Monday, December 9, 2013
It's not about a time or a place necessarily although a "routine" of both can be helpful. It's about going through life with a Lord who is in relationship with you. Most Christ followers pray before meals, before bed, first thing in the morning, and at church...but when are the other times I should pray? Well, Christmastime is a natural time to pray. See list below for when you should pray at Christmas...maybe this is what Paul was talking about when he says to pray without ceasing (I Thess. 5:17): *When I feel like a Scrooge mood - Pray for God to give me joy *When I taste a Christmas treat - Pray a prayer of thanks for good things *When I face a medical test/exam - Pray for God to grant me peace *When I go to Christmas gatherings with people I don't know - Pray for uplifting words to say and ability to hear with my heart. *When I celebrate Christmas with family who have hurt me - Pray for a forgiving heart and attitude *When I'm sitting at a table to eat - Pray thanks for God's provision *When laughing - pray for how light it feels *When giving gifts - pray a prayer of thanks for the ability to share *When receiving gifts - pray a prayer of thanks for the picture of Jesus as the ultimate gift. *When watching the snow - pray a prayer of thanks for how God has washed your sins away *When you see children on Christmas morning - pray a prayer of thanks for the innocence they bring *When you see the elderly sing a Christmas hymn - pray a prayer of thanks for God's faithfulness in the journey. *When listening to Christmas music - let your singing along be your prayer (think of the words) *When you feel the cold of the air on your face - pray for those who are cold spiritually and thank God for the warmth of soul you have in Jesus. *When you see the lights on your tree - pray a prayer to of thanks for the light of the world. Add to this list as you wish, but whatever you do...pray
at 10:50 AM
Monday, December 2, 2013
Yesterday I mentioned in my sermon how sometimes our culture, our songs, and our nativities can place Jesus in a box during this time of year. In other words, we can worship Jesus as we like Him. He can be the savior we want him to be and not the one He truly is. Here are some thoughts to expound on what I said yesterday (NOTE: these are not thoughts condemning nativities, Christmas carols, or cultural impressions of the baby Jesus this time of year, simply some things to think about): 1. We like Jesus in a box. Subtly, when we place whatever Jesus likeness we have in the various manger scenes it may represent being able to control Jesus. It may be I like baby Jesus best because He is exactly where he belongs - in the hay, among the cattle, shepherds watching on, etc... I'm not as comfortable with him invading my life where he wants or him being something that I can't explain or don't like (eg. the guy throwing tables in the temple or rejecting a Phoenician woman's request for her daughter's healing) 2. We like Jesus "tender and mild". Jesus is pretty harmless in the manger. How much damage can a baby do? As a baby, he doesn't seem confronting or rejecting. It's as if, the baby in the manger is so cute and cuddly that he couldn't possibly have distinct teachings of right and wrong. In the manger he is lovable because this baby can't convict us or call us out for our sins...he simply smiles and coos and has soft skin. He is happy if I simply make faces at him and talk baby talk. We can easily forget that this baby grew up to preach the sermon on the mountain that spoke against our idolatry, our oath taking, our selfishness, our pride, our anger, and our materialism. 3. We like Jesus to be like us. Of course, Immanuel - God with us is the point. He became like us - human so that he could show us his love in a tangible human way. But he did not become human to show us that we were all right. He became like us only in the fact that he shares our flesh, our temptation, our hunger, and our thirst. But he is not like us because he did not sin. Often, I see Jesus as human and think - "oh he understands." Well, he does understand how bad I really am and that's why he came to face the cross. The point of Jesus as a baby is not that He has become like us, but that He died so that we could become like him. He was a baby, and I was a baby..but the comparisons end there. Just a few things to think about as the Christmas season kicks into full gear.
