Wednesday, December 29, 2010

I Do It ... You Do It: Thoughts on Mentoring

Thoughts on Mentoring

"See how I hold the bat straight up? Do you know why I do that?" the coach asked. "Because the bat is lighter when held straight up. Less surface for gravity to pull on."

"Hold your bat back like I am. As the pitcher throws the ball, respond with your body the way mine does. Pivot your front foot, twist your hips and shoulders, bring your arms around. If you decide you like the pitch, bring the bat around with you. If not, hold up. Understand?"

We didn’t. We were a bunch of eight year olds being drilled in the art of batting. And the coach, my dad, was tasked with making sure we had some idea of what we were doing.

But, would that be enough? Is it ever enough to just tell someone, "Clean your room. Don’t do drugs, alcohol or sex. Make sure you do well in school. Treat a girl right. Drive carefully. Make sure the boys respect you."

We might think that just verbalizing these instructions is enough, but do any of us catch on to abstract concepts or even concrete behaviors that easily? Don’t we need someone to go beyond the verbal instructions to show us what the ideas look like or how the behaviors are performed?

My dad taught us in his batting clinic. But, he did more. He showed us. "Hold the bat like this." John Maxwell identifies four biblical steps to training someone. The steps are:

I do it. Before anyone can teach they must first be proficient themselves. Proficiency is developed by faithful and careful performance over time.

I do it - and you watch. The teacher or coach instructs and performs the deed as the students watch, hoping they catch as many of the details as possible. An experienced teacher or coach knows that not much is going to be caught or understood by the students, so they move to the next step.

You do it - and I watch. The teacher and student now exchange roles, with the student performing the desired action. It may not go very well at first. That is why the instructor is still present, correcting, teaching, guiding and demonstrating again how to perform the task. There is still one more step.

You do it. As the student gains proficiency, he is now ready to be entrusted with the job. He has been trained and mentored to perform at a higher level, all under the caring and watchful eyes of the mentor. (John Maxwell, Mentoring 101, p.17)

After steps one and two in the batting clinic, dad moved to step three, You do - and I watch. He gave each of us a bat to perform the various exercises he demonstrated - holding it upright and straight out to experience the difference in weight; holding it behind us in a readied stance; swinging. After spending most of one practice session on these basic drills, dad moved us to step four, You do it. We batted. The rest of the season we continued to receive mentoring.

Maxwell says, "In all the years I’ve been equipping and developing others, I’ve never found a better way to do it than this." (P.18) The Bible says, "The things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others" (2 Timothy 2:2). That is mentoring.

"Am I doing this right?" (Ashley Sisk Photography)

These four steps apply not only to a batting clinic or to Paul preparing Timothy to minister. They apply to the issues and concerns in our home, family and spiritual life. To a child keeping his room clean. To a teenager keeping his body free from addictive chemicals. To a boy or girl dating carefully. To a student doing well in school. You set the example. Then teach and show them what the idea looks like. Then entrust them with restricted levels of freedom to perform how you expect, while providing oversight. If they abuse the freedom, reel them back in for more instruction, with correction and discipline. Then, they move out to perform on their own.

This year, is there someone in our lives - a child, friend, co-worker, or neighbor - that we can mentor in the ways of spiritual living and godly perspective?

Warren Baldwin

Sunday, December 12, 2010



The engagement period is exciting for a young couple. It should be. After dating and falling in love, the couple is now seriously envisioning a future together and are making concrete plans for it. The engagement period signals to the world that this couple is committed to a lifetime together.

There is an element of ecstacy during the engagement as the man and woman draws even closer together. Intimacy develops naturally and deeply as the couple continues to learn about each other, talk about their love, plan the big day, and dream about their future. The world seems like a wonderful place when you are engaged to the person of your dreams and are about to take that joyful step into committed and intimate connection.

Participate Together

There are a few things couples can keep in mind during the engagement to make this transition period to the wedding be meaningful and bonding. One, be aware that while the engagement period is exciting, it can also be a time of stress, especially for the bride, as she plans the wedding. Guys usually get out easy on this, much of our contribution being, "Yup, oh yeah, that’s nice, sure, whatever you say."

It doesn’t seem fair, does it? But as most of us know, men are not as concerned about matching plates and linens, dresses and suits, and the host of other details that are planned for the wedding during the engagement. But, guys should be aware that it is important for the bride, so we shouldn’t discourage her attempts to make the wedding as nice as it can be. This is a time for us to participate in something meaningful with our future bride.

For me, this participation was shopping with Cheryl for the cake knife. I didn’t know people shopped for cake knives! The first store we went to had a nice knife and Cheryl said, "I like this one." I said, "Good, let’s get it." She said, "No, we have to go look at some other stores first." So we did. Several stores. And I don’t remember for sure, but I’m certain that while we were there we also looked at other things as well. Then Cheryl said, "Ok, let’s go back and get the knife"

"Which one?" I asked.

"The knife at the first store."

"Why didn’t we just get it when we were there the first time? We did all this other shopping for nothing," I said.

"No," Cheryl corrected me, "We had to go to all the other stores to make sure the first one is really the one we wanted."

"Well, I was sure."

"Maybe so, but I wasn’t."

Boy, I had a lot to learn. One of the things I had to learn was that marriage is sharing of hearts and activities. It is a participation in the life of the other person, even shopping for knives. The engagement is a good time to learn that.

Planning Your Future

Secondly, the engagement is a time to seriously plan your future together. There are several very important things to discuss. Having kids, for example. You might want to have five but your finance only one, or even none. That is a good thing to find out and discuss now! I wanted four kids and Cheryl wanted two. We discussed that during our engagement and settled on three (and then I wish I had said six). We began having our children at the same time some of our friends did. In one family, the wife wanted two or more kids but the husband only one. She expressed her frustration with us and asked what we were going to do. I said we talked about that before we married and plan on having two more. "You talked about that before you were married?" she asked, incredulously.

Related to having kids is having some serious discussion about raising the kids. What are your styles of discipline? Will you warn a child once if he misbehaves and then administer some form of correction, or will you warn him numerous times? Will one of you stay home to raise the children, or will you seek daycare? These are things to know before the children begin to arrive, and the engagement period is the optimum time.

Other issues to discuss are relationships with in-laws, relationships with friends (be aware that your fiancé may not share your warm feelings toward your life-long best friend) and where/how to spend the holidays. You may not know at this point how you will handle some of the issues or situations, but at least you have eliminated some painful surprises later on.

Exercise Restraint

Thirdly, during the engagement you are committed to getting married, but you still are not married. This has important spiritual and moral implications. Because they are going to get married, it is so easy for engaged couples to begin acting as if they are married. And in some things, that is good and shows wise planning. Making joint purchases of furniture, getting the paper work to change the wife’s last name, making arrangements with banks about joint accounts and other details is good.

