Thursday, June 25, 2009



Most of us are comfortable with people who are like us. From social groupings in a community to the high school cafeteria, you will notice that people of similar educational levels, income, political views, and social strata tend to gravitate toward each other. Rare is the person who can move with comfort and ease among the various groups.

Jesus was a person who could do that. He was comfortable with saint or sinner. He could speak with ease to the educated head of the synagogue or to the disfellowshiped sinner who was cast out of that religious setting. He could dine with the Rabbis or the Reprobates.

Jesus was himself in any setting. He could rebuke a sinner and tell her not to sin anymore, or he could rebuke a preacher and tell him he was a hypocrite. He could engage a Pharisee wanting to know more about his work and mission, and he could engage a tax collector or woman of ill repute who needed his work and mission.

Many of us adapt our speech and behavior to fit different groups. We have regular speech and religious speech; regular behavior and religious behavior. A youth group member suggested a certain movie to watch. Another teen said it was too sensuous and wouldn’t be appropriate to watch with a church youth group; he would save it to watch with his worldly friends. I was at first appalled at the brazen inconsistency in his behavior; today I marvel at his honesty about it. Many adults do the same as this teenager, but with less honesty.

Jesus didn’t fit speech or behavior to a certain group; he was always the same. "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life" (John 8:12). "I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full" (John 10:10). Jesus was always the same because he had integrity. In every setting he was the light, he was the offer of abundant life, he was the door, he was the good shepherd. With saint or sinner, royalty or commoner, Jesus was the same.

Jesus was the same because he knew his purpose. God sent him to redeem a fallen world. Though Jesus walked the path of man, enduring all of his struggles and temptations, Jesus could never give in. Too much was at stake. Nothing less than the redemption of the world weighed upon his shoulders.

Jesus could move with ease among different groups of people because he was so committed to the purpose God had for him. Leadership and power might tempt him, but that was not God’s call for him, so he never gave in. Jesus could enjoy the food and laughter of the tax collector and common sinner crowd without joining in their treachery or misbehavior. He was tempted in all points as they were, yet without sin.

His incredible inner strength with all people and situations came from remembering his purpose for all people. He belonged to everybody, yet would be controlled by no one. Thus he could walk among the various groups of Israel, offering comfort, sharing the Word, healing, forgiving and teaching, and he gained an audience.

Jesus "was to be all his life one of those men of the people whose natural nobility allows them to meet all men as equals." (Daniel-Rops, Jesus and His Times, p.113). He was the Son of God yet he could and did meet all men as equals. He condescended to the lowly and the upper crust, and met them where they were, on their terms, and made his offer of life.

As I study Jesus’ life and consider the impact it makes on us, I’m struck by his nobility and humility. The confidence in his purpose and the flawlessness of his life produced his nobility; his love for people and willingness to meet them anywhere gave him his humility. As we attempt to walk in his footsteps, I pray we can do so with the same nobility and humility that he did. We carry on his mission of extending ourselves in the name of the Father to a fallen world. Nothing less than the redemption of the world is at stake. Let’s pray that God makes us fit for the task.

Warren Baldwin

Friday, June 19, 2009



The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life, turning a man from the snares of death. Proverbs 14:27

A preacher was in his office one afternoon when the phone rang. He picked it up and said, "Hello." A man’s voice on the other end asked, "Preacher, do you baptize at your church?" The preacher suspected either a prank call or a phone salesman. But he said politely, "Yes, in fact we do baptize." "Okay, well," the man continued, "do you have a problem with pond scum in your baptistery?" "Oh no," the preacher said, "we will baptize anybody."

He was a good preacher. I don’t necessarily mean by the way he handled the phone call. I mean by the theology of his answer. "We will baptize anybody."

This story appears in a popular e-mail. Even though it is meant to be a joke, it prompts the question, "Who may be baptized?"

People often have a sense that they have to be a certain kind of person to be baptized. They have to have a certain level of Bible knowledge, go to church so many years, and be "good" before they are worthy. Those individuals think they have to have the Bible, church, God, and everything else figured out. If they have all these ducks in a row, then they are ready.

I am glad to say that anybody who thinks that is wrong. Anybody who thinks they need to have all these things figured out is putting too much pressure on themselves. Preachers and teachers of the Bible don’t have all these things completely figured out! We are still studying and learning.
Baptism is for anybody at any point in his or her life who realize their need for God. They are ready when they realize the way they have been living is not the right way to live. When they believe Jesus Christ as the only one who has the complex answers to life and confess him as Lord of their life, they are ready to be baptized as an act of obedience to God’s rule over their lives.

Baptism really is for anybody and everybody. Even, as the caller asked the preacher, pond scum? I don’t like designating anybody by that kind of denigrating term. But I do need to tell you that anybody, no matter how badly they have lived their lives, can come to Christ for new life. That new life includes baptism. Romans 6:1–4 says that anyone who has been baptized has left their old life behind and is now living a new life.

