Author Archives: Andy Baker

You. Me. We. He

I’ve been preaching at a church here in Managua about once per month. They are currently in a series in 1 Peter, so I just slotted into their schedule. As “luck” would have it I got to preach on the following: Wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct. 1 Peter 3:1

What a fun passage to preach on as an outsider at a church (if there was a sarcastic font, that sentence would be in it)! Here’s the thing about these passages on wives submitting to husbands. We usually get so polarized by them, either believing that the woman is the submissive helpmate of the husband, or that such passages should be ignored because they are culturally insensitive today, that we miss the point. Specifically, we miss that marriage is a covenant, meaning that GOD is THE Head of every marriage. 

Let me illustrate with a story. I once was on a flight between Milwaukee and Newark. As I waited for the flight I watched as every other flight between the Midwest and East Coast was canceled. Amazingly, the gate agent called my flight. I submissively got in line, handed them my ticket, took my assigned seat, stowed my luggage, buckled my seat-belt, and listened to every word of the safety announcement (ok, maybe not that last one). As our plane flew over the East Coast things got really intense. The plane bounced around like a ping-pong ball, with luggage and people’s half-digested dinners flying around the cabin (yes, it was really gross in there!). When we finally hit the runway it was so icy that the plane started to slide, finally landing at a 90-degree angle with the runway (and continuing to slide at that angle!). We eventually arrived at the gate, and as I got off I noticed the captain was all of about 23 years old and his jacket was three sizes too big (likely because he was so new he hadn’t been fitted for one yet). Come to find out, our flight was never cleared to take-off or land, but the pilot decided to anyway to show how talented he was. It didn’t matter that I had followed all the stated rules of the flight, what mattered was that the pilot had chosen not to. 

When a wife is called to be submissive to her husband she is not being told to submit to his every whim, but to his following of God. As husbands, our task is to be obedient followers of God so that we don’t lead our wife and family on a hazardous journey like the pilot did. We are called to follow God’s plan for marriage, following His Word, connecting to Him in prayer, and following the lead of the Spirit. God is the CEO of our marriage, and we are called to be the Chief Follower. Let’s take that role seriously so that we never get in the way of the plan God has for our family. 

Now, Where Did I Put God at?

Incase you haven’t noticed, life is often incredibly hard. There have been times in my life when I’ve gone through difficult trials and wondered: where is God in all this? I think that’s a pretty common feeling. Where is God in cancer? Where is God when my bank account is empty, but my pile of bills in overflowing? Where is God in a broken relationship? If you’ve ever asked that question you are far from the first. It’s a question asked over and over throughout scripture. Here’s just one example:
“Why have you forgotten me?
Why must I go about mourning,
oppressed by the enemy?”
My bones suffer mortal agony
as my foes taunt me,
saying to me all day long,
“Where is your God?” Psalm 42:9-10

Here’s something I’ve been thinking about. Maybe the question isn’t where is God, but rather, where have we put God? The reality is that God never leaves us. Joshua 1:9 puts it this way: Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” God is always present, loving and guiding us. It is us that tend to push him to the side when things get tough. I think we do this in three big ways:

We wall Him out: We refuse to let God into our problems because we’ve bought into the idea that we can do it ourselves. In fact, as men, we’ve been conditioned to believe that real men never need help. Therefore, instead of enlisting God’s help, we wall Him out when we need Him most.

We compartmentalize Him: We let God into some situations in our lives, but not all. It often becomes “God, enlarged my bank account, but don’t ask me to share it. God, bring health to my loved ones, but don’t ask me to serve you.” I think we all have certain sections of our lives that, for one reason or another, we refuse to let God into.

We Ignore Him: Sometimes we just simply put our fingers in our ears and yell “lalalalala!!!” when God is trying to get our attention. Maybe He is calling attention to our sins, challenging us to do something new, or helping us face a difficult reality. Whatever the case, we far too often choose to ignore his presence, love, and advice.

Here’s what I think is really interesting. While we are doing all of these things to keep God out of our difficulties, do you know what God is doing? He is loving us! While the aforementioned Psalm 42 asks about where God is, it also remind us that God is always present showering us with love: By day the Lord directs his love, at night his song is with me Psalm 42:8. When you are in the midst of difficulties make sure you are not keeping God out, but rather opening yourself to his amazing love for you. Pick up your Bible, turn to God in prayer, and turn on your favorite worship music. Be forever reminded of God’s great, perfect, and ever present love.

He Never Stops Working

There’s a song we’ve been singing in church called Way Maker. The whole song is great, but I’ve been especially grabbed by the bridge: Even if I don’t see that you’re working, you never stop, you never stop working. Its pretty powerful to hear the 600+ worshipers in our Nicaraguan church belt that out (in Spanish), often with tears in their eyes. Since the beginning of civil unrest April 19th over 500 people have been killed (according to human rights groups), many are missing (thousands according to some sources), the unemployment rate is enormous, most universities and colleges are closed, large protests occur regularly, and nearly 30,000 have fled the country for neighboring Costa Rica (where they have faced discrimination and other difficulties). The difficulty and instability is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced in the United States, and its understandable that people would be experiencing lots of fear and anxiety. And yet, on Sunday morning, hundreds gather and passionately sing: even if I don’t see that you’re working, you never stop, you never stop moving. 

