Category Archives: Ministry
God in the Guilt Trip?
Go from Romans chapter seven and read on into chapter eight and you’ll find the same guy writing from two very different places. One is hopeless, helpless, frustrated and stuck in the middle of some really heavy stuff. He’s guilty as charged; and he’s charging himself it out loud, sort of, on paper, in a letter to Roman church people. Paul; the guy that wrote a ton of the New Testament, the guy that took the gospel on the road to Rome – He was awesome… But not if you ask him.
Sinner. Wretched sinner. Way worse than not sharing the Jesus ‘likes’ on facebook – He was apparently actually dealing with sin.
But then – thanks be to God? Oh yeah, turn the page. Remember that those chapter and verse divisions were added later? Paul was writing one big letter here. Thank God for what, Paul wretched-doing-it-wrong-guy?
Grace. There is therefore (What’s that ‘therefore’ there for? Context!) now no condemnation for those in Christ. We may be guilty, but thank God, that doesn’t matter. We aren’t condemned. We’re saved! And sometimes guilt is a good thing to feel so that we don’t live like we’re taking grace for granted (even though it is, if we want it).
What about those guilt trips? It sure seems like Paul was riding one out there. Those are fun aren’t they? Well, if you or I ever strive to make anyone feel guilty then we’re just being silly, or thoughtless maybe. But if the trip is coming from the Holy Spirit, especially when you’re checking out HIS words, then don’t get mad! That’s a GREAT thing! This means that you’re paying attention! The Holy Spirit is doing his job and working on you.
Think about this statement: Unless we seriously understand the hard truth and depth of chapter 7, we may never really truly understand the great news of chapter 8.
Now go read Romans 7 and 8. And like this if you love… …nope – can’t do it – not even to joke about!
I like this one
This post is from my church’s newsletter that’s going out in July.
How They See
I’m thankful that Jeff’s first Sunday here was also Father’s Day. His message was powerful and thought-provoking. I want to be a Cedar in my family’s lives; for the sake of the pine trees that might be watching (Zechariah 11). I hope you caught the vision that this idea doesn’t end at families and Father’s Day messages, but it encompasses our every day relationships with the world around us; both the ones we’re aware of and the ones we aren’t.
No pressure, but somebody’s watching you. I was talking recently with my morning discipleship group about the song “Every Breath You Take” by the Police (They didn’t know that song and thought I meant “Every Move I Make” that we used to sing at church). The ‘older’ song is one of my favorites but the lyrics can be interpreted on the “creepy” side of things. ‘Every move you make, every step you take; I’ll be watching you‘. I’ve heard it jokingly described as “the stalker song” and you can maybe see why.
But it illustrates an even creepier truth. The people in our lives that know us as “church people”, “Christians”, or whatever other names they give us are always watching us. Sometimes they’re watching out of curiosity. Sometimes they’re watching, respecting us for our faith; sometimes not. Sometimes they’re watching to see if we mess up. Sometimes they just want ammunition to use against us. Sometimes we give it to them.
I need to clarify: I don’t care all that much (maybe a little bit) about how the world sees me. I do care how the world sees Jesus.
That brings to my mind a certain degree of pressure; even tension. And I hope that we can live with it! Right now, the world’s most common thoughts about Christianity are not flattering. But in many cases; they’re at least partly right. We get a lot of press for all the wrong reasons these days. When we do Ephesians 4 backwards and speak the truth in hate; we effectively crush the power of the truth to change people’s lives.
It’s my hope that this church body will continue to go against the flow of the more infamous and unloving groups that seem to stand for Jesus. We have a small voice here in our small town; but we have big hearts and open arms. I always hear from visitors that one of the best things about our church is how welcoming and friendly we are.
We can never water down truth. We can never water down grace. Remember in John 1:14 how John described Jesus as coming to us from the Father, full of grace and truth? Somehow, he is 100% both and that’s where I left off in my last sermon. I didn’t have time to express much about how we also need to live and emulate this ‘bad math’ that teaches good theology. So there it is. This should be a major part of our legacy as a church body; that we “speak the truth in love (Eph 4:15)” and people that watch us will see it. There’s really no room for any grumpiness or discord among our people because they’re watching; and because HE is watching. There’s really just room for God’s Word and God’s Grace.
