Author Archives: Andy Baker

Follow Me: We Follow Jesus in Everything

Many years ago my friend Erik went on a vacation with his friend Tom (not their real names). After a week in Colorado, they began their return trip to Des Moines. Tom offered to drive the first leg, as Erik had not gotten much sleep the night before. A couple of hours into the trip Erik woke up and asked Tom how it was going. Tom reported that everything was going great, and that they were making such great time that they had passed Cheyenne, Wyoming about 30 minutes before. That’s right, they had been driving in the wrong direction! Erik soon got Tom turned abound, and they headed back towards Iowa. About an hour later Erik fell asleep again. He once again woke up a few hours later and asked Tom how they were doing. Tom apologized for going the wrong way earlier, and said he had been driving extra fast to make up time. In fact, they were doing so well that they were almost to…New Mexico! This time Erik was smart enough to kick Tom out of the driver’s seat and to drive the rest of the way back to Iowa himself. 

I share this crazy story because it illustrates a reality we often face. When we let the world control our lives we end up like Erik in this story: we end up all over the map, and seldom do we end up where we really should be. Yet, we so often let the world drive our lives anyway. We listen to others, to social media, to people on TV, to non-Christian friends, and to all sorts of other advice. We end up bouncing all over the map instead of handing the keys over to the one who really knows the way: Jesus. 

One of my favorite scriptures is Jesus’ calling of four of the Disciples: 

While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Immediately they left their nets and followed him. And going on from there he saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets, and he called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him. Matthew 4:18-22

Each of these men was faced with a choice. The first choice was that they could do exactly what the world told them was important. They could stay at their jobs, keep living their current lifestyle, and have a relatively safe life. Or, they could take a leap of faith and follow Jesus, who had a plan to use them for a greater purpose. While many of us would likely choose the far easier worldly way, each man IMMEDIATELY chose to follow Jesus. They chose to have the faith to say: Jesus I am trusting you with all the plans for my life. Lead the way! The question for us this week is: who are we following in our lives? Are we following the world and ending up all over the map, or are we entrusting our lives to Jesus? 

Follow Me: Everyone is Invited

Sometimes I can’t stand all the “titles” we Christians come to have. “Member” always seems too formal to me, and it also seems to imply that we belong more to an individual church than to the body of Christ. “Christian” also seems a bit too formal and institutional, though I appreciate it does contain the name of Christ. If I had to pick a title I think I’d go with follower. First, Jesus seemed to be a pretty big fan of the term “follow.” He constantly called people to follow Him, and gave instructions as to what following should look like. Second, I feel like the term follower does a pretty good job of summing up our relationship with Christ. It emphasizes the fact that it’s not us who are in charge of our lives and eternities, but rather Christ who we follow. Over the next three weeks, I want us to spend some time looking at what it means to be a follower of Christ. 

As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him. Matthew 9:9-13 

Let’s unpack that. Matthew was sitting collecting taxes at what was likely the junction of a major port and a major highway. While I’ve seldom met a person who enjoyed paying taxes, taxes were particularly heinous in Jesus’ day. First, taxes went to the Roman Empire, which had come to occupy Israel by force. Second, the people collecting the taxes were pretty much scoundrels. While they were required to collect a minimum amount of taxes to send to Rome they often charged many times that amount, keeping the rest for themselves. They were quite literally making a fortune off of cheating their fellow Israelites, who subsequently lived in poverty. For this reason, tax collectors like Matthew were seen as the lowest of the low. Probably the only people today viewed as lowly would be those who sexually prey on children. That’s the “level” of sinner Matthew was. 

Yet, look at Jesus’ treatment of Matthew. He takes one look at him and says “follow me.” He doesn’t judge him or mock him, but asks him to follow without a hint of hesitation. 

Here’s the point I want us all to get: It doesn’t matter who you are, Jesus wants you to follow Him. Dwell on that for a moment. No test, no giant quest, no firey hoops to jump through. Just follow me. Don’t miss out on the invitation! It’s an invitation to live WITH Jesus now and for eternity. An invitation for a blessed life and a perfect eternity. I fear that far too often we feel that we are inadequate to follow Jesus. That we’re not righteous enough, intelligent enough, or experienced enough to serve Him as a follower, disciple, and leader. But when we look at this scripture it should become clear that such thinking is totally wrong. Jesus invites ALL OF US, regardless of our failings, to be His followers. Let’s not turn down His invitation. 

Listening to the Right Sources

I’ve always been proud to be an early adopter of new technology, even when that technology wasn’t necessarily ready for primetime. When I got my first iPhone I was incredibly proud of Siri and her ability to direct me anywhere and everywhere. Soon after getting my phone I led a youth retreat at a cabin in the Northwoods of Wisconsin. Several of the students had spent the previous week at a camp 15 miles from this cabin, and I volunteered to pick them up and bring them to the retreat cabin. The cabin owner offered me directions to the camp, explaining that GPS often got the directions wrong. I declined her directions (since, you know, she’d only live there for fifteen years), reasoning that I didn’t have just any old GPS, I had SIRI! Long story short, the fifteen-minute drive to the camp ended up being a forty-five-minute tour of logging roads that included Siri telling me to drive across a lake. I ended up having to swallow my pride and call the cabin owner. Sure enough, her directions got me there smoothly and quickly. 

