Monday, April 27, 2009

rain, rain don't go away

my farmer friends and those wishing for the sunny days of summer notwithstanding; I have enjoyed the rain today. I do have a window that looks out on the church property and from my vantage point, it's kinda cool (I think the ducks on our property like it too). I know that everyone has a different viewpoint on rain based on what activities they had planned or mental state of mind they are in. For some, rain is depressing and gloomy and all that stuff. For others it washes out plans like baseball games and golf and walking on the trail and plowing and planting. But have you ever thought about what rain means to God? Pretty deep question, but think about it. Rain is God's way of saying to the whole world, I will take care of you. Two Scriptures to consider here:
1. Matthew 5:45 says, "he causes his son to rise on the evil and the good, and sends his rain on the righteous and the unrighteous."
2. Pauls says in Acts 14:17 in a sermon that God "...has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons..."

In other words, rain is God's undeserved gift for everyone regardless of their rightness. What an amazing God that can give a gift to the whole world. Rain is a picture of blessings and like the old hymn (Showers of blessing - which always got sung at my church growing up on rainy days. We were very clever back then!)says, "mercy drops 'round us are falling, but for the showers we plead" May you see God's blessing in the rain today and whatever you do, don't wish his blessing away.

Disclaimer: for my friends in Arizona, rain is this liquid stuff that falls from the sky sometimes.

Monday, April 20, 2009

positive rumors

Everyone is affected by the proverbial "rumor mill". I don't know if it's called a mill because it's constantly churning or because it grinds the truth into powder. But if you are human, you have been involved with rumors. Sometimes you find yourself repeating a rumor as fact without realizing your sources are flawed. Sometimes the rumor is about you and you don't know it. Most times the rumor has nothing to do with the facts at all. Often rumors are spread by those who are prone to complain and see the negative.

Have you noticed that? Rumors tend to be negative. We never seem interested in spreading positive news. It's always the negative stuff that circulates among us. At any rate, we all have a tendency to float some rumors from time to time. I've had a couple float across my desk this morning (yes they are negative and no they aren't true). So, presented below are some simple positive rumors I'd love you to spread:

Note: any time you hear a negative rumor about someone, as a Christian you should talk to them as soon as possible to verify the situation. If you are a bit too shy to talk with them, then talk to God about them. Otherwise don't talk to anyone else.

1. Did you hear that 500 more people than last year are coming weekly to hear the only good news there is at Eastview Christian Church?
2. Did you hear that the longest wait we've had to empty our parking lot is still less time than it takes to get out of traffic after a Redbirds basketball game?
3. Did you hear that some great parking volunteers stood in the rain yesterday smiling and helping as many people as possible find the closest location?
4. Did you hear that four people were baptized in 1st service yesterday and 2 in Fuel last night?
5. Did you hear that for the first time in the recent history of the church the giving is over budget?
6. Did you hear that the farthest parking spot at Eastview is still closer than the farthest spot at Wal-mart?
7. Did you hear that the elders regularly pray over and annoint people for healing (two yesterday in between services)?
8. Did you hear that we gave away over 110 Bibles last Sunday at Easter and that the book we sell most in our Harvest bookstore is the Bible?
9. Did you hear that every Monday for one hour the staff comes together to pray for this church and her people?
10. Did you hear that we the teaching staff is already planning a major growth series for the Fall called, "the call" to help us all grow closer to Christ?

well, there they are...positive rumors...spread away. If you are intentional and prayerful with them, they may outweigh the others and lead to that Christian concept called encouragement.

Monday, April 13, 2009

cheering on

Well, Easter weekend is over and I'm tired but completely filled with joy and I want to draw a parrallel between two major events in my life this weekend and the Christian walk.

