Author Archives: Andy Baker

Living a 4x Life

In his book Great by Choice Jim Collins looks at what he calls 10x companies. These are companies, like Apple and Southwest Airline,s that outperformed all competitors in their industry by a factor of 10 between 2002-2012. This is so rare that of the 20,400 companies Collins researched only seven outpaced their industry by a factor of 10. It seems almost crazy to me to outpace an entire industry by a factor of 10 over 10 years. This got me to thinking: what if we as Christians tried to outpace our competitor, the sinful world? What if we took seriously outpacing the decadence and sinfulness of the world, as these companies set to outdo their competitors? And, I’ not even going to have us aim for being 10xers, but to set our goal as doing FOUR times the good as Christ followers as we did/do as sinners. 

As I was reading the oft told story of Zacchaeus in Spanish this week I was really struck by the following, which I’d always glossed over. 

But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.” Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” Luke 19:8-10

Look at those three verses for a moment. Upon being confronted by his own sin, and Jesus’ amazing grace, Zacchaeus not only proclaims he will give up his sinful life, but repay those he harmed by a factor of four. He wants his Christian-self to outperform his worldly-self by a factor of four. This idea has really struck me. I think sometimes we set out to do as much good as we can, while sinning as little as possible. We figure if we do more good today than bad, even if its a close score, we’ve succeeded. But what if we aimed to do four times as much good as we have sinned? What if we aimed to do four good works for God for every one sin we have committed? Can you imagine the positive impact on the world around us, especially as more and more Christians started outpacing sinfulness by a factor of 4? Now look, this is not some perfect formula for righteous living or salvation. But, I do hope it is a thought that gets us seriously thinking about the impacts we make. As Christ followers we should be aiming to out perform the sinful world around us, with its vices of immorality, impurity, idolatry, hatred, discord, jealousy, envy, etc. We should be striking back with the good of Christ: love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (aka the Fruits of the Spirit). The world will always be doing its best to drag people down, so let us all be doing everything we can to counter the sinfulness of the world with the love of Christ. 

When Pigs Fly: God’s Protection

For the past few weeks I’ve been writing about how God can, and does, do the impossible in our world (hence the series title). Today I want us to wrestle with a difficult topic: protection. I believe that God protects us in numerous ways. My family was in a roll-over accident years ago, and looking at the damage later it is a miracle we all survived. I firmly believe that was a miracle of protection. During the unrest here in Nicaragua I have twice missed being in a dangerous situation by just a couple of minutes. Like most of you I could go on and on with instances where I believe God has protected me. Yet, I can also list many occasions where it seems God did not offer protection. I think of a youth group student killed in a tractor accident, a loving husband and father killed on a snowmobile, and the over three hundred killed here in Nicaragua over the past few months. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that there were moments during those tragedies where I wondered where God’s protection was. With that in mind, how can we have faith that God will protect us? How do we handle the seeming reality that he does not always appear to protect His people? 

There is one simple verse that does an amazing job addressing these seemingly super complex questions: The Lord rescues the Godly; He is their fortress in times of trouble. Psalm 37:39

First, the Psalmist tells us that God does indeed protect us. He will miraculously intervene to assist us in times of great struggle, offering us protection, wisdom, healing, etc. While some may argue that miracles ceased when the Bible was finished I’ve seen way to many examples of God’s miraculous protection and interference to believe that. I truly believe that God continues to do the miraculous on the part of His people, including you and me. Our role is to be praying for His action, trusting His ways, and worshiping Him for all he does. But (yes, there is seemingly always a but), this verse does not say that God will protect us from everything. Because of human sin a plethora of problems have come into our world, including suffering and death. That’s the price of sin. Yet, look at what this scripture DOES say. He (God) is their fortress in times of trouble. Terrible things will happen to us and others because of the sin of this world, but that does not mean God has abandoned us. God is right there in the midst of those moments crying with us, comforting us, directing us, and carrying us. We need to open our hearts and minds to God in the moments we don’t feel protected, letting his comfort and love overwhelm us. Most importantly, we need to always remember that Jesus has already suffered and died so that we can be protected forever. Because the truth is that, in the end, God’s grace offers us eternal protection in a perfect Heaven. 

When Pig’s Fly: Changes in Others

I REALLY wish my wife was not such a pack rat! She has the amazing ability to fill every closet, drawer, shelf, and minuscule corner in our house with stuff. Sometimes its ok, and sometimes its absolutely head scratching (such as her notes from 7th GRADE science class!). She once found an ATM from our first date about 12 years after it happened, not because she was sentimental, but because she simply had a pile of 12 year old receipts. After 14 years of marriage I’ve come to the conclusion that her pack rat habits will end about the time pigs fly. Which I’m ok with. There are MUCH worse habits she could have!

