Author Archives: Andy Baker

Pressing Stop

I read an article once about the downfall of Target in Canada. In 2013 Target decided to enter the Canadian market, opening 133 stores in its first year. Moving into Canada seemed like a brilliant move. Many Canadians were already familiar with Target, and made stopping at Target a major part of any trip to the US. All indicators were that Target’s expansion into Canada would be a run away success. Yet, from the beginning, the Canadian expansion was a disaster. All of Target’s ordering, sales, and re-stocking are managed by computer software that has served them well in the United States. Canada, however, differs from the US in its use of the Canadian dollar, French and English, and the metric system. Those responsible for Target’s data entry often forgot about these differences, leading to errors in 70% of their initial product orders (mostly related to entering sizes in inches rather then centimeters). This led to major mistakes in the ordering of products, and most Target’s opened with half-empty shelves. To make things worse, store shelves never seemed to get re-stocked. Target soon discovered that its ordering clerks, who needed to keep the shelves 97% full to receive positive evaluations, had turned off the software function that reported empty shelves. While this assured them of a 100% success rate, it also meant that Target HQ was never informed that stores were out of products. Less then two years from opening Target Canada went out of business, closing 133 stores, laying off 17,600 employees, and losing over $2 billion. This has even forced Target to close stores in the US and make other serious changes.

As I read this story I was amazed that no one in leadership ever just said “stop!” Instead of opening stores with a known problem in their supply chain Target should have postponed openings to ensure all their data problems were fixed. When things do not go as we like in life we tend to simply trudge on like Target, no matter how bad things may be. We soon become so stressed and overwhelmed that we have no idea what to do next. When you start feeling overwhelmed in life take Jesus’ advice in Matthew 11:28-29:

Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.

All of us need to take time to stop whatever we are doing in life to simply spend time with God. We need to take time to speak with Him, listen to Him, and let his love flow over us. Even if this is for only 10 minutes during your crazy day take the time to let God re-charge you. Don’t try to do everything on your own, especially when things start going wrong. Press stop and let God’s love and grace help push you through the trials of your life.

FLLY DVTD

You may have seen that over the past week pop music superstar Taylor Swift has been involved in a trial in Denver, Colorado. She was being sued because she reported a radio DJ of inappropriately touching her, he subsequently lost his job, and therefore he decided to sue her for millions (totally makes sense to me). The most interesting thing about the trial was the daily line of fans to watch it. Swift fans (seriously known as Swifties) drove hundreds of miles and stood in long lines for a chance to see the back of her head in a court room. Talk about devotion! Actually, as far as Swift fans go, that’s hardly intense. One fan built a 35,000 piece Lego sculpture of her in his backyard. When techno artist Diplo (rival of then Swift beau Calvin Harris) mocked her on Twitter he received legitimate death threats. And, every week, Swift receives dozens of expensive gifts from fans all over the world. Talk about a devoted fan base!

I’m guessing few readers of this blog are Swifties, but I’m quite sure there are things you are highly devoted to. It may be a sports team, NASCAR driver, hobby (hunting, golf, your Harley, etc.), or any number of things. It’s not necessarily bad to be devoted to any of these things. I actually think it quite healthy to have a hobby and a variety of fun interests. Where we can run into problems, however, is when we trade in God for the things God created for us. And, if we are being honest, this is a problem most of us run into. We turn down opportunities to serve God to spend time on our hobby. We skip Bible study to watch a sporting event. We don’t truly tithe, not because we don’t have the money, but because we choose to spend it on things God created instead of on God. If we are being honest I think we’d have to admit that we are not fully devoted to God, but rather find ourselves routinely trading God in for things that are far less great and important.

The Apostle Paul summed this up in his typically amazing (and blunt!) way:
21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Romans 1:21-22, 25

I love that line: we exchange God’s truth for a lie and worship the creature rather than the creator. This week, ask yourself: am I truly living FULLY DEVOTED to God, or am I overly devoted to lies and created things? What do you need to change this week in order to be more devoted to your creator, sustainer, and savior?

Take out the Trash

When I was in college I had an awesome roommate named Anan. He was incredibly fun, but he was also a real cheapskate and ate A LOT. This often meant stealing my food, but on one occasion he actually went to the grocery store himself. He came back all excited that he had bought a whole chicken for only $1. Of course a grocery store doesn’t sell a chicken that cheap unless it has a few issues. First, it was not a cleaned and butchered chicken. This was not a problem for Anan, as he used my sink and my siccsors to do the butchering (he also cleaned up the mess: with my tooth brush). There was another very obvious reason the chicken was $1: it was already rotten! It had immedietly smelled up our room. I told Anan he needed to get it out before we couldn’t breathe anymore. He agreed, and we moved on with life. 

A few weeks later our room smelled simply atrocious (yes, even worse then normal for two college guys). I thought maybe something had died in it, and used my nose to sniff out the source. It led me to Anan’s fridge, which was the home of the now green, black, and white chicken. I forced him to take it to the dumpster, but he couldn’t stand the smell. I tell you what, you have not fully lived until you’ve watched a 400lbs man run down the hallway with a rotten chicken tucked under his arm like a football!