In 1 Corinthians 6:9–11, Paul writes that the sexually immoral, the idolaters, adulterers, homosexuals, greedy, drunkards, slanderers, and cheaters would not inherit the kingdom of God. They would not see God, and they would not be with Jesus. However, Paul says that this does not have to be the final statement for their lives! They can leave those lifestyles, seek God, and be baptized, sanctified, and justified in the name of Jesus. Yes, baptism is for anybody. It is for anybody who realizes they are sinners, they are lost, and they need Jesus Christ.

I feel badly for people who get trapped in lifestyles that diminish their self-worth and leave them feeling used and broken. Drugs can do that. Crime. Sexual misbehavior. Disruptions in the family. Lying. These sins diminish us, makes us question our value, and can even make us despair of life. But I have a message for anyone who feels this way: those feelings do not have to be the final statement of your life. God promises you a new life in Jesus, and you can have it today, with God’s fountain of life.

Warren Baldwin

Monday, June 15, 2009



Lazy hands make a man poor, but diligent hands bring wealth. Proverbs 10:4

"You fellas move any slower and you are going to be doing yesterday’s work." Ernest Borgnine said that to his ranch hands in the 1956 movie Jubal. Ernest played Shep Horgan, an affable ranch owner who loved his land and his men. But even the easygoing Shep couldn’t refrain from a friendly reprimand of his hands when they shuffled about one morning.

John Wayne’s incitement to his hands to work in the The Cowboys was "Let’s go. We’re burning daylight." This became a theme his young cowboys repeated later in the movie.

The old Westerns are a favorite movie genre for many people. One of the most endearing qualities of these classics is the old-time values they portray: values of integrity, family, pride, honor, and hard work as exemplified by the hero and heroine. Contrast this with the sloppy morals and loose character of some of today’s movie heroes, and you can understand why the old Western classics are still popular fifty years after their release.

In their movies Ernest Borgnine and John Wayne tried to instill an ethic that God honored thousands of years ago: work. "Lazy hands make a man poor, but diligent hands bring wealth."

Proverbs are always true but may have a different application in different situations. As a general rule lazy hands do make a man poor, and diligent hands produce wealth. But don’t we know people who worked hard all their lives and retired with very little? Several things can hamper financial success, such as bad timing, natural disasters, and economic downturns. In such cases diligent hands may not produce wealth, and that is no one’s fault. Furthermore, in today’s society, someone with a good idea can market it and get rich with comparatively very little work. They may have lazy hands but strike a gold mine the person with diligent hands never seems to find. It is a general rule that those who retire with something set aside had to work hard and save for that nest egg. Those who work as little as they can retire with as little as they earned. "Laziness brings on deep sleep, and the shiftless man goes hungry" (Prov. 19:15).

God instructs us on the honor and integrity of hard work. "The Lord your God will make you most prosperous in all the work of your hands . . . the Lord will again delight in you and make you prosperous . . . if you obey the Lord your God" (Deut. 30:9–10). God promised blessing to the people if they honored him and worked with their hands.

But this promise of blessing came with a warning: we must remember that all of our blessings, whether received as an inheritance for which we did nothing or received through our own labor, are ultimately gifts from the heavenly Father: "It is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth" (Deut. 8:18).

Work is out of fashion with a lot of people. When I was in college, it was hard to find replacements for my job when I would go away for a weekend. I couldn’t find too many guys who wanted to earn some spending money by vacuuming carpets and cleaning bathrooms. It wasn’t glorious, but it was honorable.

God honors what is honorable. He honors men and women who will work hard to support their families. Hard work reflects well on one’s character. Refusal to work reflects poorly on one’s quality of life and brings criticism from the Lord: "If a man will not work, he shall not eat . . . such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and earn the bread they eat" (2 Thess. 3:10– 12).

So get busy so you won’t have to do yesterday’s work! Make good use of the daylight! Put diligent hands to the plow and overflow with thanks to God for blessing you with the ability to work. Use your blessings to his glory.

Warren Baldwin

Monday, June 8, 2009



A couple of years ago A. J. Jacobs set a commendable goal: he was going to dedicate an entire year to live biblically.

A. J. is Jewish and was raised as a secular Jew. So, he didn’t know many of the stories, the deep principles or the ethics of the Bible. He was going to study them and live them as best he could for a year.

Trying to following biblical custom A. J. wore white clothes and didn’t cut his beard. His appearance garnered quite a bit of attention.

His experiment required some significant behavioral changes for him. A. J. said he was particularly susceptible to gossip, lying and coveting, so addressing these issues in his life was a challenge.

Forgiveness was a big issue, too. In an interview with Leadership (Winter, 2008, p.17) magazine A. J. said, "Paul says that love does not keep score. I disobeyed this literally because, before my year, I had been keeping score of my wife’s arguments with me. Any time I would win an argument or she would make a mistake, I’d always jot those down ... in a little file so that I could remember them. The Bible taught me to get rid of that. I showed my wife the list, and she just laughed at me. Her response was amusement mixed with pity that I would even need to keep such a list."

