Author Archives: Andy Baker

Your Own Race

This weekend I ran my first race in Nicaragua. This normally would not be a huge deal, but earlier in the week I fell over a rock (yes, I am a clutz). I landed smack on my kneecap, which has been giving me fits every since. Owing to my German DNA I was way to stubborn to simply drop out of the race, so I ran with a bad knee. On top of that, it decided to rain the entire race (and, if you care, I had a shoelace that decided to end its life at the 4K mark.). So, with all these factors against me, I decided from the outset my goal was simply to have fun and to finish. Just keep a nice even pace and don’t worry about anyone else. That was a hard goal for my overly competitive brain to keep. Every time someone would pass me, or be just slightly in front of me, I wanted to go just a little bit faster to beat them. The whole race I had to resist this temptation to race other peoples races and to race my own. In the end my steady approach brought me to the finish line in a respectable time and, surprisingly, in a minimal amount of pain. 

As I was dealing with the temptation to change my pace based on others during the race it hit me how much this is like life. We are constantly being tempted to run a race that is not ours. We see a celebrity on TV  and desire their lifestyle. A friend makes a purchase, and we want to make a similar (or bigger!) purchase. Perhaps more seriously, we see others making decisions that are not Biblical, and we figure we can do the same. Or, we see others having “fun” and “exciting” ministry experiences, and we want to have those same experience (even if we are not called and equipped for that ministry). In all of these cases we get tempted away from running the race, living the life, that God has uniquely crafted us to live. 

For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. Ephesians 2:10

This has become my life verse because it is such a powerful reminder of who I am. We’ve not been created to chase after others, but to live a very specific life for the glory of God. We all need to remember that God has uniquely crafted us to do good things for His Kingdom. Sometimes we may not like the path He has laid out, and we may think someone else’s path is better. When we doubt it, or are tempted by something else, we need to remember that nothing could ever be better then the plan God has masterful created for us and only us. 

Live One Life

Allan Mullay took a job nobody wanted: CEO of Ford Motor Comoany at the peak of the US financial crisis. Ford flew him from Seattle to Detroit to be introduced as its new CEO. He was surprised when the car that picked him up was not a Ford, but one of its competitors. He chuckled, thinking someone made a silly mistake when selecting a car service. When the car pulled into the parking lot at Ford headquarters he was down right flaburgasted: there was hardly a Ford in the entire lot. He looked up and down the rows of vehicles of the people who designed, sold, and led Ford, and was dismayed that hardly any of them chose to purchase and use the very product they spent their days working on. This signaled to Mullay that there was a major cultural problem within Ford. Think about it for a second: if you knew someone who worked at Ford, but chose to drive another vehicle, would you be inspired to buy a Ford? Most likely not. I know it would make me severely question the quality of their vehicles if their own employees were unwilling to drive them. 

Are we like these Ford employees when it comes to living out our faith? Do we act one way within the hallowed halls of the church, a quite another way in our daily lives? From what I have seen in the lives of many, as well as experienced in my own life, the answer is YES. When we are inside the church we are enthusiastic followers of Christ, but when we enter the world we far too often become enthusiastic followers of the world’s ways. Like a Ford employee driving the competition’s vehicle, think about what our actions signal to those around us. They see us going to church on Sunday, but then they witness us living and acting contrary to Scripture day in and day out. Do you think that inspires them to follow God? Not in the least. At best it teaches that God’s commands are optional, and at worst its evidence of Christian hypocrisy. 

This is not at all a new problem. The Apostle Paul famously wrote about it in Romans: 

Present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:1-2

I often get asked “how do I share the gospel with others?” My answer comes straight out of this illustration and this scripture: you simply live every minute for Jesus. Your actions will always be substantially more impactful then any evangelistic technique or speech. If you want to spread Jesus’s light in our dark world then don’t give into the temptation to play Church on Sunday and live a worldly life the rest of the week. Live one life: a life for Christ. 

Asking for Help

Last week one of my American friends in Nicaragua came down with a virus. Most Nicaraguans don’t visit the doctor, but instead go straight to the pharmacist (a prescription is not required for most medications here, you simply go the the pharmacist, explain your symptoms, and they will give you the appropriate medication). While many foreigners will go to a doctor my friend wanted to do things the Nicaraguan way, so they visited the nearest pharmacy. They speak very little Spanish, so they used Google Translate to produce a “script” for their conversation with the pharmacist. They practiced this script, and must have delivered it well, because the pharmacist not only understood them, but preceded to respond rapidly in Spanish. Not wanting to let on that they had no clue what was being said, they simply nodded and said si a lot, finally leaving with three different medications. Upon arriving home they realized they had no idea how to use them. Another interesting factor here is that they often don’t give you the finished product at the pharmacy. For liquid medicines they give you a powder that you then have to mix with water to create the medicine. Once again, since my friend had said si over and over they had no idea how strong to make the medicine. So, they just guessed. As you can imagine, my friend ended up OD’ing on medications, and nearly had to be taken to the emergency room. They’ve learned that next time they need to admit they don’t speak Spanish and take someone with them who can translate. 

