Author Archives: Andy Baker

What’s Your Legacy?

I have always loved history, so much so that my favorite birthday present as a kid was receiving the World Book Encyclopedia. Yeah, I’m a dork. I own that. My love for history led me to become friends with my elderly neighbor. His knowledge of local history was simply phenomenal. I loved going to their house and being regaled by all his stories about what our town was like a century ago. I was really jealous that a hundred years ago our city had street cars, opera houses, hosted the leading actors of the day, and was considered to be “little Chicago.” Like most kids, I thought my town was boring, so I asked my neighbor why our town was not as great today. His answer was quite simple: it was because of the Jews. Being a kid, who was taught to trust his elders, I accepted his teaching as fact. Years later I was conversing with others about the faults of our town and began to say, “it’s all because of the Jews,” before I caught myself. I realized I had held a very inaccurate and harmful idea for many years. I trusted my neighbor and accepted his word as truth, never knowing it may be harmful. 

I realize the United States is a supercharged atmosphere right now over the issue of race. The current situation is complex, and this is not the forum for me to engage with all aspects of it. What I want to encourage all of us to do today is to set the right example for others. Rather you know it or not, your words, actions, texts, and social media postings are being heard by others. They are learning from your example, even if that example is not the right one. If we want to help transform the world for God it starts by setting a godly example. 

Set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you. Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress. Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers. 1 Timothy 4:11-16

Let me end with a positive example. When I see hatred and racism I am always appalled. A major reason for this is my parents worked incredibly hard to raise me to love others regardless of their skin color, ethnicity, or cultural origin. They also set an example for what it looks like to actively live out one’s faith, even when that is difficult. So much of who I am is because of the Godly example they set. My question to you is: what legacy are you leaving? When others look at you, and learn from you, are they seeing a reflection of God? If we want a brighter world it starts by each of us shinning as brightly as we can so that others may catch a bit of God from us. Keep shining and living brightly men!

No Ties in Life

I went through this 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 O2 in the hospital watching the Major League All-Star game. In a 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 a summit meeting along the first base-line. They decided that if the inning ended tied the game would simply end. 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 breaks the tie 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. For 99.9999% of people, however, there was no tie. You won or loss, and it was pretty close to impossible to win on your own. That’s why Jesus 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 defeated 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.  

There seems to be so much to be afraid of and angry about right now. In the midst of all this garbage and difficulty remember that, in the end, life doesn’t end in a tie. It ends in Heaven or it ends it Hell. Yet, because of Jesus’ love and sacrifice, we can be guaranteed a victory if we confess our sins and believe in Him. Here’s to celebrating our victory all together in Heaven some day!

Setting a Godly Example

Americans visiting the art museums of Europe often notice that their paintings are almost always hung a good foot taller than in American museums. For years this was attributed to differences in measurement systems, until art historians did some deeper research. Nearly all American art historians are somehow connected to Paul Sachs, much like how most actors are connected to Kevin Bacon. Sachs was an art professor at Harvard who created one of the first academic programs in museum studies. Because Harvard had the only such program, it was not very long until the head of nearly every American art museum and art museum studies program had been one of Sachs’ students. Sachs May have been a giant in the art field, but physically he was incredibly short (less than five feet tall). Because he was a foot shorter than a typical male adult, he hung pictures a foot lower than they did. Because his students imitated his every move, they started hanging paintings at the same height, even though they had never been thought to do so. Because his students came to dominate the American art world, so did their tradition of hanging pictures lower. Thusly, to this day, American art museums hang their artwork a foot lower because of the accidental example set by Paul Sachs.

Think about the influence that Paul Sachs must have had over his students. Not only did they read his books and listen to his lectures, but they so closely modeled their behavior after his that this tradition of hanging pictures low became normative. This should be something all of us men strive for in our lives. Our daily actions should speak so loudly for God that others around us desire to imitate our behavior. Here is something humbling I’ve learned over the years. When I hear people speak about why they began following God, or made a major decision in their life, it is seldom because of a sermon they heard or a book they read. It is because of the Godly example set by someone else. It was because their dad modeled Christ for them, a college friend set an example for them, or a co-worker reached out to them when they needed it most. One of the most powerful forms of evangelism is not a sermon, but rather displaying the character of Christ in all that we do. When we set that example our children, friends, co-workers, and neighbors will begin catching amazing glimpses of God’s love.

