Author Archives: Andy Baker

Disappointing God

contemplating-1379133-1279x717I recently disappointed someone. We could sit here and argue over whether or not I truly messed up, but the reality is that regardless of my intent the result was them feeling let down by me, and I hate letting people down. I’m actually not sure what feeling is worse: disappointing someone or being the one that is disappointed. Both feelings are, in my opinion, incredibly unpleasant and unwanted. Yet, as we go through life we end up being on both sides of disappointment a fair amount of times.

 

As I’ve though about disappointment I’ve thought about how often I must disappoint God. Every time I bend the truth, ignore someone in need, take the easy way out, hoard my time, money, and resources, or choose the selfish path I disappoint God. See, God did not create any of us to be sinners, but rather to be masterpieces. As Paul writes in Ephesians 2:10:

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.

Here are two things I think we can learn about disappointing God from that verse.

  1. Instead of disappointing God by sinning, we do the good things he created us to do. God didn’t just make us to live an ordinary live, but to live a life that makes a profound impact. He formed each of us to make a positive impact on the world, and it is our responsibility to make that impact. Take a moment to examine your life today. In what ways are you doing the good things God has made you to do? In what ways are you falling short? Choose to cut out the bad, and to add in as much good as possible.

 

  1. When we disappoint God, he never holds a grudge: This is how God is so radically different from us humans. He loves and cares for us unconditionally. No matter how many times we fail to live up to his standards he continues to forgive and love us. When we disappoint God there are two steps we always need to take: we ask forgiveness and sincerely work at changing our ways. While we often see the act of admitting our wrongs as repentance, the truth is that it is these two steps together that actually equal repentance. True repentance is confessing our sins and choosing to change our sinful behaviors. When we are truly repentant God does not hold a grudge or constantly rub our wrongs in our face, but instead creates us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.

 

This week let us all strive to be the masterpieces God created us to be, and when we do inevitably disappoint God let us be quick to truly repent of our actions by confessing and changing our ways.

despair-1436325-639x426In my last ministry position I had leadership of a post-high ministry haphazardly tacked onto my job description. We had around six young adults that met regularly in my basement for a time of conversation, food, and Bible study. They ate the food provided, ate food out of my kitchen that WAS NOT provided, and even broke my couch. That summer we even did a post-high trip, renting a houseboat and traveling up the Mississippi. It was a fun trip everyone enjoyed, but I was not really sure anything deeply spiritual happened. To make matter worse, when we returned the boat we had broken the prop and had to pay $600 for it. After a year of ministry I really felt all we had accomplished was breaking a couch and a boat! Talk about discouragement!

 

If you serve God for any amount of time you are going to encounter discouragement. You work hard on a lesson, only to hear complaints. You get up the courage to share the gospel, only to get rejected. You spend your few free hours painting, only to be told that “so and so” does a better job. Serving God can certainly be an incredibly discouraging undertaking.

 

There is a great illustration of this in Nehemiah chapter four. Nehemiah has traveled over 1,000 miles to help rebuild Jerusalem, only to encounter all sorts of discouragement. Enemy armies want to attack the workers, the workers complain of being overworked, and the local citizens complain about the whole thing ten times in a row. For most of us all that discouragement would have been enough to toss in the towel, but not so for Nehemiah. Instead, he takes these four steps to defeat discouragement.

 

  1. He prays: as soon as he faces difficulty Nehemiah turns to God in prayer. In the face of difficulty do we do the same, or do we instead begin complaining or even giving up?
  2. He thinks it through: Nehemiah asks the question: why are we building this wall? The answer? For God’s glory and for the safety of His people. When you are discouraged serving God take a moment to remember why you are doing what you are doing.
  3. He takes action: In the face of danger Nehemiah forms security details to protect the city. He just doesn’t think and complain, as we are prone to, but takes the action that is necessary.
  4. He has faith: After praying, thinking, and acting Nehemiah trusts God with the result. Back to that post-high ministry. I prayed, I thought, and I acted, but I didn’t trust God, and that led to discouragement. Yet, just two weeks ago, I got an unsolicited email from someone telling me that being involved in that ministry had changed his life. He talked about how much he grew each week, and even how important that House Boat trip was. Where I had been discouraged God was act work doing something big. May we all keep serving through the discouraging times, trusting God with the results.

 

Life Under Construction

vital-logo-overlay I write this today while I sit in exile. Well, ok, maybe “exile” is a tad bit extreme. I’m sitting in my favorite coffee shop {sipping some real great blueberry crumble coffee I might add} because one can hardly hear themselves think at our church right now as we are in the middle of a construction project. As our church continues to grow our facility needs to grow, which has led to this building expansion project. The crew is currently in the demolition phase, tearing out concrete, removing old carpets, and tearing off dated “wood” paneling. After the old is stripped away crews will begin constructing a fabulous new narthex, including an elevator, new restrooms, and plenty of fellowship space. It’s an exciting time in the life of our church as we grow and expand!

