Author Archives: Andy Baker

Ceding Control

In the later part of the 16th century Spain was an international superpower, controlling vast swathes of North America. In addition to their North American holdings they had made gains in continental Europe, including control over the modern-day Netherlands. In the 1570’s the Dutch decided to revolt, declaring William of Orange as their King. The Dutch had never been a war-like, and lacked military experience, infrastructure, and soldiers. Their opponents were the most militarily experienced and advanced of the period. The only advantage the Dutch had was that the majority of their land lay below sea-level, and was regulated by a series of dykes. By destroying the dykes they could flood the land, making things difficult for the Spanish. Flooding their own land obviously created problems (i.e. it destroyed their farms), but it did successfully slow the Spanish. The result was a stalemate. The prolonged war, coupled with the expense of running a global empire, was bankrupting the Spanish. Likewise, the destruction of farmland and industry was bankrupting the Dutch. Soon, it became clear the outcome of the war would not be decided on the battlefield, but rather by which side would run out of money first. 

The Spanish King went to his nobles and businessmen and asked for loans. Having no faith that the all-powerful king would pay them back, they either charged huge interest rates or refused to loan him money. Soon Spain literally went bankrupt, and the King was forced to cease military operations. The new King of the Netherlands was different then his Spanish counterpart. He had chosen to cede part of his power to a legislative body of nobles, the Staten Generaal. When he ran out of money he too asked his nobles and businessmen for loans. Because he had given them a voice in government they knew they would actually get paid back, so they loaned at exceptionally low interest rates. The government of the Netherlands thus kept on trucking, outlasting the Spanish and gaining independence. 

Each king had to make a choice: were they willing to cede power to others. We are faced with that same choice in our lives, almost on a daily basis. Are we willing to cede the making of decisions and choices to God, or do we stubbornly insist being the totalitarian ruler of our own life? When we make decisions do we seek out God’s council in prayer and scripture, 0r do we only consult our own brains, or the advice of the world? And really, it goes much deeper then that. The only was we can have eternal life is by admitting that God is God and we are not. As the King of the Netherlands realized, to fully succeed in life we must cede power to another, and in our case that other is our amazing, powerful, loving, and forgiving God. 

Those who trust in the Lord will renew their strength; they will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not faint. Isaiah 40:31

Resisting the Urge to Surrender

I seem to have been born without the gene for patience.  Even Disney World annoyed me as a kid because I could not stand waiting in lines. I’d like to think I have matured some in my old age. While lines don’t bother me so much the current problem is my need for seeing immediate results. I don’t like to wait to see the fruit of my (or another’s) labor, but want to see things happen yesterday. That’s probably why I’m currently EXTREMELY frustrated with the coach of my beloved Nebraska Cornhuskers. More seriously, I often lack patience in ministry. I want to see ministries I’m involved in make a noticeable impact quickly, and I tend to want to measure the impact of prayer with an egg time, rather than a calendar. I grow frustrated if I do not see the impact of my work and prayers quickly, and often want to give up on something, or someone, when I don’t see results.

My patience was tried for many years by my best friend, Erik. Erik is a brilliant person with a scientific mind. Growing up, Erik had no interest in God or church. He was always the first person who came to mind when we had “invite a friend” Sundays at church, but he was never open to the invitation. We had many discussions about faith, but we never seemed to get anywhere. He was a skeptic, and it seemed it would always stay that way. I have to admit, there were many times that I just wanted to give up on him. But, I kept praying, politely encouraging him, and sharing how I saw God working in my life. Fifteen years after first sharing my faith with him he gave his life to Christ. Now he is heavily involved in his church, and even helps to lead their thriving men’s ministry. His passion for God is amazing to see, and he is doing a lot of great things for God’s Kingdom.

It can be very tempting to lose our patience and give up on ministries or individuals who seem to not be responding to our efforts. Yet, God has called us to persevere in His name. Jesus sums it up in this parable:

 “A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none.  And he said to the vinedresser, ‘Look, for three years now I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and I find none. Cut it down. Why should it use up the ground?’ And he answered him, ‘Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and put on manure. Then if it should bear fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.’” Luke 13:6-9

We need to have the attitude of the Vinedresser when it comes to serving. We need to always be wanting to try one more time, or to go just a bit further, in order to make an impact for God.

Don’t Give it Away

It is somewhat expected in the missionary community that you hire an empleada (aka a housekeeper). This was tough for us, because obviously in the US having a housekeeper is a pretty big luxury. It felt weird spending our raised funds on hiring a housekeeper (even though we pay above the normal rate our share is only $25USD per week). However, the reasons hiring empleadas is encouraged is because its a way to create needed jobs, build relationships with Nicaraguans, and get some needed assistance around the home. We share an empleada with our neighbors, a sweet mother of two whose husband was killed a few years ago in a car crash. This morning my wife and I had a “passionate discussion” about what is and is not the role of our empleada. The discussion centered upon whether or not we could more or less cede most household responsibilities to her, or if we should still make an effort to keep up with certain chores (i.e. doing our own laundry and dishes).

