The Baker's Yeast

Monthly messages from Pastor Paul Baker . . . 

October 2017 

THE BAKER'S YEAST

My devotional recently told a story of a kid who came home from school and proudly told his mom what he had learned. “Mom, do you know that people with blue eyes can be friends with people who have brown eyes?” She smiled at first, but then pondered a bit on that lesson, as I hope you will too. 

Mom and Dad came for a visit for a few days. At one point, Dad said,

“I have a book for you, it’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin.” Debbie chimed right in and said, “In our country school, every day the teacher would read us all a chapter of the book.” I thought right there, I must read this. 

So far, I’ve read three chapters and the “Concluding Remarks” from the author. (Dad said I couldn’t miss that part.) The first two chapters are filled with stories of prejudice and unbelievable cruelty to people held as slaves, but also shares examples of the unbelievable power of Divine Hope, which lifts the human spirit to rise above the inhumanity of person to person. No one should be treated as property to buy and sell. The book paints a great picture of the wide variety of characteristics that are so much a part of human nature. 

Prejudice lives in all of us. Pre – judging, is judging when we think we know all the facts, like believing that people with blue eyes should be separate from people with brown eyes.  Seems like a silly idea, right? That is because we know the facts, that eye color has no place in deciding who can be our friends.

When is the last time you made a judgment without knowing all the facts? Well, when you learned more, did you change your mind a little bit maybe? Probably. We do need to trust that most people try to do their best in relationships, and remember, that we make mistakes too. “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” I think that most of us just want things to go better in life.

The “Concluding Remarks” in “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” call us to be our best selves. At one point the author writes, “There is one thing that every individual can do, - they can see to it that they feel right.”  And she goes on from there, teaching us that doing the right thing is what makes us feel right. She is saying, the same thing that Jesus told us. Keep your conscience aligned with Him.  Love God and Love your neighbor. She is begging people to do that in regard to the issue of slavery. However, the lessons learned from slavery can easily apply to a hundred or more different situations today. I think that most of us have a good enough conscience that that advice will be a good place to start, - do things that feel right.

Apply that one thought to your life, and I know that you will grow closer to God, and closer to other children of God all around you. And by the way, don’t beat yourself up too much when things don’t work out right away. God always gives us another chance. It is the gift of Grace, for you and for me.

Jesus’ hands were kind hands. The church is His body today. As a result, our hands need to be kind as well.

May God’s Kingdom come, on earth as it is in heaven, and have a blessed day!

 

September 2017

They say that most times we are divided internally. We know what will be best for us, but it is hard for us to make the effort to do it. I heard that Oprah Winfrey once said, “Sometimes in life, I just need to relax, and take the advice of that lady, Oprah Winfrey.” Like the apostle Paul said in Romans 7:15, I don’t know what I’m doing, because I don’t do what I want to do. Instead, I do the thing that I hate.”  

Both Oprah and Paul are right, sometimes we just need to listen to the advice of someone that will steer us in the right direction. Often, that someone is the “still small voice” inside us, the voice of the Lord, the voice of the Holy Spirit. Yet, it is so easy for us to ignore it, and go about our own way.  Most times to our own regret. 

Jesus told us to be disciples, to make disciples, to love God and to love our neighbor as ourselves. In Matthew 6:15, He told us that it is of utmost importance to forgive each other, for “if you don’t forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your sins.”

 It is no surprise. You and I both know that the church of today is not nearly as well accepted in the world as it was a couple generations ago. What has changed? Is it the church? Is it the people? Have other activities taken the place of church activities in people’s lives? Or have people just begun to see the church as out of touch with the world around it? To a certain extent, I suppose all of these things are true. 

Yet, the church offers two things that nothing else can; the opportunity to seek peace through Christ, along with others who seek the same thing. Second, the opportunity to serve Christ more fully by helping others. Both opportunities are avenues of growing as disciples, or followers of Christ.  I doubt that much of the world has any idea that making Disciples of Christ involves both of those areas.  

We need to be witness to these opportunities. Like the old saying goes, you may be the only Bible that some people read.

Jesus’ hands were kind hands. The church is his body today.  As a result, our hands need to be kind as well.

May God’s Kingdom come, on earth as it is in heaven, and have blessed day!

 

August 2017

VBS this summer calls us to be a church of Super Heroes! Super Heroes for Christ Jesus! And what qualities do Super Heroes have? Well, here is a quick look at five examples of what our kids and the kids of the neighborhood learned about in VBS. I think we adults can learn from these examples as well.