In other ways, though, acting as if you are married before you actually are can be a problem. During the dating years showing affection is exhilarating, even when shown with great restraint. It is a taste of what the full measure of romantic involvement will be like the night of the "I do" and of the days to follow. That anticipation can be difficult to contain during the months leading to the wedding. "Since we are going to get married anyway, can’t we go a little farther than we normally do in showing affection?" is a normal question for engaged couples. Emotional, psychological and even spiritual restraints can melt away in the warm embrace of the one you are going to marry in only 37 more days. But those 37 days can seem like 37 years at that moment.

Sadly, I’ve seen a few young couples reason, "We are going to get married soon anyway," and engage in levels of sexual behavior they previously resisted. In some cases, and for a variety of reasons, they didn’t follow through with the wedding plans. Now, here is a young man and young woman who had saved themselves for 22 years wracked with regret because they didn’t wait a little longer.

I encourage engaged couples to continue to exercise the same discipline during the engagement that they did during their dating years. Becoming sexual involved now just complicates the relationship, creates feelings of guilt and regret, and robs the wedding night of much of its allure. Wait.

The engagement period is an exciting time. But, it is also a time for some important relationship and character issues to develop and grow. It is a time for wholesome participation in the other’s life, for planning life issues, and for exercising a rugged discipline of the mind and body to keep the relationship pure. Hebrews 13:4 is as appropriate for the engagement as it was for the time of dating: "Keep the marriage bed pure." To help encourage this purity, I encourage young couples to have a lengthy dating period, but a very short engagement.

My hope for the couples who read this is that your engagement will be fun, joyous, pure, and an exciting taste of what your years together will be like as marriage partners. God bless.

Warren Baldwin

Note: This article appeard in three segements on my other blog, Family Fountain. I am reposting it here in one article for ease of coping or sending. Feel free to share this article with anyone.

Also, a special thanks to Amy Free Photography for permission to use these pictures.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Suffering as Punishment #2


This series of lessons is about SUFFERING. The title is WHEN GOD ACTS. I chose this as the title because sometimes the acts of God result in suffering. In our suffering. And there are three particular purposes God has when he allows suffering to be visited upon us. This week we look at PUNISHMENT.

Most moms and dads have rules for their house and home. If they don’t they need to! "Don’t talk with your mouth full." "Don’t hit your little brother." And most of us use means to enforce the rules when the little ones think they can break them. "I will tell you one time and one time only. After that you are in trouble." I knew one lady that would count to 10. The kids always waited until she got to 9. Why waste all that time? Just count to 1. And they better be moving!

Parents, this really is important: If we do not ENFORCE the rules, our children will never respect us. They will never take us seriously. Not when they are little and not when they are grown. Also, if we do not PUNISH them when they break the rules, they will forever think that rules are made for other people, but they can do whatever they want.

Rules let us know how we are supposed to live. Punishment lets us know that the rules are for real. That they are not to be ignored or laughed at. A firm spanking administered immediately after a little one willfully breaks a rule teaches a lesson learned for a lifetime.

If punishment works for earthly mothers and fathers who are trying to train their children, doesn’t it make sense that it would also work for the heavenly father who is trying to train his children? Us? And if punishment causes pain in our children, then we can expect it to cause pain in God’s children.

Punishment actually serves two purposes.

One, punishment involves retribution. That is, the idea of pay back. You did something wrong and hurtful, so now something hurtful will be done to you. Rom. 3:23 - 6:23. Bible says we have lived lives of sin. And that deserves only one thing - punishment. Sometimes the punishment or pain doesn’t just come at the end of this life. Sometimes it comes now. If you are committing armed robbery, and you die in a shoot-out with the police, that is punishment. Wouldn’t you call that "just desserts"?

Secondly, punishment involve deterrence. When an evil person is punished, that serves as a warning to the rest of us. Hopefully, the death of the armed robber would deter some others from committing the same sin.

Ultimately, however, punishment is about retribution. Getting our just desserts. God giving us what we deserve. Suffering and death - because of a world of sin. That is what hell is all about. Rev. 21:8. The ultimate suffering. That is what we have earned. Psalm 7:11. Hell is the wrath of God. And only when we accept that can grace truly mean anything to us.

The "ultimate" punishment, hell, is reserved for the end of the world. But sometimes punishment can come during this life as well. Amos 4:2-13 illustrates how God works in the lives of people to punish them for sin. And to deter them from sinning any more. There are 3 points.

One, the sinful behavior of people draws out the urge in God to punish.
In Amos 4 the people are acting like Adam and Eve - they are doing their own thing. They are walking away from God.
- Instead of worshiping in Jerusalem they are going to Bethel and Gilgal.
- They oppressed the poor and needy (2:6-7; 4:1; 5:10-13; 6:1-7).
So, God determines to punish these people. They are stubborn and arrogant. They care only for themselves. They are like Adam and Eve, doing what THEY want.

Two, God punishes the people to DETER them from further sin.
- He gave them a shortage of food and empty stomachs (v.6)
- He stopped the rain so the crops would burn up (v.7)
- The people were weary from thirst (v.8)
- Blight, mildew and locusts destroyed their crops (v.9)
- The young men God allowed to die in battle and by the plague (v.10)

Why did God do all of this? These are horrible acts! These punishments were not just retribution - punishment for doing evil. If it was, God could have caused even greater death. Instead, it was punishment for deterrence. God hoped this little bit of punishment would cause people to say, "Hey, we don’t want to sin any more. We are going to follow the ways of the Lord."

The punishment was intended to restore Israel’s desire to follow the Lord. We know that is the case from a refrain God repeats FIVE TIMES. 4:6,8,9,10,11.

Here are God’s warnings: 5:4b, "Seek me and live." 5:14ba, "Seek good, not evil, that you may live." Then, Amos promised, "The Lord God Almighty will be with you, just as you say he is." 5:14b. But the people wouldn’t listen. So, now, God moves into another phase of punishment.

Three, God punishes the people, not as a deterrence anymore, but to give them their ‘just desserts.’ This is retribution, or retributive justice - getting what you deserve. Amos 4:12c - "Prepare to meet your God, O Israel." And this will not be a pleasant meeting.

God has done everything he could to call his people back to him.
- He has sent prophets to preach.
- He has sent hunger and thirst, destroyed crops and a few deaths.
But nothing would move the people. Punishment did not warn them. "If you do that again I’ll spank you again." Nothing worked.

So now the punishment would become more severe. And it wouldn’t be a warning.
It would be "getting what you deserve with no hope of reversing it."
Here is what it will be like when they meet the Lord: 5:16-17; 27; 6:14; 9:8.
The Assyrians, a hostile nation, will conquer Israel. They will kill many of the Israelites, and take many away into captivity. And the northern kingdom would never again exist.

That is punishment. And God did it. In 1 Chron. 5:26 says God "stirred up the spirit of Pul king of Assyria." Isaiah described Assyria as God’s "club of wrath" (Isaiah 9:11). God punished Israel.

