Author Archives: Andy Baker

It Might as Well Be You

I spend a lot of time in coffee shops. While I can get pretty “in the zone” while working, I still overhear bits of many conversations. I’ve worked in all types coffee shops all over the US, and I’ve realized there is one thing they all have in common: there are always people there complaining. It may be their local problems, their churches, national issues, or their health, but people always seem to gather to complain about something. These “coffee shop philosophers” are far from the only complainers in our society. If you turn on talk radio, cable new channels, or logon to social media you are likely to hear people complaining about something, ranging from politics, to the weather, to social ills, to people who do not know how to properly utilize the lanes in the McDonald’s drive-through (if you live in Oskaloosa you know what I’m talking about). We seem to be a society of complainers. But, is that what God wants us to be? 

I’ve always been struck by the story of the prophet Nehemiah. Nehemiah had a relatively cushy job in his era, serving as the cup-bearer (basically, a butler) in the King’s palace in Persia. One day he received a letter from people in his homeland of Israel (see Nehemiah 1). The city walls of Jerusalem lay in ruins, and the city was prone to attacks from various other nations. It broke Nehemiah’s heart to hear about the struggles of his compatriots in Israel. Faced with this heartbreaking information Nehemiah really had two choices: he could complain, or he could do something about it. He took three actions that all of us should take when we see something that breaks our heart. 

  1. He cried: Nehemiah didn’t just try to forget that he had heard sad news, he took time to mourn. He understood that his heart was breaking for something that also broke God’s heart. If you hear or see soemthing that breaks your heart take time to consider that perhaps God is trying to get you to pay attention to that problem
  2. He prayed: When you see a problem that breaks your heart give that problem to God. Don’t just complain about it, but give it over to the one who can do something about it: God. 
  3. He took action: Even though he had a good job and no engineer skills he chose to travel to Israel to help rebuild the city of Jerusalem. In just 52 days he was able to get the wall built, a project that has sat undone for decades. He saw a problem and said to himself: somebody needs to do something about this, and it might as well be me. 

If you see a problem that breaks your heart take time to mourn it, to pray about it, and to think about how YOU can help address it. God did not make us to simply complain, but to take action to address the many problems addressing our world. Somebody needs to do something about these problems, and it might as well be you! 

Different Relationships

Over my last five entries I’ve been having us look at 1 Peter to explore how God calls us to be different from the world. We’ve looked at how we are called to a different faith, different values, and a different calling. Today I want us to reflect on a way we are called to be VERY different from the world, and that is in our relationships. When I talk about relationships I am talking about any interaction you have with other people. That means you have a relationship with everyone you interact with, whether they be co-workers, friends, family, or people you’ve just met in the Wal-Mart checkout. Relationships should be a wonderful thing, right? After all, God purposefully created more than one human so that we could experience the blessing of relationships. Yet, relationships tend to cause most of us massive headaches and heartbreaks. In fact, relationships are the number three source of stress in our lives (behind only finances and work). Why have relationships, which God created to be good, become a negative in our lives? 

Here is a big reason: we tend to look at relationships from a worldly, and not a Godly, perspective. The world teaches us that relationships are about what we get out of them. We date someone because we enjoy it. We are friends with someone because we have fun with them. We are nice to our boss because it gets us a better performance review. Lets be honest: we see many relationships in our lives as being about how the relationship can benefit us. That’s a very worldly way of looking at things. The Bible, however, lays out a totally different plan for relationships. 

Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing. 1 Peter 3:8-9

When you look at all the things those two verses call us to do, what do they have in common? They are all about making the other person better. See, God’s plan for all our relationships is for us to make the other person better, regardless of how they treat us. It’s not about what we can GET OUT of the relationship, but about what we can PUT INTO the relationship. We shouldn’t be focused on what our wife has done for us lately, but instead focused on what we can do for her. We shouldn’t dwell on the behavior of an obnoxious co-worker, but be praying that God blesses them and transforms their life for the better. Every relationship you are in is an opportunity to make someone’s life (and possibly even eternity!) better. Its time that we jettison the worldly view as relationships being about us, and start viewing them as God does: an opportunity to improve the lives of others. 

Different: A Different Calling

We throw the term “calling” around quite a bit in the church, but do we really understand what it means? Pastor Craig Groeschel points out that God calls us in three distinct ways. First, God calls us to salvation. He calls us to repent, and then by His grace forgives us. Second, God call us to temporary assignments. This is the type of call most of us have in mind when we think of calling. He may call you to go on a mission trip, teach a Sunday School class, or even make ministry your vocation. While this calling may last a long time (I’ve known people to teach Sunday School for 40 plus years), it has a defined start and a defined end. It may be long-term, but its still to a certain place/ministry/people for a certain amount of time. There is a third calling that Peter talks about throughout his letter. This calling is every bit as important as the other two, but its one we are quick to overlook. This is the calling to live a different lifestyle. In fact, this is a calling EVERY CHRISTIAN has. 