Paul puts it like this: Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. Ephesians 5:1-2

How is your life setting a Godly example for others to follow? If it is not, then now is a great time to make a change. As we slowly return to a new “normal” from this pandemic, let us do so by every day setting a Godly example for others to follow. 


 

In Search of a Light

I’m going to man up and admit that, eighteen years ago next month, I totally botched my proposal to my wife. It was working at Inspiration Hills, a Christian camp in northwest Iowa, and I had been planning “the perfect proposal” for quite some time. When Andrea came for the weekend I took her on a hike, leading her to a large hill outside of camp. From this hill you could see Iowa, South Dakota, and Minnesota, and at pinnacle was a large cross. When we got to the cross I knelt on one knee, said something romantic, and reached for the ring… which I could not find in the dark! No problem I thought, I’ll just grab my flashlight and find it…except I couldn’t find my flashlight either! So here I am, at what should be the most romantic moment of my life, flaying around on my hands and knees trying to find the flashlight, while apologizing profusely for ruining the proposal. Andrea kindly joined me in the search and soon {although it felt like an eternity} we were able to find the flashlight. Within seconds of turning on the flashlight we were able to spot the ring and I could finish the proposal. Thankfully {and gracefully} she still said yes, and fifteen years later we remain happily married.

It’s hard to find anything in the dark, let alone something tiny like a ring. Likewise, it’s difficult to correctly find our way in the world without someone to guide us. Its certainly not because the world doesn’t try to direct us. It seems like, more then ever, the world is trying to lead us down all sorts of pathways, but I’m not sure how good many of those paths really are. Tis really only one who can correctly show us how to navigate life, and that is Jesus Christ. John 1:4-5 explains it like this:

In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

Just as I would have likely never found that ring without a flashlight we are unlikely to correctly navigate life without following the light of Christ. Let’s face reality: in many ways our world is quite dark and difficult right now. Every day on social media I see people not only struggling, but also reaching for all sorts of things to be their light in this darkness. The problem is, the only light powerful enough to truly lead us out of darkness is Jesus. Jesus not only came to earth to save us, but to lay out a blueprint for how to live life. His earthly life, perfectly preserved in scripture, serves as a flashlight illuminating the correct path for us. It is a path that is not always easy, but is the right path for us and those around us. It is a path that includes: showing grace and forgiveness, caring for the poor, living sacrificially, loving our neighbor as we love ourselves, following scripture, and standing for God against the sinful ways of the world. May we always be turning to scripture and letting the light of Christ serve as our guide in our dark world.

Be Bold!

It’s always dangerous to generalize, but in my experience most of us men are bold in many areas of life, with the notable exception of asking for help. We are bold in expressing our love for our favorite sports team, and our disdain for our least favorite. We are bold in expressing our preferences for cars, motorcycles, tractors, restaurants, and politics. Those of you from Oskaloosa are very bold in expressing the correct manner to utilize the McDonald’s drive through, and those from Pella are quite bold in expressing their preference for best bakery. When it comes to asking for any type of help, however, we are often as far from bold as possible. We hide our needs so incredibly well that 99% of people likely think our life is virtually perfect. Yet, my educated hunch is that we are all often overwhelmed by a great many things in life. Asking for help, however, is often far off our radar. 

Here is something I’ve realized in life. We can either be bold in asking for help from God or others, or we can be awash in the misery of trying to handle all the problems of life on our own. The result of lacking the boldness of asking for help is almost always burnout. Checkout this amazing example of boldness in Scripture. After Easter, things were not exactly easy for Jesus’ followers. There were many who wanted to jail and kill them just as they had Jesus. To take the bold action needed to share the good news the Apostles had to ask for help.

And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness.‭‭ Acts‬ ‭4:29-31‬ 

To act with boldness the Apostles had to pray with boldness. They had to ask for God’s help and guidance. And did God ever give it to them! God’s response literally shook the ground, and they were filled with the Spirit. If being a missionary has taught me anything, it is to be bold in my prayers. The reality is, I seldom have what is needed to best get through each day. I am overwhelmed by cultural differences, language differences, a mountains of needs that I have no clue how to address. I have found myself on my knees praying boldly more then ever before. 

Where is that boldness in our lives? What are we not asking God for? What are we not doing in our lives that we should, but we not only lack the boldness to try, but the boldness to ask. What do you really need right now, but you lack the boldness to ask? This week, I encourage you to humble yourself boldly before God and pour out your needs to Him. 

 

 

 

 

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