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Forgetting is something that time alone takes care of, but forgiveness is an act of volition, and only the sufferer is qualified to make the decision.
Simon Wiesenthal 
A morbidly encouraging thought on life….

Everyday, I am a man on life support, l only live because of this ventilator that provides me with air, God’s sovereign grace…and until I can finally leave this infirmary, this broken terra-terrestrial existence, I will do my best to follow the doctors orders…until I get to go Home.

Pride in the pain…

Everyone is broken. Everyone is sinful. Romans 3:10 “none is righteous, no, not one…”

Recently, there was a saying that crossed my path in my study of theology, one that resonated with this particular recovering pride-addict. “No one ever graduates from the Gospel” I love this. As a young man, I am in that place in life where over ambition and the rat race to accomplish goals, meet certain milestones, and all the work to get ahead is the norm. Build your accolades. Work for prestige and a reputation of perfection. All or nothing. In that race, pride builds, self reliance builds, and entitlement builds. These are dangerous things no doubt, and we should be searching our hearts to be honest with God in these things, and praying for a heart of humility. But this is a thought that most of us could probably all agree with, and the need for Gospel humility is clear.

There is another side to consider however. That is the side of those who are broken and hurting, dealing with wounds and pain. Have you ever considered how much pride can be found there? Thoughts like “I have suffered certain pain, so, God should restore me and owes me for this pain” Entitlement, yes? But it’s a thought that is logical in our interpretation of justice. Eye for an eye right? Everyone deals with a different amount of trial and pain in various seasons of life. I’ve had to deal with quite a bit myself over the course of my life. The things I have had to deal with could be significantly more than others, it could also be significantly less than some other people. But sometimes there comes a point where I feel that I deserve an ‘I’m sorry for all the pain you’ve had to endure or the ways you’ve been sinned against’. I feel that I deserve that?! How prideful!

Now this doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t go to the Father with my pain, hurt, and suffering. He is the great Comforter and the Spirit will give you strength and healing. But I don’t think that will come out of a position of entitlement in your pain. God will redeem all. That is a promise. But to be humble in pain is a task easier said than done, at least for me. As I have been battling some deep scars over the past many months, I have to come to view my pain in the light of the Gospel. Jesus took my sin and yours on the cross…..and, He took the sin of the person that sinned against you. What has happened to you may not be fair, and by no means do I say to make light of these things. But the focus shouldn’t be vindication out of bitterness and unrighteous anger, but rather falling at the foot of the cross and searching for healing, forgiveness, and reconciliation.

Love one another. Forgive one another. Reconcile with each other. Be at peace with each other, living in the light of the Gospel.

Got a case of the mondays?

Its monday. Few people i know like mondays, myself included. But it’s days like Sunday that make monday so much better. Not that its sunday, but because of what sunday is, for me at least. A day of rest, both in body and in spirit. Time to spend with my family in Christ and be encouraged and refreshed to go out and share Christ in my everyday, and being intentional in their lives. I have this neat image in my mind of the church. We are a family, unified in Christ, creating bonds with one another and gaining strength and support from each other in various ways. But like every family, we’ve got to go to work or school. We must disperse from the home and be in the world. It’s here where the support and strength we have in Christ and the Spirit along with the support of our community goes into action as we seek to magnify God is our weeks, sharing the Gospel with the broken world around us. But we always have this family to fall back to.

So it’s monday. What are you going to do? As our pastor said in the benediction today “go be the Church”. Pray for the joy of the Lord to be with you in the morning. He is here with us. Let that encourage you! (…and try not to forget that TPS report…) 

I forgive me….not….

One of the hardest parts about forgiveness, for me, is the ability to forgive myself. God forgave me already on the cross, and so long as I confess to Him and keeping myself honest, then I should be good to go right? After all, as far as the east is from the west so our sins are forgotten in God’s eyes…but for some reason I just can’t seem to get off thinking that I need to set things right…I don’t forgive myself. Actually, I do quite the opposite, i end up mentally destroying myself from whatever infraction I may have done, punishing myself. Just like in a few posts ago, I struggle with grace…it doesn’t always make sense to me. I’m beginning to see how the circumstances of my past have gotten me to where I am now…consistently maintaining heaviness for my faults and never finding peace about them…and there are reasons for this that were not of my own doing…but whatever the reason, its a denial of God’s grace and forgiveness in my life. I’ve got to learn to not only let go of external circumstances, but also let go of some internal ones as well….this is a process that is going to take a long time….

The Greatness of Grace.

Recently I had written a post on grace and as I went back and read over it, it sounded more legalistic, and goodness knows that’s not what I want to do….so take two…

Have I mentioned lately that I am a sinner, that I’ve envied, lusted, held bitterness and anger, that I’m prideful and arrogant, that I can be demeaning and self righteous? Have I told you that I haven’t loved well, that I haven’t completely trusted God with all things in my life?  There is more I could add to this list but you get the idea….

