Author Archives: Andy Baker

Thriving in a Drought: Trusting God

Author’s note: This is week one of a four week series

Have you ever experienced a dry season in life? I define a dry season as any period where it just seems like very few things appear to be going right, and your connection with God starts to wane. If you’ve experienced such a season, or perhaps are in one right now, you are far from alone. In fact, I would surmise that everyone goes through a dry season at some point in their life. It may be a calamitous event: job loss, relationship issues, medical problems, loss of a friend or loved one, financial stress, or any number of issues. Because it’s so likely that all of us will encounter such a season at some point in our lives I want to spend the next four weeks looking at ways to not just survive, but to thrive in the dry seasons of our lives.

I take my inspiration for this series from the life of the prophet Elijah as laid out in 1 Kings 17-18. Elijah was called to be a prophet during a time of moral and spiritual collapse in Israel. Many people had ceased to follow God, or had begun “hedging their bets” by worshiping many different gods. The King of Israel was so desperate to placate a variety of gods that he married his son off to the high priestess of Baal. In the midst of this God makes Elijah the bearer of the bad news:
Elijah the Tishbite said to Ahab, “As the Lord, the God of Israel, lives, before whom I stand, there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word.” And the word of the Lord came to him: “Depart from here and turn eastward and hide yourself by the brook Cherith, which is east of the Jordan.” 1 Kings 17:1-3

It struck me that Elijah, and everyone else who heard this message, had exactly two choices: they could put their faith in God to carry them through, or they could choose not to. To phrase it like Jedi Master Yoda: “trust or trust not, there is no try.” The King, Queen, and many Israelites chose to not trust in God, turning to other gods and their own intuition to try and save themselves. Now, while most of us don’t turn to other gods when things are difficult, I’m not sure we can always say that we truly trust in God (I know I haven’t always). Yet, that is really the ONE option we have when the drought hits us in life. We need to choose to run after the God who created us, who saved us, and who sustains us by the Spirit. We need to trust in his Word, wrap ourselves in His love for us, and remember his unceasing gift of salvation. When the drought hits your life are you ready to put your full trust in God?

The Privilege of Living for God

As we celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation I’ve been reflecting on the every day impact the Reformation has had. You’d be surprised by the number of ways the Reformation impacts our lives, but as my space is limited I’ll focus on just one. Before Luther there were two spheres of life: religious and secular. Religious tasks were, more or less, solely the duty of the clergy. Most people could not even participate in communion or read the Bible, much less lead and serve in ministry. Luther radically changed all that. 

“It’s pure invention that the Pope, Bishop, priests, and monks are called the Spiritual Estate, while the princes, lords, artisans, and farmers are called the temporal estate. ALL Christians are truly of the spiritual estate, and there is no difference among them except that of office. We are all one body, yet every member has its own work by which it serves the others. We are all priests.”  Martin Luther, To the Christian Nobility of the German Nation

Luther was proclaiming that ALL OF US are equipped and called to be serving God with our lives. Its not just ministers that are to take up the Cross and follow Jesus, but everyone who believes in Him. This is, of course, not an idea developed by Luther, but one Luther found in-bedded throughout the Bible. One of my favorite verses on this comes from the Apostle Paul: Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith. Hebrews 13:7

Friends, each and everyone of us is called to be one of those leaders. In our own ways we’ve been called to make a transformational impact on others. Paul mentions three specific things here that everyone of us needs to be doing DAILY in our lives. 

  1. Live a Lifestyle worth considering: Are we living modeling our daily lives after that of Christ Jesus? If I’ve learned one thing in ministry it is that living a Christian lifestyle is more impactful then even the best evangelism message. 
  2. Carry a message worth remembering: So many of us think sharing the message of Christ is the duty of Pastors and Teachers. Its best left to “the professionals.” Hogwash! We are blessed that the message of God is so simple, yet so powerful. For God so loved the World that He gave His only Son, so that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have Eternal Life. John 3:16. Remember, it’s not the greatness of the messenger that saves, but the greatness of the message.
  3. Have a faith worth imitating: If someone has a car that they complain about all the time, would you want to buy that type of car? Of course not! If we profess a faith in God, but walk around complaining about everything in our life, why would anyone desire to follow God? The stronger our faith and reliance on God is, the more we shine for Him in our life. 

Shalom, Shalom!

I’ve been frustrated lately with a certain head coach of a certain favorite college football team of mine, who seems to be substantially more positive then he should be. After a recently blowout loss his press conference was almost more glowing and positive then that of the coach who had just mopped the floor with him (can you sense my frustration through your computer?)! While I’m sure that behind the scenes he and his staff are frustrated and truly trying hard to get better, this “the sky is falling” fan would like a little more public urgency!

There is an account in scripture where the sky was most definitely falling, but the people of Israel did everything possible to look the other way. For several generations God’s people had fallen into all sorts of sin, from idol worship, to immorality, and more. This was especially bad among their leaders, but the common people were far from innocent. As the sinfulness of society continued to mount the people refused to acknowledge their faults. 

“For from the least to the greatest of them, everyone is greedy for unjust gain; and from prophet to priest, everyone deals falsely. They have healed the wound of my people lightly, saying, ‘Peace, peace,’ when there is no peace. Were they ashamed when they committed abomination? No, they were not at all ashamed; they did not know how to blush. Jeremiah 6:13-15

The phrase that really grabs my attention here is that the people were “saying, ‘Peace, peace,’ when there is no peace.” The Hebrew word translated peace here is shalom, which refers to something much bigger then our word peace. Shalom means that everything is right before God. Obviously, that was VERY far from the case in Israel. Yet, in the face of so much sinfulness, the people were declaring that everything was perfectly fine. I think that today we are facing a similar, yet different, problem. Most of us recognize that there is not shalom in the world. We recognize the sinfulness in our world and in our culture. Yet, I wonder, do we adequately recognize our own sin? We are quick to point out all the problems around us, but then declare “shalom, shalom!” in our own lives. The world may be getting an F, but the fact that we are getting a C- should not be cause to declare “shalom, shalom!” I want to encourage all of us this week to do a comprehensive examination of our own lives. In what ways are we not at peace with God? What things do we need to change in our lives, and what things to we need to repent of? Sometimes we need to stop worrying about the problems of the world so that we can truly examine our own lives. This week, lets clean-up our own house so that we can truly have shalom with God. 

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.

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