Author Archives: Andy Baker

Be Ready for Every Good Work

As Christians we often see service in terms of what programs and ministries we are involved in. We serve when we volunteer in Sunday School, help on a work project, go on a mission trip, etc. Having served on church staffs for over a decade I am guilty of sometimes thinking that as long as people are plugged into service opportunities then they are adequately serving God. But, if we really think about it, God never envisioned service to be so compartmentalized. When he meticulously formed us and commanded us to bear fruit he did not only have in mind those few opportunities arising in our churches. He had the entirety of our lives in mind. Our jobs, our relationships, our family, our hobbies, our shopping, the true entirety of our lives. God made us to serve so many people in so many ways that no church or ministry could ever program enough opportunities for us to serve! 

Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work. Titus 3:1                               

Look at that first verse: to be ready for every good work. Paul is not saying to be ready for the sign-up sheet to be passed or for your church to offer you an opportunity. He is saying that you need to be ready and willing to serve whenever and however the opportunity arises. This may happen on the golf course when a friend admits he is struggling with his faith. It happens when we notice our neighbor needs home repairs they are incapable of doing. It happens whenever the moods of everyone around us are low or stressed (any trip to Wal-Mart typically fits this). Anytime our abilities and gifts encounter the needs of others is a chance to do good works. We have chances everyday to serve God and make an impact on others. Are we ready for it? 

So, why is it important that we be ready for every good work? Why is it OUR responsibility to be ready to work (instead of pastors, missionaries, church leaders, etc.?). Paul answers this at the end of this letter.                                                                                                        And let our people learn to devote themselves to good works, so as to help cases of urgent need, and not be unfruitful. Titus 3:14   

Paul reminds us here of a couple of things. First, there are urgent needs all around us that need to be met with the love of Christ. Second, each and every one of us is commanded to bear fruit in our lives. We bear fruit by meeting the needs we encounter with the love of God. Bearing fruit is not insignificant, because when fruit is born it means that lives are being changed and saved. See, serving God isn’t about filling in your time card, but being used to make a true impact on lives for God’s Kingdom.

How to be a Man

Here’s our question for today: what does it really mean to “be a man?” The University of Manitoba conducted a study on what messages advertisers send about what it means to be a man. They found that the majority of advertisements equate manhood to one or more of the following four qualities: 

  • Danger is exciting: real men take risks and lack fear
  • Toughness is important: real men don’t cry or show importance 
  • Violence is manly
  • Having beautiful women (plural) and sex (plural) is important 

Now, I’m not here to say that it’s necessarily bad to take risks, be tough, hunt, or like beautiful women (I’m happily married to one). But, I am here to say that the world has an imperfect understanding of what it truly means to be a man. A really great description of Biblical manhood is found in Titus chapter 2. Here Paul gives instructions to all men, older men, and younger men. 

All Men: Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us. Titus 2:7-8. In other words, Paul is saying that being a man entails living a life that reflects Christ. When people see us with our family, in our community, in our workplace, etc. they need to see a reflection of God. As men we need to reflect God in our works, our teaching, our integrity, our speech, and more. 

Older Men: I’m smart enough to not categorize anyone as old, but I will say this. If there are people younger then you that look up to you for advice and guidance, then the following advice applies to you. This applies to dads, grandpas, teachers, bosses, etc. Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness. Titus 2:2

Are you modeling those values for those around you? Are you honoring God with a life that is bearing that type of fruit? Being a man entails setting a Godly example in all areas of our life. Wherever you are and whatever you are doing you are to be living our these values to honor God and positively affect others. 

Younger Men: If you were to ask me I would say this applies to all men who are still in the process of learning and growing, which is actually all of us. While Younger Men seem to get off lightly here, being given only one command, it is an incredibly big, important, and difficult one: Urge the younger men to be self-controlled. Titus 2:6. Put simply, self-control is the ability to resist the temptation to sin, no matter how great that temptation is. Being a man means that we strive to resist all temptations and desires to sin, no matter the difficulty. 

So, to wrap it up, here are three big ways for all of us to “be a man:”

  1. Live a life that reflects Christ 
  2. Set a Godly example in all areas of your life
  3. Resist all temptations to sin 

Why We Live Right

I’ve learned that I need to have a compelling reason to do something difficult, or else I’m unlikely to do it very long. I studied Spanish in school, but I really saw little point to it. It was difficult learning those gnarly conjugation rules and scores of vocab, and I found little reason to pour myself into it. For much of my life I didn’t see the point to eating in a healthy fashion. Pizza, bacon cheeseburgers, and Mt. Dew were plenty fine for me. No need for that abhorrable “green stuff” (except the aforementioned Mt. Dew). Yet, today I speak Spanish every day (albeit far from fluently) and I maintain a relatively healthy diet and exercise regiment (having lost well over a hundred pounds). Why was I able to make such big changes? Because I came to understand how important it was to make them. When my church began working with three Spanish speaking churches in Nicaragua I realized I needed to learn Spanish so that I could lead and minister effectively. When my blood pressure spiked and my health was slipping in many ways I understood I needed to change my diet or risk my long-term health. Once I understood the reason and purpose for behaving in a certain way I became much more dedicated to acting in that way.