The dirty underbelly of life never fails to show itself pretty consistently, for me anyway. Being someone of a highly analytical mind that never really stops processing information, or scenarios as it may be, I find myself caught in a heaviness quite often, and, if you know me well, I end up inflicting that heaviness into my own life and faith.

Grace is such a difficult concept for us. Grace is free, it doesn’t come with conditions (outside of accepting Christ as our savior). I don’t fully understand this. No conditions? While I can grasp the concept on a logical level, to really understand that at heart is challenging, and I’m sure I’m not alone on this one.

In my last post I had made a “God gives grace, but….” statement. By no means am I trying to say that there are conditions on grace. However, I can’t help but conclude that where one’s heart is hard, or living in sin, that God won’t convict and open your eyes to such things because he loves us and disciplines us.

I guess I should go to say that this is the desire of my heart, that God moves me in a way to seek and honor Him better. I seek to better myself because God bettered me eternally. I don’t deserve it.

Any soapbox that I stand on is only that, a soapbox. A miniscule platform on which I state my case for something that needs to change. It may be something truthful, Biblical, and necessary, but I must step down from that box and walk on the even playing field of the broken that need grace….because it’s there where we all will find ourselves. Broken. I need of a savior.

Grace is an amazing, frustrating thing, because it covers me completely. It’s frustrating because it doesn’t meet my sense of justice….but who am I to say what justice is?

 It’s amazing because I become destroyed by the love of God…….. 

The potter’s clay…

Today started out as any other day in this crazy summer. Got up this morning, read scripture, made breakfast and got ready for the day. Lately I’ve been spending a lot of time in Paul’s letters and felt the need to go back once again to the Gospels. So I started reading Mark yesterday. Today I read through chapter two. Jesus has come back from His time in the wilderness and is beginning to call His disciples and teach. He is surrounding himself with a band of sinners and tax collectors and the religious leaders and teachers are noticing this.

Then we get to Mark 2: 15-17

                “As Jesus was having a meal in Levi’s home, many tax collectors and sinners were eating with Jesus and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. When the experts in the law and the Pharisees saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, they said to his disciples, ‘Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?’ When Jesus heard this he said to them, ‘Those who are healthy don’t need a physician, but those who are sick do. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners’.”

After reading this passage, one that I’ve read several times before, I just sat there, contemplating what I had just read, and something was different in my mind this time….

Be it Jesus’ intent or not, I couldn’t help but imagine a rather sarcastic inflection to His voice while saying these words to the Pharisees. These men of the law who stood there and watched all this unfold while they kept themselves at a righteous distance. Jesus came to heal the sick. But the sick generally know they are sick, right?

If I am to make this a statement of pride and humility, prideful people (myself included often) don’t acknowledge their need for redemption. Prideful people generally think that they have all the knowledge, refined character traits, or even prideful humility without really stepping back and connecting the mind with the heart to notice their condition. Prideful people may not even know that they are being prideful, even in the midst of a good intentioned heart.

Pride has no place in kingdom work. It twists and destroys, and I’ve experienced that first hand in the recent months. God deals with prideful people.

James 4:6 “But He gives more grace. Therefore it says, ‘God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”

1 Peter 5:5 “Likewise, you who are younger (which I certainly qualify…) be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”

God opposes the proud. There is no room for self sufficiency in salvation here. As a worship leader in the church, I need to be really careful about my attitude, pride, and the condition of my heart. Shepherding souls is no light task and comes with heavy responsibility. I must consistently be checking myself, submitting to my authorities and seeking guidance from the Spirit and those authorities, especially because I am young. If you have conversed with me in the past two or so months you know that I’ve been on a sort of leadership soap box lately, especially for the men, because, even in myself, I’ve seen too much sin being taken too lightly, and a lack of endurance to walk the narrow path. God has grace for this, but it will be dealt with somehow. He has certainly dealt with me, and will continue to do so because I am a fallen being who will sin over and over again. But it grieves me to see such a casual response to sin lately.

I have strong convictions as a leader, convictions that have been brought about by my own personal experience, and more importantly, direction given by Scripture. I abide by these convictions (not well all the time but I try) not because I want to create a ‘holier than thou’ image for myself; but because it is what God calls us to and I want to do my best to honor Him in all aspects of my life. He loved me in such abundance to have His son die for my sin, he loves me in the discipline of my sin, how could I not respond with wanting to honor Him who did everything to make me righteous in His sight?