First, in the story of Samuel anointing David as King, we see that God does not see things as people do. People make judgments based on appearances, while God looks on the heart. God reminded Samuel to look beyond the surface, and as a result, Israel found its greatest king, in the shepherd boy, David. God invites us to look to the heart and find the hero inside of others and ourselves.

Next, we learn of Abigail, and how her courage saved the day. (1 Samuel 25) God sees courage in a different way that society does. Abigail became a hero for God by simply using her own resources to protect others and resolve the conflict. God invites us to notice the gifts and abilities given to us and to have the faith to use them.

Wisdom was shown when Jesus went to the temple as a boy, and even though it started a conflict with his parents, he modeled a pattern of wisdom that was based on a balance of pursuit of knowledge and the needs of relationships. Finding balance in life is one of the marks of a hero in God’s eyes.

The Beatitudes are a pearl of wisdom based in Hope. Hope is one of the qualities that make us disciples and heroes. The ability to live our faith, with an eye to God’s future, is truly a gift from God. 

Lastly, power was given to the followers of Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit on the first Pentecost.  Just as the first believers were empowered to share the Good News of God’s love and redemption, the Holy Spirit empowers us to share the loving grace of Christ in uniquely powerful ways.

 And, the Hero Verse of the week is this, “Do good!  Seek peace and go after it!”  - Psalm 34:14b 

May God’s Kingdom come, on earth as it is in heaven, and have a blessed day!

 

July 2017

 A few years back, on my trip to Israel, I met a pastor that impressed me. His quiet nature and unassuming ways drew me to him. The way he interacted with his wife, who is also a pastor, made me smile. Well, a year ago, that pastor, Scott, wrote a book called “The Misfit Mission: How to change the world with surprises, interruptions, and all the wrong people.”

When you were a kid, were you one of the people who was always picked next-to-last to be on a sports team? Were you the one who didn’t quite fit in with the popular crowd? Were you one of the popular crowd and couldn’t quite figure out why you are accepted there? If you fit in one of these groups or have any questions about life in general, we have good news. You are being used by God, even if you don’t recognize it. 

You have the promises of Christ to stand upon. In John 14:12 Jesus says, “I assure you that whoever believes in me will do the works that I do. They will do even greater works than these because I am going to the Father.”  The question is, do you trust in these words? Jesus spoke them to the disciples before he went to the cross, but they are also words for us today.

Do you feel stuck? Are you without hope? Are you sitting at a crossroads? Jesus promises that you are able to accomplish far more than you could ever imagine! It is the Holy Spirit and the love of Christ that flows through us, and makes it possible. 

Please remember, that from the beginning of the Bible to the end, God tended to choose all the wrong people. God chose people who made mistakes, who didn’t believe they had what it takes, who made bad choices, who hurt other people. God chose the people that the world would choose next-to-last. 

If you need hope today, know that Christ is offering you that hope. We can stand on the promises of God. You are loved, and the Holy Spirit is with us, supporting us with the power to accomplish all that we need to, and even more. God loves the misfits of this world, and uses us to transform the world!

(Thank you to Scott Chrostek for writing this book, and to Jesus Christ for making it possible.)

 May God’s Kingdom come, on earth as it is in heaven, and have a blessed day!                                                                    

                  

June 2017

A few years back, I was active with some of the Native American Ministries in the Mandan, ND area. During that time, I learned a phrase in, if memory serves me correctly, the Lakota language. It was "MitakuyeOyasin." Translated roughly into English, it means “we are all related.”  That idea has become important to me over the years.

Even though that is difficult to live out, I see parallels to that thought in our Christian tradition as well. Jesus’ last prayer for us in John 17 was 23 "I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” The apostle Paul writes often about what we have in common as God’s creations:  "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" in Romans 3:23.  And in Romans 7:15, these words stand as a reminder that we are not so different, "I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate."

Over the years our Christian family has developed different traditions in our response to the human condition and God’s answer for it, what we call Grace. This summer, we will learn more about the traditions that have developed over time, as people just like us have done their best to invite Christ into their lives. We will be exploring the strengths and the differences in some of the major Christian traditions that have developed since the time of Christ’s resurrection.

Adam Hamilton writes, "Each denomination has a unique, valuable perspective to offer on the Christian Faith." We will learn from the Orthodox, Catholic, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Anglican, Baptist, Pentecostal and Methodist traditions. My hope is that you will discover that while the differences in each of these traditions is important, what they all have in common is their dependence on the grace of God, as given to us through the cross and the resurrection of Christ Jesus.

Join us as we come to understand our own faith, as we learn more about the faith of that great cloud of witnesses that have come before us. May the light of the resurrection shine in you and through you, now and always.