"God is patient with sinful people, but his patience ultimately wears thin with the arrogant. Eventually their cup becomes full and God destroys them." (J.M. Hicks, Yet Will I Trust Him, p.129)
- God did it in the flood
- He did it at Babel
- He did it to Israel
- Later, he does it to Judah
- Later still he does it to Rome.
Can we expect that God is stll doing it? Could some of the suffering we experience now be our "just desserts" for sinful living?

Israel was conquered by an oppressive foreign country. Her citizens were killed. The healthy teenage boys and girls were taken as slaves to a foreign country. 2 Kings 17:22,23. Just as Amos predicted.

That is a horrible story!!

But there is a glimmer of hope. Amos 9:14: "Yet I will not totally destroy the house of Jacob." God will keep a remnant for himself. Why? He wants fellowship with us.

I believe everything God does is about fellowship with us.
1) God created us for fellowship
2) God sent Abraham to call people back to him. For fellowship.
3) God sent Jesus to call people back to him. For fellowship
4) God sends punishment to call people back to him. For fellowship

I can not say that suffering in one’s life is ALWAYS punishment. But I think I can say that if there is suffering in your life, God is hoping you will see it as a sign to come back to him if that is what you must do. And if you haven’t left him and you suffer ... well, that is our next lesson.

God wanted fellowship with Israel. And God wants fellowship with you. Don’t, like Israel, move arrogantly away. Come to him in humility.

(Many of the ideas for this series come from the book Yet Will I Trust Him by John Mark Hicks)

Warren Baldwin

Friday, November 26, 2010

Why Do We Suffer? #1


Things occasionally happen that cause us to ask, "Why? Why did that happen? Why did someone I love get ill? Why didn’t I get the job? Why do good people die young?" Stories like what happened to Job: Job 1:18-20. How do you explain that?

It helps me to remember that we live in a fallen world. Things are not the way God intended them. If you read the first two chapters of Genesis, you will see that God intended things to be good. There was clean water, fresh food, happy people, loving relationships and no illness.

But sadly, all that changed when man decided to go his own way. You know the story of God putting two trees in the Garden of Eden: the Tree of Life and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Man was allowed to eat of the Tree of Life, but not of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. But man ate of that tree, anyway.

The decision man had was not between this fruit or that fruit. No, the decision was over communion with God or separation from him. Would man choose communion with God or life independent of him? That was the issue. A friend of mine wrote, "The trees are not about fruit. They are about fellowship. They are about life and death, a choice between life with God or life apart from God. The trees symbolize that choice, and the choice expresses what the heart truly desires." (J. M. Hicks, Yet Will I Trust Him, p. 67).

And what man truly desired was life apart from God. So in the Garden man left God. Yes, God drove man from the Garden, depriving him of eating from the Tree of Life (Gen. 3:24). After that man would experience death (Gen. 2:17). But really, even before man left the Garden, man had left God. He left when he made the decision to eat of the wrong tree and live independently of God.

Man lost three things when he sinned in the Garden, three things that continue to plague us today. Three things that lead to some of the horrible experiences in our lives that cause us to ask, "Why?"

One, man lost his innocence. Gen. 3:7 says that the man and woman realized they were naked, and they made clothes for themselves. Prior to eating of the fruit, man and woman had been comfortable with themselves. Now they were not. They became "self aware." They became selfish.

So, two, man lost his relationship with others. Gen. 3:14. Adam blamed Eve for the fruit incident. Eve blamed the serpent. Oh, Adam was still married to Eve. They would still have their children. Even now we have marriage, children, friends. But the innocence is gone. Relationships do not occur with the ease and grace they used to. We battle selfishness and envy. Honesty in relationships doesn’t come as easily as it did before the fall. Just as Adam and Eve used fig leaves to hide their bodies, we use lying and deceitfulness to cover other aspects of our lives.

Three, man lost his standing with God. Gen. 3:8. At one time man enjoyed the actual physical presence of God. Did Adam and Eve see God face to face? I don’t know. But God was certainly manifested in some physical way so that the first couple could hear him, talk to him. That is gone now. We can still converse with God through prayer. We can still read his Word. But wouldn’t it be nice to have God over for a visit and ask him some questions that he would answer personally, audibly? Adam and Eve used to have that. But they chose independence over fellowship. (Points 1-3 are from Willis, Genesis).

And when Adam and Eve chose independence, going their own way, doing their own thing, over fellowship, three important things changed: their relationship with themselves, with others, and with God.

But God still loved, still LOVES, man. And God has done a number of things recorded in the Bible to call man back to him. God called a man named Abraham. Gen. 12:1-3. God would bless Abraham and through Abraham bless others. God hoped this would open the eyes of people to God so that they would seek communion with God again. God sent Jesus. The hope for Jesus was that he would bring together all the lost sheep of the house of Israel, and even those who were not of Israel. Rev. 3:10. God used these two men to call people back into fellowship with him.

I believe that everything that God has done and is recorded in the Bible has been with the view of calling people back to him. God wants us in relationship with him. "This was God’s intention in creation, and it is his intention in re-creation/redemption. God’s goal is an eschatological community among whom he can dwell as God and they as his people. He seeks fellowship with a people who will share his holy triune communion in a new heaven and new earth." (Hicks, p.119).

God has used two men to call us back to him: Abraham and Jesus. But God has used other means to call us back to him as well: the tough situations in life that make us ask, "Why?"

In a fallen world, people are frequently unhappy. Sad things happen. People get ill, or they grow old and die. People argue and fight. Friendships dissolve, sometimes shatter. How can we live like that? So people try their hand, often independently of God, at ways of being happy. We try to be happy through our work. We marry someone who we hope will make us happy. If we still are not happy, we hope kids will be the secret to happiness. "We are restless until we are happy, and we are unhappy because we are restless." (Hicks, p.119)

Some good news is that God wants us to be happy, too. But God’s view of happiness is not the same as ours. Ours tends to be self-absorbed. We are selfish in our pursuit of happiness. But eventually we must accept that happiness depends upon something beyond ourselves. Real happiness is to be found in God. And God’s desire for our happiness is that we live in his presence. Forever.

Eccl. 3:11 says that God has set eternity in our hearts. I think that means that God gives us a sense of restlessness so that we WON’T be too happy here. If we are too happy here, would we look forward to God? So God’s intent is not to make everyone happy THE WAY WE WANT to be happy, but to make us look to him. And one way God does that is by allowing affliction to come into our lives. AFFLICTION. The sad things that make us ask, "Why God? How could you allow these things to happen?" The answer is because God wants us to look to him.

Lets look at two verses in Psalm 119:
V.67 - "Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I obey your word."
V.71 - "It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees."
What was it about affliction that brought David back to obeying God’s Word? Somehow the affliction in his life made David realize that he needed God. And it broke him from his independence and brought him back to communion and fellowship.

And I wonder if the terrible tragedies of life that make us ask, "Why," don’t still happen for the very same purpose? To bring us back home into fellowship with the Father? Matt. 11:28-30.

