Wednesday, December 18, 2019

A lonely place

It has been almost 2 years since I have blogged or written anything down. Today I realized I need to return to sharing thoughts. No matter what I do or say someone will like it and someone will hate it, that is the world we live in. 

I have now been a pastor of a small country church for 3 1/2 years and it has been the loneliest job I have ever experienced. Moving to Africa and being one of the few white people around and not speaking was easier than this role God called me to. In the three previous churches I worked in I was a part of a staff, a team, a family. We met together, shared together, and made decisions together. In a small country setting it is you and when it fails it is you same as when it succeeds. No matter what you decide someone will not like it and tell you about it, yet forgot to thank you when they appreciate something. 

Yet when I study the New Testament this is not the model of church one guy doing "all" the work and making all the decisions. Now don't get me wrong we have elders and board members but it still falls on my shoulders and the people complain to me and not the others. We have become a consumer based society and church. I came in today to get filled up and you didn't meet my needs. I didn't like _________ you fill in the blank. Then people leave, stop coming, or throw tantrums until they get their way. Again this is not biblical. In fact Christ let those people walk away.

We should come to church full because we spent our week walking with God. We come together to encourage, sharpen, and share what we are learning. Of course we have bad weeks and at times we may come leaking, but the pastor job alone is not to fill us. He will assist in the fill up, but it is up to us as we spend time with our Father as well.

We are the body and we each have gifts and across the American church we need to act like a body that cares and loves each other. We need to be willing to serve others no matter who they are. We need to rely on the Spirit and obey what it tells us. We need to use our gifts and share our struggles. 

Peter tells us in 1 Peter 2:9 
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.
We are the priesthood now! Each of us who claim to be Christians. Our bodies are the temple and we transform into one body/temple which is Christ. So we all have a role in this journey. None of us get to sit back and let others do the work, we are called to do the work that God prepared for us ahead of time (Eph 2:10)
By doing the things we are commanded it is no longer a lonely place to serve but one of joy and hardships. It will still be hard and have its ups and downs but sharing and doing life together takes away the loneliness and isolation. The enemy works hard to isolate us it is time to obey Gods command and fill each other as we are also filled. 
To show the world a different life and way to life. To bring hope, peace, joy, and love to those around us. To give them a glimpse of heaven here on earth and a taste of what is yet to come in Christ return. 
That is why I choose to write today. I am tried of being lonely and the bad guy. I want to share what I learn to help encourage others who may be in a lonely place as well. That we are not alone at all in fact we are in this together. 

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

A me culture.

I have noticed a huge trend in America since returning from Africa. It is all about me! I need me time, I need to relax for me, me me me me. We truly have become a self centred culture. Apple correctly named everything "I" you fill in the blank. It is all about how you feel, what you think, being open minded, everything to make "me" you happy.

 I totally agree we need sabbath time, but that time is not supposed to be all about us it is supposed to be time we spend reconnecting with God. Have we forgotten Rome was a me culture right before their fall. More importantly have we forgotten that without God we are nothing. It can not be all about me, what I think, what I feel, because I am by nature a sinner and selfish. Romans reminds us that left to ourselves we are dead in our sin and transgressions.

Friends we are suppose to live for Christ, live by Christ, live according to Christ. Christ sustains us! Christ refills us! Christ is our breathe! Christ should be our focus! As we live for Christ we take care of our body because it is His temple and he has works for us. As we live for Christ we sabbath, because he told us to, He reminds us he is our bread. As we live for Christ we realize He is all we need period. Just as Christ told Satan in the desert all I need is the Father he sustains me.

My wife recently read me a quote it said
" I don't need a open mind, I need a cannon mind. Every thing I believe and fill my mind and heart with comes from the 66 books of the Bible called the cannon".

 We spend so much time on ourselves. We say we have no idols in America, but our idol is ourselves. My prayer for the American church in 2017 is we wake up to what we really need. We start living for God 24/7, we spend our time worshipping him, praying, fasting, studying, have sabbath with him. Listening daily to what he has for us that day. Living as disciples and making disciples each and every day.

