Author Archives: Andy Baker

Where the Needs Are

Recently the story of Jesus’ healing of Blind Bartimaeus really moved and challenged me. It’s not only because Jesus healed Bartimaeus’ blindness, but the way in which He showed love and mercy to him. Checkout the scripture in Mark 10:46-52:

And they came to Jericho. And as he was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a great crowd, Bartimaeus, a blind beggar, the son of Timaeus, was sitting by the roadside. And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” And Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.” And they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take heart. Get up; he is calling you.” And throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. And Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?” And the blind man said to him, “Rabbi, let me recover my sight.” And Jesus said to him, “Go your way; your faith has made you well.” And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him on the way.

Look, I totally get that pretty much none of us have the power to restore sight. But, there is a lot we can learn about serving from this passage. First, look where Jesus met Bartimaeus. Jesus was hanging out just outside the city, a place we often find Jesus in scripture. This is really interesting, because hardly anyone would have chosen to spend time in such a place. That was the place that the lame, poor, and rejected spent their days, largely because they were deemed too spiritually impure to enter the cities. Yet, that is a place we often find Jesus spending his time. How much time do we spend in the places in our cities and towns where people have the largest needs? Even more bluntly, how much time do we actually spend with people who have great needs? 

Second, look at the question Jesus asks Bartimaeus. He point blank asks: what can I do for you? How often do we as individuals, leaders, and churches actually ask our communities, and the people in them with the greatest needs, what we can do for them? How much effort do we put into discovering what the deepest needs are in our community, and discerning how God can use us to meet those needs? 

There are so many people right in our own backyards and communities that, like Bartimaeus, have needs that God can meet through us. Our challenge is to be like Jesus and to meet those people where they are. We can’t spend all of our lives in our areas of comfort, but like Christ need to step into the uncomfortable realities of our world so we can discover needs, and be used by God to meet them. 

Are You Teachable?

Growing up school was pretty easy for me. Most subjects came naturally, and I could breeze through with minimal effort. Math, however, was a massive exception. No matter how much I tried math always seemed completely incompressible (especially when random letters and symbols got thrown into the mix). Because I typically did so well in school, and felt that “being smart” was a big part of my identity, I never wanted to ask for help. I felt that being smart meant being able to do things without help, so I refused to get the extra teaching and assistance I needed. I got through the minimum amount of math I needed to go to college (with the lowest grades of any classes I took), and then went to elaborate lengths to take the absolute minimum amount of math in college. Quite surprisingly, I did substantially better in math in college, even though the material was much harder. The reason? Well, I was actually excited to ask for help, because the person I got to ask was a brilliant and incredibly good looking (dare I say hot?) senior math major (who I’ve now been happily married to for 12 years). Because I was willing to be teachable I came to understand the concepts, and succeeded at a much higher rate then I could have previously dreams.

The more I look at us as Christians, the more I think we have a severe teachability problem (myself included). We don’t want anyone to tell us what to do, offer us a new perspective, challenge our ideas, broaden our horizons, or push us deeper. Somewhere along the line we’ve come to see getting guidance as a form of weakness. Yet, the Bible is very clear that we are to always be open to challenges, new ideas, conviction, and teaching. Let me share a few examples:

Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser; teach a righteous man, and he will increase in learning. Proverbs 9:9

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness. 2 Timothy 3:16

Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid. Proverbs 12:1

I personally love the straightforwardness of Proverbs 12:1! If we are not willing to listen, be taught, and even be corrected, how can we truly grow into the disciples God desires us to be? I really encourage us all to take time today to reflect on how teachable we may, or may not be. If you find yourself to not be open to the instruction of God and others think about why that is, and start making changes to be more open to Godly teaching. The more teachable we are, the more impact we can make for the Kingdom. 

WHO You Bringing this Year?

A number of years ago I heard Pastor Willie George say that for the church Easter is our Super Bowl. We can debate whether or not every Sunday should be treated with the respect we treat Easter with, but the reality is this: people are over TWICE as likely to accept an invitation to church on Easter than any other Sunday. Whether it be cultural pressure, a fondness for Easter in church as a child, or a desire to appease family or friends, THIS is the Sunday when that un-churched person in your life is most likely to say yes. So, my question is: have you invited them yet? And, if not, what’s the hold-up?

We have a lot of hold-ups when it comes to inviting people to church or sharing the gospel, even on Easter. We’re worried about rejection, we don’t want to offend, we don’t want to ruin a relationship by “bringing God into it,” we don’t know what to say, etc. Whatever our hold-ups, we need to remember a couple of things. First, there is nothing that can impact someone like accepting Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. Easter is such a great Sunday to bring someone with you to church, because they are bound to hear about the love, grace, and salvation of Jesus.