I feel that a major reason many of us fall into perpetual sin in our lives is that we don’t always comprehend why we are supposed to be following God’s ways. Why is it really such a big deal to be nice? Why do I have to forgive that jerk in my office? Why do I have to give of my time and money for others? This past week I was reading through Titus and came upon this verse, which really clarified for me why we NEED to live lives that are pure and righteous.

To the pure, all things are pure, but to the defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure; but both their minds and their consciences are defiled. They profess to know God, but they deny him by their works. They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work. Titus 1:15-16

While none of us will ever be sinless, we can all be living a life closer to the purity and righteousness of Jesus. We do this so we do not defile the many good things God has put in our life. We love and respect our wife to maintain the integrity and purity of our marriage. We speak the truth and use our words in a positive way so that our words bear fruit instead of causing chaos. And we do good works in our lives not to earn rewards, prestige, or warm fuzees, but to profess our love for God. We follow God’s commands so that we may bring the maximum amount of honor and love into the world while minimizing the amount of detestable disobedience. Always remember, we are following God’s ways not simply “because,” but so that we may bring honor and glory to Him and His Kingdom.

Why We Serve

Until this year I’ve spent my entire adult life on church staffs. A struggle faced in every church I’ve been on is motivating people to serve. I’ve witnessed the frustration of children’s directors who receive ten no’s in a row for Sunday School positions, and I’ve jumped into action as a Sunday School teacher, nursery volunteer, usher, greeter, cook, and parking attendant when someone failed to show. I can’t even imagine what percent of leadership meetings I’ve been in dealing with the struggle to find volunteers. I grew VERY frustrated with people who always seemed to say no to service opportunities. Yet, now that I’m not on a church staff, I see where people are coming from when they turn down opportunities. When I’m now asked to give up MY time to church I am filled with all sorts of excuses: I need family time, I need free time, my job is stressful enough, I don’t want to get involved in “church politics,” and so on.

This has led me to really reflect on why it is we serve, which is something I feel we all need to think about. This is not to say we always have to say yes (indeed, sometimes no is the correct answer), but it is to say we need to understand why we serve and when and why we do need to say YES. Here is what Paul says to Titus about why he has chosen to serve:

Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the sake of the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth, which accords with godliness in hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began and at the proper time manifested in his Word through the preaching with which I have been entrusted by the command of God our Savior. Titus 1:1-3

Let’s look at three practical things Paul tells us here about why we are to serve:

To make Others Better: First, Paul says that he is a servant for the sake of God’s people (the elect). Paul understood that God desires all of us to be making other people better. Then can range from teaching and mentoring them to simply offer them prayer and encouragement. Are you regularly serving by making others better, or do you need to search out new opportunities?

To spread the Good News: Paul talks about sharing the hope of eternal life. Do you ever reflect on what you are doing in your life so help spread the Good News? ALL of us have a role to play in sharing the hope of eternal life. The key is to figure out what are role is and to say YES to it.

Because we’ve been entrusted and commanded: Not only has God commanded us to serve, but he has entrusted us with both the ability to serve and His faith in our ability. If God has entrusted and commanded us to serve Him, who are we to say no?

I went through this awesome stage of life where my body periodically decided breathing was an optional biological function. My lungs would jet off to Hawaii for the weekend, and I’d get to have a nice little party at the local hospital. During one of these lovely episodes (also known as asthma) I found myself hooked up to some truly fantastic O2 in the hospital watching the Major League All-Star game. In the olden days hospitals didn’t exactly have great TV packages, so I felt fortunate to have something as good as the All-Star game to watch. In a pretty solid game the AL came back from a 4-0 deficit, and the game was knotted at 7 after nine innings. In the middle of the 11th inning, with the game still tied, the two managers and league commission held their own summit meeting along the first base-line. They decided that if the inning ended tied the game would simply end, finishing in an unprecedented tie. Despite a near riot from the fans that’s exactly what happened. I was furious, first because there are three major no’s in baseball: no crying, no PEDs, and no ties! Second, there was absolutely nothing else on TV, which seemed like a pretty major problem at the time. 

In many ways Jesus’ death on the cross is the run that ties the game between life and death, light and darkness, and good and evil. His death pays the debt for all us sinners, a debt payable only by death. The debt is paid on the cross, but the power of death is not yet defeated. In Jesus’ day resurrection was such an out there idea that even the most zealously religious people believed that not even God could resurrect the dead. One could perhaps earn a tie with death (like Elijah, who simply rode into Heaven), but there was no coming back and defeating death. That’s why Easter is such a big deal. Not only did Jesus die to pay our debt, He came back on the third day. He hit a walk-off grand slam that forever beat back the power of death. Because Jesus both died for our sins and was resurrected death is no longer something that can defeat us, nor is it something we should fear. Here’s how Paul’s puts it in Romans 6:5-8:

For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin—because anyone who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.  

We celebrate Easter because God is so loving as to die on the cross for our sins, AND so powerful as to defeat death and rise again. By his love and power there will be no loss or tie for those who confess and believe, but only a perfect eternity in Heaven. 

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