HIM. I would venture a guess that he felt a little deflated, as surely “seeing the world” with this amazing healer would have seemed far more exciting then simply returning home. I see a similar phenomenon in many of us. We can get really excited to go on a short-term mission trip, seeing a different land, making an impact there, and spending time in close Christian fellowship. We can also get excited about plugging into the activities of our church, leading a Bible study, helping on a work day, being on a praise team, etc. All of these are certainly good things. My question for us today is: what are we doing outside of those things? When we’re not on a mission trip, in church, or serving on a ministry team, what are we doing? Put simply, are we serving the community we live in on our own? Are we doing what Jesus commanded of the formerly demon-possessed man, that he return to his life and share “how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you”? See, God doesn’t just need us in the mission field or serving in church ministries. He needs us shining a light for him every day in every way. He needs us sharing with friends and neighbors. He needs us setting an example in restaurants, in hardware stores, and sporting events. He needs us being salt and light in the streets, in the stores, in the schools, and in the homes of our community. And when we do that, when we share how much Jesus has done for us, let us pray that all the people will be amazed. 

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