I share this story because most of us hate to admit we don’t know what we are doing, and we REALLY hate to ask for help. This is especially a problem for us as men. We would rather suffer mightily then ask for help. If you think about that for a minute, that’s really a ridiculous sentiment! Yet, nearly everyday we chose to go it alone instead of asking God to help us with the many trials we face. Look at what Jesus tells us about asking for God’s help and guidance in life: 

 Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it. John 14:12-14

God desires to hear our needs in life, and God desires to help us with our needs. God never meant us to go through life alone based solely on our own abilities. He desires to hear us and to help us. We need to realize that it is actually VERY manly to ask for God’s help. This week, share with God all of the challenges you are facing and the struggles that you have. Stop suffering needlessly, and start asking for help from the creator, sustainer, and savior of all. 

 

Amidst the Tragedy

I’m not sure what’s harder right now, climbing Mt. Everest or finding a good piece of news. Between racial tensions, devastation in Houston, nuclear tension not felt since Kennedy administration, and a politically divided nation we are inundated with overwhelmingly negative news (not to mention all the negativity On our social media feeds). Here in Nicaragua I see heartbreak and tragedy everyday. It’s seeing ramshackle shacks built next to luxurious shopping malls. It’s seeing little kids, the disabled, and the mentally ill beging for the opportunity to wash your windshield for a few cents. It’s hearing yet another case of a man killing his wife because she finally tired of his abuse and filled for divorce. The tragedy, injustice, and heartbreak in our world can seem overwhelming.

As I’ve been personally overwhelmed by these things this week, I’ve been reminded of two big things. First, and most importantly, is that God wins for all of us. God created this world awesome and perfect, but we humans have totally messed it up with our sin. Yet, our amazing and loving God chose to come to our rescue, dying on the cross so that all who confess their sins and believe may have eternal life. Listen to how Jesus puts it:

I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one. John 10:28-30.

No matter what tragedy may befall us or others in this world NOTHING can take us out of God’s hands. Nothing can take away the gift of a perfect eternity in Heaven we are gracefully given when we confess our sins. In the midst of sorrow and tragedy we need to keep our hearts and minds glued to the fact we are held in God’s perfect hands for all eternity.

The second thing I’ve been reminded of is that we can all be agents of God’s grace amidst the turmoil of this world. We can pray for the afflicted, give towards organizations lending a hand, take time to serve others, and more. We can be used by God to be part of the solution now and for eternity. As Paul tells us in Philippines 2:15: for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

If the tragedies of the world are getting you down remember these two things. Remember that Jesus died to offer the world the most perfect of gifts: eternal life in a perfect heaven. And, remember that God desires to work through you to make an impact, no matter how small it may seem to you, right here and right now.

Getting Out of the Hot Tub

For years I really wanted a hot tub. However, being married to a very practical and stingy woman (her words!) put such a luxurious purchase out of reach. However, I discovered that there is a small window of time in which her frugality vanishes: pregnancy. Yes, months ofsleep deprecation have an amazing way of wearing her down. Her first pregnancy led to the purchase of a Swiss crafted mattress made of space-ag material because she wanted a good night’s sleep. Pregnancy number two netted me (err, us) the elusive hot tub post as a way to recover from pregnancy. She used it for about two weeks, but I found myself using it every day for several years. I loved just sitting there for 30 minutes or more, especially on cold winters nights. Then, one day, the hot tubbroke. The repair was going to be very expensive, and we had moved and no long had a good place for it. Suddenly, I had 30 minutes of extra time, which I soon started using to exercise instead of simply sitting in a hot tub. I ended up losing around 100 pounds and getting healthier then I had ever been in my life. I often joke that our hot tub breaking was one of the best things that has ever happened to me!
I share this because I think a lot of us have a relationship with God that is spent in the comfort of a “hot tub.” We attend things that make us feel good: worship services, men’s groups, fun retreats, Christian concerts, etc. We may even read Christian books and devotions, especially if they entertain us. Now, all of those things are not only good, but they are really necessary parts of our faith (just like relaxation is a necessary part of our health). The problem is when we spend all of our time on these sorts of things and not on doing things that are more difficult, but equally (if not more important). These can be things such as sharing faith with a neighbor, spending your valuable time to serve in a new way, or taking on that challenge you’ve felt God’s nudging you towards, but you’ve been too afraid to accept it. Are we missing out on opportunities to make an impact for God because we’ve gotten to comfortable?
There is a great example of this in God’s call of Gideon. Gideon was a man of faith, but he was very much sitting in the hot tub. In a time of great trial for his people he had stayed home and had reaped many benefits. But then God appeared to him and said: Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand. Judges 6:14. See, God has given us all strength and ability not merely for our own enjoyment, but so that we can be a blessing to others. This week, let’s ask ourselves if there are ways we need to step “out of the hot tub” in our life to use the strength God has given us to impact our world.

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