Ok, so that’s a crazy (albeit true) story. Here’s my point: a lot of us have sin in our lives that is stinking it up like that chicken, yet we refuse to throw it out like the garbage it is. Maybe it’s pride, addiction, lust, lying, or something else, but I think most of us have some sin that we keep doing day after day, week after week, etc. The longer we do little about it the more it stinks up our life.

James 4:7-8 tells us “submit yourselves to God. Resist the Devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts.”

This week, let’s all take time to draw near to God and to cleanse ourselves of the sins that are stinking up our lives. Let us all admit our sins and ask God’s help in removing them from our lives. The longer we don’t deal with our sins, the more it will stink up our lives. Let’s get in the habit of taking out the trash and let God cleanse us from our unrighteousness. 

Always Choose the Real Thing

It’s been a long time since I’ve been a soda drinker. I’ve cut it out for two reasons: to save money (especially when eating out) and to save calories. Here in Nicaragua, however, I’ve started drinking more and more Coke. At most restaurants water is not free, so it’s the same price to get a Coke. Also, you know that Coke is always going to be safe to drink, whereas water quality can vary widely. As far as calories go, I still try to avoid them as much as possible. Here we have Coke Light (equivalent to Diet Coke) and Coke Cero (equivalent to Coke Zero). Interestingly, Coke is not called Coke regular or Coke classic (the words for each are basically the same in Spanish). Instead, they call it Coke normal. So, you have three Coke choices: normal, light, and zero. 

My friend Henry recently told me that he thinks many of us choose how to act out our faith much like we choose a Coke. Sometimes we choose normal faith, sometimes the light version, and sometimes we choose not to act out our faith at all. I want us to think a bit about each of those choices. 

A lot of us tend to grab for normal faith. This is the type of faith that is “just like everyone else.” We go to church, say some prayers, and speak the Christian lingo. We could certainly do more for God, but hey, at least we are doing more than many people! Good old normal faith is perfectly fine for most of us. 

Sometimes we want to take it a little easier. Perhaps we want to indulge in worldly behaviors such as foul language, pornography, excess drinking, pride, or mocking others. We figure that we have plenty of normal faith days, so we can have a light day every once and awhile. 

Sadly, most of us probably have experienced some zero faith days (I know I have). These are times where our sinful nature takes over, or perhaps times when grief and stress completely overwhelm us. These can be some of the most scary and difficult moments in our lives. 

The thing is, God does not call us to normal, light, or zero faith. He calls us to put our faith ENTIRELY in Him. Proverbs 3:5-6 puts it like this:

 Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.

Today, are you going to reach for normal, light, or zero faith? Or, are you going to truly trust God with your entire life, and live in total and real faith? Lets choose to not not partially live out our faith but, to steal another Coke phrase, always choose “the real thing:” complete faith and reliance on Christ. 

A Double Edged Stick of Dynamite

Alfred Nobel was a rare genius. Despite only attending school 18 months during his life-time he held over 350 different patents, the most famous of which was dynamite. While we think of dynamite as an element of war and violence, Nobel set about creating it for one reason: safety. The leading explosive of the day, nitroglycerin, was notoriously unpredictable. It caused a serious explosion at Nobel’s own factory that killed five people, including his own brother. In creating dynamite Nobel was creating a tool that would have substantial explosive power for the mining industry, as well as prevent future deaths like his brother’s. Indeed, dynamite would come to play a key role in many industries up to the present day, but it’s use in war and terrorism tends to receive all the focus. In fact, an errounosly published obituary referring to Nobel as the “merchant of death” for the creating dynamite led Nobel to leave the vast majority of his fortune to promoting peace through the Nobel Peace Prize. 

Dynamite, and the various other useful explosives developed from it, can be extremely positive. Without it many important mining projects, road projects, and development projects could have never safely happened. Unfortanely, dynamite can also be used for nefarious purposes as well. It is obsiouly a double edged sword that has to be used with wisdom and care. Believe it or not, being a Chrisitan is quite similar to this. We have the potential to do so many good things: lead people to Christ, improve the lives of the poor, love the downtrodden, equip future leaders, grow the faith of others, and so much more.

There is so much positive that can come out of our Chrisitan life. But, if we are not careful, we can also do harm. We can be overly judgemental, hypocritical, self-centered instead of others centered, focused on our wants rather than other’s needs, and more. There is an old DC Talk song that opens with the proptheic line: “the biggest single cause of atheism today is Christians.” Honestly, from my experiences, I’d say that pretty accurate. I’ve talked to so many people who are open to God, but because of how they have been treated by Christians they have no desire to get close to God or His church. Look at Paul’s teaching in James 4:11-12:

Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?

It is not our role to judge or condemn, but to make others better. We’ve been given a powerful responsibility as followers of Christ, one even more powerful than dynamite. May we always use it to improve others and not to inflict harm. 

 

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