Author Archives: Andy Baker

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. 

Getting Through What You’re Going Through

On April 19th severe civil unrest began here in Nicaragua, which turned my life upside down. The result has been over 400 dead, thousands injured, a depressed economy, and a constant feeling of insecurity. There were days when we were not sure if we could even access some of the most basic things we needed (food, gas, etc.) As a result, we decided that it was best for my wife and kids to return to the States for this year, while I remain serving in Nicaragua. We are hopeful that our entire family can return to Nicaragua next year. So, couple being 3,000 miles from my family with the difficulties of working and serving in this environment and, needless to say, it has been a difficult time! As my family and I have faced these challenges I’ve been reminded of 2 Samuel 12:16-25, where Daniel experiences the death of his son. Here are four things Daniel does to get through this tragedy that have been helpful to me. I pray that they can be a blessing to each of you whenever you are going through something difficult in your lives.  

  1. We realize that we can’t change the past: do you find yourself spending countless hours lamenting something that has already happened? I sure have, and I want to slap myself across the face for it! We can desire to change the past as much as we wan’t, but we’ll never be able to. What we can do is ask God’s forgiveness for our past actions, ask for his help in finding peace in the wake of past events, and begin looking towards the future with God’s help and guidance. 
  2. When you don’t have what you really want, God is what you really need: How true is this! In my current situation what I really want, security, stability, and the presence of my family, is outside of my control. What I really need is God’s presence, comfort, guidance, and peace, all of which are ALWAYS available to me. Look guys, there will always be some hurt in your life. There will always be something that’s not how you want it. But, there will also always be God. God is always present to shower you with love, to give you guidance by His Spirit and Word, and to remind you of His graceful gift of eternal life. When things are difficult remember to always seek after God. 
  3. Keep living the life God made you to live: Its really easy when things are difficult for us to panic, to make mistakes, or to try to fix things on our own. But, that’s not what God made us for. God made us all for a purpose, and that purpose does not include walking off the field when the going get’s tough. 
  4. Don’t miss the big picture: eternal life: In the midst of struggle we can never forget that the most important thing in the world has already been done for us: Jesus’ grace has given us life eternal. When you are struggling take a moment to reflect on how great and awesome that gift is! 

Living a 4x Life

In his book Great by Choice Jim Collins looks at what he calls 10x companies. These are companies, like Apple and Southwest Airline,s that outperformed all competitors in their industry by a factor of 10 between 2002-2012. This is so rare that of the 20,400 companies Collins researched only seven outpaced their industry by a factor of 10. It seems almost crazy to me to outpace an entire industry by a factor of 10 over 10 years. This got me to thinking: what if we as Christians tried to outpace our competitor, the sinful world? What if we took seriously outpacing the decadence and sinfulness of the world, as these companies set to outdo their competitors? And, I’ not even going to have us aim for being 10xers, but to set our goal as doing FOUR times the good as Christ followers as we did/do as sinners. 

As I was reading the oft told story of Zacchaeus in Spanish this week I was really struck by the following, which I’d always glossed over. 

But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.” Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” Luke 19:8-10

Look at those three verses for a moment. Upon being confronted by his own sin, and Jesus’ amazing grace, Zacchaeus not only proclaims he will give up his sinful life, but repay those he harmed by a factor of four. He wants his Christian-self to outperform his worldly-self by a factor of four. This idea has really struck me. I think sometimes we set out to do as much good as we can, while sinning as little as possible. We figure if we do more good today than bad, even if its a close score, we’ve succeeded. But what if we aimed to do four times as much good as we have sinned? What if we aimed to do four good works for God for every one sin we have committed? Can you imagine the positive impact on the world around us, especially as more and more Christians started outpacing sinfulness by a factor of 4? Now look, this is not some perfect formula for righteous living or salvation. But, I do hope it is a thought that gets us seriously thinking about the impacts we make. As Christ followers we should be aiming to out perform the sinful world around us, with its vices of immorality, impurity, idolatry, hatred, discord, jealousy, envy, etc. We should be striking back with the good of Christ: love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (aka the Fruits of the Spirit). The world will always be doing its best to drag people down, so let us all be doing everything we can to counter the sinfulness of the world with the love of Christ. 

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