This got me to thinking about our roles as men. We cede far too many of our Biblical responsibilities to others, especially when it comes to our roles as husbands and fathers. As long as our kids go to Sunday school and our wife attends her Bible study we’ve fulfilled our responsibility right? Let the leaders of those groups disciple them, because besides, they are more gifted for it anyway. The problem is that’s the role the Bible assigns to us as men. Today, I want us to read the following verses and really ask ourselves if we are living out God’s designed role for us as fathers and husbands. If you have not taken on those roles yet in life I encourage you to start thinking about how you will once you are a husband and father. Let’s stop giving away our responsibilities and embracing the role God has given us.  

Model holiness: Keep a close watch on your life and doctrine. 1 Timothy 4:16 

Provide: But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his own household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. 1 Timothy 5:8

Discipline and guide: Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. Ephesians 6:4 

Nurture: For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church. Ephesians 5:29

Disciple and teach: These words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. Deuteronomy 6:7

LeadHe must manage his own household well, with all dignity. 1 Timothy 3:4

Love: Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her. Ephesians 5:25

Your Own Race

This weekend I ran my first race in Nicaragua. This normally would not be a huge deal, but earlier in the week I fell over a rock (yes, I am a clutz). I landed smack on my kneecap, which has been giving me fits every since. Owing to my German DNA I was way to stubborn to simply drop out of the race, so I ran with a bad knee. On top of that, it decided to rain the entire race (and, if you care, I had a shoelace that decided to end its life at the 4K mark.). So, with all these factors against me, I decided from the outset my goal was simply to have fun and to finish. Just keep a nice even pace and don’t worry about anyone else. That was a hard goal for my overly competitive brain to keep. Every time someone would pass me, or be just slightly in front of me, I wanted to go just a little bit faster to beat them. The whole race I had to resist this temptation to race other peoples races and to race my own. In the end my steady approach brought me to the finish line in a respectable time and, surprisingly, in a minimal amount of pain. 

As I was dealing with the temptation to change my pace based on others during the race it hit me how much this is like life. We are constantly being tempted to run a race that is not ours. We see a celebrity on TV  and desire their lifestyle. A friend makes a purchase, and we want to make a similar (or bigger!) purchase. Perhaps more seriously, we see others making decisions that are not Biblical, and we figure we can do the same. Or, we see others having “fun” and “exciting” ministry experiences, and we want to have those same experience (even if we are not called and equipped for that ministry). In all of these cases we get tempted away from running the race, living the life, that God has uniquely crafted us to live. 

For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. Ephesians 2:10

This has become my life verse because it is such a powerful reminder of who I am. We’ve not been created to chase after others, but to live a very specific life for the glory of God. We all need to remember that God has uniquely crafted us to do good things for His Kingdom. Sometimes we may not like the path He has laid out, and we may think someone else’s path is better. When we doubt it, or are tempted by something else, we need to remember that nothing could ever be better then the plan God has masterful created for us and only us. 

Live One Life

Allan Mullay took a job nobody wanted: CEO of Ford Motor Comoany at the peak of the US financial crisis. Ford flew him from Seattle to Detroit to be introduced as its new CEO. He was surprised when the car that picked him up was not a Ford, but one of its competitors. He chuckled, thinking someone made a silly mistake when selecting a car service. When the car pulled into the parking lot at Ford headquarters he was down right flaburgasted: there was hardly a Ford in the entire lot. He looked up and down the rows of vehicles of the people who designed, sold, and led Ford, and was dismayed that hardly any of them chose to purchase and use the very product they spent their days working on. This signaled to Mullay that there was a major cultural problem within Ford. Think about it for a second: if you knew someone who worked at Ford, but chose to drive another vehicle, would you be inspired to buy a Ford? Most likely not. I know it would make me severely question the quality of their vehicles if their own employees were unwilling to drive them. 

Are we like these Ford employees when it comes to living out our faith? Do we act one way within the hallowed halls of the church, a quite another way in our daily lives? From what I have seen in the lives of many, as well as experienced in my own life, the answer is YES. When we are inside the church we are enthusiastic followers of Christ, but when we enter the world we far too often become enthusiastic followers of the world’s ways. Like a Ford employee driving the competition’s vehicle, think about what our actions signal to those around us. They see us going to church on Sunday, but then they witness us living and acting contrary to Scripture day in and day out. Do you think that inspires them to follow God? Not in the least. At best it teaches that God’s commands are optional, and at worst its evidence of Christian hypocrisy. 

This is not at all a new problem. The Apostle Paul famously wrote about it in Romans: 

Present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:1-2

I often get asked “how do I share the gospel with others?” My answer comes straight out of this illustration and this scripture: you simply live every minute for Jesus. Your actions will always be substantially more impactful then any evangelistic technique or speech. If you want to spread Jesus’s light in our dark world then don’t give into the temptation to play Church on Sunday and live a worldly life the rest of the week. Live one life: a life for Christ. 

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