We lost three wonderful relationships years ago. Our relationships with ourselves, with others and with God. And everything God has done since then has been to try and bring us back home ... to Him.

Future lessons:

Warren Baldwin

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Crafting Words

Crafting Words

The lips of the righteous know what is fitting, but the mouth of the wicked only what is perverse. Proverbs 10:32

The righteous know what is fitting because they know three important things: the heart of God, the heart of others, and their own hearts.

"The lips of the righteous know what is fitting" refers to speech. Fitting speech refers to words that are spoken at the right time to the right people in the right circumstances. Someone who handles words this appropriately are artists and craftsmen.

My girls were excited when I arrived at home with a bunk bed kit for their room. But excitement turned to disappointment when several re-cut pieces didn’t fit and pre-drilled holes for the screws didn’t line up. Someone in the factory was careless with their measurements, cutting and drilling.

It is too easy for our speech to be as haphazard and ill-fitting as the pieces of the bunk bed. For the wicked, speech is perverse, meaning it violates moral and societal standards. Perverse means to "turn upside down." It is immoral, offensive, and inappropriate. Children exposed to this kind of speech grow up without any internal apparatus for tuning in to spiritual thoughts or behavior.

But inappropriate speech doesn’t just emanate from those with impure and wicked hearts, nor is it limited to that which is immoral or offensive. Inappropriate speech is that which fails to take into account people’s feelings and situations.

One year after losing their oldest son, friends of ours were asked by a lady at church, "Are you still grieving for him? It’s been a year." She has no idea how she cut the heart of our friends. It wasn’t wickedness that prompted her cruel comment; it was simply an unsympathetic and undiscerning heart. Because she didn’t know the heart of God, the heart of her friends, or even her own heart, she spoke words that tore the spirit.

The heart of God is compassionate, gracious, slow to anger, loving and faithful (Exodus 34:6). To know his heart is to walk in his kindness, showing compassion to the hurt and suffering. Someone attuned to the heart of God would never so callously dismiss the constant ache felt by grieving parents. God knows the pain of losing a son.

Secondly, to know the heart of another person is to place ourselves in the drama of their lives and feel, as best we can imagine, the joys and hurts they experience. Though our children may be alive and healthy, can we imagine what it would be like to visit our own child in the cancer ward? Can we stretch to think what it must be like to make the funeral arrangements for our son or daughter? Such thoughts are not pleasant, but neither are they morbid if the focus of such thoughts is to enter into another’s suffering and experience life with them.

Finally, to be able to speak words that are fitting, we must know our own hearts. "The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?"(Jeremiah 17:9). We all have an amazing capacity for thoughts, speech and behavior that is inconsiderate, selfish, and even evil. We can become so absorbed in our own lives that we become blind or insensitive to the circumstances of others. For those of us who have never experienced loss, grieving for a year may seem like sufficient time to calm the ache of a heart. But have we really put ourselves in the place of those parents who still see the empty chair at dinner time?

It takes a craftsman who knows wood to fashion furniture so that the pieces fit and are aesthetically pleasing. Likewise, it takes a craftsman who knows hearts to fashion words so that they fit the setting, offering peace, comfort or even rebuke, as the situation may demand. To become a craftsmen of words, studying hearts, beginning with the heart that yearns to make us righteous: God’s.

Warren Baldwin

Friday, October 15, 2010

Ministry to Youth

Dan Stockstill, Ph.D., Harding University

Note: The following notes are from three sessions on youth ministry that Dr. Dan Stockstill presented at the Harding University lectures, Sept. 2010. I am presenting the notes here as I wrote them down - in a very simple, outline form. I hope they are useful. And thanks to Dan for his great class.


The challenge for teens - they don’t know how to grow up. What is adulthood? There is no definition. It is subjective. It is not discussed in detail in scripture. It is an assumption.

Many churches see the ministry of the youth minister ending at high school graduation. But, where do they go next? Many churches do not have a college ministry, and they may not feel like they fit in the adult class or programs.

When does a teen become an adult? "I am an adult when I say I am an adult." We may say they are adults when they are ready to accept the privileges and responsibilities of this life stage.

Alvin Toffler -

Historical periods -

1) Agrarian Wave - 3,000 BC to 1700 AD
The male became an adult when he could run the farm
The female became an adult when she could bear offspring and manage the home.
Adulthood was achieved when one could function as an adult.

2) Industrial Wave - 1700 AD to 1950
Adulthood - when you could get a job.

The Agrarian model was communal - running a farm contributed to the larger clan.
The Industrial model is individualistic - stand apart from others.

In the Industrial model you buy a house, but not on the farm. You have separate living arrangements. Also, there was a move from barter to money.

3) Informational Age - 1950 - 1990
Information is key.
Education now emphasized. The GI Bill gave a new perspective on what it meant to be an adult. A watershed event was mandatory high school education (1875?). In 1904 the word adolescence entered the English language.

In the Agrarian model everyone had to farm. The value was in having children, because then you had other hands to help on the farm.

The Industrial era saw the development of an upper elite. The elite had education, leisure and time to think. These privileges were for only a small percentage.

In the Information age, the longer you go to school, the longer you put off adulthood.
High school - college - graduate school.

In the Agrarian model you had to toil or perish.

4) Digital Wave 1990 -
Industrial wave - accumulate information
Informational wave - control of information
Digital wave - information is for everybody.

What does it mean to be an adult?
When they want to be.

How do we help them?
Extend family support until they can make decisions.

In our culture what defines adulthood? Independent decision making, responsibility, managing finances, relationships (how they are formed, maintained, kept)

The Generations
GI Generation
Buster (Gen X) - in the middle
Millenials - about age 30
Digital - about 8 years

The Industrial approach no longer applies.
This model segregates and separates; divides and conquers.
When used in churches this segregates and separates by age, grade, gender, etc.
Smaller churches group a wider array of ages by necessity.

A mission - reach the ones that don’t fit.

Our definition of adulthood affects how we interact and what we expect.
Ministry that segregates creates competition.
Isolation by generation creates generational competition over resources, time and recognition.

System - when one part suffers it all suffers. It takes a village to create a community where it is safe for a child to become an adult. Loving, nurturing. This environment doesn’t exist elsewhere.

The model of youth ministry for the last 40 years has been to keep good kids, good kids. We have had activities, trips for them. The unspoken message is that kids go on mission trips, to youth rallies, etc., but adults don’t - "This is what I do as a teenager, but it is not what adults do."

Teens go on mission and fun trips. But, from about age 15 to 25 many of them become inactive. During the years 25 to 35 many become active again, but often in other religious groups. We must build intergenerational bridges.

Questions of Adolescents (but, is really true of our whole life):
1) Whom Am I?
2) What is my community?
3) What is my purpose?
When we are young we ask these questions in the security of the home.

Congregations must ask these questions of themselves, too. Must ask about our identity, community, and purpose in ministry.

Interaction - invite people to mission trips who are not part of the teen generation.
Kids want to be respected.
What do we owe the kids at church? Mark 3 - Jesus asked, "Who is my family?"

