Author Archives: Andy Baker

Combating Busyness

busy-83-1184096-639x426Its that season when I fear my IPhone may either explode, or Siri may simply start screaming at me for overfilling the calendar app. Between taking on a new position at church, kids going back to school, my math teacher wife heading back to school, fall programming ramping up at church, and activities for out kids kicking back into high gear I’m preparing for a solid two months of living on coffee and Cliff Bars. I think many of us encounter these incredibly busy season in our lives, while others of you probably feel as if I’m simply describing your typical Tuesday. According to Psychology Today some of the side affects of an over busy lifestyle can include: fatigue, sleep problems, stress, increase in drug/alcohol abuse, depression, and many more. While its easy to say that the best solution to busyness is to cut things out of our lives, sometimes we are simply going to be busy. The question is: what can we do in the busy seasons of our lives to combat the negative affects of busyness?


Lets look at the example Jesus set for us. Jesus was constantly busy. He had disciples fighting for his attention, crowds of thousands flocking to him, the sick, poor, and afflicted asking for help, and religious leaders questioning his every move. He knew that his time on earth was incredibly short, and that he needed to maximize every moment. Yet, between all the sermons, healings, debates, fellowship, and miracles Jesus always found time for prayer. After the Pharisees try to have him arrested {John 7 }what does he do? He retreats to the Mt. of Olives to pray. Do you remember where the Lord’s Prayer comes from? It comes from the disciples seeing Jesus taking time for prayer and asking Him to teach them how to pray like that. Indeed, Luke 5:16 tells us that “Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” When it is time for him to be handed over for death on the cross what does he do? He goes and fervently prays on the Mount of Olives {Luke 22}. See a pattern here?

Life is going to be busy, difficult, and stressful. The best resource we have to combat these challenges is spending time with God. Its something we have to make non-negotiable in our lives. Many of us would not dream of starting our morning without coffee, breakfast, or checking social media. Yet, we tend to take connecting with God through scripture and prayer for granted. We seem to have time for emails, text messages, fantasy football teams, political blogs, and ESPN, but not for our Creator and Savior. We need to change that. If Jesus could take time out of his schedule saving the world to connect with the Father, then I think we can too! This week, set aside time to re-connect with God. Share your joys, your struggles, your needs, your sins, your requests, and more. Let God fill you with the joy and hope to propel you through the busyness of your life this week.

Saying Yes

imageLet me ask a big question: how are you responding to the work God is putting in front of you? Each day situations are placed before us in which we have to chose whether or not we are going to serve God in a certain way. It may be very direct, such as someone asking you to serve as a Sunday School teacher, or it may be more indirect (like seeing a neighbor who seems particularly sad). I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not always good at discerning when I need to say yes to serving God. My thought process is typically: do I want to, do I have the time, and will I be successful. Yep, that’s a deeply theological process! Opportunities to serve God are constantly being put in our path, but our discernment process often leads much to be desired.

Juxtapose our often self-centered discernment process with that of the prophet Elisha. Elisha lived at a time when being a prophet was a dangerous job. His predecessor, Elijah, had endured so much difficulty that he begged God to take his life. So yeah, being a prophet was not exactly a dream job! Yet, look at how Elisha handles God calling him to be a prophet.
Elisha, the son of Shaphat, was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen in front of him, and he was with the twelfth. Elijah passed by him and cast his cloak upon him. And he left the oxen and ran after Elijah and said, “Let me kiss my father and my mother, and then I will follow you.” And he said to him, “Go back again, for what have I done to you?” And he returned from following him and took the yoke of oxen and sacrificed them and boiled their flesh with the yokes of the oxen and gave it to the people, and they ate. Then he arose and went after Elijah and assisted him. 1 Kings 19:19-21

The actions Elisha takes should serve as a great blueprint for us.

Decide God NEEDS me to serve. When an opportunity to serve comes your way consider that God may purposefully have given you that opportunity. You may discern that you are not called to that particularly opportunity, but you do need to give it prayerful consideration.
Clear your schedule: if God calls you to something you make the time for it! Elisha had to tell his parents he is leaving the family farming business to follow God’s calling, and we too may need to clear our schedules to serve. 
Burn the obstacles: there will always be apparent obstacles to serving God: lack of time, lack of skill, fear, difficulty, and more. Elisha’s obstacle was his farming business, and he takes the amazing step to simply burn it. What obstacles to serving do you need to “burn.”
Simply follow: We tend to want all the details before we decide to serve. Elisha, however, simply jumped in and followed God. He trusted that since God called him that things would work out. He knew that things would still be difficult, but trusted God to bless his labor.