There are always going to be things about other people in our lives that we don’t like, and would love to see change. It can be habits, preferences, political views, etc. There are also plenty of things we desperately want changed: an illness/disability, an addiction, an especially strained relationship, etc. When we desire change in others we have two options. First, we can come to the conclusion I have with my wife’s hoarding. I’ve simply decided its really not a big deal, and its not worth the fight. But, sometimes there are things that people in our lives really do need to change (i.e. an addiction, needing Jesus, etc.). In those cases we can’t have an attitude of “well, they’ll change when pigs fly.” Instead, we need to partner with God in helping make change happen. We see this in the follow scripture: 

A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home. They gathered in such large numbers that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them. Some men came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowered the mat the man was lying on. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” Mark 2:1-5

These four men looked at the situation of their paralyzed friend and decided that something needed to change. So, they did the hard work of carrying him to town, digging through a roof, and lowering him down to Jesus. They did the hard work of getting him to Jesus, and they trusted Jesus with the result (which he provided). To often, I feel, we don’t do that. We are far too quickly believe people cannot be changed. We need to be more like the friends in this scripture. When people in our lives need to change, WE need to help them. We need to pray for them, show them love, take action to help them, and show patience towards them. Because, the thing is, God wants to change them for the better! Not only that, God has the power to change them. We need to do the work we can to make them better, and then trust God with the result. Let’s do the hard work of getting people in our lives to Jesus, and watch Him do make changes in their lives. 

When Pigs Fly: Changed for the Better

As a Cubs fan I heard the phrase “when pigs fly” A LOT. It seemed an apt phrase, as the thought of the Cubbies making a World Series (let alone WINNING one) seemed about as likely as pigs bursting through the roof of a hog confinement and soaring through the air. Even when the Cubs had a 5-0 lead in the bottom of the 9th in game 6 of the NLCS I STILL doubted them (I was not alone. Watch the video of the ninth and watch the expressions on Cub fan faces. It’s panic, not joy.). When they finally did win it all it was one of the most exhilarating experiences of my life. Not simply because my team had won, but because something I thought was impossible had finally happened. 

There are many things in life we’ve decided will only occur when pigs fly. Over the next few weeks I want us to think deeper about a few of them. Today I want us to think about change. I think most of us walk around with a laundry list of things we don’t think can be changed in our lives. Sinful behaviors, bad habits, illness, fully serving Jesus, bad relationships, our financial situation, our career, and so on. We’ve probably tried a lot of things to change these things, but they always seem to fail. So, whether we want to admit it or not, we’ve come to hold a “when pigs fly attitude.” We’ve simply given up on change ever coming to our life. There was a man in the Bible whom I sure thought change would come to his life only when pigs fly: 

A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home. They gathered in such large numbers that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them. Some men came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowered the mat the man was lying on. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” Mark 2:1-5, 11-12

A paralyzed man in Jesus’ day not only had zero chance of getting better, but he also had little to no chance at a good and long life. Yet, this man had faith in Jesus, and Jesus not only healed him physically, but spiritually as well. See, God desires to change your life for the better. He wants to help you break your bad habits, heal your wounds, mend your relationships, and cease your sinful ways. And, more importantly, He has the power to do. But most importantly, God has already changed you in a permanent and perfect way: by His grace you have been given the gift of eternal life. The gift that overcomes every problem you will ever experience in this world. Lets stop looking at things in our lives as only changing when pigs fly, and instead begin having the faith that God can change us now and forever. 

Investing in Our Children

Today my oldest celebrated her 12th birthday. I can still very vividly remember that moment 12 years ago when she came into our life, as well as her first giggles, her first steps, her first day of school, and so much more. If you are a new parent I’m here to tell you that the old adage “don’t blink or you’ll miss it” certainly seems true to me. As I think back on my 12 years as a parent I can think of many successful parenting moments, as well as innumerable parenting failures. Like many parents my wife and I have invested a lot of time, money, and energy into our kids, trying our best to help them to succeed in all aspects of life. In fact, the US Department of agriculture estimates that it takes $233,610 to raise a child (I’m assuming that does NOT include college tuition, which is quickly equally that number on its own), and studies have shown that families of Olympic athletes spend an average of $15,000 a year to prepare them for athletic success. In a rare positive change, parents today are spending twice as much time with their children than their parents did, and men have quadrupled the time they spend with children over the past few decades. Yet, despite all of that money and time we spend on our children are we truly doing everything we can to raise them rightly? 

I am very thankful for the money, time, and energy my parents invested in me. I can’t begin to count the number of practices they drove me to, the things they bought for me, and the grey hairs I caused them. But what was most important was the time and energy they put into raising me as a disciple of Christ. From an early age my parents taught me how to pray, read me Bible stories, involved me in church, helped me memorize scripture, modeled the life of a disciple, and provided me with numerous tools to grow in my faith. I remember getting into Christian music because my parents would buy me Christian CD’s, but I had to buy the secular ones on my own. That may sound like a minute and silly thing, but it ended up having a big impact on my life.

Spending energy on raising our children to be disciples is not just something we should do, its something we are commanded to do. As Paul writes in Ephesians 6:4: Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. This is not something we are to leave up to our church or to chance, but a duty that has been assigned to us as fathers. Just as it takes substantial work to raise a champion athlete, it takes a major effort to raise a disciple of Christ in our increasingly secular world. As dad’s lets start owning our responsibility. Let’s model faith to our children, pray with and for them, helping them get into the word, and provide them the opportunities and resources to grow into disciples and leaders. Let’s do whatever we can to raise a generation of champions for Christ.

 

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