17 Brethren, join in following my example, and observe those who walk according to the pattern you have in us. 18 For many walk, of whom I often told you, and now tell you even weeping, that they are enemies of the cross of Christ, 19 whose end is destruction, whose god is their appetite, and whose glory is in their shame, who set their minds on earthly things. 20 For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; 21 who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself.
Sometimes it seems that reading any part of the Bible can be like one big “Matrix” moment; like being on the outside looking in on a dream. The desire to reach in and grab a tangible piece of truth and stick it on my life somehow is there; but not always easily accomplished or even comprehended. Red pill or blue?
It’s especially challenging when the Scriptures get personal. Hey, pick on someone else please. I’m trying to just get through my Bible-reading plan here…
So the applications in these verses? They’re all personal. And they’re all Matrix-y. Show of hands, every head bowed and every eye closed (does anyone ever do that?)… Who’s got a stomach-god-problem? Who here chases after earthly stuff? The correlation between this list of everyday idolatry and the previous accusation that Paul cries about (you know, “enemies of the cross of Christ”) is kind of harsh.
But this is a reality problem. We haven’t swallowed the red pill yet. We don’t WANT to be idolaters; we’re just Americans chasing that dream a lot. But (and I’m likely to get shot for this) are we national first and foremost; or are we ‘not from around here’?
That’s the “how to fix” portion of this passage in verse 20. The NASB says that the word citizen could also be commonwealth. Interesting. And there’s the Matrix moment. Mr. Anderson (which sure sounds like “son of man”); are you going to swallow the right pill? Well, are we?
And then there’s that thing about eagerly waiting the one who saves us from ourselves for good. Yep this scripture is packed with good, hard stuff. How eager are we to escape the real matrix? And how does being eager for there make us better for here?
From MVA’s monthly newsletter:
Pastor Lyle. Reverend. Minister Lyle Baker. Even “Man of the Cloth.”
It’s odd; I’ve been called all of these and more in the past week. And before I go on; just know that if it was you calling me this it’s OK! It’s awkward to know what the proper, formal, polite thing to call a minister when he is uh… ministering. For the record, I would definitely like to just be known as Lyle. Hi I’m Lyle, and I’m a follower of Christ; I work at his church!
It has probably happened a lot lately because I’ve been doing a lot of Senior Minister things that I’m not usually doing in Youth Ministry. I’ve been stretched and challenged in the past months, and have relied heavily on what I learned watching Phil Williams do his thing; growing up watching my dad throughout his ministry; and reading and studying more than usual. Thank God for my awesome youth ministry team (couldn’t do it without you guys)! Truth: I’ve enjoyed the challenges of most of this work and it’s given me a different perspective on life in the ministry. Thanks for allowing the youth guy to reach out in different ways, and for being so supportive of it!
Back to the name thing… So when I was called a “man of the cloth” last week it almost made me laugh out loud (actually I think I at least chuckled a little). I know it’s a moniker of respect but it’s just not something I’m comfortable with. I think ministers should indeed be respected, listened to, and invited to speak into a person’s life on spiritual matters; that’s our job. However when we’re given weird titles it sets us up on pedestals that I’m afraid can tip over easily. We’re all just humans.
In fact; when it all comes down to it – I’m just a disciple of Christ; doing my best to follow his teachings and lead others to him. Which is exactly what all believers should be doing. The only thing that separates the “laity” from the “clergy” in my opinion is that we get paid so that we can do it full-time. We go to Bible College so we can be better equipped to not mess up the Scriptures when we teach them. It’s a lot like your profession that you went to school to do. I don’t know a thing about engineering or medical work; I have a different set of gifts and am another part of the body of Christ. I’ve trained in ministry and I LOVE what I get to do for a living. But I’m just uncomfortable with the formalities and titles.
