Author Archives: Andy Baker

Someone Needs to do Something!

You are an observant genius! It’s a true statement, right? You frequently see things that need to be fixed, need to be done better, or which you know you could vastly improve. You drive down the road and see the pothole that needs to be fixed, see the building that could be painted a much better color, and know that you could have roofed that house much better. It something all of us do: we see things and think: that’s a problem! But here’s my question for all of us: what do we ever do about? Now, many of the things we point out as needing fixing are truly not our responsibility {you probably shouldn’t just start repairing potholes}. Yet, there are many problems we see on a regular basis that we know need fixing, which we could legitimately do something about, yet choose to do nothing.

 

If you’ve never read the book of Nehemiah you owe it to yourself to read through it. 140 before Nehemiah the city of Jerusalem had been attacked, conquered, and destroyed by the Babylonians. For 140 years the walls of the city laid in ruins, leading the city defenseless. While people frequently complained about the state of the city little was done about it. Some attempts were made over the years, but always ceased when even the smallest of difficulties were encountered. Then one day a man named Nehemiah, living 800 miles away, heard about the condition of the city {Nehemiah 1:1-3}. Like thousands before him he was saddened by the news, bringing him to tears. But, unlike the generations of Israelites before him, he chose to do something about it. First, he decided to pray {Nehemiah 1:4}. Then, he chose to take direct action, leaving his prestigious job as an assistant to the King to travel to Jerusalem and tackle the problem head on {Nehemiah 2:3-5}. His attitude was: someone has got to do something about this, and it might as well be me!

 

Like Nehemiah we see all sorts of problems that break our hearts. Poverty, hunger, the lost, those caught in drug addictions, failing marriages, broken relationships, and more. Our hearts break everyday as we see so many problems not only around the world, but also in our own backyards {and, perhaps, within our own homes}. We’ll even utter the phrase “someone has GOT to do something about this!” But do we ever follow Nehemiah’s example and finish that phrase with “it might as well be me?” Friends, if your heart is breaking over a problem in this world I want to suggest that God may very well be telling YOU to do something about it. If your heart breaks for the lost start praying for them and starting finding opportunities to share the gospel. If your heart breaks for the poor begin praying for them and seeking out opportunities to assist them. Let your prayer this week truly be: “someone has got to do something about this, and it might as well be me!”

Avoiding the Trash Heap

It’s spring cleanup week in my community, meaning that if you can drag it to the curb someone will haul it away free of charge. Our family took this very seriously this year, using it as an opportunity to pitch three TV’s, a hot tub, two mattresses, a couch, and more. As I looked at the rather large pile on my lawn I thought about how much money I had spent on stuff I was now happy someone would take to the dump for free {my rough estimate is well over $5,000 sat on my lawn}. I remember taking a deep breathe when we bought the one flat screen TV, buying it rather impulsively without really processing if we could afford it. I can remember saving up months to buy that hot tub, then investing considerable money and resources into it {not to mention the time when my negligence led to it flooding our basement, but that’s another story…}. I also remember being so proud of those things, inviting friends over to watch the Super Bowl on my brand new flatscreen, and seeing the jealous looks on faces when I spoke about our hot tub. Yet, not that many years later, here they all lay on a scrapheap.

You probably all know where I’m going with this story, yet it seems to be a lesson we struggle to truly live out. We spend so much of our time, energy, and talents pursuing things that are extremely temporary, especially when we look at the whole of history. Jesus puts it this way:

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 6:19-21

 The term treasures in heaven refers to things done in this life that are of good and eternal significance. Here’s the big question: what are you doing in your life that is actually of eternal permanence? These are actions such as sharing the gospel, supporting mission work, confessing your sins, and building up others to be disciples. All of these have the potential to have an everlasting effect. The person you share the gospel with comes to have eternal life by God’s grace. The missionary you support leads an entire un-reached people group to Christ, saving generations. The young adult you disciple not only turns their life around, but over the course of their life leads others to Christ and builds up additional disciples. Friends, those are the things we need to really be investing our time, energy, finances, and talents in, because they will truly last forever. Stop spinning your wheels to acquire things that will end up on the scrap heap, but instead take proactive action to make an eternal impact on the world around you.

When the Big Event is Over

When I was a youth pastor we would hold a middle school lock-in every year that grew into a major outreach event. Over 100 6-8th graders would show up at our church at 4PM for 16 straight hours of games, food, worship, a trip to an indoor waterpark, inflatables, and more. Now, obviously an all night event with that many Mt. Dew drinking middle schoolers necessitated an army of volunteers, with about 20 needed per two-hour shift. Because our congregation bought into the vision of the night, reaching a generation for Christ, we always quickly filled up every shift but one: the cleanup shift. Yes, we could find adults willing to supervise jousting pits and dodge ball tournaments from 2am-4am, but about the only people that would ever sign-up for cleanup was the janitor, her family, and those who felt too guilty to say no. When you really think about it, I can certainly see why everyone avoided that shift. Everyone wants to be part of the action and excitement, but few want to stay after the fun is over to deal with the messy and difficult aftermath.

I see a parallel with the church and Easter. On Easter Sunday we seem to have no trouble finding volunteers and filling the pews/seats like never before. Its an electric atmosphere, and everyone walks away happy. Yet, what do we do after Easter? What do we really do with the good news that Jesus died and rose again so that we may live forever? Most of us celebrate that day, then simply go back to our routine on Monday morning, living no differently then before. Our churches go back to “normal,” with numbers drastically falling off and our weekly effort declining precipitously.

