Author Archives: Andy Baker

Who Do You Think You Are?: A Masterpiece

We spend a lot of our lives trying to answer the question: who are we? What is our identity, how do others see us, and how do we see ourselves? Let me brutally honest about something I’ve seen in men over the years. On the outside, we can appear like all is good and we have our lives all put together. Heck, sometimes we can even seem confident or, dare I say, cocky. That’s probably why I often hear people talk and write about how men are so overconfident, self-centered, etc. But as I have gotten to know more and more men on a deeper level I’ve realized that so much of that is an act. As men, we feel such a pressure to perform, to be the sort of man those around us expect us to be. We are under pressure to have the right kind of job, to have the right appearance, to not only have manly hobbies (sports, hunting, motorsports, etc.), but to be good at them, and more. The result of all this is I see a lot of men who are really broken on the inside. They feel unable to live up to all the expectations put on them by their family, friends, co-workers, and the world. 

Yet, here’s the thing guys, we were never made to run after the approval of so many others in the world. You weren’t made to have to define yourself and to prove your worth. Rather, you were painstakingly crafted by God to be a masterpiece. Check out Ephesians 2:10: For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.

Just think about that for a second. None of us is a mistake, none of us are designed to be a failure, and none of us are made to impress the world. We’ve been created and saved by God for a purpose. It may not be the purpose YOU want, but it is the purpose God has for you. Instead of running around stressing ourselves to no end as we try to fit into the world’s categories for us, let’s simply be the men God has created us to be. And the great thing is its not exactly rocket science. We simply follow His Word and do good works in our world. THAT is what you were made to do. There is so much good that needs to be done in this world, and each of us has been created and saved to impact it in a new way. God has created you to be a masterpiece. Embrace who you are, serve Him, and love others each and every day. 

Who Do You Think You Are: Ambassadors

I spent most of high school trying to define who I was. At various times I tried to fit in with the sports, popular, nerd, geek, stoner, and music crowds, constantly jumping from one thing to the next to “find myself.” To one degree or another, I think that’s pretty common in high school. But, I also think a lot of us adults spend a fair share of time trying to figure out who we are.  I also think a lot of us try to live through our kids. When I was a youth pastor one of the number one types of counseling I did was helping students convince their parents they should stop playing a sport. In THREE different cases, medical doctors told the student they needed to stop playing or risk permanent injuries, yet their parents wouldn’t let them. That may seem extreme, but if I saw it three times in five years in a town of 650 I’m guessing it happens relatively frequently. On another front, I’m currently working with a lot of very depressed people, mainly men, who have lost their jobs due to the economic crisis in Nicaragua. Like many men, they take a lot of their identity from their job, and now that they are unemployed they are totally lost. Not only is it causing them pain, but also their families, as they are often stressed out, angry, and frustrated with life and God. 

Instead of spending life trying to figure out who we are, trying to convince people that we are something, or having the world tell us who we are, we need to be who God made us to be. Over the next four weeks I want to look at four different things God has called us all to be. Here’s the first one: we are called to be ambassadors of Christ. 

Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 2 Corinthians 5:20

The reasons countries started having ambassadors was that in the days before all today’s communicatory methods about the only way for a leader to discuss anything with another leader was in person. Obviously, the leader couldn’t be everywhere they needed to be at once, so they appointed an ambassador that would speak for them. In most cases this person carried an authority similar to the leader themselves, speaking and negotiating on their behalf as if the leader themselves were in the room. That is the kind of responsibility and authority God has given to us. He calls us to be his ambassadors in this world, sharing the good news of Christ Jesus to everyone we can. This is in no way to say that we have the power to save people, for that is God’s alone. But it is to say that God has called us to be His tool for sharing the good news of eternal life with those around us. Is an ambassador of Christ one of the identities that you have? If not, I would challenge you to prayerfully consider taking on the mantle of ambassadorship God is offering you, and see how God can work through you. 

 

Forgiven Pigs

Happy election day! I live 3,000 miles, and yet I am ready for the ads, the Facebook posts, and the extreme negatively to be over. The toughest thing for me with this election (and to be fair, other elections) is how divisive things are. Even amongst us Christians, we seem so caught up in all sorts of political opinions. This is so much the case that I know families that have been painfully divided, people who have left churches, and friendships that have been obliterated, all because of political viewpoints. What always drives me the craziest about all this division over politics is that, at the beginning and end of the day, there is much more that unites us than divides us. And do you know what one of the biggest things that unites us is? We are ALL sinners and we ALL need God’s forgiveness.

This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. 1 John 1:5-10.

Let me put this is some very Iowan terms. Let’s think about pigs for a minute (ok, many of you think about pigs EVERY minute, but track with me anyway). As dirty, smelly, and generally obnoxious pigs can be that’s not how they came into the world. Pigs are actually born nice and clean. They become dirty because they live in relatively dirty conditions (at least to us humans), which they soon adapt to and becomes normal to them. To be honest, we are all a lot like pigs! We didn’t come into this world full of sin, but we soon started sinning. All of a sudden we got so used to our sinful world that it really wasn’t a very big deal to sin anymore. All the other pigs, err people, were living in sin, so we might as well too. Guys, we are all sinners, and we all need to be forgiven. My friend Dr. Artie Hall likes to say that Christians are forgiven pigs. We’ve all fallen into sin, and we all need Jesus to wash us clean. This election day, when we are so divided, let’s remember what unites us. We are all sinners, but God loves us all so much as to die for our sins. Despite our differences, let’s all rejoice is the love and mercy of our awesome Christ.

Let there be Law, Love, and Light!

Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12

These are some of the most familiar, beloved, and memorized words in all of Scripture. Yet, as familiar as they are, we often don’t know the context in which Jesus uttered them. Jesus spoke these words to the assembled crowd right after he told a group of religious leaders that whoever was without sin should cast the first stone {v. 7}. Do you remember that encounter?

Jesus was at the Temple in Jerusalem early one morning, when a crowd sought him out to hear his teaching. Soon, a group of religious leaders came to him, dragging in their wake a woman who had recently been caught adultery. Adultery was considered one of the two most serious sins at the time, and was thereby punishable by death by stoning (although it was seldom enforced). These religious leaders thought they could use this woman’s case as the perfect trap for Jesus. If Jesus {who was known to preach love and forgiveness} forgave her then the leaders would be able to show that he did not fully follow the law. If he did follow the letter of the law, allowing the woman to be executed, then the leaders would be able to show Jesus’ followers that he was not really all that loving and forgiving after all. All in all, it seemed as if they had laid the perfect trap.

Jesus’ response, however, proved to completely turn the world of the leaders on its head. He turned to them and proclaimed “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her” {v. 7}, to which the leaders all the leaders turned away, letting the woman go. Jesus managed to show that he was both perfectly loving and perfectly followed the law. This encounter speaks to three major teaching about Jesus.

  1. Law Reveals Our Guilt: The commandments and teachings of the Bible are meant both to give us a road map to life and to shine guilt on our sins. God’s commands are not there to simply point out the flaws of others, but to reveal our own sins. This guilt should lead us to confess our sins and, like Jesus told the woman that day, to “go, and from now on sin no more” {v.11}.
  2. Love Reveals God’s Grace: Jesus’ love reveals the grace God has for all of us. This incident shows us that Jesus’ love is so great as to gracefully forgive all of our sins so that we may all avoid the punishment we deserve.
  3. Light Reveals Our Hope: The summary of this whole story, as laid out so beautifully in verse 12, is that Jesus offers his love and forgiveness to all. Jesus shines a bright light into our world, giving us all the hope of a PERFECT eternity with HIM in Heaven.

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. 

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