My first event was Saturday morning in Champaign for the inaugural Illinois Marathon. (Yes, I planned to run a marathon the day before one of my biggest preaching days of the year and you are not the only one who thinks I'm crazy!) Anyway, I was ready. It was a little chilly and I didn't get to stretch much (too crowded in the starting area), but it was a sunny day and my good friend J.P. Jones from 1st christian in Champaign said the opening prayer and that was cool. Really the race went pretty well all the way through the half-way point. I remember when the half marathoners turned off at about 11 miles thinking to myself, "man I'm fresh". Well, so as not to bore you with details at 17 miles I really crashed. My calves started cramping and then my thighs (this has NEVER happened to me in training for and running three marathons!). So I reasoned to myself I'm not hydrated enough (which at that point is way too late) so I overcompensated on the next couple of fluid stations and now my stomach is upset. And all of that is not the point of this blog (I finished in under five hours, way off my pace and ready to drop dead...but I crossed the finish line running). The point is people cheering others on. For nearly five hours, strangers I didn't know said things like: "keep going, you guys are doing great", "you can do it", "you are doing it, you're running a marathon", "You look great 107 (that was my race number)", "You're awesome". Apparently, these people sat in their front yards and did this for 6 hours! It was awesome. Early in the race when I felt great...I thought how incredible is the power of encouragement! Later in the race, I thought how many times would I have quit if not for these words (I actually considered quitting the race many times - having arguments with my inner self for being a quitter and doubting if I could possibly make it. I actually hoped at one point to be struck with an errant golf shot while we were running by the course so that I'd have a legitimate reason to quit). Then there was this incredible encouragement that came from a good buddy who happened to be on the course cheering his daughter on. I came up on about mile 17 and there is Steve Bellman and his wife Dannett (and I'm sure I spelled her name wrong), but they saw I was hurting and so Steve handed his jacket to Dannett and ran with me for about half a mile (I could tell him then because my body was numb, but it was a huge encouragement). do I need to tell you where this is going?

This past Sunday, I preached an Easter Sunday to the largest crowd we've ever had at Eastview. And we knew going in that we needed to pray (a lot) so we did for a month, twenty four hours a day. And it was a marathon Sunday, but let me tell you I had so much encouragement; I was able to finish the race. I can't count how many encouraging notes, e-mail, messages left on the stage, etc... I received from people saying, "I'm praying for you pastor" or something similar. I want you to know that those verbal and written encouragments were felt all throughout the day yesterday (not to mention the presence of many praying as they walked around the building).

It occurs to me that whether you are running a marathon or living the christian life, encouragement is something we can't do without. Maybe that's why Hebrews 10:24 says, "let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds" and "let us encourage one another and all the more as we see the Day approaching." I don't know if I'll ever try another marathon (I've officially retired from running them, but I did the first two times as well), but I know this: if I do, I'll need encouragement. And I don't know what lies ahead in the ministry here and in my life as a pastor, but I know I'll need encouragement. Thanks to all of those who by their lives, prayers, words, and deeds encourage my family. Because of you, i'm still running today!

And speaking of encouragement, let me encourage you to go to and vote for the four passages that Doug and I will preach beginning May 10!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Easter Sermon (the day before)

Last night I maintained a Good Friday tradition by watching "The Passion of Christ". Sara and I were given to tears (again) at the brutal treatment that the movie clearly (and vividly) portrays that our Lord went through. Why did he do it? Someone had to pay and God loved us just that much! It was inspiring.

This morning I was in Champaign for the Illinois Marathon - my legs are toast and I maintained my usual marathon tradition by swearing I'd never run another one again (more on this on Monday)! But here I am in my church office getting ready to vocally go through my sermon. I read it on the car ride over this morning and had lots of time to think about it and pray about it. At this point, I'm ready. My heart wants to share what God has laid on it. What am I praying for tonight as I roam the sanctuary? 1. That I'll not get in the way of His message. 2. That I'll honor and uphold his Holy Word. 3. That the Holy Spirit will empower the non-eloquent words that come out of my mouth. 4. that the Word of God would fall on fertile hearts and minds and ears. 5. That one non-believer may come to know Jesus.

I love Saturday evenings at the church. It's kinda like the calm before the storm. I'm anticipating a glorious day in the Lord tomorrow. Hope you go to church somewhere and celebrate the greatest thing that ever happened. Jesus lives!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Easter Sermon (two days left)

Well, it's Friday...good Friday and appropriately it's raining. Friday is my day off and I had the rare opportunity to sleep in today (for those of you under 25 that's 7:00 a.m.). I literally hopped out of bed, threw on some sweats and headed for Starbucks (still in a daze). Half way there i glanced at my hair in the mirror - it was a wreck...oh well maybe no one from my church will be there and I can sneak in and out. You know what happened right? As I walked in (still in stupor mode with pillow marks on my face) I saw Gary York and his son Darrin, John Martin, Chrystal Smith, Tina Fogal and behind the counter Allison - all of whom attend my church. Maybe looking at me will cause them to pray for me harder!