I don’t know about you, but there have been times in my life that I couldn’t have truthfully sang that refrain. To be even more honest, pretty much all of those times the problems I was facing were nothing compared to those facing my Nicaraguan brothers and sisters. Yet, when I couldn’t see God working, I tended to get angry and frustrated. At one point or another the following thoughts have sneaked into my mind: 

  • God must be punishing me for something I’ve done
  • God has abandoned me 
  • Is there really a God and, if there is, is He really good? 
  • I’ve done so much good for God, why can’t I have what I want this one time?

The Apostle Paul beautifully lays out an answer to these questions: 

For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. 1 Corinthians 13:9-12

To put it more bluntly, Paul is telling us we simply can’t always know why things happen the way they do. As long as we live we will never see the world clearly, and will always constantly be asking why. But, here is one thing we can know: that God has, is, and always will be working for us:

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28.

As long as we live we will never know why things happen, or don’t happen, the way that they do. What we can know is that God masterfully created us, Jesus graciously saved us, and the Holy Spirit loving guides and supports us. God has, does, and will be working for us, not only now but for all eternity. He really never does stop working! 

I Have Been Given a Book…

In most evangelical churches here in Nicaragua the church calendar unimportant. The overwhelming majority of churches do not hold special services for Christmas, and for most Easter is celebrated as if it were just another Sunday (this is largely to differentiate protestant churches from Catholicism). However, one Sunday that does receive special attention is Dia de la Biblia. This Sunday churches throughout Nicaragua will celebrate Dia de la Biblia (Day of the Bible), which commemorates the Bible being translated into Spanish. Most churches will go all out on Sunday morning, and it will be a day full of celebrating the gift of God’s Word. I love that we take a whole day to celebrate God’s Word in such a large way, because I can’t imagine life had I never heard it. 

One of the most dramatic events in scripture, in my opinion, occurs in 2 Kings 22. This takes place after the Temple of Jerusalem has been destroyed and the people have long forgotten about God’s Word. As construction crews were beginning reconstruction a man name Hilkiah found the Holy Scriptures deep in the rubble. He gave it to the King’s secretary, which is where we pick up the story: 

 Then Shaphan the secretary told the king, “Hilkiah the priest has given me a book.” And Shaphan read it before the king.When the king heard the words of the Book of the Law, he tore his clothes. And the king commanded Hilkiah the priest, and Ahikam the son of Shaphan, and Achbor the son of Micaiah, and Shaphan the secretary, and Asaiah the king’s servant, saying, “Go, inquire of the Lord for me, and for the people, and for all Judah, concerning the words of this book that has been found.” II Kings 22:10-13

I love that verse: Hilkiah the priest has given me a book. It seems so simple and mundane. We receive books, or at least recommendations for books, all the time. Yet, look at the impact the reading of this book has. As soon as the King has heard God’s Word his life, and the lives of his people change. He repents of his sins by tearing his clothes, he calls on his assistants to study it in-depth, and he calls upon the whole nation to begin living by it. Suddenly the lives of all the Israelites takes a dramatic turn for the better, all because someone found a book, and someone else chose to follow it. Friends, that’s the power of the Bible! It’s the Word of God given to us to direct our lives, to inspire us, to transform us, and to share the message of salvation with us. It’s not just any book, but a gift directly from God for us. Let’s not let this book get berried under all the rubble of our lives: our schedules, the messages of the world, our own desires, etc. Instead, like Josiah, lets excitedly dive into the Word, letting it transform our lives and the lives of others around us. 

Getting Weak to Grow Strong

The past year living in Nicaragua has helped me to really appreciate all the innovations that make life in the US much more efficient. I’ve without a dishwasher or a clothes dryer (and we have a four-month rainy season here…), have not had a washing machine the past month, and have had a functioning car about 66% of the time. Lawnmowers are such an extreme luxury I’ve only seen them at a baseball stadium and a golf course. Instead, everyone just cuts the grass (well, actually, everything), with machetes. Oh, and if there is an automatic carwash in the country I’ve yet to find it. At every car wash all the work is done by hand, and it takes at least 45 minutes to get your car washed. Its obviously significantly more work to do any of the above actions without the modern devices that make quick work of them. If I wanted to do my laundry and get my car washed on the same day I better start my day awfully early, because its going to all day.

While nearly all of us love having machines that make our lives easier, its interesting that when we face challenges in life we tend to make things a lot harder, stressful, and time consuming then they need to be. See, we really have two choices when it comes to fighting life’s. Plan A is to go it alone, which is often stressful, time consuming, and not always very successful. Plan B is to fight the battles of life with God’s help. Amazingly, many of us tend to reach for Plan A (the machete) instead of Plan B (the zero-turn radius lawnmower). Yet, look what Paul teaches us in 1 Corinthians 10:3-4:

For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.

God wants to help us as we fight all the battles of life, and He can give us more power than we can imagine. We need to step out of the way and let Him help us. Here’s three things we need to stop doing the hard way, and start letting God help us with:

  1. Stop seeking what you want, and start seeking what God wants. It’s really that simple guys!
  2. Stop thinking about how you “deserve it,” and remember that you deserve death. This sounds blunt, but its true. We live in such an entitled world that we start believing we deserve stuff simply “because.” The reality is, what we really deserve in this world because of our sin is death. Yet, God gracefully gives us eternal life. You deserve some pretty bad stuff, but God gives you eternal life anyway!
  3. Stop thinking you can handle it, and realize you can only handle it with God. Let’s be honest. We can’t handle anything close to all the battles and struggles we encounter. So, instead of fighting a losing battle, let’s handle our battles with God’s help.

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