How divisive can we make our body? How do we do outreach to connect with those not in our church? What we win them with is what we win them to.

The pursuit of a youth group is not necessarily the pursuit of a youth group in Christ. If a youth group is valued only in the box - class, devotional, leading singing - it is not big enough for a kids to give their lives to. Christianity is not defined by the box.

We need to concentrate on what goes on outside the box - ministry to the world. That will make what goes on inside the box more relevant.

Who is weak? Weary? Wounded? What are we going to do about it? If we focus on the box - our own little group - that is self-serving. It promotes narcissistic values. The end result of narcissism is self loathing. They end up hating what they should love.

Images of church/worship:
1) Water station in a marathon race. Refreshing.
2) Family meal - talk about your day. But you don’t spend your whole life at the table.

Adulthood is not the certainty of a final decision, but the certainty of direction.

Are we giving teens tools to
1) Handle their questions
2) Place them in community?

The single most significant cry of teens over the last 60 years has been "I’m lonely!"

Most teens feel like an island in the sea. If they feel that way when they graduate high school, they will not be an island in the sea, but a boat in the sea, blown about. (Who knows to what they will be tossed and finally feel connected?)
Stuff today - like plastic. Not quite as good as the original stuff, like Facebook.

Three key questions of pre-adults
1) Who Am I
- Giftedness
- Becoming
- Christ’s

2) Community
- God
- Authority
- Same gender
- Opposite gender

3) Pursuit of purpose
- Mission
- Sustaining
- Equipping

How you define adulthood has a lot to do with how these questions are answered.

Be patient and persistent
Are challenging a cultural norm
Will take extended energy before change that norm.

How do we help young people become adults as God intended them to be?
Cultural norm - minor/adult. Age limit. Not always valid.
An adult who is weak or immature may need more legal protection than a minor.

The church must encourage and equip.

1) Giftedness.
The age of the individual and connection to the body may not be otherwise where we expect them to be.
Giftedness is not an arrival but a process.
Grow like Jesus. In one year, will we be more like him?
Governing question - what can I do to please him?

2) Becoming
Purity, community, sin

3) Christ’s
Be more serious in how we do church.
It is Christ, first, last, always.

1) Authority
All of our authority is reflective, none inherent.
We all answer to God.

2) Relationships
Same and opposite gender.

1) Mission - pursuing what God has left us to do.

2) Sustaining - supporting those doing mission - uphold their hands.

3) Equipping - getting people ready.

Generational segregation leads to generational competition. How overcome?
1) Listen to one another’s stories, so they become our stories.
Kids should hear stories of grandparents - dating etc.
Teens would be amazed at struggles of grandparents.

Find ways for table time to be table time.
This is more important than the number of songs and efficiency of delivering.
Hurts, helps, challenges that brothers and sisters have faced, are facing, will face.
Share stories. Start with our stories.
[Blog article - Granparents - tell your stories to your grandkids]

2) Organize the learning of life skills.
Find projects to work together. Not church supporting teens doing it, but church doingit together as a group - young and old. Can be highway cleanup.
When people work together, they begin to work together.

Think about intentional bridging.
Mix and match instead of segregating.
Parents and teens open Word together.
Family devotions - can’t jump start. Equip.
Everyone in congregation has something to do. Ex. A 4 year old can pick up bulletins lying in pews.

Tom Sawyer - getting people to do job. How?
1) Make it appear it takes someone special to do it.
2) They invest themselves to make it work.
3) He projects an image they buy into.


Do not be negative, be positive.
Not a public speech, but a personal connection. "I need help with this."
Thousands heard Jesus, 120 (or 12) changed the world.

Mentor. Mark 3:14. To be with him, 3:6
Try to get adults to help teens.
Get teens to help adults. Prayer.
(Tutor sewing. Make bags for single moms)
Find something for everyone. Good at counting? Count kids on a trip :)

God’s grace is without limit, his gifts are without limit.
Gifts - find someone who is good at finding people’s gifts.

Things we can do immediately
1) Integrate teen and parents of teens. Small groups.
2) "Teen explosion" - break up. Have to sit with someone you normally don’t.

3) Be willing to learn from others. "I want to learn your songs" instead of "I want you to learn my songs."

God sets the orphans and widows in family. (cf. Psalm 68:6)
Mentoring - woman-teen girl; man-teen boy
The only work is to pick a mentor. Do stuff together. Whatever the lady wants to do with the girl, or man with the boy.

On new kids who are destructive to the building - "If we let them abuse our stuff like they abused Jesus, then we are starting to live like Jesus."

Everyone is worth something and Christ paid the cost.

Dan Stockstill


Working from some of the suggestions by Dan, I have begun setting up mentoring relationships in our church between adults and teens. Some of the following materials and ideas are to be shared in a meeting with the mentors before they begin meeting with their mentoree. I’m still working on this, and will make changes/additions as they develop.

For mentoring program:
1) George Smythe article on respecting teens
2) Mentoring purpose statement
3) What mentoring is:
4) Mentoring form
Date _______________________
Nature of visit ___________________________
To commend ______________________________
To be concerned about _____________________________

(3 on a page)

5) Assessment form
Name of Mentor _______________________________________________
Name of Mentoree _____________________________________________
Number of visits _______________________________________________
What were some good things about your visits:

What are some things in the life of your mentoree that we need to encourage (e.g., pursuing their education, work habits, relationships, self-esteem, etc.)

1) All good kids. Not trying to help them overcome criminal orientation (that we know of)
2) Light-hearted, fun. Just trying to get to know them better; connect.
3) Guidelines:
A] Lunch, dessert in your home, attend sporting event together.
B] Talk. Some openers -
How was your day?
What is your favorite sport? What do you like about it?
What is your favorite subject in school? What do you like about it?
Have you thought about going to college? Where?
C] Key off of their answers for further conversation.
Tell part of your story.
If they talk about struggling in school, tell them about a struggle you had in school.
If they are heart-broken over a relationship, tell them about a dating struggle you had.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Baptism and Identification

Matthew 3:13-17

Jesus came to John to be baptized and John was reluctant to do it. "I need to be baptized by you," he said. "And you are coming to me?"

I understand John’s hesitation. John baptized for repentance and the remission of sins (Mark 1:4). Of what sins did Jesus have to repent? What sins did he have to wash away? None. So why be baptized?

John felt confused and unworthy. "I need to be baptized by you!" John is a great guy! He proclaims the Word. He is the forerunner of Jesus. But is he worthy to baptize Jesus? He didn’t think so.

Jesus said: "Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness" (V.15). "It is proper" means God wants it. It is to "fulfill all righteousness" means it is doing God’s will. But why, if Jesus has no sin? In his baptism Jesus is doing something important in relation to his Father and to us.

Jesus is identifying with God and his purpose for life.