Aside from relaxing and reading a little today, I've simply spent some time reflecting. Typically, this is a day of rest from my sermon. I don't look at my notes for Sunday...just kinda let them stir and stew and simmer in my soul. So I read the John 11:17-37 (Sunday's text) and frankly it hasn't been far from my mind all day. Phrases and words from my week of study dance in my head and I quietly mouth the words (of if no one is around, I actually preach a few lines outloud). One great thing about Fridays is that I don't talk much. Most days I talk a lot, but on Fridays I try to listen - just sit in silence. I haven't heard any audible voice today, but God has been whispering to me through his Spirit: "I'll bring the people on Sunday, you preach my Word." It's good to be quiet.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Easter Sermon (three days left)

Well, I've just completed a series of meetings that began at 6:00 a.m. and I finally have a moment to reflect. Everything is in place. The parking (don't laugh) situation is going to be great (park at NCHS and shuttle from 6:30-1:00 if you want), the service is going to be great (get in your seats on time or you're going to miss on of the coolest videos we've ever produced!), our video venues are set (600 seats in the gym and 300 in small auditorium), our awesome children's staff is bracing themselves, and prayers continue to fill the building. The excitement is palpable (I only use that word because it sounds cool). And I'll confess something...I'm starting to get nervous.

I know most of you don't think I get nervous because I don't look like it on Sundays, but I do and on a big day like this I get extra nervous. Why? Because I think there will be hundreds of people there that will get one shot at the gospel...and my sermon is it. Don't get me wrong...this sermon as every sermon will only be valuable as God does it and empowers it. But it will be my mouth speaking on his behalf... and well we all know how unpredictable that is. Anyway, no big deal...I'm just starting to get nervous. I hope that's the Holy Spirit stirring my heart for what He's up to.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Easter Sermon (four days left)

I've been up since four. Slept on my office couch and staggered down to the auditorium to pray. Mostly spent time at the place where I preach and at the cross praying for the hundreds of prayer requests there. At this point, I'm asking myself, "what does the resurrection say to this need, to this hurt, to this fear, to this family, to this marriage, to this lost person?" The auditorium is quiet now, and the stage decorations for Easter Sunday cast eerie shadows, but it is a peaceful place. Many prayers are rising up before the father for God to move among us and I add mine to them.

By quarter til five I'm sitting in my office with some coffee and a cold pop tart reading John 11 for the hundredth time (not really, but it feels like it). It is a powerful word...I shuffle through my notes, read some more commentaries on the passage, search a couple of key words on one of my preaching resources online, and pray: "God help me to point to the resurrection as the life that people need right now. Help someone believe on Sunday."

Now I've got an outline on my computer screen and I'm putting flesh to the major thoughts. My mind is theological mush - but I feel the prayers of those who are praying for me and I'm pressing on.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Easter Sermon (five days left)

For some reason, I'm compelled to write about this week's sermon I'll preach at our two Easter services. So here's day one of a daily blog that will take you on my spiritual journey.

yesterday (monday) I spent some great time in my prayer room just begging God to burn his Word into my heart. I want to say what he's saying. I want to pierce the heart of every person who hears on Sunday with the truth that Jesus is the resurrection and the life. After praying, I simply read aloud the word I'll read on Sunday and as I got to verse 25 of John 11 I began weeping. So...this sermon is deep in my heart.

today more prayers for God to move...still wandering down to the auditorium every once in a while to pray and see others praying (which is very encouraging). Meanwhile I'm sorting through notes I've been jotting down for the past couple of weeks as I've read this passage. Really inspired by two other verses today from the same writer: John 20:31 and I John 5:13 (read 'em if you get a chance). And my white board is up...two big preaching thoughts so far: "It's too late" and "Do you believe this?"

Well, now for some in depth study in between meetings and e-mails this afternoon heading into my study/writing day tomorrow. I'm genuinely thankful and nervously excited about Sunday's sermon.

