Posts by MichaelBaker

Listening to the Word of God

Yesterday morning in our Sunday morning Bible class, we discussed the difference between reading the Bible today and hearing the Bible in the 1st century. While most of us today sit down and read Scripture, in the 1st century most people couldn’t read or afford books, so they experienced the Bible by hearing it spoken at weekly services. In the class, we all agreed there is absolutely a different experience when we hear the Bible. It comes alive for us in ways that it doesn’t when we are reading the text to ourselves.

One of the benefits in having all those different “apps” out there is that there are apps that will read the Bible to you…for free! One of my favorites that I recommend is the YouVersion Bible app by LifeChurch.tv, available on both Android and iOS. LifeChurch is a Covenant church led by Craig Groschel that built this app with several different translations and a ton of languages for people have the Bible at their fingertips. Many of the translations have audio files that will read the Bible to you. Or you can listen as you read…whatever strikes your fancy.

Let the ears bring the Word to you instead of the eyes.

Here is a link with more information and ways to download the app: https://www.bible.com/app

Is Being Perfect the Best Option?

Like many pastors, I am bi-vocational, meaning that I have another job outside of ministry to support myself and my family. I am very blessed because I get to do something I love in both jobs and not all pastors can say that.

My other job is teaching teenagers how to drive and I just finished a very challenging class of driver’s ed. The kids were great, but very quiet, and that makes it much harder for me to make the class fun for them. I took some time to recharge this morning after being drained from the last two weeks. I read a blog post that talked about perfectionism in teachers and how it is a gift to remember that students are learners and beginners and that teachers assist them on the way without needing to make sure they are perfect.

That is a message I need to hear at times. I can slip into perfectionism and nowhere is that more true than in my teaching, especially when I am in the car with a teenager. Driving can be dangerous and I want to make sure I give those students every tool I have to remain safe and to become excellent drivers.

Sometimes I go too far and I try to make them perfect drivers, as if there is such a thing. I don’t do this because I am some obsessed, anal, perfectionist driving instructor (although I am sure some of my students would disagree), but I do it because I hear the siren song. You know the one…the song that raises the level of our fear and anxiety, along with our heart rate. The song that sells us on the idea that the stakes are much higher than they might seem and one wrong move can end in disaster.

I think that siren song is one of reasons we don’t share the Gospel well. We hear that siren song and we think we can’t share the Gospel because we might make a mistake and their lack of acceptance would be our fault. Or we hear that song and we keep sharing the Gospel to the point that it is forced on unwilling recipients, believing that if we don’t get them to accept the Gospel today, this very minute, they could be lost for eternity.

In a way, those thoughts can be good. We want to have an urgency about sharing the Gospel and we want to do it well, but the siren song is destructive. If I push too hard with my driving students, I lose my influence with them, I lose the chance to be their guide on the journey, and I miss out on beauty of watching them grow.

If we push too hard with the Gospel, we lose our influence with the people we are sharing with. We won’t get a second opportunity or a third or more to share with them again, going deeper into the Gospel each time we share. We won’t be able to travel with them on their journey and we won’t be able to see them as they grow and we won’t be able to see the glory of God shining through them.

That siren song of perfectionism can be vicious, but that doesn’t mean we have to sing along.

Unlimited

Note: This is another guest post from my immensely talented wife, Dora. -Michael

For many years I worked in the meal plan office of a large university. In addition to making sure that the meal plans worked for the students, I was also responsible for answering the questions of students, parents, faculty or staff members. Most of the time the questions were what you would expect:

  • “When does my meal plan start?
  • “When is the last meal of the semester?
  • “When/How can I change/cancel my meal plan?”
  • “What happens if I run out meals?”

You get the idea. Sometimes, however, I would get a question that was unexpected. One that would cause me to have to pause for a moment before answering. One of those questions came when a mom called me early one morning and asked, “How many meals come with the Unlimited meal plan?”.

For a split second, I thought she was trying to be funny. Fortunately, before I opened my mouth, I realized she was being completely serious. I paused. Now, she didn’t seem to notice my pause, but it felt like an eternity to me while my brain raced to figure out a way to answer her question without implying that she was asking a silly or stupid question. Finally, the answer, “It depends on how many meals your student eats, I suppose.”, tumbled out of my mouth.

She was certain there was a catch. I assured her the only “catch” was that the meals could only be redeemed when our dining halls were open to everyone (no sneaking into the kitchen to make a 2 a.m. PB&J sandwich) and no taking meals out of the dining hall to eat later because of food safety issues. When she hung up the phone she seemed quite satisfied that the Unlimited meal plan was Unlimited, at least for the needs of her student.

Now, as silly as that mom’s question about the unlimited meal plan might seem, I find many of us asking the same question about God’s love, grace, and forgiveness. What’s the catch? We tell ourselves that we’re not good enough for unlimited anything from God. We get angry. We get jealous. We aren’t cheerful givers. Sometimes, we break our promises. The list of all our faults could go on and on.

The truth of the matter is that we aren’t “good enough” and we never can be. We live in a fallen and broken world. But that’s what is so amazing about God’s love, grace, and forgiveness. It doesn’t matter that we aren’t perfect, or that despite our best efforts we still make mistakes. He loves us anyway. He forgives us anyway. He pours His grace over us anyway.

But, there is a catch. It’s not that we can only receive His gifts during certain time periods or in certain places. The catch is that we have to accept His love. We have to accept His grace. We have to accept His forgiveness.

That’s it. The only catch to God’s unlimited grace is our choice of whether or not to accept it.