God always calls for his people to declare their allegiance to him. "Chose you this day whom you will serve ..." (Joshua 24:15). God gives his people numerous ways to identify with him - the moral laws, ceremonial laws and cleanliness laws. All of these were for his people to tell the culture around them, "We belong to God." Anyone in the gentile nations could look at a faithful Hebrew and say, "They don’t live like us. They live for their God." That is identification.

Jesus’ baptism did that. Jesus was saying, "I belong to God. I humble myself to his will and his ministry for me." It was bold commitment and humble obedience. God responded with lavish praise to his son’s baptism:

"As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased." (16-17).

Humble obedience pleases God whether it is rendered by Jesus or by us.

Jesus is identifying with his people.

In baptism Jesus identified with everyone else who was baptized. "Jesus thereby shows his solidarity with his people in their need."3

Jesus’ ministry was one of humble obedience. He walked among people and bore their struggles. He wept with them, struggled against the religious establishment with them and listened to them. Jesus healed people. He bore their sin on the cross. Jesus also took on the humble, obedient nature of a servant in baptism. He had no sin and no rebellion but he identified with sinners and rebellious people.

To fulfill all righteousness Jesus was baptized. Jesus was the unique son of God, born of a virgin. He was a powerful worker of miracles and the triumphant king. Jesus was also a humble, obedient servant. Jesus’ humility and obedience beckons us. Jesus calls us, even today. "Follow me. I obey the Father. You, too, can obey the Father."

Our baptism.

John baptized people for repentance and remission of sins. Later, Jesus’ baptism would be for this but would include the dispensing of the Holy Spirit (Luke 3:16). Today in baptism we receive the forgiveness of sins and the Holy Spirit. In baptism we experience what Jesus did.

Like Jesus, when we are baptized we identify with God. When Jesus was baptized, the Holy Spirit came upon him. When we are baptized the Holy Spirit comes upon us (Acts 2:38). When Jesus was baptized he was identified as the son of God. When we are baptized we are identified as sons of God (Gal. 3:26,27).

Secondly, when we are baptized we identify ourselves with other followers of God (Acts 2:41; 1 Cor. 12:13). We don’t live the Christian life alone. We identify with other followers and live in community with them.

The Optimist, Rotary and Kiwanis clubs all have initiation rites for new members. The ceremony welcoming new members has nothing to do with the cleansing of sin or recognizing passage from rebellion to humble submission to God. But their initiation ceremony does offer a chance for the new member to identify himself to and with the group. After learning about the club a person may decide, "I want to be a part of this group." The initiation ceremony becomes his or her opportunity to officially identify themselves as a club member.

Members in these clubs receive a pin and new member packet recognizing their status in the club. Jesus’ baptism accomplished that ... and more. Jesus received the accolades of heaven: heaven was torn open, God manifested himself in the form of a dove that descended upon Jesus, and the voice of God spoke affirmingly. Now, all who so desire can have fulfilled in their hearts what Isaiah prayed for years ago: "Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down ..." God has torn open the heavens and he has come down in the form of Jesus, the dove, and the spoken word. The dynamic for this revelation of God is the baptism of Jesus.

I’ve never performed a baptism where the heavens opened, a dove descended, and the authoritative voice of God spoke from on high. But I know from scripture that any baptism today performed as scripture teaches is no less significant in what it offers to our lives: identification with Jesus and his people.


The following story isn’t about baptism, but it is about identification. I think it captures some of the thought of what it means to identify with Christ and others at a deep level. To identify with us, Jesus not only submitted to baptism, he submitted to emptying himself and leaving heaven to dwell for awhile on earth. He deprived himself and suffered for the sake of those he was seeking to redeem. Some of that is captured in the following story.

John Austin is 13 year old living in Hong Kong. Last week he was in a bike accident and received a corneal scratch. His eye bled and he had to go to a top pediatric ophthalmologist. The doctor told John’s parents that the scratch will heal and the blood clots drain. The blurry vision will go away and John will eventually see clearly again. But there is more to the story.

As John was suffering with his painful eye he received a text message from a Japanese girl and classmate of John’s. She wrote,"I know I am not a Christian, but I want you to know that I have been praying for you."

John Austin was thrilled and told his mother, "You know Mom, as bad as this is for me, it would sure be worth it if my friend came to know Christ because of my pain."

I would say this young man knows something about identification with Jesus and his people. He is willing to suffer for the kingdom, like Jesus, and he is willing to suffer for the redemption of others.

I think the Spirit of God must still be saying, "This is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased." Anytime we so identify with God’s purposes and God’s people the heart of the Father is pleased.

(You can read about John Austin's story at Everyday Adventures in Faith).

Warren Baldwin

Friday, October 8, 2010

Two Problems with Forgiveness

Two Problems With Forgiveness
Micah 7:18-20

Read Micah 3:1-5. Where is God? How do we know he is there, especially when evil things are going on as described in Micah 3?

Micah 3 affirms that the way you treat others has removed you from God. If you treat others abusively, you can call God, but will get a busy signal.
V.1 - You will know justice (but not in a way they will like!)
V. 2- You hate the good and love the evil. You tear the skin from off my people
V.3 - You eat the flesh of my people; break their bones. You chop them up like meat in a pot, like flesh in a cauldron

Micah is describing cannibalism. Are they literally cannibals? Probably not. This is likely a reference to how they are abusing people, usually financially. Micah 2:9 says they drive women from their homes; deprive children of their inheritance. We use the term "skinning" people in reference to financial abuse.

But in ch.4 God doesn’t completely give up on people. This describes how life could be if people followed God. Ch.5 offers a prophecy of a king to be born in Bethlehem. Israel is called to be a good force in the world.

What does God expect of us?
Ch. 6 - Summons to court. God goes to court with Israel to see who is right. Israel is found guilty. Ch. 7 - Lament. Micah is waiting on the Lord. And the people need forgiveness.

Two fundamental problems with forgiveness.
1) We confuse our inability to forgive with God’s ability to forgive.
2) We sometimes don’t feel forgiven because we don’t feel good enough to be forgiven.
Feeling forgiven is a major issue in forgiveness.

(Stories of hurt and forgiveness.)

Micah 3:1-2 - If anybody should be forgiven, it is certainly not these people! These people are like cannibals. That is how they are described. But God is bigger then any of our sins. And this chapter is not the last word in Micah.

Micah 7:18b - God delights in being merciful; forgiving. This is a great verse to memorize - God does "not stay angry forever but delights to show mercy."

Seven affirmations about forgiveness: Micah 7:18-20
1) God pardons us. 7:18b
Pardon means "to lift off." God lifts off our sin.

Overview of Leviticus
1] Chs. 1-15 - about worship (sacrifices)
2] Chs. 17-27 (the end) - how to live after forgiven.
3] Ch. 16 - Other chapters revolve around this one.

Ch. 16 is about the Day of Atonement.
Atonement is about forgiveness. Ch.16 is about how their sins are forgiven. Two goats are brought forward. One is sacrificed. Then the sins of the people are place on the other goad. The sins of people are taken off - lifted off - and put on back of the goat. The goat is then taken to the wilderness. V.20-22

2) God forgiveness us. 7:18b
Forgiveness means he passes over transgressions. Remember the plagues on Egypt. Pharaoh’s heart was hard. The most severe plague was death. Blood placed on door post - death passed over. Same terms.

