Author Archives: Andy Baker

God Will Be With You

There are some phrases in life that drive me nuts. I can’t stand when I’m told by someone that “I’ll be with you in a second.” What that often means is “I may be with you in a few minutes if I feel like it, but more then likely I won’t, because you really aren’t that important.” I know, that’s probably not what they’re thinking, but I sure fear it is. Another phrase I can’t stand, though I say it to my kids a lot, is “just be patient” (yes, I fully realize this makes me a hypocrite). Yes, I know I should be patient, but man, I really don’t want to be patient sometimes! And besides, telling me to be patient seldom helps. If anything, it just reminds me that I’m in a hurry and have no desire to be patient!

I think another phrase that is in danger of invoking similar fillings in us is “God will be with you.” It certainly didn’t seem to calm Gideon’s anxieties in Judges 6:11-17. This is a perfectly fine and theological phrase, but we frequently misunderstand it. I’ll be honest, there have been times when I’m struggling with something and someone says “God is with you” that I don’t find the phrase overly helpful. Yet, it is always true that God is with us who have given our lives to Him. So, what does it really mean that God is with us? Let me break it down in the form of an acrostic, using the word WITH

Walks with Us: No matter what we are going through in life God is actively loving and listening to us. This is a REALLY  big deal. God never abandons us. I encourage you to get in the habit of regularly taking a break from the craziness of life to remember God’s love for you and to share your thoughts, concerns, and praises with He who is always listening. 

Inspires Us: God guides, helps, and inspires us by the Holy Spirit. What this looks like differs from person to person and situation to situation. The reality is that God moves and inspires. Sometimes its small nudges in our hearts. Other times God works through people in our lives. Sometimes its the Word or a sermon that moves us. Whatever method, God is with us to inspire us in ways both large and small. 

Teaches Us: God does not leave us to our own devices. He does not just toss us into this complicated world and tell us to simply figure it out. Instead, He teaches and advises us by the Word and the Spirit. We are so blessed to have the Bible, the inspired Word of God, to advise and teach us. Are you taking enough advantage of this amazing gift God has given us? 

Heals Us: God heals us from our sins and transgressions for all eternity. This is something that no one else could do, yet God does it freely for us. It is the absolute greatest way anyone could ever be with someone else, in good times or bad. 

If You’re Not Ready…

Now that we’re a week into 2019 are we ready to be real about it? Let’s be honest: we usually spend the first week of the year making goals and plans that we end up never following through on. Sometimes that’s because we find the goal we’ve set to be too difficult or time-consuming (often stated reasons for giving up on diets, Bible reading goals, etc). Other times its because life simply gets in the way. As I look back on 2018 I can honestly say that I pretty much accomplished none of my goals or dreams for the year. That’s mostly because life REALLY got in the way, thanks to the socio-political-economic crisis here in Nicaragua. Basically every program and ministry we planned on doing from April 19th on was canceled, our ministry focus is very different, my family lives in the States while I’m here, I’m in a new home, etc. Despite my best planning and praying I totally was not ready for what 2018 would bring. Yet, despite all the uncertainties, I’ve seen God working in many unexpected and powerful ways this past year. Let me share a little something with you. You are not ready for MANY things 2019 will bring! Some of these may be negative things (illness, financial stress, the death of a loved one, etc.) others may be positive (new job, birth in the family, new ministry opportunity, etc.). While we may be far from ready for many of the things coming our way in 2019 that’s ok. Because when we trust God with the unknown He does amazing things. 

I’m fascinated with the call of Gideon, seen in Judges 6:11-16. As much as we celebrate Gideon as a hero, he was far from ready when God called. In fact, he desperately tried to turn down God’s call. I encourage you to read the story of his call, and then check out these two big points. 

  1. Doubt without God leads to fear, but doubt with God leads to faith. Doubt is a perfectly normal human emotion, and one you will undoubtedly have in 2019. But when we combine our doubt with God we get faith, which is more powerful than fear. Gideon doubted God, but had faith that God would use him. Because of this he trusted God’s plan and delivered the Israelites from the Midianites. 
  2. Remember that God is with you. When Gideon reminds the angel that he is not ready the angel twice reminds him that God will be with him. God is with us every moment of our lives. It’s we who need to choose to acknowledge His presence by listening to his Word, connecting in prayer, following His guidance, remembering His love, and trusting His ways. 

So yes, you’re not ready for 2019. Neither is anyone else. This year surrender the entire year to God, letting your doubt lead to faith and knowing God is always with you. You’re not ready, but with God you’re on exactly the right track. Blessings throughout this New Year! 

Happy 2019!!!