Let Christ be your everything. Lay down all your idols at his feet and began to live out your faith in the way God intended.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Do we really need to know?

For the last five months we have begun to settle into a new life. I'm not sure we will ever be normal again as living overseas kind of ruins whatever we think of as normal.

A former student was passing through on his way out west and stayed the night at our house. He asked a lot of great questions, one that stuck with me was this: Did God have a bigger purpose for you in Africa than just serving the village for three years? You went because you were called, but why leave? You loved your job, your community, your friends, and life was good. You served three years and now you are home and all of what you knew is history, so was it just to serve the people there or was it bigger than that?

What a great question. I have chewed on that one for awhile. God always has something bigger in everything we do and it is training for what is to come. In the moment the answer is of course we left because he called, but that first year in Africa was tough. It was not the thing you find in newsletters and updates, in fact it was tough at times to find much to report back. It was when we returned and reflected on the bigger picture that we were able to see what we came away with and how we changed as a person, couple, and family.

For me it was a time of chiseling, refining and reflecting on who I had become, the good, the bad as well as showing me where I had to go to become the leader he wanted. For so long I had relied upon my gifts and personality to succeed. That served no purpose in a culture where you cannot communicate nor understand what is going on most of the time.

In our time away we were able to work on our marriage and our communication as a couple. God worked on me to become a better leader, a better listener, to have more patience, and to better control my tongue. I am still and will always be a work in progress and I do not profess to have it all figured out. Many times in short term missions we comment how it helps the person more than the place they served. For me our three years away made just as much an impact on me as it did on the community we served. I know we made a difference; we saw it and heard it. In the weeks leading up to our leaving the village the church leaders and our friends shared with us what we had meant to the village. What a blessing that time was and a nice gift from God. We still talk to those friends and are engaged in serving with them in this time of their own personal growth.

It is still a mystery to me why God called us away from a vibrant ministry we loved, to live in Africa and now on to a new church family. One thing I have decided is not to try to figure it out and instead just rest in God's mystery. Today we spend too much time trying to figure things out, instead of just being in awe of God and how amazing he is and always will be. We do not always need to know and we forget if he wants us to know he will reveal it to us. When we sit in awe of him, rest in his majesty, and marvel how he keeps it all together, it gives us that proper perspective that He is God and we are not. We were put here to worship him and obey him, not solve or debate all of life's problems. For me it is easier to worship him when I remember my role in this story and appreciate all he does for me daily.  I must remember I am not the center, this is His Story. Some problems will never be solved, but are we stopping long enough to let it be a mystery? Worship him for who and what he is, and obey what he has called for each of us on our journeys. Perhaps, as we obey and listen to his still voice some of the problems will be solved since he already has the solutions and things worked out. Have faith like a child, let some things be a mystery and just humbly obey his word and instruction in your life.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Our plans vs. Gods plans

Here is something Karen and I wrote together after talking with our village this morning. If you get our missionary newsletter sorry you read it already but many do not get that newsletter, so enjoy the read. 

Our Plans Vs. God's Plans
Since August our life has been a roller coaster ride.  People, including us, pay money to ride roller coasters, we have stood in long lines for hours to ride, we have laughed and had so much fun riding on roller coasters.  However, this roller coaster has not been anything like that.  This has been an emotional roller coaster we are riding.  Before Christmas Michael went to play basketball on a Sunday night.  Little did we know that that would start another climb on the ride we've been on.  He came down wrong on his knee and was no longer able to walk.  He has seen an ortho doctor and has had an MRI and now we wait to see what God's plan is on this ride.  Our plan was to pack our bags, say our goodbyes, and leave for Guinea Bissau in just a few weeks. Now we wait.  We wait on God's plan.

