Author Archives: Andy Baker

Investing in Our Children

Today my oldest celebrated her 12th birthday. I can still very vividly remember that moment 12 years ago when she came into our life, as well as her first giggles, her first steps, her first day of school, and so much more. If you are a new parent I’m here to tell you that the old adage “don’t blink or you’ll miss it” certainly seems true to me. As I think back on my 12 years as a parent I can think of many successful parenting moments, as well as innumerable parenting failures. Like many parents my wife and I have invested a lot of time, money, and energy into our kids, trying our best to help them to succeed in all aspects of life. In fact, the US Department of agriculture estimates that it takes $233,610 to raise a child (I’m assuming that does NOT include college tuition, which is quickly equally that number on its own), and studies have shown that families of Olympic athletes spend an average of $15,000 a year to prepare them for athletic success. In a rare positive change, parents today are spending twice as much time with their children than their parents did, and men have quadrupled the time they spend with children over the past few decades. Yet, despite all of that money and time we spend on our children are we truly doing everything we can to raise them rightly? 

I am very thankful for the money, time, and energy my parents invested in me. I can’t begin to count the number of practices they drove me to, the things they bought for me, and the grey hairs I caused them. But what was most important was the time and energy they put into raising me as a disciple of Christ. From an early age my parents taught me how to pray, read me Bible stories, involved me in church, helped me memorize scripture, modeled the life of a disciple, and provided me with numerous tools to grow in my faith. I remember getting into Christian music because my parents would buy me Christian CD’s, but I had to buy the secular ones on my own. That may sound like a minute and silly thing, but it ended up having a big impact on my life.

Spending energy on raising our children to be disciples is not just something we should do, its something we are commanded to do. As Paul writes in Ephesians 6:4: Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. This is not something we are to leave up to our church or to chance, but a duty that has been assigned to us as fathers. Just as it takes substantial work to raise a champion athlete, it takes a major effort to raise a disciple of Christ in our increasingly secular world. As dad’s lets start owning our responsibility. Let’s model faith to our children, pray with and for them, helping them get into the word, and provide them the opportunities and resources to grow into disciples and leaders. Let’s do whatever we can to raise a generation of champions for Christ.

 

Tell’em What They NEED to Hear

Jossy Chacko grew up in India before moving to Australia for college in the 1980’s. He remained there after college, marrying an Australian woman and having a successful career in business. He stayed in touch with many friends in India, including a northern Indian minister named Phillip. Phillip regularly wrote asking for Jossy to come and help him minister, an invite he repetitively declined. One day Phillip wrote a letter informing Jossy that there were entire villages in northern India where no one had ever even heard the name Jesus before. Having grown up in India Jossy highly doubted that was true, so he wrote Phillip that if he could take him to such a village he would consider partnering with him. 

Phillip accepted this challenge, so while on a trip to India Jossy took several days to meet with Phillip. Sure enough, he was led to a village where not a single person had ever heard the name Jesus. Through a translator Jossy shared the gospel as the entire village listened intently. At the end of his message the entire village joyfully came to accept Christ as their savior! There was one man, however, who did not seem so joyful. When Jossy asked why he proclaimed “why hasn’t anyone come to tell us before? We’ve needed to hear this for generations!”

Those words really convicted me. While it is hard to imagine anyone in America who has not heard the name Jesus, there are millions who have never been lovingly told about him before. They’ve experienced judgement and rejection at the hands of Christians, seen Christians act hypocritically, and heard snippets about the Christian faith, but have they ever had anyone sit down and lovingly share the good news with them? They need to hear about what God has done not only for the world, but for them as well. And, they need to hear about how you’ve experienced God in your life. They need to hear your story, see your example, and to experience God’s love through you. I love how Peter explains this to us: 

But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect. 1 Peter 3:15

Friends, we always need to be ready to share the Good News with everyone we encounter. There are people in your community right now that could proclaim: “why hasn’t anyone told me this before!” They are waiting for someone to let God’s Spirit move in them to share the gospel message to them. Let’s take the time to actually share the good news with them. 

You can learn more about Jossy Chacko’s amazing life and ministry in his book Madness

It Might as Well Be You

I spend a lot of time in coffee shops. While I can get pretty “in the zone” while working, I still overhear bits of many conversations. I’ve worked in all types coffee shops all over the US, and I’ve realized there is one thing they all have in common: there are always people there complaining. It may be their local problems, their churches, national issues, or their health, but people always seem to gather to complain about something. These “coffee shop philosophers” are far from the only complainers in our society. If you turn on talk radio, cable new channels, or logon to social media you are likely to hear people complaining about something, ranging from politics, to the weather, to social ills, to people who do not know how to properly utilize the lanes in the McDonald’s drive-through (if you live in Oskaloosa you know what I’m talking about). We seem to be a society of complainers. But, is that what God wants us to be? 

I’ve always been struck by the story of the prophet Nehemiah. Nehemiah had a relatively cushy job in his era, serving as the cup-bearer (basically, a butler) in the King’s palace in Persia. One day he received a letter from people in his homeland of Israel (see Nehemiah 1). The city walls of Jerusalem lay in ruins, and the city was prone to attacks from various other nations. It broke Nehemiah’s heart to hear about the struggles of his compatriots in Israel. Faced with this heartbreaking information Nehemiah really had two choices: he could complain, or he could do something about it. He took three actions that all of us should take when we see something that breaks our heart. 

