Author Archives: Andy Baker

What About MY Life?

As we head towards the death of Jesus this week, and his subsequent Resurrection, I can’t help but think of the things that led to Jesus’ death. Yes, Jesus’ death was not only part of God’s divine plan, with the details painstakingly revealed in Scripture for centuries. What I want us to reflect on today is how God chose Jesus’ death to occur. It did not occur in a vacuum, but happened in a very specific way we can learn a lot from. Jesus was killed because he upset the teachings, positions, and preferences of the religious leaders of his day. He teaches were firmly rooted in scripture, but many scriptures had not been lived out by the religious leadership. Specifically, Jesus called out the fact that what they preached was often true, but how they lived their lives was far from God’s plan. Check out his rebuke to them, as well as his instructions: 

The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat, so do and observe whatever they tell you, but not the works they do. For they preach, but do not practice. They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger. They do all their deeds to be seen by others. For they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long, and they love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces and being called rabbi by others. But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brothers. And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven.  Neither be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Christ. The greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted. Matthew 23:2-12

There is a lot to touch on here, but lets look at two key points. 

  1. Read, speak, and do God’s Word: Jesus is making the point that we have to read God’s Word, teach and share it, and live it out. If I’m honest with myself, I often struggle to live out this “trifecta.” There are times where I’m good at reading and speaking, but my daily life does not exactly exalt God. Other times I’m an ok servant, but I don’t really engage in God’s Word. Its not enough to just be doing one or two of these. We need to strive to strive to live out all three. 
  2. Humility matters: There is not a better example of humility then Jesus. God CHOOSES to take on our flesh (whose various frailties and ailments we incessantly complain about) to not only be with us, but to DIE FOR US. As God humbled himself to serve us we are called to humbly serve others. Honestly, this is a pretty uncomplicated teaching when you really think about it. We not called to tackle a list of 4,596 things for God. We are simply asked to serve others in the way God modeled humility and service to us. Is that hard? Absolutely! But was it hard to give up heaven for death on a cross? We need to all start approaching all of life with an attitude of humility and a heart for service, just as Jesus so powerfully did for us. 

Real Humility

If I’ve seen one sports post-game interview I’ve seen them all. It seems as if every victorious athlete gives the same response to the sideline reporter: the other team played great, I could not have done it without my teammates, a huge thanks to my coach, and all the credit to God. All really great responses. But, is that really how the athlete feels? So many times I hear an athlete give those responses, only to read later in the week that they are ridiculing the other team, bashing their teammates, begging management to fire their coach, and taking all the glory for their accomplishments. It seems that most athletes know they are supposed to act humbly in the post-game interview, yet forget to live a life of humility the rest of the week.

My point here is not to pick on athletes because, quite honestly, most of us are no better {and, to be clear, there are some truly humble athletes who make exceptional role models}. We know we are supposed to act humbly, so we try hard to give humble answers and to appear humble in public. But, in our hearts and minds, we often are far from humble. We are prideful, self-focused, view ourselves above others, and have a very me-first attitude. We seem to excel at acting humble, but struggle at actually being humble.

What does it actually mean to be humble? The word humble comes form the Latin word for dirt. Its origin is in Genesis, where God creates humanity from the dirt. To be humble is to acknowledge that we are all dirt. We are all creatures that have been created by God and have fallen into sin. In fact, the giftedness and goodness that we do have is not of our doing, but the Spirit working in and through us. Therefore, we really have no reason to see ourselves any better then anyone else. The best example we have of humility is the life of Christ, as Paul points out in Philippians 2:8: And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!

Jesus, God in the flesh, was the only one to ever walk this earth that was not dirt. He was not created from the dirt, and was not sinful, but instead was fully God. Yet, despite his divinity, he chose to lower himself for us. He chose to value you and I above himself by suffering and dying on the cross to pay our debts. That is the ultimate example of humility.

I want us to all ask ourselves this question: am I living humbly, or am I simply acting humbly? Am I putting the needs of others equal to/above my own, as Christ did, or am I living for myself? This week lets follow Christ’s lead and truly live a humble life.

 

Who is Imitating You?

We are all born with innate ability to imitate others. From the day of our birth we use our senses to explore our environment and to imitate those around us. We learn to grab and use objects because we see our siblings doing the same. We learn to speak by imitating the sounds and words we hear (which is probably why “no” was one of the first words my children learned). It’s not only as babies that we learn through imitation. Throughout our lives, whether we realize it or not, we are constantly learning new skills and behaviors from those around us. 