at 10:41 AM
Monday, November 25, 2013
This weekend, especially Sunday was another reminder that God is moving and working all the time. Unfortunately, we often miss God's work by defining it as coincidence and brush it off with a "that was weird". Because God is calling all of us to Him and because He has a plan for everyone; it is evident to me that He is working in all of our lives all the time. Let me give you three examples, which may or may not line up with your theology. At least consider the possibility that God was moving/speaking. 1. I was doing my usual routine Saturday night wondering through the auditorium after I had practiced my sermon and praying for Sunday when suddenly a young man appeared (actually startled me). He said he was looking for his daughter who may have wandered in, but when he re-introduced himself (he reminded me that I had met him 10 years earlier) and I asked him how life was going - I knew God had an appointment in mind! He started crying and talking about his life and we prayed. I told him, God set up this appointment - pay attention God was pursuing. 2. A lady introduced herself after I preached yesterday. It was her first time to Eastview and she is an avid marathon runner. How God ordained was it that the passage from Philippians 3:12ff was about the Christian life as a race and I related it to a marathon of faith all throughout? It was a connection that made this woman feel as though God was speaking to her directly. Cool. 3. A lady came to the cross to tell me that she had been stirring spiritually lately and then she woke up at 1:17. Since she was staying at her brother Mark's house - she turned to Mark 1:17 (yeah, it's not what I would have done either..I would have been mad that I was wide awake at 1:17). Anyway, Mark 1:17 is Jesus' invitation to follow him and she took that as an invitation to go to church for the first time in many years. She was there and wants to follow Jesus, who am I to say that the Spirit didn't call her with a night time wake up call? My point? Watch your relationships, circumstances, and environments today - I'm convinced you'll see God in each of them!
at 10:33 AM
Monday, November 18, 2013
Twenty five years ago, I was a 23 year old youth pastor in Lexington, Ky when I held my firstborn son, Michael Robert Baker II. I think there are pictures with me in sweats and a mullet with a tootsie pop in my mouth and a grin on my face. I was thrilled to have a son and I still am. A lot happens in 25 years and unfortunately, I have to say the old man line, it goes by so fast. Since that time, another son was born, my father has died, ministry has taken us to three different states, I'm no longer a youth pastor, and thankfully I know longer wear a mullet. You have so many ideas about what your child is going to become when they are first born, and you realize along the way that you don't really control that. God does something special in each life and each person has millions of choices to make along the way. This means that at some point you have to let go. I never thought that my first born would have grown up to be one of the most talented tattoo artists imaginable, but he did. I didn't think he would get his high school diploma via GED, but he did. I didn't think he would fall in love with Normal, IL, but he did. I didn't think that I would have the privilege of him living in the town I ministered in for so long, but we did. I didn't know that he would find a woman to marry him that would be just right for what he needed, but in Abby he did. I didn't think that he and his brother would be so different and so highly admire each other, but they do. I wasn't sure that my church would love my tattoo artist son as much as my preacher son, but they do. I didn't think that after all these years, the tough journey would all be worth it, but it is. Twenty five years later, I must say that at the time I didn't think that God had a better plan for Mikey that I did, but He did. Happy Birthday son, I wouldn't change a thing.
at 10:47 AM
Monday, November 11, 2013
The latest scandal with the Miami Dolphins locker situation is symptomatic of a culture that has a language problem. Interestingly enough, Jesus said, out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks. I believe the problem that we see from some of the texts that have been released from Martin and Incognito simply reveal something about the words in our culture. Once again, the Bible, the word of God guides us by telling us to watch our words...if only we followed God's way with our language. Below I've outlined this culture's problem with words. 1. Our words are too crude. Howard Stern has been glamorized in our culture as a "shock jock" for talking about anything and everything. Very sexually dirty. Very vulgar. Filled with expletives. And he's not the only one...he's just the poster child. It is shocking to hear the curse words, the sexually explicit comments and filth communicated in our media, our schools, our workplaces, etc... This is true especially of a younger generation that has been weaned on crude talk and curse words. They don't even understand that dropping the "f" word as an adjective in a public place is inappropriate. The Bible encourages us to us words that are loving, and encouraging, and to remove filthy talk from our mouths. Our world would be better if we did. 2. Our words are too cruel. The onset of trash talking, bragging, and self promotion has lent itself to tearing other people down. Calling people fat or ugly - talking about their family heritage - or just being cruel about the way they look, or how poorly they perform on the field or in the office...We have become a nasty culture that easily uses harsh words to put others down. It is epidemic. We have become mean with our words, knowing fully how powerful they are. "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never harm me" is what our parents taught us about those who say mean things. The problem is that the saying isn't true. Words can be way more hurtful than sticks and stones. 3. Our words are too quick. Too many people say too many things too quickly. Part of this is our 24 hour news reality that is compelled to create grand headlines about half information and assumptions. Most of what we hear on the news is not as big as they make it with their graphics and music backgrounds. This is not to mention the ease with which anyone (and I mean anyone) can speak their mind via a tweet, post, or even a blog like this one. I'm reminded that James, the brother of Jesus wrote, everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak... Our culture should try this one. 4. Our words are overly scrutinized. Everyone, who has ever opened their mouth to communicate has misspoken. It is human to say things we don't mean, and even have words come out that are not part of our vocabulary. Yet even thought we know this, we tend to jump on every verbal mistake made. As a preacher of 28 years, I've said a lot of things I didn't mean to say - mostly they become jokes about my inability to communicate. But I have said things that in no way reflected my heart and passions...they were just misspoken words. Again, our social and paid media plays a hypocritical role of judging others by soundbites and gaffs when we have ALL made them. We should first try to contextualize it all before being overly critical of someone's words - we may need that same grace some day.
