Author Archives: Andy Baker

Happy 2019!!!

The church here in Nicaragua differs from the church in the States in a number of ways. One of those is that many of the Christian holidays that are a big deal in the States are less so here (done in large part to differentiate themselves from Catholics). In fact, Christmas and Easter are both downplayed here. Churches may do a special gift drive for kids, or a special program, but it is nothing like Christmas Eve services in the US. The majority of churches also downplay Easter, perhaps making a mention of it during services, but certainly not anything like the focus it is given in the States. Yet, there is one day that is treated with special care and significance, and that day is today: New Year’s Day. Today many churches will have to rent extra chairs to pack in all the people that will show up to worship. Today they will give thanks to God for all the blessings of the year gone by, and pray for God’s blessing and guidance in the year to come. I think that’s a great tradition, and I encourage all of us to do the same on our own today. 

First, what are you thankful for in this past year? How has God blessed you, sustained you, guided you, helped you through difficulty, and showed you His perfect love? When has He filled you with joy, and when has He carried you through the greatest of difficulties? 

Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever! Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, whom he has redeemed from trouble and gathered in from the lands, from the east and from the west, from the north and from the south. Psalm 107:1-3

Second, what guidance and help do you need from God in the year to come? Maybe you are searching for a new purpose or calling, or maybe you simply need God to continue encouraging you on your path. Maybe there are specific challenges coming your way, or the fear of the unexpected is causing you anxiety. Today, give your dreams, aspirations, fears, and anxieties for 2019 over to God. Trust Him to be your guide every day of this coming year. 

The Lord says, “I will guide you along the best pathway for your life.
I will advise you and watch over you. Do not be like a senseless horse or mule that needs a bit and bridle to keep it under control.” Many sorrows come to the wicked, but unfailing love surrounds those who trust the Lord. So rejoice in the Lord and be glad, all you who obey him! Shout for joy, all you whose hearts are pure! Psalm 32:8-11

With Us and For Us

Today is an amazing day! Its a day when we spend time with family, gather around tables with superfluous quantities of food, and share gifts with one another. It is always a highlight of my year. In the midst of all the excitement lets take a least a few minutes to reflect on what this day is really all about. Over 2,000 years ago God chose to come to earth to be with us and for us. In Jesus God chose to spend time walking among us, teaching us, showing us how to best live life, and showing His love for us. It’s a pretty big deal that the creator of the world would choose to leave a perfect heaven to spend time with us, His creation! But, God had even bigger plans. He came not only to be with us, but to be radically for us. Because even on that first Christmas God had Easter in mind. God knew then that he would suffer and die on the cross to pay the debt for our sins, and then rise three days later, forever conquering sin and death for us. The following scripture lays this out beautifully: 

The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’”) For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. John 1:9-16

Lets really let it sink in how big of a deal today is. Today we celebrate that God chose to be with us and for us for all eternity. We have received the ultimate gift: grace upon grace. Enjoy that perfect gift today, tomorrow, and for all eternity. God bless, and Merry Christmas! 

This is the fifth week in a series I’ve been doing called Who Do You Think You Are? Each week we’ve looked at a different identity we’ve been given by God. We’ve learned that we’re called to be ambassadors of God’s love, have been created to be masterpieces that serve the world, are overcomers through Christ, and are to make the world better as salt and light. To end the series I want to look at a word that gets thrown around a lot, but one that we don’t always fully comprehend, and that is discipleship. 

Billy Graham put it like this: “a disciple is simply someone who believes in Jesus and seeks to follow him in his or her daily life.” There are two big parts to this. First, we believe that Jesus Christ is our Lord and Savior. We continue by going deeper, diving into the Word, connecting in Prayer, having meaningful fellowship with other Christians, listening to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, etc. We root ourselves as deeply in wisdom and knowledge of God as we possibly can. But, being a disciple is not only about salvation, knowledge, and wisdom (although those are important). It is also about service. 

Jesus was once approached by someone who wanted to be a disciple. He seemed to have studied the scriptures and gained knowledge and wisdom. Yet, when Jesus called him to follow him he simply couldn’t make the leap: 

And he said to him, “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.” And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. Mark 1o:20-22

I once heard it put this way. Following Jesus isn’t always going to be easy, but aren’t you tired of just existing? That’s a great question. If we say you know what, I’m going to go ahead and pass on this discipleship thing, what we’re saying is we’re fine with just breathing the air. We’re fine with not serving God, not impacting the world, and not being who God created us to be. We’re perfectly fine just doing what we want, instead of what God wants. What God desires from us is that we serve the world in whatever ways we’ve been equipped to serve it. Now, this is not nearly as complicated as it seems. Serving the world simply means that we take what we are good at and use it to bless others in God’s name. My question to you is, are you using the things that you are good at and have been blessed with to serve God and others? 

