Author Archives: Andy Baker

My Big Fat Mouth: Lying

I’ve been reading the book The Big Short by Michael Lewis (which inspired the movie). The book is a re-telling of the causes and events leading up to the subprime mortgage crisis, which eventually led to a global economic crisis. While the whole subprime disaster can be difficult to concisely explain (Lewis’ book is considered short, concise, and simple, yet is still 300 pages) one theme kept striking me: lies. The global economy came crashing down in 2007-2008 largely because of the massive mountain of lies being told. Home buyers were often lied to, told they could afford homes they simply could not. The guys approving the loans lied to their bosses, saying people had the ability to repay their loans, when they obviously did not. The ratings industries lied to investors, telling them these loans were fail-proof and a perfect investment, when in reality they were basically destined to fail. Millions of people lost their homes, their pensions, and their retirement plans because of all the lies that were being told. 

God is pretty clear on His view of lying. He absolutely hates it! The command to not lie makes the Ten Commandments, as well as the lists of things that He hates and are an abomination to Him (Proverbs 6:16-19). Checkout this passage from Paul in Ephesians: 

assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. Ephesians 4:21-25 

I hope you actually read that, because that’s some awesome stuff! Paul is telling us that Jesus and the message he teaches us is the Truth. If we believe and follow that Truth then all lies and falsehoods need to be thrown out of our lives. We are new creations in Christ, and therefore we need to stop the lies and the falsehoods of the world around us, and instead always speak the truth. Why?

  1. Because lies hurt: I’m guessing that all of us have been hurt by lives in your life. As seen in the global financial collapse of 2008 lies can cause pain throughout the entire world. 
  2. Because Jesus is all about Truth: Jesus embodied the absolute opposite of lying and falsehood. Lies were one of the number one things he stood against. 
  3. Because we are new creations in Christ: As people saved by Jesus’ love we’re expected to not live like everyone else, but to instead live like Jesus. We’re called to stop the cycle of hurt caused by lies, and instead live lives of truth and love.

Let’s start following Christ’s examples, cutting the lies our of our life and replacing them with words of truth and love. 

My Big Fat Mouth: Complaining

I’m usually very flowery in my openings, but today allow me to be pretty blunt. Can you imagine what would happen if we took all the time we spend complaining and actually harnassed it for good? Frankly, we’d likely have little to complain about because we would have pretty effectively wiped out the majority of ills in our world. From my experience, we spend WAY to much time and energy complaining. We complain about our friends, our families, our political leaders, our churches, you name it. I remember one time I was sitting in a coffee shop in Oskaloosa and I could hear four conversations occurring around me. Two were complaining about their churches, one about family, and one about local politics. Complaining has become a pastime in our culture, a pastime expanded and exacerbated by the rise of social media. A recent study showed that the average person complains an average of 8 minutes a day. That adds up to 1,300 complaints a year, for a total of 53 hours (that’s more than a full week’s worth of work spent just complaining!). 

Check out what Paul has to tell us about complaining in Philippians: 

Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. Philippians 2:14-16

Paul is telling us that we need to stop wasting so much of our precious time and energy on complaining, and instead, spend more of our time shining for God in the midst of our oft dark world. Here’s a really simple suggestion: let’s start flipping our complaints into praises. The reality is that the vast majority of our complaints don’t serve any positive purpose. They often don’t solve any problems or make us feel any better, indeed they often serve to make things worse. Instead of getting caught in the negativity, let’s flip it around. Complaining about the food? Spend time being grateful that God has provided you food on a daily basis (which is not the case for 815 million people in our world). Didn’t like the music in church today? Give praises to God for all the great things He has done in your life. Don’t like your political leaders? Thank God that He, and not any frail human being, is the ultimate leader of the universe. Let’s stop getting caught in the constant cycle of complaining, and instead start giving more and more thanks for all the good that we have been blessed with. 

My Big Fat Mouth

I’ve fallen off a bicycle more times than I care to count, and have a variety of scars to show for it. I’ve been thrown off a four-wheeler, been in two roll-over accidents, and had my appendix out.  Yet, I can honestly say that what has caused more hurt in my life than any of the above physical pains has been that caused by words. I can vividly remember names I was called in elementary school, friends that broke my trust, rumors that were spread about me, and times I was flat-out lied to. Many of those hurts still sting, even many years later. What’s even more painful for me to admit, is I know my words have hurt others. There have been times that my anger has gotten the best of me, and I’ve spewed things I desperately wanted back. Other times I’ve gotten caught up in gossip and lies that ran their course in hurtful manners. Yet, I’m guessing for every time I’m regretful for how I’ve used my words there is another time (or more) that I’ve totally forgotten about.

Here’s what James has to say about the power of our words.

