Author Archives: Andy Baker

Stop Yapping, Start Doing

I don’t know about you, but I enjoy talking, especially about things I either really like, or things I really DISLIKE. If you get me going about some of my big likes, bicycling, British politics, random historical minutia, and ministry it’s hard to get me to stop (my wife has learned to ever so subtly excuse herself from the room). Unfortunately, I can go on and on about things I dislike. Sometimes that’s not a bad thing, because I’m talking about things I’d love to see eradicated from the world: poverty, people who don’t know Jesus, and the self-centeredness of our culture. Sadly, I can also spend WAY too much time whining, holding a self-pity party, and complaining about others. The problem with all of this incessant talking is this: it seldom accomplishes anything! Yet, most of us spend hours and hours complaining about all of the problems in our life and in our world, and far less on doing something about it. 

If we took action as much even half as often as we talk and complain, we would likely be on the precipice of eradicating many of this world’s problems. If you’ve never read the first chapter of the Book of Haggai I’d really encourage you to do so. In the first chapter God uses the prophet Haggai to urge the people to stop talking and start doing. Haggai served God 18 years after the people of Israel had returned from exile in Babylon. Right after their return they started rebuilding God’s Temple, seeing reconstructing God’s home in the center of their community as a vital task. Soo, however, the work was halted. Instead of building the temple they spent their time, money, and energy building luxurious houses for themselves and focusing on their own wants and desires. They talked about building the Temple, but they never actually did the work. They’d complain about the conditions things were in, but again they never did anything about it. Haggai stood before the people and simply said this: go up into the woods, cut down trees for lumber, and DO THE WORK! Stop yapping about it, and start doing it!

We all need to do this more in our lives. We see problems in our homes, community, and world, and spend a lot of time talking (read: complaining!) about them. What would happen if, instead of our constant talking, we actually took action? What if we started sharing the gospel with the unreached, gave to the poor and needy, volunteered in the ministry of our church, and met needs we saw with love? I’m here to tell you THAT would make much more of an impact than our words. What will you do today to be a blessing to God and others in a world with such big needs?

Our Real Fuel

My consumption of coffee is legendary. While I’ve never really liked the taste of coffee, I’ve become reliant on the energy it’s high caffeine levels give me. I rely on coffee because I’ve never been a morning person, behaving, speaking, and looking rather like Chewbacca until around noon most days (especially if I’ve not been properly caffeinated). It’s fairly typical for me to breeze through 3 to 4 mugs of coffee before 10 am, which I know firmly qualifies me as an addict. I always know when I’m being particularly difficult when my wife, who disdains everything about coffee, takes the time to either make or purchase coffee for me. For better or for worse, I’ve become rather fueled and dependent on this “liquid gold.”

Many of us seek to “fuel” our lives in a fashion similar to how I use coffee to fuel my mornings. The list of the things that energize us, excite us, and give us purpose could go on for pages. It would include sports, vacations, working out, spending time with friends, hunting, motorsports, etc. But all of those things pale in comparison to the thing that we really need to fuel us, and that is Christ Jesus. Check out these verses in Jeremiah 17: 

“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream and does not fear when heat comes. Its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.” Jeremiah 17:7-8

Far too often we try to fuel our lives with basically everything but Christ. We think other people, fun activities, possessions, and even foods and drinks can fuel our lives. I often hear men talk about how they need time to themselves, need time to hunt, need to get a drink once in a while, need to unwind, etc. But, what we all REALLY need is a strong connection with God. God is like that stream of water mentioned in Jeremiah. He is always present in our lives, always ready to strengthen us, to love us, and to fuel us. Yet, all too often, we’re unwilling to spread our roots out even the tiniest bit to connect with Him. We’ll go on a week-long motorcycle trip, spend three days in a tree stand, binge-watch an entire TV series in a weekend, or memorize the whole 53-man roster of our favorite football team, but we’re unwilling to spend five minutes with our creator, savior, and sustainer. Why is that? I can’t answer that for you, but I can tell you this. All of those other things in life will only fuel and satisfy you for a moment. God, however, will fuel and satisfy you for all eternity. Spread your roots and connect with Him each and every day. Let God’s love, mercy, and presence provide your fuel and purpose every day of your life. 

 

Never 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. I never like it when my sports teams are going through a “rebuilding year,” or when the garage tells me it will be “a couple of weeks” to get that part in. 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.

Stop Taking it Easy

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 of sleep deprivation have an amazing way of wearing her down. Her first pregnancy led to the purchase of a Swiss crafted mattress, made of space-age materials, because she wanted a good night’s sleep. Pregnancy number two netted me (err, us) the elusive hot tub. She used it for about two weeks, but I found myself using it every day for several years. I loved just sitting there for 20 minutes or more, especially on cold winters nights (we lived near Green Bay, WI at the time). 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 and ease 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 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 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 lives in order to use the strength God has given us to impact the world.

Follow Me: Forgiveness

Over the past few weeks I’ve been writing about the importance of following Jesus. I initially planned for this to be a three-week series, but then the following verse caught my eye, mind, and heart this week. It reminded me that perhaps the area of our lives where we most struggle to follow Jesus is in forgiving others. 

Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. Ephesians 4:31-5:2. 

In my ministry career I’m not sure I’ve seen a teaching of Jesus that people would like to use a bottle of white-out on more than the command to forgive others. Virtually everyone I meet (myself unfortunately included) is quite sure they have found a boatload of exceptions to the command to forgive others. We all have those situations and people we are sure we wronged us in an unforgivable way. Yet, Scripture is REALLY clear that we are to offer forgiveness to others, even if we need to do it 7×70 times. Here are two big reasons for us to continually extend forgiveness and grace to others, even when it is INCREDIBLY hard to do so. 

  1. Because a life of grace is better than a life without forgiveness. Paul uses some powerful words in today’s scripture, words like bitterness, wrath, and anger. Be honest: do you really want those things in your life? While almost all of us answer no, we choose to let all of those things fester in our lives because we choose to not forgive others. Let me share a dirty little secret I’ve learned over the years: those who don’t forgive often suffer more than those who committed the sin. The sinner moves on with their life, while we let bitterness, wrath, and anger eat away at us. When we show grace to others we release all that bitterness, wrath, and anger from our lives.
  2. Because we follow the example of Jesus. Did you know there has only ever been one person truly capable of judging the sins of the world? That person was Jesus, who because He was the sinless Son of God had the right to judge all people. So how did he use that power? He chose to offer forgiveness. Jesus had all the power in the world, and he chose to forgive each of us infinitely. That’s the example that has been set for us to follow. How can we honestly accept Jesus’ infinite forgiveness of our sins, while simultaneously holding the sins of others over their heads? We need to follow Christ’s example, showing love, grace, and forgiveness, even when it’s difficult. 

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