My prayer for all of us is that we do not go through life simply existing, but live a life of discipleship by growing in our faith and lovingly serving the world around us. 

Who Do You Think You Are: Salt and Light

The past three weeks I’ve been sharing on the theme of identity. We’ve looked at how we are called to be ambassadors, masterpieces that serve, and overcomers. This week I want us to think about the ways we add value to the world. It’s crazy to me how one little difference can add major value to something. A typical t-shirt runs around $10, yet if it says Gucci or Prada on it expect to pay around $500 (no, I’m not joking!). I have longed loved the History Channel show Pawn Stars, and am amazed at how much value the littlest thing can add. Something that is only worth a few bucks is transformed into thousands if it was signed or owned by someone famous. The littlest things can add the greatest of value. 

Jesus teaches us about adding value to the world in his magnum opus, the Sermon on the Mount. 

“You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. Matthew 5:13-16

Jesus is calling us to be constantly adding value to everyone around us by making them better. He starts by telling us to be salt to our world. As we probably have all experienced with food, salt can make just about anything better. It adds that little bit of flavor that can take some bland and make it awesome. Jesus is telling us that we need to make people better. We need to encourage them, pray for them, share the gospel with them, help them in struggles, and more. In our ever competitive world, I would add that we need to see everyone around us not as competition, but as people God wants us to help make even better.

Just last night the power went out at the worst time: when I was just finishing cooking supper. Luckily, this happens often enough that I keep a headlamp in my kitchen. I simply popped it on and immediately could see well enough to finish my cooking and enjoy my meal. Jesus wants us to have that sort of impact of others. He wants us to be able to guide people towards Him. Not only by sharing the gospel, but by modeling good works and a Christian life in all we do. 

This week, I encourage you to constantly ask yourself: what have I added to the lives of others today? How have I added flavor, love, and goodness to them? How have I pointed them toward God? Every day should be a day that we add a little salt and light to our world. 

Who Do You Think You Are: Overcomer

For the past two weeks, I’ve been sharing thoughts and scriptures on the theme of identity. Week one we looked at how we are called to be God’s messengers and representatives to the world (ambassadors), and last week we saw that God masterfully designed us to do good works in His name. This week, I want us to think about a pretty challenging topic, and that is one of overcoming difficulties. 

As the year 2018 comes to a close I am reminded of the many challenges that have come my way in 2018. On April 19th the country where our family serves erupted into socio-political chaos that resulted in over 500 deaths, thousands of injuries, extreme transportation difficulties, and food and gasoline shortages. Personally, this situation created one of the greatest challenges I have faced in my life. In June our family decided it was best for my wife and children to spend a year in the States to wait out the crisis. Try as I might, I simply could not shake God’s calling to serve the people here in Nicaragua. Therefore we made a decision I never dreamt we would: we decided to live in two different countries for a year. Before I go further, let me just say I don’t necessarily recommend this course of action! We did this because we felt 100% certain God was calling us to do it in this very unique circumstance. But, it certainly has not been easy. There have been definite struggles here in Nicaragua, and being apart from my family has been far from a picnic. As I’ve gone through all of this I’ve taken real solace from the following verses:

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. Romans 8:35-37

First of all, no matter what challenges any of us encounter God’s love is always there. Nothing can take God’s love and presence away from us. I have had to lean on that love so much these past six months, and I’m here to tell you God’s sustaining love is a real thing! Second, the gift of eternal life God gives us can never be taken away. The ultimate victory over death, that gives us the gift of eternal life, has already been won once and for all by the ultimate conqueror, Jesus. Finally, if you look at the original Greek to be more than conquerors means to be overcomers. It means to not only succeed in the tasks we are doing but to overcome the challenges along the way. God calls us to be overcomers when it comes to following and serving Him. He understands that our life will not always be easy and that we will face many challenges as we follow and serve Him. Yet, he has ensured that we can overcome the challenges of the world by Jesus’ death on the Cross.

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