Author Archives: Andy Baker

Serve Like Jesus

So, it was my birthday this weekend. Woo-hoo. Since I was about ten I have not cared about my birthday. Sure, I’ll gladly accept your well wishes and gifts, but the day honestly has little meaning to me. Now, I’m totally not judging anyone who makes their birthday a big deal, it’s just not something that excites me. This year my birthday landed on a Sunday, which tends to be a busy day for someone in ministry. On top of my normal Sunday responsibilities my wife was singing in praise band and our five-year old had a 103-degree temperature. This led to me constantly shuffling between church duties, my sick son, and trying to prepare lunch. Of course, when I went to start lunch none of the dishes had been done from the night before, so I first had to do dishes {which, of course, I did without muttering anything derogatory under my breath!}. Then my son spilled all over the floor, leading to a substantial cleanup project. My well-planned afternoon birthday bike ride was ruined by hurricane force winds, and my son’s sickness torpedoed the one thing I had really wanted for my birthday: a family dinner at a favorite restaurant. At around 6PM I found myself frantically searching our cupboards for ingredients to somehow make my own birthday dinner. The following thought then came into my head: “all I’ve done all day is serve others. It’s my birthday for crying out loud! When are they going to serve me!”

 

Soon after that thought came into my mind I was reminded of this verse: the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many Matthew 20:28. Yep, not a very Christ-like thought I had just had! Now, when we hear the term Christ-like we usually think of moral perfection {i.e. not committing sins}. Yet, moral perfection is only part of what it means to live like Christ. At the core of Jesus’s teaching, ministry, and mission on earth was serving others. Think about who Jesus is. Jesus is the creator and ruler of the universe who chooses to take on the wretched flesh of humanity to serve us. Christ serves us not only by his teaching and ministry, but by His sacrificial death on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins. I want to offer this thought today: to live like Christ is to always be living as a servant. It means putting yourself aside {even on your Birthday} to improve the lives of others. It means joyfully serving, even when it means sacrificing your own wants and desires. It means holding serving others as a core value. Does that describe you? It certainly does not always describe me, but it does describe who I want to strive to be. This week, lets all strive to be more Christ like as we actively serve others.

Why Church?

I’ll admit it: I’ve been burned by church. I grew up with my dad serving in a church, and thusly got to see the underbelly of the beast. I heard about the fighting, the politics, and the heartache and started thinking: why do I need this? I love God, have accepted Christ as my Savior, do a number of good things, and read the Bible, so why get up early in the morning to go to church? In fact, I started thinking I would be better off in my faith without the church, because I often saw church as bringing my faith down, rather then building it up. My experience is not overly unique. Many people I meet believe in God, but have been so burned by experiences in the local church that they have nothing to do with it. This is the case in the community I serve: 85% of the population believes in God, but only around 35% are active in a church. This all begs the question: why church?

Acts 2:42-47 lays out in detail how the first church functioned, and when I read that passage it becomes clear to me how important being part of a church community is. Here are four big answers to the “why church?” question from Acts 2:

  1. To learn and grow {v.42}: We participate in a Christian community so that we can learn from the wisdom of others. We grow not only from hearing sermons on Sunday mornings, but from watching the example of others, being mentored, hearing testimonies, and being held accountable.
  2. To make each other better {v.44}: Church needs to be a place where we make one another better. We pray for each other, offer encouragement, are there in difficult times, and help break sinful habits. A church thrives when everyone in it takes this responsibility seriously.
  3. To improve the world around us {v.45}: There is so much need in our community, state, nation, and world. While we can {and should} take actions to address these needs individually, we make the biggest impact when we serve together.
  4. To celebrate God {v.45-47}: So much about church seems to revolve around music. We pick what church we are going to attend because of it, and much of our in fighting stems from it. We need to move beyond music preferences, realizing that what is central to church is God’s people coming together to celebrate God for all He does for us. We need to look at worship as a time we give to God, not as a time for us to be receiving.

Many of us whine because we’ve either neither found these things in a church, or because our church does not seem to do them well. I want to say this to all of us {myself included}: instead of whining about our church, lets start making these things happen ourselves. Start seeing church as a place to grow, make others better, improve your world, and truly celebrate God.


Love in Action

It’s just a couple of days after Valentine’s Day, and relationships are still on my mind for some reason (the heart decorations still hanging in the coffee shop I’m writing in could be part of it). I’ve recently been thinking a lot about why we engage in any sort of relationship, whether it be dating, friendships, family, work-related, or in the church. Why ask such a question? Because, lets be honest, relationships often cause a ton of stress. A friend betrays our confidence, a co-worker’s foibles drive us up the wall, our spouse and us seem to be constantly divided, etc. In fact, in my just over a decade in ministry, by far the most prevalent problem walking through my door has been dysfunctional relationships. How do we not only navigate the difficulties of relationships, but actual turn every relationship we are in into a POSITIVE for everyone involved?