Second, God has entrusted us with the responsibility for sharing about Him and His love. Sharing Christ is not just for pastors, leaders, outgoing people, etc., but for all of us. Check out what the Bible teaches in 1 Peter 3:15: In your hearts revere Christ as Lord. ALWAYS be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.

Third, realize that you and your church have something amazing to share: the path to eternal life! Just this past week I stood at the bedside of my best Nicaraguan friend as he died rather unexpectedly. He was an amazing Christian man, and we all have the security of knowing he is Heaven. However, if there was ANYTHING I could have done to save his life that day I would have done it without blinking. The reality is, as believers we know there is only one cure to death, and that is the salvation available because of the death and resurrection of Christ Jesus. Why are we so sheepish to share that? I think we’d all do pretty much anything short of sinning (and we’d probably consider sinning) if it meant saving the life of a friend. Guys, salvation is the one thing that is even a bigger deal than saving a life on earth, AND we know what the solution is! We just need to be willing to share it, and to trust God with the ultimate results. Blessings as you do God’s work this Easter weekend and beyond.

Red Letter Day: You Will Be With Me

Today we continue our series on the final words of Jesus on the Cross, by looking at the words Jesus said to the criminal being crucified next to Him. 

One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.” Luke 23:39-43

When I was in middle school one of my friends was dating a girl whose parents were members of the fanciest country club in our area. One day our entire “posse” was invited to spend a day at the club. As a thirteen-year-old, this was like being given a ticket to paradise. We got to play the PGA Tour-caliber golf course, eat at the five-star restaurant, swim in the indoor pool, have uniformed waiters bring us whatever food we wanted, whenever and wherever we wanted it, and more. Best yet, we didn’t have to pay for anything! All we had to do was say “I’m with Amanda” and everything was handled. 

To a far greater extent, this is what it’s like to have Christ as our Savior. Even though we don’t deserve an eternity in His perfect Heaven we are given it solely on the basis of confessing Jesus as Lord. “I’m with Jesus” completely changes our eternity. It’s really a mind-boggling concept. God gives us guidelines for how to best live life (scripture, commandments, etc.), and we repeatedly choose to do the opposite. The price of that sin is an expiration date on our lives (death). Yet, look at what Jesus chose to do. He CHOSE to remain on the Cross, to suffer and die so that we may join Him in paradise. And, to top it off, he didn’t even make it difficult to join him. As it is written in 1 John 1:9: If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

That’s it! Jesus suffered and died to pay for our sins, and all that is asked in return is that we confess our sins to Him. This Lent, I pray that we can all take the time to do two things. First, that we may all bend a knee and ask God’s forgiveness for the sins of our lives. Second, that we may all find time to praise God for the gift of His mercy and eternal life. For it is only because of his grace that someday we will enjoy the perfection of heaven, perhaps even uttering “I’m with Jesus.” 

 

Red Letter Day: It is Finished

It’s officially the start of baseball season, which is always one of my favorite times of the year. For many years I entered each season hoping against hope, as I’ve been a Cubs fan all my life. The old Cubbie phrase “hope springs eternal” was my Facebook status for many years, as I hoped against hope for a Cubbie World Series. Yet, a couple of years ago they FINALLY ended their drought and won the World Series. For me, all the years of waiting and suffering were over once and for all when they carried that trophy off the field. 

As we continue our series on the final days of Jesus we look at Jesus declaring “it is finished.”

When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. John 19:30

When Jesus uttered these words he was not only saying his life was over, but that sin and death were defeated once and for all. Because of the work Jesus did on the cross we have the perfect hope of eternal life, a hope that no one can take away from us. 

  1. Hope really does spring eternal: I used to live on a lake in Wisconsin, and every winter the frigid temperatures froze the lake nearly solid. All except one small section near our house. That’s because a small spring fed into the lake there, and between its warmer water and constant movement that small section never froze. No matter what happens in our lives, disease, economic collapse, depression, the death of loved ones, etc. our lives never freeze completely over. Even in the most wretched of circumstances God’s hope is constantly bubbling up in our lives. What is that hope? The promise that He made to us—eternal life 1 John 2:25. It is the GUARANTEE we have of eternal life in a perfect heaven. No matter what goes wrong in our lives (and trust me, plenty of things will) no one can ever take away the guarantee of eternal life we have because of the sacrificial death of Jesus on the Cross. As long as we confess our sins and believe in Him the ultimate reward is already on reserve for us. 
  2. We need to celebrate eternal life daily: Not to be mean, but it’s kinda sad that the greatest joy I’ve ever witnessed in others is due to the outcome of a baseball game. Let’s be honest: we take God’s grace for granted. We sit around and bemoan our situation in life, and we forget to celebrate daily the reality that we’ve been saved for all eternity. Here’s what Paul tells us in Romans 5:1-2: Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Let’s take time EVERY day to praise God for what He has done for us, and to let the gift of God’s grace flood over us. 

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