When I first started at Ohio State in the spring of ’09 one of my friends invited me to a party that his fraternity was throwing. Not really knowing anyone yet, I went. The people that I hung out with that evening were far more into the party scene that I have ever been. In fact one of the girls in that group consumed so much beer so quickly, that she was becoming unresponsive. While my friends were tending to her (and she was ok for the record…) I was downstairs waiting for them, standing by the corner of the great room and the hallway back into the building, minding my own business, standing there with my first beer that I had barely gotten half way through. There was this guy standing next to me that I did not recognize and paid no attention to. He sees me and says “Hey! Aren’t you that worship leader from Bay?”

Convicted. In that moment, God made it clear to me that I must always be watching my actions, words, and character. I would love to say that the rest of my time at Ohio State was better in this aspect but it wasn’t, and it wasn’t for many reasons, both my own, and external reasons. I find myself, especially in the recent weeks wishing that I could just erase all memory of being there. But more than the education that I received from them, God taught me invaluable things that I am just now starting to implement and take seriously. The time, though painful, was invaluable.

Pride is dangerous. God blesses the humble and opposes the proud. God opposed me in my pride. He loves me enough to discipline me and keep it from destroying me, for the ultimate purpose that I may reflect Him better for His glory. Not mine. I don’t get to play savior in my life or anyone else’s. That’s God’s role. My role it to pray for a humble, loving heart, and to point to Christ in every aspect of my life, in my job or for me right now jobs, as a friend, especially as a worship leader, anywhere.

If we are to use the clay analogy, a humble person is softer, and far more moldable than a hard prideful heart…I’ve been hard clay. God had needed to soften me to make me moldable and teachable, and I’m thankful for it. What kind of clay are you?  

Lyrics…

I was asked to do one of my originals at Church this morning. I know it was wordy but i’d thought i would throw up the lyrics. Thank you, Church for you consistent encouragement and support. I thank God for you daily and am blessed to be in, or supporting other ministries that are being lead by such God fearing, and loving leaders. I am truly blessed to be doing Kingdom work alongside such a family. Enjoy!

Undeserved Grace (Lyric Sheet)

Verse 1

                   C                 

When the world’s caving in and the darkness begins

     G7

To pull on your soul and the doubt enters in

                C

When it seems like the only way into the light

          D

Is to climb and push with all your might

To take it all on, to wrestle and fight

With all of your strength and all of your might

I remind you my friend that the battle is won

We just need to rest in the arms of the son

Chorus

              C

We will all stand in awe of his marvelous grace

        G7/B

And know that we’ll never have too little faith

                      C                                                                        D

For he have given us hope and undeserved grace for today

And the peace that he brings, I can’t help but to sing

Sweet songs of praise to this marvelous king

For no matter how far my heart wanders away

His grace is enough, so much more than I need for today

Verse 2

For the times when it seems like you’re so far away

From the one whom we owe all of our days

And you think that the only back to his arms

Is to turn and run and to plead with your heart

Take hold of these words, for our glorious God

Is waiting for you with His arms open wide

To take you back in and hold on to you tight

And say to you child everything’s all right

(Chorus 2x)

Benjamin Baker ©2011

Take these chains…

It is difficult, I have found in recent days, to let go of things that weigh me down. I can feel the weight in my mind and heart, and is some cases it even manifests itself in somatic exhaustion. There is a period in life that is afflicting me in this way currently. A period mostly defined by wounds, anger, and sadness, and even while I’m no longer in that place physically, mentally I’m stuck there. Yes, there were a few shining moments and places where I felt at peace, felt connected with the body of believers, but not often. But even thought I am not in that place anymore, I can’t seem to let go. There are many reasons for this that I could write on and on about. But what good does that do? Rehash the anger and frustration and allowing it to fester in my heart?

Scripture warns us about these mentalities, a warning that I admit, I have not heeded to very well. We are told that if we do not forgive others, then the Father will not forgive us. My heart has not been seeking forgiveness, but rather vindication. What a dangerous place to be! It’s like I want to hang on to that weight and not release it to God. And while logically and mentally, releasing it makes sense, God needs to work on my heart, because it doesn’t want to.

One of the most amazing things about life in Christ is that I can receive conviction from the Spirit and rejoice in it! For it is in that conviction that I know that the Father continues to pursue me and shape my heart, my spirit, and my mind. If I was not receiving conviction and felt secure in the way that I am, unwilling to test the condition of my heart, I would really have to wonder about my security in salvation. God is active, in us and through us. What a privilege!

In that knowledge, the Spirit has been convicting me concerning this issue. I must release it from my concern, and while I may not like what that could mean, it could only result in good. I’ve been praying for release, to tell the Father to take the weight, but I have to be willing to actually let Him take it, easier said than done.

The best part about this though, is that God gets all the glory. Even in the midst of challenge, God gets all the glory, as it should be.