If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. James 3:3-4

James is telling us that words are a REALLY big deal. He points out that while a ship may be massive, in reality, it is controlled by a tiny instrument called a rudder. It’s similar with our words. They may seem like a really small thing, but they make a massive impact. As seen above, they can cause a ton of pain. BUT, they can also do a lot of good. I would never have known about the love of forgiveness of Jesus had someone not shared it with me. A major reason I am in ministry today is because of the many encouraging words people shared with me over the years. The reason I can get through some of the most difficult moments in my life is the words of love and encouragement others have shared with me. The words that come out of our big fat mouths, and are big fat texting fingers, have the power to impact lives in big and powerful ways, both for good and bad. This week, I encourage you to really think about your words. What impact are they having? Is it an impact God would approve of? Realize the words coming from your mouths and fingers are some of the most powerful resources you will have ever. Make sure you are being the best stewards of them possible. 

 

God Will Be With You

There are some phrases in life that drive me nuts. I can’t stand when I’m told by someone that “I’ll be with you in a second.” What that often means is “I may be with you in a few minutes if I feel like it, but more then likely I won’t, because you really aren’t that important.” I know, that’s probably not what they’re thinking, but I sure fear it is. Another phrase I can’t stand, though I say it to my kids a lot, is “just be patient” (yes, I fully realize this makes me a hypocrite). Yes, I know I should be patient, but man, I really don’t want to be patient sometimes! And besides, telling me to be patient seldom helps. If anything, it just reminds me that I’m in a hurry and have no desire to be patient!

I think another phrase that is in danger of invoking similar fillings in us is “God will be with you.” It certainly didn’t seem to calm Gideon’s anxieties in Judges 6:11-17. This is a perfectly fine and theological phrase, but we frequently misunderstand it. I’ll be honest, there have been times when I’m struggling with something and someone says “God is with you” that I don’t find the phrase overly helpful. Yet, it is always true that God is with us who have given our lives to Him. So, what does it really mean that God is with us? Let me break it down in the form of an acrostic, using the word WITH

Walks with Us: No matter what we are going through in life God is actively loving and listening to us. This is a REALLY  big deal. God never abandons us. I encourage you to get in the habit of regularly taking a break from the craziness of life to remember God’s love for you and to share your thoughts, concerns, and praises with He who is always listening. 

Inspires Us: God guides, helps, and inspires us by the Holy Spirit. What this looks like differs from person to person and situation to situation. The reality is that God moves and inspires. Sometimes its small nudges in our hearts. Other times God works through people in our lives. Sometimes its the Word or a sermon that moves us. Whatever method, God is with us to inspire us in ways both large and small. 

Teaches Us: God does not leave us to our own devices. He does not just toss us into this complicated world and tell us to simply figure it out. Instead, He teaches and advises us by the Word and the Spirit. We are so blessed to have the Bible, the inspired Word of God, to advise and teach us. Are you taking enough advantage of this amazing gift God has given us? 

Heals Us: God heals us from our sins and transgressions for all eternity. This is something that no one else could do, yet God does it freely for us. It is the absolute greatest way anyone could ever be with someone else, in good times or bad. 

If You’re Not Ready…

Now that we’re a week into 2019 are we ready to be real about it? Let’s be honest: we usually spend the first week of the year making goals and plans that we end up never following through on. Sometimes that’s because we find the goal we’ve set to be too difficult or time-consuming (often stated reasons for giving up on diets, Bible reading goals, etc). Other times its because life simply gets in the way. As I look back on 2018 I can honestly say that I pretty much accomplished none of my goals or dreams for the year. That’s mostly because life REALLY got in the way, thanks to the socio-political-economic crisis here in Nicaragua. Basically every program and ministry we planned on doing from April 19th on was canceled, our ministry focus is very different, my family lives in the States while I’m here, I’m in a new home, etc. Despite my best planning and praying I totally was not ready for what 2018 would bring. Yet, despite all the uncertainties, I’ve seen God working in many unexpected and powerful ways this past year. Let me share a little something with you. You are not ready for MANY things 2019 will bring! Some of these may be negative things (illness, financial stress, the death of a loved one, etc.) others may be positive (new job, birth in the family, new ministry opportunity, etc.). While we may be far from ready for many of the things coming our way in 2019 that’s ok. Because when we trust God with the unknown He does amazing things. 

I’m fascinated with the call of Gideon, seen in Judges 6:11-16. As much as we celebrate Gideon as a hero, he was far from ready when God called. In fact, he desperately tried to turn down God’s call. I encourage you to read the story of his call, and then check out these two big points. 

  1. Doubt without God leads to fear, but doubt with God leads to faith. Doubt is a perfectly normal human emotion, and one you will undoubtedly have in 2019. But when we combine our doubt with God we get faith, which is more powerful than fear. Gideon doubted God, but had faith that God would use him. Because of this he trusted God’s plan and delivered the Israelites from the Midianites. 
  2. Remember that God is with you. When Gideon reminds the angel that he is not ready the angel twice reminds him that God will be with him. God is with us every moment of our lives. It’s we who need to choose to acknowledge His presence by listening to his Word, connecting in prayer, following His guidance, remembering His love, and trusting His ways. 

So yes, you’re not ready for 2019. Neither is anyone else. This year surrender the entire year to God, letting your doubt lead to faith and knowing God is always with you. You’re not ready, but with God you’re on exactly the right track. Blessings throughout this New Year! 

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