Category Archives: Struggles and Trials

My Verse. My Prayer. My Hope. 

“Be merciful unto me, O God, be merciful unto me: for my soul trusteth in thee: yea, in the shadow of thy wings will I make my refuge, until these calamities be overpast. I will cry unto God most high; unto God that performeth all things for me.”  – King David (Psalm 57:1-2)

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Filed under Christianity, current events, Depression, God, Struggles and Trials, worship

For Thy Stomach’s Sake

An add I’m about to place:

“Desperate Baptist school bus driver is actively seeking a Greek scholar who can verify στόμαχος (stomachos) also refers to one’s nerves.”

It’s been that kind of day. 

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Filed under Alcohol, baptist, Bible Study, Do not judge, Humor, legalism, Struggles and Trials, Theology, translations

Normalcy 

“Normalcy” is that ever-elusive goal sought by those who refuse to accept the here-and-now as their normal.                    

– A. Baker

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Filed under General Observations, Life Lessons, Struggles and Trials

Not a Failure

Regardless the success of his contemporaries, no man is a failure whose life is a positive reflection of Jesus Christ.  – A. Baker 

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Filed under Christian Living, Christianity, Depression, Jesus, self-worth, Struggles and Trials

A “Perfect” Role Model

Sermon Prep

Not long ago I was doing some research for a sermon on Jonah. In the process I came across a Muslim website that made an interesting observation (and I will paraphrase), “The Bible proves it is not true because God would not allow the prophets’ reputations to be smeared.”

It went on to say (paraphrasing, again), “What kind of role model would a prophet be if we read of him making mistakes?”

What kind of role model? That’s a good question! Was the Muslim author trying to say that role models had to be perfect in order to be real? Here’s a shocker – in one way or another, everybody is a role model.

If the defining characteristic of a role model is “perfection,” that would rule out King David, Solomon, Moses, Joshua, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Peter, Paul, Sarah, Mary (all of them), the woman who washed Jesus’ feet with her tears, and many, many others…

…especially Jonah.

Jonah

Now, Jonah wasn’t exactly the type of person after which I would want to pattern my life, but he was a prophet of God. He had some serious character flaws, though. He was angry, disobedient, and was a racist who constantly talked suicide. He even spouted off to the Lord for being too forgiving!

No, Jonah was not the type of person I would want to emulate. But hold the whale puke! I am more like him than I thought!

  • I have run from God.
  • I have harbored racism at times, as much as I am ashamed to admit.
  • I have been angry and disobedient.
  • I have wondered if life was worth living.
  • I have even wanted to see whole cities destroyed, innocent people and all, after September 11, 2001.

I have been more like Jonah more than I care to admit.

The Encouraging Part

The fact is that the Bible is not only full of role models, but models of the people we already are. Flawed, broken, and human. But here is the encouraging part: even when we are not perfect, God can still use us – and change us.

  • Jonah ran from God, but God pursued.
  • Jonah disobeyed God, but it didn’t derail God’s plan.
  • Jonah got angry with God, but God responded to him with the understanding kindness of a wise Father.
  • Jonah even wanted to die, but God never belittled him. He only focused Jonah’s attention on the bigger picture: 120,000 souls, not to mention animals, whose lives were spared (Jonah 4).

I thank God that the Bible doesn’t white-wash humanity. There are so many examples of how people, just like me, can find hope, even when we’re not perfect.

The Perfect One

It is not hard to come to the conclusion that there were some really dysfunctional people in the Bible. But you know what? That’s what adds to the authenticity of Scripture. There are no “perfect” role models in the Bible, except for one – Jesus.

“For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth.” – 1 Peter 2:21-22 ESV

“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are–yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” – Hebrews 4:15-16 NIV

I want to be more like HIM!

