Author Archives: Andy Baker

Who is Imitating You?

We are all born with innate ability to imitate others. From the day of our birth we use our senses to explore our environment and to imitate those around us. We learn to grab and use objects because we see our siblings doing the same. We learn to speak by imitating the sounds and words we hear (which is probably why “no” was one of the first words my children learned). It’s not only as babies that we learn through imitation. Throughout our lives, whether we realize it or not, we are constantly learning new skills and behaviors from those around us. 

The Apostle Paul intimately understood this idea of imitation. Imitation was the primary educational method in Biblical times. A young man wanting to become a carpenter would not attend a trade school, but rather would find a master carpenter and apprentice under him for several years. Similarly, a religious leader like Paul did not attend a seminary, but rather studied under an accomplished Jewish teacher and leader. Paul and his readers therefore understood that learning is not just something done in a classroom, but something that often occurs through imitating the actions and behaviors of others. This led Paul to write the following, which I think is of great importance to all us 2,000 years later: 

For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction. You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake.  And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit,  so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere, so that we need not say anything. 1 Thessalonians 1:4-8

While most of you may never given a sermon or share the gospel with a large audience in an auditorium, every day many people are encountering you, your words, your actions, and your behaviors. My question to all of us is: are you living a life worthy of imitating? In other words, if others starting living, speaking, working, and serving like you would they be living more or less as God desires us to? You may not like it, but as followers of God we are always on stage to the world. While this may sound intimidating, we need to embrace it as an opportunity. Every day, by simply following God’s ways, we have the opportunity to impact the lives and eternities of others. You never know who is going to be watching and learning from you, so let us always live out a life worthy of imitation. 

Where are you Leading Others?

There are plenty of things that keep people away from God: our worldly culture, business, allure of other religions, temptation, individuals passionately opposed to the church, Satan, and more. Yet, in my experience, near the top of the list of factors keeping people away from church is us. Yes, us Christians are often very good at shooting ourselves and the church in the foot. We do it when we are legalistic, maintain a closed “holy huddle” attitude, live a life of hypocrisy, judge rather then love, and so on. Not only are we often a barrier between non-believers and Christ’s church, we are also really good at leading others away from God. We reject them because of a sin, knock them because of their opinions, assert that only our preference is correct (often the case with worship style), and so on. It makes my heart hurt each time I hear someone share of how an experience with Christians and the church has taken them FURTHER away from God. 

As Christians we are all servants and representatives for God and His church, rather we like it or not. You may not be a pastor, staff member, elder, or deacon, but as a Christ follower you are seen by others as a representative of God. My question to you is: how are you doing in that role? Let me come out of the gate and say I have not always been the greatest at this in my life. I’ve let my zealousness lead me to unfairly judge and reject others, and I’ve viewed my opinion as far superior to that of others. I’ve had to do some major repenting and changing in my life to be the sort of servant Jesus has called us all to be. 

I’d encourage you to not only read the following scripture, but to use it to evaluate your own life. 

I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call. Ephesians 4:1-4

Specifically, ask yourself the following:

  1. Am I living a life worthy of Christ, who gave himself as a sacrifice for my sin? 
  2. Do I approach all areas of my life with a spirit of humility? 
  3. Am I patient with those who hold beliefs and views different then me? 
  4. Do I seek unity or do I cause discord? I tell you friends, every time I get on social media I see fellow Christians being very divisive, especially on political issues. 

I encourage us all to really examine our life and, if we find ourselves struggling, to repent of our sins and to change our ways. God needs each and everyone of us to do his work, so lets clean up our act and serve in humility, patience, love, and unity. 

What do you REALLY Have to do?

Have you ever had to do something you had no desire to do, but you had to anyway? I’m thinking of work policies, such as doing mountains of paperwork, following overly convoluted policies, or obeying arduous safety procedures. You can also add in many household tasks: taking out the garbage, cleaning the toilets, changing poopy diapers, shoveling snow (just an FYI, its 78 and sunny in Nicaragua today), and more. Now, there are reasons for doing all of these tasks, and I’m not here to knock their importance. My point is we all have things we would love not to do if we did not have to. I’m sure few of us would choose to follow OSHA regulations if OSHA suddenly ceased to exist, or to change a dozen dirty diapers long after your children were out of them? We do such tasks because, for whatever reason (keeping a job, being safe, caring for our family, etc.), we have to. But what if we all of a sudden didn’t have to do those tasks anymore? Would we simply choose to do them just for the fun of it? 