As I’ve heard the extremely annoying sound of jackhammers I’ve thought about the fact that we are all perpetually under construction. We are always learning, growing, and being shaped into better disciples of Christ. However, I fear many of us {myself included} get to a point where we begin thinking we have everything figured out. We’ve attended thousands of worship service, read shelves worth of Christian living books, attended countless Bible studies, and read thousands of daily devotionals. Not only that, but we’ve even been leaders and teachers in the church. Certainly we’ve reached the point where God has finished construction in our lives, and we have it all perfectly together, right? When you really think about it, the only moment in life when construction is complete is the moment we die and enter into God’s perfect heaven. Until that moment we are all in need of improvement, growth, and change. The problem is we seldom think that way.

Paul sums up the reality that we need to always be growing in our faith and practice in the book of Ephesians. He writes: until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ. Ephesians 4:13-15

What are you doing right now to be growing? Do you have a mentor? Are you truly digging into scripture? Are you actively learning from others? Are you open to listening to new ideas and perspectives? Are you getting better at serving others? Until the day God calls us home we are tasked to constantly be growing as followers and disciples. What will you do to grow this week?

Turbulence

A number of years ago I found myself traveling from the Midwest to New Jersey. I arrived in Milwaukee to catch my connecting flight to Newark, only to discover that a major winter storm had paralyzed the eastern seaboard. As I gazed as the flight board I saw the dreaded CANCELLED on every flight to the east coast save one: mine! I was, of course, quite excited that I would still get home on time. My excitement disappeared, however, when our flight encountered the storm head on. We hit so much turbulence that the overhead compartments opened and luggage flew everywhere. The majority of the passengers ended up using the “courtesy bags {aka barf bags} because things were so shaky. As we came in for our landing I watched the plane’s wings move haphazardly up and down, and I started wondering if we would make it. We seemingly hit the tarmac ok, and then suddenly began to slide. The plane actually slid out of control, doing a 180 before finally coming to a rest. Once I realized I was not going to die I became very curious as to what kind of pilot a} thought it was a good idea to take off b} thought it was a good idea to continue through the storm and c} thought it was wise to land on a sheet of ice. The cockpit opened to reveal a fresh-faced young buck of a captain whose jacket was about 3 sizes to big. He grinned a “I can’t wait to tell the fellas” grin, and we all thankfully exited the plane. 

Lots of times are lives resemble that airplane ride as we feel constantly tossed and turned about, worried that we are going to crash and burn at any moment. Often times in those moments we are quick to blame God for our predicament, or to even doubt his existence. Here’s what I want us to all ask ourselves today: who is really at the controls of our lives? Are we letting God pilot our life, or have we locked the cockpit door and are trying to pilot our life through storms we are ill prepared for? Checkout these challenging, yet hopeful, words from Psalm 143:
Deliver me from my enemies, O Lord!
I have fled to you for refuge.
Teach me to do your will,
for you are my God!
Let your good Spirit lead me
on level ground!
For your name’s sake, O Lord, preserve my life!
In your righteousness bring my soul out of trouble!
Psalm 143:9-11

We are going to fly through turbulence in life. What we need to decide is whether we are going to attempt piloting through it ourselves, or instead turn the cockpit over to God. Here’s the reality friends: when we turn the controls of our life over to God he will guide us, deliver us, teach us, and love us through whatever it is we are going through. Surrender the controls, and let our loving God lead you through the storms of life.

Challenges

I’m writing this today as I sit on a street corner in the Achiuclinca neighborhood of Managua, Nicaragua. Over the past year our church has been building a partnership with three churches in this neighborhood, and this trip has been focused on learning more about them, their members, their community, and their culture. We’ve spent the week living amongst them in the sweltering heat (100 degrees plus each day), visiting their homes, worshiping with them, and sharing life together.


As we’ve engaged in dozens of conversations with Nicaraguan Christians this week God has convicted me of a number of things in my own life. I share these with you today because I think these are problems shared by many of us.

I’m incredibly ungrateful. The people I’ve met are quick to give God the glory for EVERYTHING in their lives. If their business is thriving they give God the glory. If they recover from illness God is praised. Even though they lack many of the luxuries you and I take for granted in life (including air conditioning on 100 plus degree days), they express incredible thankfulness to God. I don’t know about you, but I’m seldom very grateful for what God has done for me. If I experience joy and success I’m prone to be proud of myself instead of thanking God for blessing me.
I surrender so little to God in prayer. My Nicaraguan brothers and sisters are people incredibly dedicated to prayer. Not only do they maintain prayer lives that are wider and deeper then mine, they also value communal prayer. I was surprised that even though I am a stranger from a strange land many Nicaraguans shared sensitive prayer concerns with me because they see such value in prayer. I’ve been reminded this week that I need to not only go deeper and wider with my prayers, but to also be more open to sharing my petitions with others.
I trust myself more then I trust God. Nicaraguans I met seemed to trust God with every aspect of their lives. Again, they are no perfect in their faith, but their willingness to trust God to carry the, throw the ups and downs of life pales in comparison to my faith. I have learned much this week about surrender my worries and learning to trust God to provide and guide.

Again, my Nicaraguan brothers and sisters have not perfected faith, nor are we as Americans especially poor in our faith and practice. I have, however, been enormously challenged and inspired by my friends here in this beautiful land, and I hope these insights inspire you this week.

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