What I usually do is model discipleship among students and teach them to trust in, study and discern their Bibles for life. I try and make them see that faith is more about who they are than what they do or don’t do. I try to teach them that following Christ is a decision that THEY make – your faith is not your parent’s faith – it really is “your” faith. I try to get them to own that (us adults need to remember this too). I only officially have their school years to do it, and it’s very hard sometimes, but it’s also incredibly rewarding when a student “gets it” and really begins to pursue Jesus. We do fun stuff like video games, basketball, hanging out, etc to be a place where kids can come and unwind; but then we invite them to go deeper in small groups and Bible studies and discipleship. And when we see discipleship we get ridiculously excited about that. There is no greater feeling than to bring people closer to Jesus Christ.
So what’s in a name? You can call me whatever you’d like; but I’d prefer just plain old Lyle. And I’d also like to see you decide what label or title you’d like to be known as. These ideas will go right along with my two sermons in May; Just hoping to get you thinking about it beforehand!
Discussion thoughts (feel free to talk to yourself haha):
The word Christian unfortunately can mean so many things these days. What about the word disciple? Follower? Are you labeling yourself as something? Are you really actually living up to the label? What do the words pastor, minister, clergy, man of-the-cloth, mean to you? Will you be at church May 6th and 13th to listen to Brother Lyle?
Big Weekend. Ohio Teens For Christ was on my mind and was the mountain-top experience that it normally is. Our students showed up and growed up (bad grammar, lame joke, don’t care)! I got to see/catch up with a good old friend and watch him do ministry in a way he is extremely gifted for (name-dropping Mr. KJ-52). I helped emcee the convention a little bit and that’s exciting to do. I got to see some of the world’s greatest youth sponsors minister to our students in ways that only youth sponsors can (better than youth ministers many times). I saw students get challenged and get excited about doing ministry.
All the while I was remembering a few things from ‘back home’ that were going on. I was preparing to lead worship and a devotion at the Sonrise service and preach the Word at the 10 AM Easter service at the church (I knew I was preaching the resurrection; and that’s about all I knew). I had just visited a couple of families that had folks in critical condition at some hospitals. There are quite a few families that I know are suffering the wrath of the world’s influence in no small way…
I was a bit uneasy about Sunday morning on the way home from Ohio Teens on Saturday; knowing I had that night to practice and polish up the message (I had about 15 of my usual 35 minutes written) and worship. Then I got a phone call that one of the ladies I’d seen at the hospital on Wednesday was getting worse. My youth sponsors helped me out in a huge way by squeezing the students in my car into the other vehicles and took them back home to Marion and I took off for the hospital. About 5 minutes before I got there, as I was praying for God to give me the strength to keep moving I got another call that she had passed away.
When I got there I did what I could to comfort and reassure. The family was still in shock I think because she was expected to get better. On the way home I stopped at another hospital where a family was waiting for their loved one to pass away after taking her off of life support. It made me remember my own mom and our family being in a similar situation 4 years ago. This is the sort of thing that makes me never want to complain about trivial aspects of life ever again (I still do).
It is pretty surreal how death affects you. Death in entertainment (hmmm) keeps this vast separation between you and the victim and any real involvement. In real life when you hear about death on the news or hear about an acquaintance’s family member it creeps a little closer to home. When you personally talk to a friend on Wednesday and see their body on Saturday it really throws you for a loop. At least it does me.
Especially within the context of Easter weekend.
On this side of Heaven; death seems vicious, cold, uncaring, and so very permanent. I know my congregation will tell you I was an emotions-full-on preacher on Sunday morning. It’s because my entire sermon revolved around this one weekend in history in which Jesus died to set us free and rose from the grave to show us how to go home… and in the scope of such a mountain-top-valley-low weekend it just couldn’t have hit me harder. I thought I was going to lose it when I talked about Abraham and Isaac in Genesis 22 (You have not withheld your son from me). When I held up the invisible knife to illustrate and was thinking about Abraham’s facial expression when he heard the angels call his name; I felt like I was watching it happen… And also I was exhausted and people just get soppy on too little sleep! In many ways it may have been the worst sermon I ever gave; in some ways I bet it was the best. I prayed that He’d just take point and I believe He did.