The Apostle Paul intimately understood this idea of imitation. Imitation was the primary educational method in Biblical times. A young man wanting to become a carpenter would not attend a trade school, but rather would find a master carpenter and apprentice under him for several years. Similarly, a religious leader like Paul did not attend a seminary, but rather studied under an accomplished Jewish teacher and leader. Paul and his readers therefore understood that learning is not just something done in a classroom, but something that often occurs through imitating the actions and behaviors of others. This led Paul to write the following, which I think is of great importance to all us 2,000 years later: 

For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction. You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake.  And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit,  so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere, so that we need not say anything. 1 Thessalonians 1:4-8

While most of you may never given a sermon or share the gospel with a large audience in an auditorium, every day many people are encountering you, your words, your actions, and your behaviors. My question to all of us is: are you living a life worthy of imitating? In other words, if others starting living, speaking, working, and serving like you would they be living more or less as God desires us to? You may not like it, but as followers of God we are always on stage to the world. While this may sound intimidating, we need to embrace it as an opportunity. Every day, by simply following God’s ways, we have the opportunity to impact the lives and eternities of others. You never know who is going to be watching and learning from you, so let us always live out a life worthy of imitation. 

Where are you Leading Others?

There are plenty of things that keep people away from God: our worldly culture, business, allure of other religions, temptation, individuals passionately opposed to the church, Satan, and more. Yet, in my experience, near the top of the list of factors keeping people away from church is us. Yes, us Christians are often very good at shooting ourselves and the church in the foot. We do it when we are legalistic, maintain a closed “holy huddle” attitude, live a life of hypocrisy, judge rather then love, and so on. Not only are we often a barrier between non-believers and Christ’s church, we are also really good at leading others away from God. We reject them because of a sin, knock them because of their opinions, assert that only our preference is correct (often the case with worship style), and so on. It makes my heart hurt each time I hear someone share of how an experience with Christians and the church has taken them FURTHER away from God. 

As Christians we are all servants and representatives for God and His church, rather we like it or not. You may not be a pastor, staff member, elder, or deacon, but as a Christ follower you are seen by others as a representative of God. My question to you is: how are you doing in that role? Let me come out of the gate and say I have not always been the greatest at this in my life. I’ve let my zealousness lead me to unfairly judge and reject others, and I’ve viewed my opinion as far superior to that of others. I’ve had to do some major repenting and changing in my life to be the sort of servant Jesus has called us all to be. 

I’d encourage you to not only read the following scripture, but to use it to evaluate your own life. 

I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call. Ephesians 4:1-4

Specifically, ask yourself the following:

  1. Am I living a life worthy of Christ, who gave himself as a sacrifice for my sin? 
  2. Do I approach all areas of my life with a spirit of humility? 
  3. Am I patient with those who hold beliefs and views different then me? 
  4. Do I seek unity or do I cause discord? I tell you friends, every time I get on social media I see fellow Christians being very divisive, especially on political issues. 

I encourage us all to really examine our life and, if we find ourselves struggling, to repent of our sins and to change our ways. God needs each and everyone of us to do his work, so lets clean up our act and serve in humility, patience, love, and unity. 

What do you REALLY Have to do?

Have you ever had to do something you had no desire to do, but you had to anyway? I’m thinking of work policies, such as doing mountains of paperwork, following overly convoluted policies, or obeying arduous safety procedures. You can also add in many household tasks: taking out the garbage, cleaning the toilets, changing poopy diapers, shoveling snow (just an FYI, its 78 and sunny in Nicaragua today), and more. Now, there are reasons for doing all of these tasks, and I’m not here to knock their importance. My point is we all have things we would love not to do if we did not have to. I’m sure few of us would choose to follow OSHA regulations if OSHA suddenly ceased to exist, or to change a dozen dirty diapers long after your children were out of them? We do such tasks because, for whatever reason (keeping a job, being safe, caring for our family, etc.), we have to. But what if we all of a sudden didn’t have to do those tasks anymore? Would we simply choose to do them just for the fun of it? 

What I’m getting at is this. Many of us choose to do worldly things, often to our detriment, that we simply don’t need to do. Jesus came to earth to teach us the best way to live and to save us from our sin. In Christ we are made totally new. We no longer have to be slaves to the ways of the world, ways that teach us that possessions, money, our job/position, perception, fame, and more are of the utmost importance. Yet, time and time again we choose to be enslaved to the world’s ways. We lust over money and possessions. We constantly worry about how other perceive us. We try to earn approval, a temptation greatly amplified by social media. I know many people, including myself, that spend a disproportionate part of their lives chasing after these worldly things, and are quite miserable doing so. So, why do we keep doing it? We don’t have to please the world. We don’t have to earn its affection. What we have to do is embrace the love God has for us, and lovingly serve Him in return. This week I encourage you to make the following passages from Paul your mantra. Don’t keep slaving away at things the world tells you are important, only to be all the more miserable for it. Instead, full embrace the perfect gift God has gracefully given you. 

Formerly, when you did not know God, you were enslaved to those that by nature are not gods. But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more? Galatians 4:8-9

For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. Galatians 5:1 

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