May God’s Kingdom come, on earth as it is in heaven, and have a blessed day!                                                                                                        

 

May 2017

They say that’s what we all have in common as human beings, Death and Taxes.  In case you are wondering, I’m writing this on “Tax Day,” April 18. I think we as human beings have more in common than just those two things, but in the coming sermon series I want to focus on one of them. I will focus on death, or more specifically, on our reaction to death or loss of any kind. I want to focus on what loss means to us, in light of the promise of resurrection. There you go, a good follow-up to Easter, don’t you think? 

The apostle Paul puts it this way, “But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about those who have died, so that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus God will bring with him those who have died.” (1 Thess. 4:13-14) 

We do not grieve in the same way as others who have no hope. The apostle Paul is correct.  Resurrection offers us Hope. We never fully “recover” from the loss of someone we love. Similarly, we have difficulty adjusting when we feel friends or family have left us hanging on our own. It is normal to feel frustrated, even frustrated with God, but scripture reminds us we are loved. Faith allows grief to be mixed with an eternal hope. 

Grief is not a onetime event. It is much more a journey, a pilgrimage if you will.  When a loved one dies, you don’t get over it, but you can move through it and with it. The good news is that God is at work in us turning our loss and pain into something beautiful. God can take the scars and the mess and the heartache of our lives – yours and mine – and use them to give new life, new life to us and new life to others. 

People often have expectations when going through the grieving process. When those expectations are not met, we often come up with one of two possibilities: 1) We are failing the grieving process, or 2) We have some seriously messed-up expectations about what the grieving process entails. The truth is, about 99.9% of the time, number two is true. 

Join us as we explore the difficult but important topic of how we understand grief in light of the promise of resurrection. The sermon series, book study, and adult Shine Time sessions will begin April 30 based on the book Grief - When the One You Love is Gone by Rebekah L. Miles.

May God’s Kingdom come, on earth as it is in heaven, and have a blessed day!                                                      

 

April 2017

 Have you ever thought that God, God is a verb? Not a noun, but a verb. Well, we are focusing on how the gospel of John tells the story of Jesus, and how John wants us to believe Jesus at the very core of who we are. You may remember that God told Abraham, “I am what I am.” So, God, when asked about God’s nature, God’s essence, said simply, “I am,” and in the Hebrew, that also meant I was and I will be. A little confusing, isn’t it. OK, it can be a lot confusing. It really is at the heart of what I like to call the mystery of God. God is more than we can understand completely as humans, and as humans, we are called to first and foremost, trust. 

As John tells the story of Jesus’ life, We see that Jesus himself, when asked about his nature, said in John 8:58, “before Abraham was, I am.” This must be one of God’s favorite ways of describing himself, but, it can leave us humans just sort of hanging there, can’t it. It is a good thing that Jesus goes on to explain it a bit more, with what we call the seven “I am sayings” in John. Each one of them shares a little different spin on the nature of God, and I know that one of these images will speak to you today. Here is what he said about himself, scattered through the gospel of John. I am the bread of life. I am the light of the world. I am the gate of the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I am the resurrection and the life. I am the way, the truth and the life. I am the true vine.

Let’s just look quickly at two of those powerful images. First, “I am the bread of life.” This image, bread of life, would have caused the believers of his time to think back to their own history, and specifically when God used Moses to call the people out of slavery in Egypt, and back to their own homeland. However, the people didn’t celebrate their deliverance, they took it for granted, and in fact, complained about it. They were hungry as they traveled through the desert, and were ready to give up and go back to slavery in Egypt. However, God used Moses to provide them with a mysterious substance, manna, which they referred to as “bread from heaven.” When Jesus is referring to himself as the bread of heaven, he is reminding us of two things. First, God will provide our essential needs, through Jesus Christ.  Maybe not in the way we expect or can understand, but God provides. Second, that life will be fulfilled, through the presence of God with us, in Jesus. I could say more, but that is the essence that I can share in this short time. 

The second image, is “I am the light of the world.”  “I am the light of the world.  Whoever follows me won’t walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”  I don’t know that this needs much explanation. You know what it feels like to live in darkness. And we are promised that we have a light that the darkness will never extinguish. We have hope through Christ to keep on hoping.  And, to close by getting back to the “God as a verb” thing, God will continue to act in your life, and to light up your life, so that you can live the most joyful life you possibly can.  Know that God acts, always, in ways that we may not notice, but God is working in you, and through you right now. God said, “I am, and I will always be.”  Yes, God is a verb, and that verb is love. 

May God’s Kingdom come, on earth as it is in heaven, and have a blessed day!