3) God does not stay angry forever. 7:18c
Exodus 32:27-28 - example of the wrath of God. He kills the Israelites with the sword for making and worshiping golden calf. About 3,000 killed.

Exodus 34:6 - the love of God. "The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin." Then, 7b reminds us that God will punish the disobedient and unrepentant. 34:6 - "Slow to anger." Literally translated as "Does not have long nose." Something concrete to explain an abstract concept. The Hebrews believed anger originated in the nose.

4) God delights in showing mercy. 7:18c
Word for mercy is chesed. Means steadfast love (ESV); mercy (NIV). Good translation - loyal.

In Hebrew this word is void of emotion. Has nothing to do with how we feel. How we feel does not matter; not a part of chesed. Chesed is an act of the will. A decision to be with someone. It is an act of God’s will to be loyal to his people; to forgive them.

5) He has compassion on us. 7:19a
Compassion is gentleness. Another concrete word - compassion refers to a woman’s womb. The verb means, "show compassion." The imagery in Hebrew - the way a woman feels about her unborn baby in her womb is how God feels for us.

6) He treads our sins underfoot. 7:19b
It means he stamps sin underneath him.
Ancient practice - soldiers would walk on the corpses of those they killed. Showed complete triumph over their enemies. That is what God does to our sin. He destroys it; stomps on it.

7) God throws our sin into the depths of the sea. 7:19c
Exodus 14 - God parted the Red Sea. When Egyptians tried to cross, were drowned in the depths of the sea. God takes our sins to the deepest part of the ocean and drowns them there.


Here are seven positive affirmations about how God handles sin in the one who is penitent. Seven is a complete number. Means God has done everything to remove our sin from us.

Remember the two fundamental problems with forgiveness.
1) We confuse our inability to forgive with God’s ability to forgive.
2) We sometimes don’t feel forgiven because we don’t feel good enough to be forgiven.
Feeling forgiven is a major issue in forgiveness.

But, we must also remember ...
God forgives, not because we are good enough, but because he is good enough.
1) God’s forgiveness involves forgetting.
2) God’s forgiveness involves grace. God is good enough.

If you are struggling with feeling forgiven, God says, "What you can’t forget I can’t remember. What you are not good enough to do, I am."

What freedom from guilt and shame God gives us!

Note: Dr. Harold Shank of OC presented this lesson at the Kansas Men’s Retreat in September, 2010. These are his notes that I took, with some of my thoughts added in. It was an excellent lesson that I wanted to share with you.

Warren Baldwin

Friday, September 17, 2010

Taking A Pounding

Conversion of Paul
Acts 9:1-19

The Nail

A nail is only useful after it has been pounded on. Before that it is only an item-in-waiting, hidden away in some drawer or a tool box in a garage.

Sometimes we feel like a nail that is being pounded on. Events of life can often beat on us, battering our bodies and emotions. It may be an illness, financial woes, or mistreatment by other people. Why? Why do painful things happen to us?

1) Sometimes it is just life. There is no apparent reason except that "life happens."

2) It may be that we deserve some of the pounding. Some of our own behavior may be coming back to haunt us. Rudeness invites rudeness; lack of saving invites a gaunt retirement; laziness invites hunger.

3) It may be that we are the innocent victim of someone else’s evil. The evil are always looking for opportunities to take and harm. There have always been such people. "Woe to those who devise wickedness and work evil on their beds! When morning dawns, they perform it, because it is in the power of their hand." Micah 2:1

4) And it may be that God is pounding us to break our hard and stubborn hearts.

Paul’s Pharisaic Mission Work

When Paul set out on his mission trip he did so with a clear conscience and the full expectation that he was God’s righteous ambassador. But his heart and mouth was full of "murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples" (Acts 9:1). He was going to purge the synagogue of Damascus. If he found any in the synagogue who were Christians, he was going to take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. There they would stand trial before the Sanhedrin.

This was not Paul’s first "mission work." When the preacher Stephen was killed with stones by angry Jews who rejected Jesus, Paul was there offering his full assistance. He watched over the clothing of the witnesses to Stephen’s death. These witnesses probably removed their outer robes to be better able to cast the stones. Paul approved of this murder (Acts 8:1).

The next we read of Paul is in chapter 9 when he begins his journey to Damascus to persecute Christians. But, there is a long gap between 8:1 and 9:1. In this gap Paul was on many other missions to harass Christians. That story is told in Acts 26:9-11:

I too was convinced that I ought to do all that was possible to oppose the name of Jesus of Nazareth. And that is just what I did in Jerusalem. On the authority of the chief priests I put many of the saints in prison, and when they were put to death, I cast my vote against them. Many a time I went from one synagogue to another to have them punished, and I tried to force them to blaspheme. In my obsession against them, I even went to foreign cities to persecute them.

The fuller picture of Paul in Acts is that he was exactly what he describes in Philippians 3: proud, over-confident, self-righteous, and yet, amazingly, very religious.

If anyone thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more; circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless. (Phil. 3:4a-6)

Religion vs. Relationship

One of the scariest things about religion is that it often serves to make us
feel righteous, even when we shouldn’t and
feel justified, even when aren’t.

As a Pharisee in good standing Paul saw it as his duty to uphold the tradition of the elders of Israel. This didn’t mean he preached and supported the Old Testament; it meant he stood for the very traditions Jesus condemned in Matthew 15:8-9. A host of traditions grew up in Israel. These traditions included issues of cleanliness, righteousness, who was in and who was outside of Israel, and fellowship.

In time, these traditions became even more important than scripture in dictating terms of faithfulness to Israel and standing with God. If a story from the Bible didn’t fit with their new traditions, Israel neglected them. So, Israel forgot some of the beautiful stories of God’s grace and compassion, like his care for the Gentile widow from Sidon (1 Kings 17:8-16) and the Gentile warrior, Naaman of Syria (2 Kings 5:1-14). God’s love extended to all people everywhere.

But the job of the Pharisee became to narrow the scope of God’s grace and mercy to just a few people. First, it was narrowed down to those of Israel. Then, it was narrowed down even finer, where only a chosen few within Israel were right. The Pharisees were able to dismiss many within Israel as a "mob that knows nothing of the law - there is a curse on them!" (John 7:49). How is that for a loving disposition by spiritual shepherds over Israel?

What the Pharisees missed was the relationship God desires to have with people. They were making a connection with God contingent on following the letter of the law perfectly, something no one could do. They reduced truth to formulas, rulings and creeds. They failed to see that at the heart of truth is a man: Jesus. Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me" (John 14:6). Yes, God calls for our obedience, and Jesus says that we will be his friend if will do what he says (John 14:23; 15:14). And what does Jesus call us to do? "A new command I give you: love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another" (John 13:34).