  1. He cried: Nehemiah didn’t just try to forget that he had heard sad news, he took time to mourn. He understood that his heart was breaking for something that also broke God’s heart. If you hear or see soemthing that breaks your heart take time to consider that perhaps God is trying to get you to pay attention to that problem
  2. He prayed: When you see a problem that breaks your heart give that problem to God. Don’t just complain about it, but give it over to the one who can do something about it: God. 
  3. He took action: Even though he had a good job and no engineer skills he chose to travel to Israel to help rebuild the city of Jerusalem. In just 52 days he was able to get the wall built, a project that has sat undone for decades. He saw a problem and said to himself: somebody needs to do something about this, and it might as well be me. 

If you see a problem that breaks your heart take time to mourn it, to pray about it, and to think about how YOU can help address it. God did not make us to simply complain, but to take action to address the many problems addressing our world. Somebody needs to do something about these problems, and it might as well be you! 

Different Relationships

Over my last five entries I’ve been having us look at 1 Peter to explore how God calls us to be different from the world. We’ve looked at how we are called to a different faith, different values, and a different calling. Today I want us to reflect on a way we are called to be VERY different from the world, and that is in our relationships. When I talk about relationships I am talking about any interaction you have with other people. That means you have a relationship with everyone you interact with, whether they be co-workers, friends, family, or people you’ve just met in the Wal-Mart checkout. Relationships should be a wonderful thing, right? After all, God purposefully created more than one human so that we could experience the blessing of relationships. Yet, relationships tend to cause most of us massive headaches and heartbreaks. In fact, relationships are the number three source of stress in our lives (behind only finances and work). Why have relationships, which God created to be good, become a negative in our lives? 

Here is a big reason: we tend to look at relationships from a worldly, and not a Godly, perspective. The world teaches us that relationships are about what we get out of them. We date someone because we enjoy it. We are friends with someone because we have fun with them. We are nice to our boss because it gets us a better performance review. Lets be honest: we see many relationships in our lives as being about how the relationship can benefit us. That’s a very worldly way of looking at things. The Bible, however, lays out a totally different plan for relationships. 

Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing. 1 Peter 3:8-9

When you look at all the things those two verses call us to do, what do they have in common? They are all about making the other person better. See, God’s plan for all our relationships is for us to make the other person better, regardless of how they treat us. It’s not about what we can GET OUT of the relationship, but about what we can PUT INTO the relationship. We shouldn’t be focused on what our wife has done for us lately, but instead focused on what we can do for her. We shouldn’t dwell on the behavior of an obnoxious co-worker, but be praying that God blesses them and transforms their life for the better. Every relationship you are in is an opportunity to make someone’s life (and possibly even eternity!) better. Its time that we jettison the worldly view as relationships being about us, and start viewing them as God does: an opportunity to improve the lives of others. 

Different: A Different Calling

We throw the term “calling” around quite a bit in the church, but do we really understand what it means? Pastor Craig Groeschel points out that God calls us in three distinct ways. First, God calls us to salvation. He calls us to repent, and then by His grace forgives us. Second, God call us to temporary assignments. This is the type of call most of us have in mind when we think of calling. He may call you to go on a mission trip, teach a Sunday School class, or even make ministry your vocation. While this calling may last a long time (I’ve known people to teach Sunday School for 40 plus years), it has a defined start and a defined end. It may be long-term, but its still to a certain place/ministry/people for a certain amount of time. There is a third calling that Peter talks about throughout his letter. This calling is every bit as important as the other two, but its one we are quick to overlook. This is the calling to live a different lifestyle. In fact, this is a calling EVERY CHRISTIAN has. 

You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. 1 Peter 2:9-10

Let’s break down the things Peter says we are called to be in this passage: 

    God’s Own Possession: God paid for our sins by His blood so that we may enter His Kingdom. He suffered           and sacrificed all so that we may live. 

     A Chosen People: Called to be a city on a hill: a shinning example of God’s love to all people at all times. 

     A Royal Priesthood: We are called to lead people in our lives (friends, relatives, neighbors, etc.) to know,             believe, and worship God. 

     A Holy Nation: We are called to not only worship Jesus, but to act and live like Him.

Do you notice the common thread in all of these callings? It’s that we are called to live our daily lives in a manner that honors God and blesses others. Put another way, we are ALWAYS on call for God. We are called to live in a way that attracts people to God (chosen people). We are called to live in such a way that we can lead others to a relationship with God (Royal Priesthood). We are called to live our lives in the same manner Jesus did. We are called to do all of these things because we are God’s possession, called into His Kingdom by Jesus’ death on the Cross. I urge all of us to take a few minutes today to ask ourselves: Am I living out God’s calling on a daily basis? Am I living out the calling to a different lifestyle that God has given me, His own possession? 

Vital Mission

Be part of the Vital Mission and commit to a regular monthly donation to help with the costs involved with supporting our Vital Men events and outreach in our communities.

Click the donate button below to setup your recurring monthly donation.

Every Sunday at 8:30 AM

Listen to Mike on kBOE 104.9FM

LISTEN NOW