Through this journey we have seen God in many ways. Michael went from not being able to walk at all to now walking with no crutches, he claims he could run, but I'm not sure that's a good idea.  We have also seen how this has impacted the church in Guinea Bissau.  We spoke with the pastor there and he told us how when they heard, they prayed and fasted all day and night for Michael. That is humbling.  The church we came to teach and work with has taught us more than we ever imagined.  We have had many people encourage us and let us know they are praying for us and we have felt those prayers.

We hope to have answers next week on a date when we could leave, whether that means no surgery and we leave right away, surgery and we are here longer, or surgery that can be delayed and we still get to return to GB. Either way we are on God's journey and walking with him day by day every step of the way. It has been a good reminder to listen and obey his plans and let our plans be laid aside. 

Monday, October 27, 2014

Who really judges us?

Who really judges us? This is a question that is ravaging the church. The world says we the church are judgmental, mean, unkind with all of our words. All of which are true, as a human race we thrive on being mean and tearing others down, it makes us feel better. I agree we need to be Christ, filled with love and compassion, not judgmental. It is not our job to judge, but it is our job to teach what Christ said and to model his life.

Jesus said in John 12:47-50
47 If anyone hears my words and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. 48 The one who rejects me and does not receive my words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day. 49 For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment—what to say and what to speak. 50 And I know that his commandment is eternal life. What I say, therefore, I say as the Father has told me.”

So, it is correct, we are not supposed to judge. We should find love and compassion and in those things we should kindly teach what Jesus would have said. I have heard these passages taught so many times, but it is always stopped at verse 47, no one goes on. Jesus came to save, his words and commands on the other hand does judge us read vs 48 above. When we reject his teaching for our own selfish ambitions we are judged by his words. We essentially are judging ourselves because we have not obeyed his commands.  Jesus spoke on God's authority, his commands are eternal life. His life does save us and does not judge us. It is the commands He left us with that were given by the Father, this is what judges us. When we choose our selfish ways over Gods ways it is truly our decision that bring down judgment. We are telling God we know best, our ways are better, that he does not understand. We are giving into our flesh and our desires and that is what judges us. We reject his commands, we reject his ways, we reject his plan. In doing this we put the very judgement we are so quick to point to others on ourselves. So who is responsible for our action, only us. Thankfully we are not lost in this judgement. God forgives us, He died so that we may be covered by his blood. Each time we stumble we must repent and we will be forgiven, for this I am so thankful. This is why we must lose our lives to gain it, why we must pick up our cross daily. From this understanding these verses make so much sense.

Sin is sin whether it is gluttony, greed, lying, hatred, sexual, it is all sin. Our job as Christians is to love each other as ourselves, to mirror Christ, but also to live out his commands. We should not judge with our words, but we should speak truth and stand up for God's commands. If our life of Christ judges others is it us judging or the Holy Spirit convicting the path of sin others are following. 
We need to be careful with our words, learn to love and not tear down, we need to forgive others as we have been forgiven. Also we should not be ashamed of the gospel, we should not be ashamed of the holy life-giving words of Christ. As we obey them they give us life, as we disobey them they are what we are judge by. We must memorize them and store them in our heart. It really is living water and the food that nourishes our soul. 