The church here in Nicaragua differs from the church in the States in a number of ways. One of those is that many of the Christian holidays that are a big deal in the States are less so here (done in large part to differentiate themselves from Catholics). In fact, Christmas and Easter are both downplayed here. Churches may do a special gift drive for kids, or a special program, but it is nothing like Christmas Eve services in the US. The majority of churches also downplay Easter, perhaps making a mention of it during services, but certainly not anything like the focus it is given in the States. Yet, there is one day that is treated with special care and significance, and that day is today: New Year’s Day. Today many churches will have to rent extra chairs to pack in all the people that will show up to worship. Today they will give thanks to God for all the blessings of the year gone by, and pray for God’s blessing and guidance in the year to come. I think that’s a great tradition, and I encourage all of us to do the same on our own today. 

First, what are you thankful for in this past year? How has God blessed you, sustained you, guided you, helped you through difficulty, and showed you His perfect love? When has He filled you with joy, and when has He carried you through the greatest of difficulties? 

Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever! Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, whom he has redeemed from trouble and gathered in from the lands, from the east and from the west, from the north and from the south. Psalm 107:1-3

Second, what guidance and help do you need from God in the year to come? Maybe you are searching for a new purpose or calling, or maybe you simply need God to continue encouraging you on your path. Maybe there are specific challenges coming your way, or the fear of the unexpected is causing you anxiety. Today, give your dreams, aspirations, fears, and anxieties for 2019 over to God. Trust Him to be your guide every day of this coming year. 

The Lord says, “I will guide you along the best pathway for your life.
I will advise you and watch over you. Do not be like a senseless horse or mule that needs a bit and bridle to keep it under control.” Many sorrows come to the wicked, but unfailing love surrounds those who trust the Lord. So rejoice in the Lord and be glad, all you who obey him! Shout for joy, all you whose hearts are pure! Psalm 32:8-11

With Us and For Us

Today is an amazing day! Its a day when we spend time with family, gather around tables with superfluous quantities of food, and share gifts with one another. It is always a highlight of my year. In the midst of all the excitement lets take a least a few minutes to reflect on what this day is really all about. Over 2,000 years ago God chose to come to earth to be with us and for us. In Jesus God chose to spend time walking among us, teaching us, showing us how to best live life, and showing His love for us. It’s a pretty big deal that the creator of the world would choose to leave a perfect heaven to spend time with us, His creation! But, God had even bigger plans. He came not only to be with us, but to be radically for us. Because even on that first Christmas God had Easter in mind. God knew then that he would suffer and die on the cross to pay the debt for our sins, and then rise three days later, forever conquering sin and death for us. The following scripture lays this out beautifully: 

The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’”) For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. John 1:9-16

Lets really let it sink in how big of a deal today is. Today we celebrate that God chose to be with us and for us for all eternity. We have received the ultimate gift: grace upon grace. Enjoy that perfect gift today, tomorrow, and for all eternity. God bless, and Merry Christmas! 

This is the fifth week in a series I’ve been doing called Who Do You Think You Are? Each week we’ve looked at a different identity we’ve been given by God. We’ve learned that we’re called to be ambassadors of God’s love, have been created to be masterpieces that serve the world, are overcomers through Christ, and are to make the world better as salt and light. To end the series I want to look at a word that gets thrown around a lot, but one that we don’t always fully comprehend, and that is discipleship. 

Billy Graham put it like this: “a disciple is simply someone who believes in Jesus and seeks to follow him in his or her daily life.” There are two big parts to this. First, we believe that Jesus Christ is our Lord and Savior. We continue by going deeper, diving into the Word, connecting in Prayer, having meaningful fellowship with other Christians, listening to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, etc. We root ourselves as deeply in wisdom and knowledge of God as we possibly can. But, being a disciple is not only about salvation, knowledge, and wisdom (although those are important). It is also about service. 

Jesus was once approached by someone who wanted to be a disciple. He seemed to have studied the scriptures and gained knowledge and wisdom. Yet, when Jesus called him to follow him he simply couldn’t make the leap: 

And he said to him, “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.” And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. Mark 1o:20-22

I once heard it put this way. Following Jesus isn’t always going to be easy, but aren’t you tired of just existing? That’s a great question. If we say you know what, I’m going to go ahead and pass on this discipleship thing, what we’re saying is we’re fine with just breathing the air. We’re fine with not serving God, not impacting the world, and not being who God created us to be. We’re perfectly fine just doing what we want, instead of what God wants. What God desires from us is that we serve the world in whatever ways we’ve been equipped to serve it. Now, this is not nearly as complicated as it seems. Serving the world simply means that we take what we are good at and use it to bless others in God’s name. My question to you is, are you using the things that you are good at and have been blessed with to serve God and others? 

My prayer for all of us is that we do not go through life simply existing, but live a life of discipleship by growing in our faith and lovingly serving the world around us. 

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