Raising A Champion

watching-with-dad-1510745-1278x848One of the things I love about watching the Olympics is hearing the backstories about the athletes. Not only have most athletes gone through great adversity and sacrifice, but so have their parents. A Forbes study showed that it costs an average of $15,000 for 5-8 years to put a young woman in a position to possibly qualify for the Olympics. The mother of 2012 gold medalist Gabby Douglas spent so much money funding her daughter’s training that she was forced in bankruptcy. Many families end up moving to be closer to certain training centers, and some athletes leave home as teenagers to train full time {Gabby Douglas famously moved to Des Moines at age 14 to live with a host family.}. I’ve even read stories where parents have quit their jobs to follow their children’s athletic pursuits full-time. Even participating in traveling teams at the youth level, considered a necessity to have a chance at even playing at the high school level, can cost thousands of dollars and wipe out many weekends. In short, behind most successful athletes are parents sacrificing money, time, and energy to ensure their success.

 

Don’t take any of the above as an indictment of raising athletes. As an athlete myself I fully understand the importance of athletics and the positives they can have on your life. I am also very thankful for the sacrifices my parents made to support my participation in sports and other competitive activities. But, more important then the energy they put into competitive success 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 silly, 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 growingly 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.

Mistakes Happen

For 33 years my mother ran a daycare out of our home. I’ve gotten many good belly laughs over the years at her stories of the antics of the hundreds of kids she has worked with. One of my favorite involves a girl who had made the decision that she was never going to be potty trained by her parents, my mother, or anyone else. She was starting to push four years old and still refused to use the toilet out of sheer stubbornness. After an “accident” one day my mom, whose frustration beginning to bubble like Mt. Vesuvius, informed this girl that you really can’t call something an accident when you are choosing to do it over and over again. When the girl’s mother arrived that evening she asked her daughter if she’d had any accidents that day. The girl, remembering her stern talking to earlier, responded, “well, it wasn’t really an accident, but it sure was a mistake!”

 

Like this little girl we tend to work quite hard to shirk our responsibilities in life, claiming that we are the victims of circumstances, stress, the faults of others, etc. We really don’t want to ever admit that we truly do make mistakes. But, guess what? If you are breathing you are making mistakes. If you are alive you are making errors in judgment, doing things incorrectly, and doing numerous things every day that, like it or not, are sinful. 1 John 1:8-9 lays this out remarkably clearly: “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.” See, the question is not whether or not you’ve messed up in life, the question is this: what are you doing to address the mistakes of your life?

 

Guys, we need to start taking ownership of the sins we commit on a daily basis. Confessing our sins should never be relegated merely to revivals, big events, and alter calls, but should be a daily part of our lives. I would challenge you to commit to setting aside five minutes a day to reflect on the sins you’ve committed that day, confess them to God, ask for forgiveness, and to make a plan to not repeat them tomorrow. We are going to make mistakes, so we need to take the only action possible: confessing our sins and letting Jesus “cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

Relationships Without Conditions

pipe-cleaner-people-1177063-640x480I have been thinking a lot about relationships lately, whether that be marriage, friendships, parenting, working with co-workers, etc. As I’ve thought about it, I think I’ve put my finger on two of the most dangerous words we use in relationships. Now, don’t worry, they aren’t curse words! However, I think they can do more danger to relationships then a curse-ridden tirade. The words? If and but. Such small simple words, yet in relationships they can create all sorts of problems. “I would help you, if you were nicer to me.” “I would love to help you with that problem, but you have not really been that nice to me lately.” It seems many of us, myself included, are willing to do many great things in a relationship, as long as certain conditions are met.

Now, don’t misunderstand me here. There are certainly times in relationships where using such conditional phrases can be appropriate {i.e. when we are teaching our children or assisting someone in conquering a bad habit or addiction}. When it comes to the core of what relationships should be about, showing love, care, and making one another better, we need to take our lead from Jesus and drop the ifs and buts.

Checkout these two verses from Paul’s letter to the Philippians:

Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded.

Philippians 2:1-2

Look at all the things Christ gives us when we are in relationship with him: comfort, love, the Spirit, tenderness, and compassion. We can add to that list joy, peace, hope, eternal life, and so much more. When we are in relationship with Christ we are given so many awesome things, no ifs or buts about it. Jesus does not say “I will give you encouragement this week, if you do 73 good things” or “I would comfort you, but when you were six you stole a piece of candy from Wal-Mart.” The only condition with Christ is believing in Him and confessing our sins to Him. When we do that He freely gives us so many amazing things that make us better now and for all eternity.

As you go about your many relationships this week take special notice of how often you are being conditional with your love for others. Christ has chosen to freely give so much love and care to us despite our many flaws and sins. He has chosen to focus on making us better in this life and for all eternity. Let’s start doing the same in our relationships, having the same mind as Christ Jesus. Let’s strive to make others better, no if’s or buts about it, just has Christ has made us better.

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