You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. 1 Peter 2:9-10

Let’s break down the things Peter says we are called to be in this passage: 

    God’s Own Possession: God paid for our sins by His blood so that we may enter His Kingdom. He suffered           and sacrificed all so that we may live. 

     A Chosen People: Called to be a city on a hill: a shinning example of God’s love to all people at all times. 

     A Royal Priesthood: We are called to lead people in our lives (friends, relatives, neighbors, etc.) to know,             believe, and worship God. 

     A Holy Nation: We are called to not only worship Jesus, but to act and live like Him.

Do you notice the common thread in all of these callings? It’s that we are called to live our daily lives in a manner that honors God and blesses others. Put another way, we are ALWAYS on call for God. We are called to live in a way that attracts people to God (chosen people). We are called to live in such a way that we can lead others to a relationship with God (Royal Priesthood). We are called to live our lives in the same manner Jesus did. We are called to do all of these things because we are God’s possession, called into His Kingdom by Jesus’ death on the Cross. I urge all of us to take a few minutes today to ask ourselves: Am I living out God’s calling on a daily basis? Am I living out the calling to a different lifestyle that God has given me, His own possession? 

Different: Different Values

Of all the ways God calls us to be different than the world, the one we THINK we understand the best is that we have different values. We all know that Christians are to live according to a different set of values. We understand we are to obey the commandments, the teachings of Jesus, the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and the Bible. We understand that our lives should look different than the rest of the world. Yet, I fear we fall into one of two major traps.

First, we choose to live by God’s values sometimes, while at other times we follow the world’s values. Two major areas we men fall into this trap are in terms of sexual purity and pride. We know God calls us to sexual purity, yet we often choose to indulge in the world’s ways (not just pre or extra marital sex, but also lust, pornography, etc.). God also constantly calls us to humility, yet as men we are often driven by our pride. We KNOW that God commands purity and humility, but we CHOOSE to follow the world’s values out of desire, simplicity, enjoyment, fitting in, or any host of reasons. The second trap is that we sometimes follow God’s values for the wrong reasons. I’ve known many Christians (myself included at points in my life) who view the following of God’s values as making them superior than others. They look down condescendingly on those who don’t follow God as closely as they do, and are quick to judge others. Some of their self worth comes from seeing themselves as following God in a better manner than others (again, I’ve been there). This was a major problem in Jesus’ time, and the reason he found himself at constant odds with the Pharisees, who prided themselves on being purer, and thus better, than other believers. 

There is a common problem with both of these traps: it’s that we don’t always fully understand why it is that we are to follow God’s values. There are many reasons we follow God’s ways, but I want to focus on one very simple and profound one today. We live by God’s values because Jesus (God in the flesh and the Savior of the World) lived by those same values. In other words, we live holy lives because Jesus is holy

Just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” 1 Peter 1:15-16

Men, we are SO fortunate that the creator, savior, and sustainer of the universe has given us a blueprint for how to live. Don’t you think that we should follow His plan for life? It is a blueprint to help us live the best life possible, while also blessing others and giving honor to Him that created, saved, and sustains us. We live out God’s values, living Holy lives, because Jesus lived a Holy life. In the process we live lives that bless others and honor God. 

Different: A Different Faith

I want to continue looking at the 1 Peter today by examining one of the things that makes Christians different from the rest of the world: faith. Everyone in the world has to have some level of faith, even in things they don’t fully understand. I have faith when I get on an airplane that it will take me where I’m going, even though I have only basically no understanding of how airplanes work. Its really easy to have faith in something when things are going your way, but when things are difficult our faith tends to waver. If you’ve had a bad experience on an airplane you’re much less likely to want to fly again. In fact, there are a couple of airlines I won’t fly because I’ve had bad experiences with them. When things get difficult our faith can waver. This is where Christians are called to be different. Even when life is extremely difficult we are called to faithfully trust God. We don’t switch religions like we would switch airlines, but we remain faithful amidst adversity. Why? Why do we keep trusting God even when things seem to be decidedly not going our way? 

You, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.   1 Peter 1:5-7

First things first: remember that sin, suffering, death, and the multitude of problems in this world are the result of human sin. God didn’t create this world to be a place of suffering, He created it to be amazing. We’ve messed that all royally up. Yet, despite our mess-up, God came to our rescue. He chose to come to earth as Jesus, suffering and dying as a sacrifice for all our sins. See, God is always focused on the big picture of our lives. God may not take away every difficult you face, but He has already assured that your ETERNITY is perfect. The good news is not that God saves us from all of our trials, but that he saves us from all of our sins. We get up everyday, even in times of extreme difficult, and take joy in the fact that God has already done it all for us. We can never truly fail, we can never truly be rejected, we can never truly die, because we have been given eternal life. Men, get up every morning and rejoice! Rejoice that no matter what difficulties may lay ahead that day the ultimate difficult, death, has already been taken care of for you. That’s a different sort of faith, and it leads to a different and much more joyful life. 

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