Saturday, June 22, 2013

WMI

Here is a post from our family blog as we prepare to head to Africa. Well, here I am sitting in a dark room with a little nightlight and the glow from my computer. I see a sick child laying on a cot like bed on our floor, right next to the bathroom of course and a exhausted husband drifting in and out next to me in bed. He just got done cleaning up from our sick child and now we are just praying that this bug doesn't continue through our family. We are at World Missions Institute where we are learning about being missionaries in a different culture. That really isn't even a good description of what we are learning about. We have had Old Testament Foundations and World Religions by a phenomenal speaker and person, David Shenk, New Testament Foundations by yet again another wonderful speaker and person, James Krabill, we've learned about Healing Ministry, Discipling, Evangelizing, and learning about the Islam faith. We visited a mosque on Friday. That was quite interesting. The muslim people are so friendly and hospitable. The thing we have learned is the Islam faith is closely related to Christianity. One difference is they don't ever know if they will actually enter paradise. Christianity offers a relationship with Christ and promises us a place in heaven. Christianity has hope, whereas the Islam faith is lacking hope. I noticed that all the women were covered except their hands and their face. Their dress even came down to the floor and only when they walked did you see their feet. I just got this sense that it was almost as if women were sinful because of the beauty they have. As though if a man would lust after them, it would not be the mans fault but the woman's fault for not being modest enough or covering herself enough. I feel like the Islam faith is favorable towards men. With that being said, that is only my opinion from observation. I have not read the Qur'an, so I do not know what it says regarding women. It is now morning, I had too many distractions last night to finish this blog. World Missions Institute (WMI) has been such a great experience. We have learned a lot, like I mentioned above, and we have also made great friends. There are 18 kids here and 22 adults. It is so nice to be with such a great group of people. We are all like-minded, we are all leaving everything we know, we are all leaving our loved ones and our church, and what I love is that all our kids are with other kids that are doing the same thing. They have found friendship in commonality. All of their friends are doing the same thing in going someplace they haven't been, and having to learn everything new...language, culture, friends. They are even sharing sickness. :) The sweet thing is that the kids are concerned for one another and pray for each other. This is such a wonderful group of kids at WMI. The kids have a class that they go to while we are in our sessions. Their classes include worship, devotions, games, crafts, field trips, outside activities and so much more. Eastern Mennonite Missions (EMM) has a third culture kid (TCK) coach that talks with the older kids and gives them a chance to talk about their thoughts, fears, expectations etc. The kids look forward to going to their class and Jada and Lydia get bummed when Saturday comes and they have no class. Some difficulties that have come up during WMI has been sickness. It seems to be going through people quick, which is good. The other hard thing is our washer and dryer have died in our house. The washer never worked from when we got here. It would wash the clothes but not spin them, so we said that God was preparing us for Guinea Bissau. Then the dryer died. We are thankful for these difficulties. When we are in Guinea Bissau, life will not be perfect. Hardships will arise and we will need to adapt, and rely on God. We are thankful for these small preparations. God is good...ALL the time. Here is a picture of our home here at WMI
If you would like to help us to get to Guinea Bissau please click this link to EMM Please be sure to designate your gift to Michael and Karen Baker. Thank you so much for supporting our family and our ministry in Guinea Bissau!! Since we have been here at WMI we are so excited to get there! We only need 17%!!!! Every little bit helps!

Saturday, December 8, 2012

What is Christmas all about for you?

I struggle so much this time or year. I enjoy buying gifts for my children but of course we never have any money nor can I keep up with the Jones and what other children are getting. I am then reminded what this time of year should be about(probably should have this attitude all the time), giving thanks for what God did for us, praise his gift, and thanking him for all we have; so easy for me to see and understand, hard to teach to my young ones.
They just don't get why they aren't getting iPods, or Kindles, or Nintendo DS. They assume it is because we are poor (WHICH WE ARE NOT WE ARE SO BLESSED), not because we are choosing to not spend our money on those things. Honestly if I had the money for these things I don't need 5, what happened to sharing.
As I was working on a recent message again I was reminded and amazed by what God truly did for us not to mention the hundreds of prophecies he fulfilled by serving us. It blows me away and fills me with an attitude to serve in the same way and to share passionately what was done for me. I pray my kids see this modeled in my life. Giving gifts is not bad in fact it can be good, but why can't Christmas be about Christ and we just give gifts to our kids throughout the year as there is a need. Why do we have to take every pagan holiday and throw our Christian twist on it.
My prayer this holiday season is that Christmas will be about joy, thanksgiving, celebration, memories, times with family, and the things we will cherish forever. Not the latest toy that two months from now will either be broken or in the bottom of the toy bin.