Author Archives: Andy Baker

Asking for Help

Last week one of my American friends in Nicaragua came down with a virus. Most Nicaraguans don’t visit the doctor, but instead go straight to the pharmacist (a prescription is not required for most medications here, you simply go the the pharmacist, explain your symptoms, and they will give you the appropriate medication). While many foreigners will go to a doctor my friend wanted to do things the Nicaraguan way, so they visited the nearest pharmacy. They speak very little Spanish, so they used Google Translate to produce a “script” for their conversation with the pharmacist. They practiced this script, and must have delivered it well, because the pharmacist not only understood them, but preceded to respond rapidly in Spanish. Not wanting to let on that they had no clue what was being said, they simply nodded and said si a lot, finally leaving with three different medications. Upon arriving home they realized they had no idea how to use them. Another interesting factor here is that they often don’t give you the finished product at the pharmacy. For liquid medicines they give you a powder that you then have to mix with water to create the medicine. Once again, since my friend had said si over and over they had no idea how strong to make the medicine. So, they just guessed. As you can imagine, my friend ended up OD’ing on medications, and nearly had to be taken to the emergency room. They’ve learned that next time they need to admit they don’t speak Spanish and take someone with them who can translate. 

I share this story because most of us hate to admit we don’t know what we are doing, and we REALLY hate to ask for help. This is especially a problem for us as men. We would rather suffer mightily then ask for help. If you think about that for a minute, that’s really a ridiculous sentiment! Yet, nearly everyday we chose to go it alone instead of asking God to help us with the many trials we face. Look at what Jesus tells us about asking for God’s help and guidance in life: 

 Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it. John 14:12-14

God desires to hear our needs in life, and God desires to help us with our needs. God never meant us to go through life alone based solely on our own abilities. He desires to hear us and to help us. We need to realize that it is actually VERY manly to ask for God’s help. This week, share with God all of the challenges you are facing and the struggles that you have. Stop suffering needlessly, and start asking for help from the creator, sustainer, and savior of all. 

 

Amidst the Tragedy

I’m not sure what’s harder right now, climbing Mt. Everest or finding a good piece of news. Between racial tensions, devastation in Houston, nuclear tension not felt since Kennedy administration, and a politically divided nation we are inundated with overwhelmingly negative news (not to mention all the negativity On our social media feeds). Here in Nicaragua I see heartbreak and tragedy everyday. It’s seeing ramshackle shacks built next to luxurious shopping malls. It’s seeing little kids, the disabled, and the mentally ill beging for the opportunity to wash your windshield for a few cents. It’s hearing yet another case of a man killing his wife because she finally tired of his abuse and filled for divorce. The tragedy, injustice, and heartbreak in our world can seem overwhelming.

As I’ve been personally overwhelmed by these things this week, I’ve been reminded of two big things. First, and most importantly, is that God wins for all of us. God created this world awesome and perfect, but we humans have totally messed it up with our sin. Yet, our amazing and loving God chose to come to our rescue, dying on the cross so that all who confess their sins and believe may have eternal life. Listen to how Jesus puts it:

I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one. John 10:28-30.

No matter what tragedy may befall us or others in this world NOTHING can take us out of God’s hands. Nothing can take away the gift of a perfect eternity in Heaven we are gracefully given when we confess our sins. In the midst of sorrow and tragedy we need to keep our hearts and minds glued to the fact we are held in God’s perfect hands for all eternity.

The second thing I’ve been reminded of is that we can all be agents of God’s grace amidst the turmoil of this world. We can pray for the afflicted, give towards organizations lending a hand, take time to serve others, and more. We can be used by God to be part of the solution now and for eternity. As Paul tells us in Philippines 2:15: for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

If the tragedies of the world are getting you down remember these two things. Remember that Jesus died to offer the world the most perfect of gifts: eternal life in a perfect heaven. And, remember that God desires to work through you to make an impact, no matter how small it may seem to you, right here and right now.

Getting Out of the Hot Tub

For years I really wanted a hot tub. However, being married to a very practical and stingy woman (her words!) put such a luxurious purchase out of reach. However, I discovered that there is a small window of time in which her frugality vanishes: pregnancy. Yes, months ofsleep deprecation have an amazing way of wearing her down. Her first pregnancy led to the purchase of a Swiss crafted mattress made of space-ag material because she wanted a good night’s sleep. Pregnancy number two netted me (err, us) the elusive hot tub post as a way to recover from pregnancy. She used it for about two weeks, but I found myself using it every day for several years. I loved just sitting there for 30 minutes or more, especially on cold winters nights. Then, one day, the hot tubbroke. The repair was going to be very expensive, and we had moved and no long had a good place for it. Suddenly, I had 30 minutes of extra time, which I soon started using to exercise instead of simply sitting in a hot tub. I ended up losing around 100 pounds and getting healthier then I had ever been in my life. I often joke that our hot tub breaking was one of the best things that has ever happened to me!
I share this because I think a lot of us have a relationship with God that is spent in the comfort of a “hot tub.” We attend things that make us feel good: worship services, men’s groups, fun retreats, Christian concerts, etc. We may even read Christian books and devotions, especially if they entertain us. Now, all of those things are not only good, but they are really necessary parts of our faith (just like relaxation is a necessary part of our health). The problem is when we spend all of our time on these sorts of things and not on doing things that are more difficult, but equally (if not more important). These can be things such as sharing faith with a neighbor, spending your valuable time to serve in a new way, or taking on that challenge you’ve felt God’s nudging you towards, but you’ve been too afraid to accept it. Are we missing out on opportunities to make an impact for God because we’ve gotten to comfortable?
There is a great example of this in God’s call of Gideon. Gideon was a man of faith, but he was very much sitting in the hot tub. In a time of great trial for his people he had stayed home and had reaped many benefits. But then God appeared to him and said: Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand. Judges 6:14. See, God has given us all strength and ability not merely for our own enjoyment, but so that we can be a blessing to others. This week, let’s ask ourselves if there are ways we need to step “out of the hot tub” in our life to use the strength God has given us to impact our world.

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?

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