at 10:44 AM
Yep, I know it's been a while since I've blogged due to my traveling schedule...but I'm full of words today...so you may get two or three entries this week. Let's start here. Yesterday I started off my sermon with a make-believe infomercial to introduce our Ephesians 4:11ff text. It's not a real commercial, but all of the stuff in it is true. Here it is... Are you tired of that flabby prayer life? Wanna lose some of those unsightly sins you've been carrying around for years? Do you lack the energy to serve and love those around you? Have your friends noticed your lack of maturity? You need the body of Christ. All over the world, people are turning to the body of Christ to help them grow into the person they were created to be. Order now and we'll send you the complete disciple-making kit. This amazing offer includes: 1). your very own, one-of-a-kind spiritual gift. 2) Membership into a loving community. 3) Free admission into 5 million churches worldwide. 4) our exclusive 24/7 God hotline. And 5) a lifetime supply of measurable spiritual growth - guaranteed! How much would you pay for such an offer? $1 million? $2 million? $3 million? Don't be fooled by imitations! You may pay millions of dollars for worldly offers, but not get any of these results. But for a limited time Jesus is offering all of this to all who would follow Him absolutely free! That's right...absolutely free. He has paid the price for all who will just believe. But wait, that's not all. If you call in the next fifteen minutes, we'll throw in a year's worth of sermons from Deuteronomy and a "fearless at five" t-shirt! Now, how much would you pay? It's still free. Plus, if you order now, you'll receive the gift of the Holy Spirit and a Matt Ludwig worship c.d. Please hurry, this offer only last until Jesus returns, which could be at any time. Angels are standing by.
at 9:17 AM
Monday, October 21, 2013
We're all pretty familiar with the story of Jesus' temptation in the wilderness as he prepared for three years of ministry to save the world. While much of what went on for those forty days and forty nights in the desert is not revealed to us (we know he didn't eat and that Satan tempted him three times), we do know what happened when it was over. Matthew 4:11 says "Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him." The word "minister" is a Greek word that means to serve - especially associated with servants who performed menial household tasks like serving at tables, washing feet, etc... Well, I've got two questions about these angels and how they served Jesus on this occasion: 1. In what condition was Jesus that He needed them to do so. AND 2. What exactly did they do for him? Was Jesus physically spent? What he faint? Was he malnourished? Was he spiritually spent because he had faced incredible temptations? Was he emotionally stressed because of his ministry ahead? Was he mentally tired from thinking through the temptations and Scriptural responses to Satan? All of this is conjecture, but he was in need of some supernatural aid..so God sent angels. What did the angels do? Don't know. Maybe they made him breakfast. Maybe they gave him companionship. Maybe they sang songs of worship to strengthen his soul. Maybe they quoted Scriptures to fill his mind again with the word of God. So what on Monday morning? Well, if God sent angels to minister to you today, what would they do for you? Hebrews 1:14 says that "angels are ministering spirits sent to serve those who have inherited salvation". So, it seems that God uses angels quite a bit to help us. NO YOU SHOULD NOT pray to angels, talk to angels (unless one talk to you first), seek your angel, or think angels will save you! All of that is for God...they are at HIS COMMAND. However, it is a good question to ask. What is your condition today? Is is spiritual, mental, emotional, or physical aid you need most? Talk to God about it and take spiritual steps to restore your strength...who knows there may be some angels behind those Scriptures, songs, Christian friends, and physical rest. Again, focus on God and what He is doing in you today...but be aware of the spiritual realm.
at 10:53 AM