What I’m getting at is this. Many of us choose to do worldly things, often to our detriment, that we simply don’t need to do. Jesus came to earth to teach us the best way to live and to save us from our sin. In Christ we are made totally new. We no longer have to be slaves to the ways of the world, ways that teach us that possessions, money, our job/position, perception, fame, and more are of the utmost importance. Yet, time and time again we choose to be enslaved to the world’s ways. We lust over money and possessions. We constantly worry about how other perceive us. We try to earn approval, a temptation greatly amplified by social media. I know many people, including myself, that spend a disproportionate part of their lives chasing after these worldly things, and are quite miserable doing so. So, why do we keep doing it? We don’t have to please the world. We don’t have to earn its affection. What we have to do is embrace the love God has for us, and lovingly serve Him in return. This week I encourage you to make the following passages from Paul your mantra. Don’t keep slaving away at things the world tells you are important, only to be all the more miserable for it. Instead, full embrace the perfect gift God has gracefully given you. 

Formerly, when you did not know God, you were enslaved to those that by nature are not gods. But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more? Galatians 4:8-9

For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. Galatians 5:1 

Time to Own Your Marriage

In our current era of social media one is basically obliged to make a lovey dovey post about their spouse on social media for Valentine’s Day. As I scrolled through the many such posts on my Facebook feed I was awestruck. Three different people I know made the requisite post about their loved one, but that person was NOT the person I knew them to be married to. Instead, their post alerted me to the fact that they were now separated/or divorced from their spouse. In fact, over the past couple of years I’ve been shocked by the number of marriages I’ve seen fall apart via my Facebook feed. It’s heartbreaking to see so many marriages and families torn apart. While we bemoan the steady rise in divorce rates many of us excuse it away as a problem for others. We blame it on Hollywood, the failure of secular society, poor choices of individuals, drugs and alcohol, etc. We see it as a problem that happens because of all these factors to other people, but could certainly never happen to us.

Yet, here is something I can tell you from scanning my social media feeds. I’ve seen marriages of all lengths fall apart, I’ve seen it happen to some of the most devoted Christian families, and I’ve certainly seen it in people I would never expect. Instead of thinking that marriage weakens and fails only in the lives of others, we all need to be actively taking responsibility for the health and strengthening of our marriages. We can’t just wait until things are spiraling out of control, but rather need to be working on our marriages (and indeed, all of our relationships), on a DAILY basis. 

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church. Ephesians 5:25-29

I could unpack that all and give you a really nice looking bullet-point list, but I don’t need to. Paul is really straight forward here guys. Love your wife sacrificially as Christ loves you, and do so everyday. Put her first, striving to make her better in all ways. If all men took this passage seriously we would see divorce rates tumble, and the lives of families greatly enhanced. Look, the world is a tough place, and marriage is far from easy. But, God has lovingly given us guys a straight forward game-plan for how to be a husband who grows and nurtures his marriage. Let’s take that seriously, and see how God blesses and strengthens it. 

So Easy, a Toddler can do it

A good number of years ago I was having a really bad day.  I can’t remember what exactly had happened, but I had come home from church visibly upset and marched straight to our bedroom. Soon after, I heard the tell-tale sons of my toddler son heading towards the room. The door slowly creaked open, the sound of little feet could be heard, then the huffing and puffing as he pulled his little body up into the bed, and finally his trade-mark: the sound of him sucking on his pacifier. He sat next to me on the bed, staring at my troubled face. Soon he did something he had never done before. He popped his pacifier out of his mouth and tried to give it to me. Now, before you are grossed out, think about this for a second. This was his prized possession, the thing he never let out of his sight (well, not without a great deal of screaming anyways). This was the one thing that could make him happy when he was sad, and here he was giving it to me. I realized that his little one year old brain had realized that daddy was sad, and that his reaction to this was to sacrificially give the thing that always made him happy. And, for the curious, while I did graciously accept his pacifier, and his gift certainly did brighten my day, I chose not to utilize it. 

I was, and still am, amazed that a one-year old already understood empathy and sacrificial giving. He understood then something that many of us struggle with at all stages of our lives. While we all understand the importance of helping others, and even sacrificing to do so, we struggle to put it into action. Paul lays out the importance of serving others, even if it means doing so at a cost, in Hebrews 13:

For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come. Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God. Hebrews 13:14-16

Because Christ sacrificed so much for us we are called to sacrificially serve others too. It may be by taking a risk and witnessing to someone, taking the time to involve ourselves in a new ministry, or spending more then simply a few dollars to bless someone in need. Serving others sacrificially really is so easy that even a toddler can do it! This week, lets all being looking for opportunities to serve others in a loving way, even if we must sacrifice to do so. 

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