Monday, April 6, 2009

louisville weekend

went to louisville on Friday with 15 other directors from our staff. Officially it was a time to get away and check out some other churches (Southeast Christian Church in Louisville and Northside Christian Church in New Albany). Both are large churches that we can learn from so we just planned on hanging out with people on staff who are in our roles and just seeing what God is doing in each place. We left the church at 6:00 a.m. on Friday morning (on a bus so we could all be together). We watched a leadership video and talked about ministry and spent lots of time looking at the new youth facility at Southeast (it's a 15 million dollar deal...very cool). Matt Reagan former youth pastor at Eastview gave us the tour. Well, all that was nice, and we had some things we talked about in relation to what we do at Eastview, but then we checked into the hotel and went to supper. Then the fun began.

We ate at Bucca Di Beppo - great Italian food - and got seated in the Pope room. It's a round table (big enough for 16) with a lazy susan for sharing family style dishes and the bust of a pope in the middle of the table. We had a blast. We laughed so hard we cried and felt sick to our stomach (which also may have been because of the amount of food we ate). We hung out at 4th street in downtown after that, talking, laughing and just being together with fellow workers in the kingdom. It was a very rich time. I'm blessed to be a part of this staff.

On Saturday morning after breakfast we had a great devotional time and prayer together and then did some leadership group discussions. Then is was noon and we went to lunch. If you get the idea that all we did was eat, laugh and talk...then you got an idea of what we did. By 2:00 p.m. we were at the Northside church in New Albany across the river. This is the church where George Ross preaches and we have tons of connections from Eastview. We have three kids from our youth group (who aren't kids any more, but they are to me) who are on staff there (one married to a staff member which is the same thing) and a former staff member (Nate Ross). Anway, our staff had a chance here to see the church building, visit with staff members of this church and go to their Saturday night service at 4:00 p.m. We piled on the bus and got home by 10:00. It was a great time for all of us and I was reminded that there is no place I'd rather work and no group of people I'd rather work with. I know I'm paid to say that; but in this case it just so happens to be true!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Fatherhood foreward

Below is something I wrote as a foreward for a book of fatherhood stories. For some reason it made me cry and I don't know why...but kinda I do. Why do I post it here? Maybe it will make you cry too...or maybe you'll just think I'm a girl for crying.


Every man is a dual personality – a veritable Jekyll and Hyde.

On one hand, we will always be sons. We will always be boys at heart. The desire for strength and longing for adventure that filled our days with wrestling, sports competition, flexing, running, playing, showing off, jumping off roofs, and riding bikes like daredevils; never truly leaves the man’s heart. If you watch a man, you’ll see it. The body gets older and slower and fatter perhaps; but the twinkle in the eye of most men reveals that the little boy remains no matter what the age.

On the other hand, most of us grow up to be fathers. We still feel the need to be strong and continue to long for adventure, but more than that we feel the need to be responsible. No one really tells us about this overwhelming feeling or explains how it should be done. All we know is that when we have kids we feel the weight of responsibility. We feel responsible to love our kids, to set an example for them, to teach them what we know, to supply their emotional and physical needs, to discipline them and to help them grow.

Because these two roles are only assumed by humans they are filled with mistakes and mess ups and unfulfilled longings. Many of us wish our fathers had done something differently: spent more time with us, hugged us more, been around, encouraged us, laughed with us more, not been as gruff, taken us on more trips, taught us more about life and God, affirmed our strength and adventure, and confirmed for us our manhood. And similarly, most of us question our fathering skills: Am I spending, or did I spend enough time with my kids? Do I need to tell them more, show them more, that I love them? Have I confirmed and affirmed who I believe God created my children to be? Have I taught my children to love God? Have I prayed enough for them?

And in the middle of all of this is a heavenly father that is all we wish we had and all we wish we were. He is the Father who made us and loves us without condition. He is the Father who has sacrificed everything for our good. He is the Father who is always there to listen. He is the Father who has plans for each one of his children and encourages the strength and the longing for adventure he placed in their hearts. He daily teaches us about life and eternity through sunrises, mountains, oceans, birds, smiles, storms, and relationships. In short, God is the perfect Father.

May these stories of fatherhood and faith speak to that inner boy who longs to run and may it speak to that inner father who longs to leave a legacy. And may this book encourage you to be the father that our Father has created you to be.

Mike Baker
April 2009