Juxtapose that with the reaction of the Disciples after Easter. After Jesus’ ascension the Disciples famously gathered in an upper room to decide who would replace Judas {Acts 1:12-26}. Their task that night was really more then the selection of a twelfth disciple, but a decision to spread Jesus’ message to the ends of the Earth. The disciples decided that night to continue the mission, and ten days later Peter preaches a sermon in the middle of Jerusalem that leads to 3,000 accepting Christ {Acts 2:14-41}. The disciples took the good news of Easter and acted on it, ensuring that the first Easter would be known by just a few, but would be spread to billions. 

I pray that this Easter may spur us to similar action. Lets invite those who attended our churches this Sunday to come back next week. Lets share our excitement and passion with our friends and neighbors. Lets make changes in our lives to live more for Christ then for ourselves. Like the disciples in that upper room let us decide to go all in for Christ, serving on a “cleanup” crew after the big event that greatly improves our world.

A Big Entrance

We just celebrated Palm Sunday, the commemoration of Jesus’ big entry into Jerusalem. In Jesus’ day basically all of Israel was expected to leave their homes to celebrate the Passover in Jerusalem (not unlike how it seemed all of Iowa migrated to Pasadena this winter to celebrate the Hawkeyes playing in the Rose Bowl). Jerusalem was thusly swelled beyond capacity by people from throughout Israel and the Jewish diaspora, and many seemed to have an opinion about the young phenom rabbi from Nazareth, Jesus. A large portion of the people cheered his entry into the city, seeing him as the new King that would rid Israel of Roman occupation, thusly improving their lives by removing unfair taxation, unjust laws, and foreign rule. They waved palm branches, a sign of victory, believing Jesus would soon bring tangible improvement to their daily lives. Others, namely the religious leaders, treated his entry with great disdain. They not only disagreed with his teachings, scripture interpretations, and actions, but were distraught by the mere thought of him replacing them in the hearts and minds of the Jewish people. They could not stomach the idea of this Jesus challenging their authority, and they really couldn’t stand his calling out of their own pride and hypocrisy. Then there were those completely confused by Jesus’ entry: his disciples. They could not comprehend why he would humbly enter on a donkey, why he resisted becoming king, nor why he would think death was any kind of an answer to the world’s problems. They wanted him to keep performing miracles and preaching with his tremendous parables, not to die on a cross like a criminal.

Here’s an interesting thing about every character in the Palm Sunday account: they all behaved rather poorly when Jesus’ entry did not fulfill their desires. The crowd ended up turning on him, demanding his death instead of that of the criminal Barabbas. The religious leaders plotted his death, begging the governor to crucify him. And his beloved disciples? One betrayed Him, one denied Him, at least one doubted Him, and all failed to understand Him.

Here is my question for you this Holy Week. How have you reacted to Jesus coming into your life? That’s a pretty serious question. Have you, like those on that Palm Sunday, chosen to focus on what Jesus seemingly can or cannot do for you, instead of focusing on the fact that He has saved you for all eternity? I think most of us have done just that. We fail to joyously celebrate Jesus’ grace for us, preferring to whine and wallow about the perceived imperfections of our lives. This Easter I urge you to wrap your arms tightly around God’s gift of grace and to never let it go. Let your joy in life, even in the darkest of moments, permeate from knowing Christ has saved you on the cross. Don’t miss the greatest aspect of Christ coming into your life: the gift of a perfect eternal life in Heaven.

One Tough Vine

My Dad always said that it took five minutes to get anywhere in my hometown of Sioux City. Now, he did not make this statement to insinuate that Sioux City was small or to be truthful. He said it as a way of letting me know I was never supposed to be more then five minutes away from home. If my parents ever called and I tried to say “it will take me half an hour to get home,” I was quickly met by the statement “everywhere in Sioux City takes five minutes!” I’ve come to hold a similar view of yard projects. To me, every yard project should take five minutes. So when someone asked me to remove the ivy growing alongside their house I immediately thought: that will take five minutes. Two and a half hours, and six bloody hands later (I had to call two friends to help), I realized that removing ivy from the side of a house is a little bit more then a five-minute project!

You see, I vastly underestimated the strength of ivy. The leaves and the branches came off with a simple tug. The vines, however, are a different story. Ivy vines are tough and thick. Most required garden clippers to cut through, and some even necessitated the use of chainsaw. The are also tightly woven together. It was difficult enough to cut through one vine, but in places where two or three were woven together it was nearly impossible. Trust me, ivy removal will not be a project I sign-up for again anytime in the near future.

As I un-wove vine after vine I was reminded of Jesus’ teaching about the vines and the branches:                                                                                                                          “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and                              burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.”                John 15:5-8

When we regularly connect ourselves to God by reading scripture, praying, serving, and following God’s ways we are able to tap into the strength of that vine. Someone or some thing may well try to tear up our lives as I tried to tear up that ivy, but the job will be impossible because we have so woven ourselves into God’s grace and power. It becomes our true source of strength, peace, and hope. Not only does it become difficult for someone to permanently damage our life and faith, but we receive strength from God to make a significant impact in this world. It might take more then five minutes to get across Sioux City or to tear ivy from a wall, but regular five-minute connections with God through scripture reading, prayer, service, and worship can make a massive impact on your life and the lives of those around you. Take the time, even if it is only five minutes at a time, to connect with God daily in a meaningful way, and tap into the strength of the true vine.

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