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Filed under Christian Living, General Observations, God, Life Lessons, Preaching, Struggles and Trials

Different Metal, Different Furnace

The refining pot is for silver and the furnace for gold, But the LORD tests the hearts. – Proverbs 17:3 NKJV

Gold or Silver

In case you were not aware, there is a difference between gold and silver (Well, duh!). Seriously, there is a difference between the two, and that fact should not be taken lightly. Gold is gold, and silver is silver. Obvious stuff, right?

Well, sometimes the obvious is profoundly important.

Gold is extremely valuable, but is soft and pliable. Silver is not as valuable per ounce, but is nevertheless a harder precious metal. Gold is highly sought after and coveted; silver is more common, but is still critically important for a wide range of applications, everything from electronics to medicine.

How one refines gold, compared with silver, is not the same. What’s more, the temperatures of the refiner’s fire is hotter for one than the other.

What R You?

When I read Proverbs 17:3 the other day, something obvious proved to be very profound: depending on how God wants us to be used, each one’s trial by fire will vary in intensity, the heat of which will determine what metal we are made of.

gold furnace

Source: The Australian

Unlike gold and silver, we are human; our qualities and usefulness change. Some days we are made of gold, while other days we are silver, but most of the time it is hard to determine which. That’s when the Refiner turns up the heat.

There is a lot to refining gold and silver. Not only is there heat involved, but various acids, too. Therefore, it should come as no surprise when God not only allows us to endure intense pressure (heat), but permits the caustic, painful situations of life to eat away the impurities within us.

God is the refiner of hearts.

Iron Man

But, you know what? Gold and silver, while both rare and beautiful, will never make good axes, swords, cannons, I-beams for skyscrapers, or bridges across raging streams.

Sometimes there are jobs that can only be done with iron.

Don’t feel special? Don’t think of yourself as gold-like? That’s OK! You’re important, too! As a matter of fact, the melting point of iron is nearly double that of gold.

You may think what you are going through right now is far tougher than anything a “golden saint” might deserve. Don’t lose hope; the fires forging you are instilling a strength that may be needed to wage war against the Enemy, support the heavy loads of many, or bridge the gap between understanding and ignorance.

Don’t curse the furnace. Let the Refiner do His work.

 

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Filed under Christian Living, Christian Maturity, General Observations, Life Lessons, self-worth, Struggles and Trials

Emotions of Christmas

Melancholy

Even though Christmas time is full of happiness and joy, there are also moments of melancholy. Just to be sure, I looked up that word and it actually means what I thought it did: “pensive reflection or contemplation.”

Every year that goes by we tend to lose people we love, and that includes pets, too. We lose people, animals, our hair, our smooth skin, and bunches of other things; yet there still remains a joy that’s unexplainable. At least that’s the way I feel.

Have you ever heard Mannheim Steamroller’s version of Silent Night? Every time I hear it I feel both melancholy and reverent at the same time. It also makes me really miss my dad.

Melancholy is also how I feel when I watch the following video I made 5 years ago. A few things have changed since then, the biggest of which is the loss of our little dog, Nugget. Christmas at the Baker home is not the same without him, and that is sad.

Worshipful

But even though I have my moments of melancholy pensiveness, I look forward to the holy, reverent, worshipful experience of a midnight Christmas Eve service. Honestly, if all we ever did was go to tonight’s service at First Cumberland Presbyterian Church in Chattanooga, that would be enough for me. Singing Silent Night in a cathedral-like auditorium at midnight while holding candles is chillingly awesome!

You see, no matter what we may have lost here on earth, because of Jesus we have everything in eternity to gain! When the world lay cold and dark, the Lord became flesh and light came into the world “with the dawn of redeeming grace.”

There are many reasons why some people find Christmas to be a time that brings sadness and pain upon the remembrance of loss. However, when we take the time to contemplate the wonder and glory of God’s grace, that He would put on flesh and be born in a manger, the great I AM, so that the lost might be found…

Thanks be to God for His unspeakable gift (2 Corinthians 9:15)! That’s Christmas! Because of that Baby born in a manger, melancholy may endure for a season, but JOY comes in the morning!

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Filed under Christianity, Christmas, Struggles and Trials, worship