Often times in life we are tempted to listen to the wrong sources. We listen to the media, to social media, to friends, to “experts,” and all sorts of other sources. Sometimes these sources take us down seemingly good roads, but many other times they take us on journeys we should have avoided. The TRUTH is that the advice we really need to listen to in our lives is that which comes directly from God’s Word. Check out these two verses: 

Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. Romans 10:16

Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked, or stand in the way that sinners take, or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on His law day and night. Psalm 1:1-2

Who are you really listening to? Are you listening to worldly sources, or are you listening to God? The scary thing is, sometimes the worldly sources seem really good (like Suri did to me). It may be an expert with multiple PhDs, a friend we’ve known for years, or a public figure whose positions we typically agree with. The advice may also tell us exactly what we want to hear, or seemingly prove our point of view. But, if it doesn’t come from God, then it’s not necessarily the Truth with a capital T. If you really want to get at the Truth then you have to focus yourself on the Word of God. Search the Bible and seek His Truth in prayer. That’s where you’ll discover a Truth that won’t lead you astray. 

Owning Our Sin

I recently had a friend write a confession on social media. She went into great detail about how she had made a mistake, how that mistake had affected others, what she had done about it, and what she was doing to address the issue in the future. I found such a social media post so refreshing! Lets be honest: social media has become a place for bragging and searching for compliments or for heaping truckloads of judgement on others. To see someone own their own mistake so publically was new and refreshing.

Its not only on social media that we struggle to admit out mistakes and failings Get a speeding ticket? It’s the cop’s fault. Get in trouble at work? Your supervisor is out to get you. We are so quick to pass the blame in life, and very slow to actually admit when we make a mistake. Think about it this way: how many mistakes have you made today? Now, ask yourself this scary question: how many mistakes have you admitted and apologized for? If you are like me the first number is likely MUCH larger than the second number!

I’ve always been amazed by David’s affair with Bathsheba. Here he is, the King and leader of God’s people, and he goes on a sinning spree. He starts by being a peeping Tom, standing on his rooftop checking out women as they bathe. Then, he has the best looking one forcibly brought to him. Soon, she is pregnant, so to cover it up he has her husband killed. Then, a prophet named Nathan is dispatched to confront David with his sins. Remember, this is a totalitarian King. He doesn’t have to listen to anyone. In that day one would expect the King to summarily execute anyone confronting him with something negative. But, that’s not what happens with David.

Here’s what Nathan says to him: This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you from the hand of Saul. I gave your master’s house to you, and your master’s wives into your arms. I gave you all Israel and Judah. And if all this had been too little, I would have given you even more. Why did you despise the word of the Lord by doing what is evil in his eyes? II Samuel 12:7-9

And here is David’s IMMEDIATE response: “I have sinned against the Lord.” II Samuel 12:13

Nathan’s response is even more powerful: “The Lord has taken away your sin.” II Samuel 12:13

Like David we all sin, and we all need to hand our sins over to God so that he can forgive them. What sins are you not admitting and confessing to God? Which ones do you need to bring out into the open this week and lay at the foot of the cross? The greatest news of all time is that, like David, God will forgive every wrong you confess.

Difficult Verses: Romans 6:1-6

Over the past few weeks I’ve been sharing some of the difficult and challenging verses we encounter in scripture. Today I want to share some verses that, if we really think about them, should challenge us to our very core. 

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. Romans 6:1-6

Here are three big challenges from this passage: 

  1. We’re not just supposed to carrying on sinning: Sometimes I feel we take advantage of God’s grace. I’ve often heard the phrase (and even thought it myself): oh well, God will forgive me anyway! The theology is right (God will forgive), but the thinking is all wrong. God didn’t save us so that we could just keep on living a life of sin. He saved us to change us both NOW and FOREVER. While God will forgive our continued sinfulness, He expects more from us. He expects us to ditch our old lives of sin to follow Him. He expects us to stop living for ourselves and according to the ways of the world, and instead follow His awesome ways. 
  2. Christ had to die to save us: This is one of those things that’s become such a part of Christian culture that we don’t think about it anymore. But, lets back-up a second and look at this as if we’re hearing it for the first time. This is radical! The only way for us to be saved from the eternal death facing us was by God dying on the Cross as Christ Jesus. This is something WAY beyond our ability to earn, and something God couldn’t just hand us. Instead, God had to suffer and die so that we may live eternally with Him in a perfect Heaven. Do we really take the time to grasp this? Do we sufficiently give God the glory and the honor for this? 
  3. We are something new: Do we really understand what it means to walk in newness of life? God wants something different and greater from each and every one of us. He just doesn’t want us to take the gift of eternal life, go home, and keep it to ourselves. He makes us new to make an impact on our world. He wants us to BEHAVE differently so that our behavior improves the world. He wants us to SERVE others so that our service impacts the world. He wants us to THINK differently, so that our thoughts may be guided by His perfect thoughts. 

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