 

1 John 2:10 says: Anyone who loves their brother and sister lives in the light, and there is nothing in them to make them stumble. I was really amazed when I looked up what the term love here means. Love as referred to here means taking loving action for someone else, which is pretty contrary to how we often think of love. Too often we envision love like many middle schoolers I’ve known. They sit in their room “loving” a member of the opposite sex that they’ve probably never even spoken with. They think about them at length, journal their thoughts, stalk their social media pages, and speak glowingly about their love interest to their friends. But, they never actual do anything about it. They never speak to this person or do anything positive for them; they simply crush on them from a distance. In a sense many of us are prone to this. I often have people start a conversation with “I love my spouse/parent/child, but they make me so angry.” They express love for them verbally, but because of struggles in life do little to nothing to act lovingly towards them. See friends, that’s the big kicker here. To really love someone is to take action to improve and better their life, ensuring they do not stumble and that they live the best life possible.

 

I want to leave you with a big, but important, challenge. Write down the first five names that come to your mind. Friends, family, co-workers, whoever comes to mind. Next to their name write 2-3 ways that you can actually show them love this week. It does not have to be seemingly gigantic things, but can include things as simple as praying for them, doing a task without being asked, inviting them to dinner, meeting a need they have, etc. Let’s show real Christian love this week by taking loving action for others.

Making others Better

I’ve come to the opinion that cookies are able to simultaneously be the absolute best and worst things for me. They are the best because, let’s face it, a really good, warm, and fresh chocolate chip cookie is just about the best thing there is. On the flip side, however, is the fact that eating just four of these scrumptious creations blows my ENTIRE calorie allotment for the day. Every time I see an awesome looking plate of cookies I’m faces with that tension of I know it’s a wonderful thing, but I also know it can be a bad thing if I’m not careful.

As crazy as it may sounds, our relationships (friendships, marriages, work, etc.) can be very similar. Few things in this life are better then a thriving relationship. A solid relationship can make you better in so many ways, offering you encouragement, helping you through difficulty, drawing your nearer to Christ, and answering questions. A bad relationship, however, can lead to immense pain, conflict, and more. In fact, broken relationships may be the number one non-medical related problem I see people really struggling with in life is relationships.

While relationships can take on many facets and be incredibly complicated, let me offer up one piece of advice today: the overall goal and focus of every relationship we are in is to make the other person better. The point of a relationship should never be about what we get out of it, but about what we are giving to others. If we all adopted this view of relationships we would rather quickly see the extinction of gossip, slander, betrayal, bruised feelings, and the like. Philippians 2:3 puts it like this:
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves.”

Relationships can be one of the greatest aspects of our lives, or one of the worst. To make the most out of them heed Paul’s advice in Philippians and make the goal of every relationship not the betterment of yourself, but the betterment of others.

Stop Talking!

I don’t know about you, but I enjoy talking, especially about things I either really like, or things I really DISLIKE. You get me going about some of my big likes, the Chicago Cubs, bicycling, the and the outdoors and it’s hard to get me to stop. Unfortunately, I can go in and on about things I dislike. Sometimes that’s not a bad things,because I’m talking about things I’d love to see eradicated from this world, such as poverty, people who do not know Jesus, and the self center dress of our culture. Sadly, I can also spend WAY to much time doing things like whining, hold a self-pity party, and complaining about others. The problem with all of this talking is this: it really does not accomplish anything.

Let’s be honest, if we actually did good 10% as much as we talked we’d pretty much eliminate the problems of this world. If you’ve never read the first chapter of the Book of Haggai I’d really encourage you to do so. In that first chapter God uses the prophet Haggai to urge the people to stop talking and stop doing. Haggai served God 18 years after the people of Israel had returned from exile in Babylon. Right after their return they had begun rebuilding God’s Temple, but soon stopped. 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 would often talk about building the Temple, but they never actually did the work. Haggai stood before the people and simply said this: go up into the woods, cut down trees for lumber, and do the work! Basically, stop yapping about it, and start doing it. We all need to do that 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 that, instead of our constant talking we actually took action? 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 then our words. What will you do today to be a blessing to God and others in a world with such big needs?

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



Listen Anytime On:

Spotify Channel

iTunes Podcast