Author: kennethstuartbaker

You’re imitating me?

One Christian men’s group I attend praises mentoring a lot. But something about that word has bothered me. Why?

After all, when I worked in Corporate IT, I did some mentoring. In Corporate, I passed along technical and organizational info about being a better programmer. Basically, I transmitted a reproducible body of knowledge and techniques.

But I see a danger when using the term mentoring in a Christian context: It’s a mistake to reduce Christian growth to a passing on of a bunch of techniques and info. Being the Christian fixer who is so experienced that he knows the correct way to handle any financial dilemma or parenting problem.   Being a combo of Doctor Phil and Dave Ramsey.

But even if I were an expert on fixing the aftereffects of bad life experiences and resolving parenting dilemmas, I would still be missing the most important thing: life experiences are of some value, but they are not what makes someone worth imitating.

So what is the secret? What would make me worth imitating?

Consider this:

He has told you, O man, what is good;
    and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
    and to walk humbly with your God
. (Micah 6:8)

Rather than having a qualifying list of life experiences, what really matters is how we react during any life experience. Can we help someone to think wisely about what God has brought into their life? If we do, we’re helping them develop wise biblical character.  

I love the verse “Abraham grew stronger in his faith as he gave glory to God.” (Romans 4:20)

Shouldn’t a Christian mentor help a mentee grow stronger in their own faith and discernment? Helping them to better distinguish between a wise and a foolish usage of time.  And between sound and thoughtless choices about money. And showing them how prayer and Scripture illuminate the correct path.

If that’s what mentoring is, it’s no longer just a corporate buzzword. Now it’s worthwhile for true growth. Count me in!  


 

Joy in COVID times? A COVID Psalm

We are hassled, bothered and bewildered during the COVID pandemic. We wonder what the heck the escape route is. In Psalm 57, King David is in an even worse fix.  He’s holed up in a cave, in fear for his life. How does he react?

Somehow, he maintains a deep and sublime hope in God.

 Have mercy on me, my God, have mercy on me,
    for in you I take refuge.
I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings
    until the disaster has passed.
(Psalm57:1)

The annual Getty Sing! conference was online this year because of COVID. My wife and I attended virtually. The theme was singing the scriptures. When we do that, something begins to happen. Our joy and trust in the Lord increases, even though what we want to happen has not happened yet.

  My heart, O God, is steadfast,
    my heart is steadfast;
    I will sing and make music.
(Psalm 57:7)

I used parts of Psalm 57 and Psalm 63 as a springboard to express hope in a COVID Psalm.

Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me,
    for in you my soul takes refuge;
in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge,
    till the storms of COVID pass by.

O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you;
    my soul thirsts for you;
my flesh faints for you,
    as in a virus filled land
 where there is no vaccine.

 So even in an online church service,
     I behold your power and glory.
 Because your steadfast love is better than life,
    my lips will praise you til the cure is found

 My soul will be satisfied as with sharing food at a rich buffet,
    and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips,
 when I remember you when anxious,
    waking in the middle of the night,
Longing for the end of COVID.

For you have been my help,
 My soul clings to you;
   for in you I take refuge.

Just as you cared for King David
Holed up in a dank cave
Who took refuge in the shadow of your wings
    until his disaster had passed
May we take refuge in the shadow of your wings until COVID has passed.

How long, O Lord, how long?
When will COVID cease?

Like David we say
 My heart, O God, is steadfast,
    my heart is steadfast;
    I will sing and make music.

I sing with virtual choirs worldwide
Making music onto you.
Though the cure we long for
Still has not yet happened
Yet nonetheless filled with hope
We Praise you Lord!

Should Volunteering Drive Us Bats?

bats

And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.”  Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.” (Matthew 14:28-33)

I started work on this post on a strange morning for me. I was sitting here with an enormous floater like a vampire bat fluttering in my right eye. Not a typical Tuesday morning! But upon reading the passage above and seeing how much stronger Jesus is than any vampire bat, I started singing out loud, “Jesus you really are the son of God.”

Thankfully, the vampire in my eye has since flown away! It faded out.

But today’s passage can drive you bats. Because it’s been used for many, many sermons saying “Get out of your boat.  Get out of your comfort zone.”  These have not always been condemnatory sermons, but they generally do come at times when church leaders want people to be more involved in ministry activity.

“We need more volunteers for the nursery.” “We need more ushers.” “We will have to shut down some Sunday School classes if we don’t get more teachers.”  The message: If you aren’t involved it’s because you are stuck in your comfort zone and you must leave that pampered place.

But that exhortation misses the mark when it is more concerned with getting people to do stuff than with who they are in Christ.

Peter was overcome by fear and challenged by Jesus to be a man of faith. We have fears too. Fear of losing a job. Fear of getting sick. Fear of what people will think of our decisions. We need to ask God to fulfill his promise that we will get a new heart, one that’s alive and not stone, one that’s filled with faith instead of fear.

Big danger here: The “Comfort zone” lecture risks short-circuiting heart change, shaming you to act without a renewed heart.  We need to have God-given grace-filled volunteers, not people being manipulated and shamed into volunteering.

We may or may not join the usher team or teach Sunday school. But when we do, we are much less likely to go bats and burn out and quit when we act from a willing, Spirit-filled, renewed heart!

Pleasure During Trying Times

Here’s a picture of our last running club social get together, way back in March. We were laughing and joking, with no social distancing whatsoever, enjoying tasty food and beer. Little did we know that a few days later gatherings like this were going to be banned…. for months and months.

The feast was a real blessing from God. But what does it mean to experience blessing when such feasts are forbidden? Can I ask God to give me a sense of satisfaction even without being able to enjoy a delicious spread?

The superscription for Psalm 63 says A Psalm of David, when he was in the wilderness of Judah. David was driven away from home and hid in the desert in fear of his enemies.  But he did not wallow in self-pity. No, he found an amazing level of joy in this place of exile.

My favorite phrase in this Psalm is from verse 5, I will be fully satisfied as with the richest of foods. Do you ever find the Lord so satisfying that it’s like enjoying a savory juicy prime steak?

The author who’s the best at describing this kind of satisfaction is John Piper.  His excellent book The Pleasures of God – Meditations on God’s Delight in Being God 1describes spiritual pleasure brilliantly. Piper calls this Christian hedonism. His explanations of this to seem way over my head. But over the years, in answer to prayer, God is giving me an increasing taste of this spiritual feast.

Meditate on the following verses. May God’s Spirit cause their truths to dwell more richly in you. That’s wonderful anytime, but especially during this time of COVID.

 O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you;
    my soul thirsts for you;
my flesh faints for you,
    as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
 Because your steadfast love is better than life,
    my lips will praise you.
 My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food,
    and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips
(Psalm 63:1,3,5)

  1. https://www.desiringgod.org/books/the-pleasures-of-god