I had someone tell me that they think I’m a wise person. I said thanks for the encouragement but in my heart I brushed the compliment aside. I don’t really feel very wise. Probably at best I’m just trying to pay attention. God is always moving and speaking and sometimes He’s really clear and precise; sometimes He just sits there with you as you look up at the sky.
I snapped that picture on the way home from paying a speeding ticket this morning… It really seemed like a perfect sky to go with the current hi-lo vibe I’m still rolling with today
At church camp, at youth services, in places where I’ve always felt comfy; I usually preach/teach from outlines and notes as opposed to manuscripts. At Sunday morning worship times I have always written out just about everything. I’m more comfortable in that scenario and enjoy writing/crafting concise thoughts. Last week I think God was messing with me and trying to stretch me a bit and this was what came out. My experiences with Him at the Simply Youth Ministry Conference in Louisville a week earlier definitely had me changing my original plans and thoughts. It was exciting to “Let Go…” and speak on Sunday Morning a little more closely to what I would do on Sunday nights. There is some pretty cool stuff going on in the life of our church. God’s always up to something; sometimes He lets us in on it!
Will I ever preach from just notes again? I’ll leave that up to Somebody Else…
Here is my article for our monthly church newsletter. I’m working on part two of my Back to the Basics series of sermons to kick off 2012; this article was meant to be a take-home reminder of the message of part one.
Back to the Basics: one thing that the new year always brings with it is a great chance to start over; a new calendar with blank days, new options, and exciting opportunities. So take some! You can make a resolutions if you’d like, but I’m thinking something pretty practical is in order.
In my messages this month I want to touch on the idea of getting “back to the basics”. Great things can happen when you tackle deep subjects of the faith and do some honest struggling with the harder facets of our faith; but if we want to really face those moments well; having the basics down is very important (Like reading and knowing our Bibles)! Here are some follow ups to what I mentioned in that first message:
Bible study basics: getting on that reading plan. Here is a list of online resources that I use everyday.
This is one of the best sources out there. If you only check out one of these suggestions try this one! Its all about reading your Bible! And it makes it very easy to keep on track with easy to set up and automated reading plans. Another huge benefit is that you can take it with you.m have a smartphone? Then you can get or you may already have the app simply called “Bible” that is part of YouVersion. Sign up for an account and you can take your reading plans anywhere you go!
This is another great online Bible. It has a great keyword search function that I use all the time.
If you want some college-level study helps and some in-depth articles about the Bible and our faith; check out studylight.org. This is what I would have used to get through Bible College instead of buying 100′s of dollars in software like the professors wanted me to. Which brings me to a great point about all three of these resources;
They are available for the low, low price of absolutely free! If I sound like I’m trying to sell you on something it’s because I am! It’s so important for us to really dig deep together in the scriptures and have a strong foundation as we navigate life together. I think you manage life a lot easier when you are passionate about being a student of the scriptures everyday! Whether you prefer your leather-bound, scribbled-in, printed Bible or your iPhone app doesn’t much matter; but we all need God’s Word in our lives everyday!!!
On doubt. and I thought it went pretty well; if not a little uh… extended. Hope you guys at church liked it and continue to think about how we deal with doubt this week. Honesty with God is so important! Next week I think He wants me to follow up doubt with fear… We’ll see
But what I’m REALLY excited about is Caleb’s promo video for the Chili Supper next week. Check it out; it’s lots of funny!
Spent part of my day off yesterday at Alum Creek State Park with some really good friends. I’ve been mountain biking six times now, and I’m starting to learn a few things.
1. PERSPECTIVE. The week’s stress goes away when you’re barreling down a rooty path, dodging trees, crossing skinny bridges, and generally performing a little better than you did last time. Life is messy, busy, and work can get stressful. I’ve been trying a two-fold approach; giving it to God and sweating it out.
2. OUTSIDE. God’s creativity is found all over, but often it takes me getting into the woods to remember it. It could be less being in the woods and more being out-of-town though. I’m not sure, but I love being out there.