A. J. was a workaholic, so the biblical teaching on Sabbath rest was a challenge for him, too. "The Sabbath is a great thing," he said, "because the Bible is saying you can’t work. You can’t check e-mail. You have to spend the day with your family. It’s a real smell-the-roses type of day. I found it to be a day for joy, for just really reconnecting with my life and realizing that work is not everything. I loved it, but it was a huge struggle."

A big lesson A. J. learned with his experiment is how much he sinned. He said, "That was a little disturbing, but once you start to pay attention to the amount that you lie and gossip and covet and even steal - I was taken aback and that was a real eye-opener. I don’t steal cars, but even something like taking three straws at Starbucks when you only need one, that could be considered stealing. I became very aware of taking other people’s things without asking."

This man’s story impressed me. He was not religious before undertaking this experiment. In fact, he says he started out as an agnostic, and still isn’t totally convinced of the existence of God. But, he had periods when he believed, and still holds value in the idea of the sacred. Here is what he said, "I believe there is something very important about the idea of sacredness: prayer can be sacred, the Sabbath can be sacred, family is sacred, rituals are sacred. That was a huge change in perspective for me." Sounds like A. J. is moving toward belief.

He hasn’t converted to Christianity yet, but A. J. did say, "I never did make the leap of faith to accept Jesus as my Savior. As I read the New Testament, I more tried to live by his ethical teachings, which did change my life."

I am impressed that this man who grew up in a secular environment and was an agnostic dedicated a year to living consciously, purposely and intensely as a man of God. He disciplined his thoughts, he managed his mouth, and he scrutinized his intentions in accord with the Bible. If it pricked his conscience to take more than one straw because it didn’t seem totally honest, he would only take one. And he said the experience changed his life.

For those of us who do profess Christ, would it change our lives to live consciously, purposely and intensely as the people of God in every aspect of our lives?

Warren Baldwin

Thursday, June 4, 2009

An Encouraging Word


"An anxious heart weighs a man down, but a kind word cheers him up." Proverbs 12:25

Anxiety is a form of fear, fear of failure, fear of not having done well enough, fear of not being good enough.

Christians often experience anxiety over their salvation. "Have I done what God has commanded? Am I living in his grace? Has he forgiven all of my sins, even ones I have forgotten and haven’t named to him? Am I saved? If I died today, would I lose my soul, or would I be in heaven?"

You can get a sense of the anxiety Christians experience by asking them if they are saved. Ask them if they would go to heaven if they died today. Usually the answer is something like, "I hope so." In that lack of certainty anxiety is born. Fear.

Not all of our fears are as deep and theologically oriented as questions of salvation. Many of our anxious thoughts are about things like the ball game, our first date, making enough money to pay the bills. These are all important issues, but certainly not of the caliber of fears about heaven or hell.

Whether our fear is about something relatively trite, like if we’ll score a basket in the game, or extremely significant, like if we are going to heaven, our fears are very real to us and very important.

Solomon understood that. He understood that "An anxious heart weighs a man down ..." An anxious heart robs us of energy during the day and it keeps us up at night. It disrupts our focus and disturbs our peace. An anxious heart is not pleasant.

Time and experience teaches us that if we look at our worries in context and think far enough ahead, we can work ourselves out of our anxiety. Most of what we worry about won’t come to pass.

But there is another source of comfort to us when we are anxious: the presence of an encouraging person. "An anxious heart weighs a man down, but a kind word cheers him up."

Some people are blessed with insight into another’s heart and concerns. They seem able to read the signs of someone’s distress, and they have the heart to relieve them of that discomfort. They speak words that lift the spirits and enliven the heart. These people are encouragers. So important is their work that the Holy Spirit has actually gifted them with the ability to encourage others (Romans 12:8).

Why don’t we see more people with this gift? Why don’t we exercise it more ourselves? Maybe our own hearts won’t allow us. Charles Swindoll writes, "There are those who seem to be waiting for the first opportunity to confront. Suspicious by nature and negative in style, they are determined to find any flaw, failure, or subtle weakness in your life, and to point it out. There may be twenty things they could affirm; instead they have one main goal, to make sure you never forget your weaknesses. Grace killers are big on the shoulds and oughts in their advice. Instead of praising, they pounce!" (Grace Awakening, Dallas: Word, 1990, p.62).

There are those who look for the fault and the failure. But thank God for the gracious man or woman who, having received grace from God for their own shortcomings, are willing to dispense with some of that grace to their anxious friends and neighbors. They have found an important key to a peaceful heart: Grace received and grace shared helps to dispel the fear from an anxious heart.

Warren Baldwin
From "Roaring Lions, Cracking Rocks and other Gems from Proverbs."