3. COMPETITION. I’ve been competitive before; but it’s not really a driving thing for me. But when I’m competing against myself, my fears, and my general clumsiness, I get a lot more satisfaction. Mtn Biking is like that (also, snowboarding). I get to face some fear, some difficult fitness, and some lack of technique, and I feel a little better at it each time I go.
Just a few thoughts. We had an awesome time. Jonathan took a pretty big spill off of a little launch and into a tree, but he’s OK. Chris’ bike was giving him some trouble though – the front wheel was coming off (no big deal right?). The skewer on his front wheel was stripping out somehow. Luckily Tony and Cole were there and they Macgyver’d the wheel back on with some cord. Chris had to ride slowly the rest of the way but it was better than walking all of it. We stopped at Hoggy’s for some wings and a foot-tall burger for Tony.
Good times with good friends.
So I just got back from wilderness camp and I have some things to share with you; some pointers, if you will, on surviving the wilderness. I’ve learned these over the last four years and I’m sure the list will keep on growing.
#10 (I’m starting backwards) – THE RUBBERMAID TUB. It doesn’t matter what the weather is like; everything you take with you will get wet somehow. The only protection from this is to keep your stuff in something that’s moisture-resistant. Rubbermaid tubs do this nicely and hold a lot.
#9 – PACK MORE T-SHIRTS. When you think you’ve packed enough t-shirts for the week, go ahead and put five or six more into the tub. You can recycle shorts easily enough; and if they smell funny, well, they aren’t anywhere near your nose so it’s not a problem.
#8 – DON’T TAKE ANYTHING YOU WANT TO KEEP. It may get muddy, rained on, stepped on, thrown into a campfire, dropped off of a cliff, dropped into a creek full of man-eating crayfish, or carried off by an anything-eating raccoon. It may very well survive the week; but the odds are that at least one of your belongings will go bye-bye for good in the woods. (like my hair, for instance)
#7 – This one goes way back; DON’T THROW YOUR WATCH INTO A CAMPFIRE. Batteries explode, and watch shrapnel can be quite painful. Thank you Jeff Bush.
#6 – CARRY A BIG STICK. Useful for so many things; a big ol’ stick will help you hike longer, help you stay balanced on creek-crossings, and help you at least ‘feel’ a sense of security in light of various woodland creatures that want in your tent.
#5 – AIR MATTRESS. When I was younger; sleeping on the ground was no big deal. Don’t be afraid of the ridicule you may (will) receive by lugging around an air mattress – your back is more important than your pride. As a matter of fact; air pumps may be useful for scaring/annoying students who are sleeping on the ground throughout the week.
#4 – NO FOOD IN TENTS. Raccoons WILL EAT YOUR TENT so they can get to your food. You have been warned.
#3 – A HIGH-QUALITY WATER SHOE. I purchased 10 dollar water shoes at a local shop this year. Never do this. Walking into your bathing area (a rocky creek) in low-quality shoes will hurt your feet; and may land you on your bottom very rapidly; which hurts. If necessary; sacrifice your old Nikes – It’s worth it.
#2 – LOOK DOWN. It’s more fun when you’re a little scared. At Wilderness camp you will be encouraged to all of the things that your mom and dad would never let you do at home. Like jump off of a cliff, climb up and down said cliff, and run and jump off of a platform in a tree above a cliff. Of course; you are strapped into some very expensive equipment and guided by professional stuntmen like Tim Fisher and Caleb White the whole time; so you’re completely safe!
#1 – IF YOU DON’T BATHE IN THE CREEK, EVERYONE WILL KNOW. EVERYONE WILL SMELL YOU. I know that the creek is cold, rocky, and crayfish-ridden. But for the sake of those around you; it’s totally worth the risk.
This list is not exhaustive, nor does it carry with it any guarantees of any kind; but it does relay years of experience in wilderness camping and may prove helpful. What’s really great is that these last two weeks of camp have been awesome! The campers were great; the faculty was great; awesome fun was had, and lives were changed for God. I love camp!