God wants a relationship with us. He sent Jesus to be the basis and means of that relationship. This relationship would provide for eternal life, abundant life now and everlasting life later.

And Paul, along with many of the other Pharisees, missed that. He saw the Christians not properly following the Pharisaic laws, and he saw them following after this strange Galilean, Jesus, and he wanted to stop them, even punish them. He was full of zeal for the traditions of his fathers and thought he was in the right. Even when he helped kill the Christians.

How do you get the attention of someone like that?

The Hammer

A nail is only useful when it has been pounded and beaten. Prior to that, a nail serves no real purpose. But, pound that nail into a wall and you can hang a hat or picture on it. Pound enough nails into some lumber and you have a house. It is only through beating and pounding that a nail becomes truly useful.

I wonder if that isn’t why we sometimes get beaten and pounded in this life? God is trying to make us into something useful. Even if the observable reasons seem to be that it is just the misfortunes of life, or we deserve it, or we are victims, maybe the real reason is that God is shaping us.
Could that be what happened to Paul?

On the way to his Pharisaic "mission," a bright light flashed from heaven and blinded Paul. The voice that spoke to him said, "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do." (Acts 9:5).

For three days Paul was blind. For three days he didn’t eat or drink. He had to be led around. Paul, the fiery, independent reformer bent on eradicating all signs of Christianity from Judaism, was reduced to a helpless, dependent child. The Bible gives us no indication of what he must have been thinking during those dark three days. Fear? Panic? Self-doubt? "Woe is me!"? We have no idea. But we know that he was helpless. Right now his self-righteous posture was failing him miserably.

Then the preacher came. Ananias laid hands on him. Paul’s eyes were healed and he was filled with the Holy Spirit. Immediately he got up and was baptized.

Why baptized? We know from other verses in the Bible that it has to do with sins being remitted (Acts 2:38) and being added to the body (1 Cor. 12:13). These certainly applied to Paul as well (Acts 22:16). And I think the immediate motivation for Paul is that he finally realized his legalistic righteousness availed him nothing. Everything of the flesh that he prided himself in - circumcision, pedigree, legalism and zeal - all failed him. Later, he considered all of these things as rubbish (dung, KJV; Phil. 3:8).

Baptism is a humbling experience. It means we accept that our own efforts to be righteous are not only insufficient, they are wrong. Legalistic righteousness, or self-righteousness, condemns. It keeps us from a saving relationship with Christ. Baptism means that we are no longer lord; Christ is now Lord (Romans 10:9).

In three days of humbling darkness Paul learned righteousness-by-law didn’t work, and he learned he wasn’t lord over his own circumstances anymore. He needed Jesus Christ. And when he received his sight he was baptized. Receiving his sight meant more than just seeing with his eyes; it seems to mean he could also see with his heart.

Paul was pounded on like a nail. And it hurt. But as a result of that pounding Paul became a Christian, and he became one of the greatest evangelists of the first century. The pounding he took made him into a useful instrument for the kingdom.

Useful Today?

Does that same principle of taking a beating work today? Can the things we suffer make us into useful instruments for God and other people?

I think of a young wife who lost her husband in the current war. He died of complications from his wounds four years after they occurred. During those four years she had the constant companionship of other wives whose husbands were severely wounded and handicapped. Now, she feels a separation from them. Also, her situation isn’t exactly like other wives whose husbands died over there and were brought back as heroes. She feels so alone she wrote an article about her experience. This woman has taken a terrible pounding that is so unfortunate and unfair. But she is finding something useful now. As a result of her writing she has found other widows in a similar situation, and she is building a whole new support system.

I have a friend who took a pounding from drugs. His health suffered. His finances suffered. He was arrested and taken to jail. He went in for rehab. Later he went on to college to get a counseling degree, and today he counsels other addicts.

You may be taking a beating today and think it is terribly unfair. And it may be. But it may also be a summons for you to see what God is trying to do in your life. For Paul it was to be baptized and become an evangelist. For a young widow it was to become a writer. For an addict it was to become a counselor. Instead of worrying and getting angry at the injustices in your life, ask instead, "God, where are you leading me?" And keep your heart open.

Warren Baldwin

Friday, September 10, 2010

How Can God Use Me?

1 Samuel 17

Have you ever asked "How can God use me?" That question will have different answers for different people.

Jack Lewis is an intellectual giant among preachers. He has two Ph.D.s, one from Harvard and one from Hebrew Union. When he was young he listened to a sermon about one of the prophets. The preacher talked about how the prophet may not have had much to offer, but he was willing to give God what he had - himself. And then God could use that however he wanted.

Jack said, "I listened to that preacher. His lesson wasn’t particularly outstanding in its development, but it emphasized something I needed to hear then. God could use any man who was willing to be used. I determined to do what I could with my life in service to God."

Years later Jack had his two Ph.D.s and began teaching at a Christian school. Today he can boast that he has trained as many preachers, missionaries and Bible professors as any other teacher in his church’s fellowship, all because he asked, "How can God use me?"

One night in the mid 1990s Jack would stand outside of the mansion at the graduate school that housed the faculty offices. Fifty years of his research and work was in the building. In the middle of the night fire billowed out of the broken windows. Jack stood there with his wife Annie Mae and said, "There goes a whole life’s work up in flames." Annie Mae said, "That’s not your life’s work, Jack, books and papers and notes. Your life’s work is out in the field preaching the gospel." And they were. Thousands of guys. All because Jack asked, "How can God use me?"

God’s answer to that question for you may be different. I have friends who serve as missionaries in Africa, Brazil, Europe, Asia, the Unites States and Canada. The serve in those places because they asked, "How can God use me?"

I have friends who are firemen and emergency personnel. I have friends who are school teachers, nurses, doctors, mechanics. I have friends who are construction workers and big game guides. They faithfully serve God in ways he makes available to them. The question they ask is, "How can God use me?" The answer to that question may differ for us individually. But let’s make sure we asked the question. And let’s listen to God’s answer.

A young boy once asked, "How can God use me?" I don’t know if he actually asked the question out loud, verbally. But it was in his heart. And God answered his question.

"Be a servant to your brothers. Help them out."

"My brothers? You have to be kidding? God, when I asked, ‘How can you use me?,’ I wasn’t asking to be a servant boy. Don’t you have anything else for me to do?"

God must have said, "He who is faithful in little will be faithful in much. I want to see how you handle the little chores. Do as I say. Serve your brothers."

"Ok, Lord, I will serve. What shall I do?"

"Take some food to your brothers and their boss."

No service in the name of Jesus Christ is really "small service." We use that term: "serving God in the ‘small things.’" But the small things are often big things. A $1.00 bolt that gets left out
of an airplane can cause millions in damages, not to mention loss of life. What is the real value of a $1.00 bolt on an airplane if it is carrying our family members?

In Matt. 25 we see a glimpse into the heart of God regarding the "small things" we do in his name. (Verse.34-40) The small things become big things when done in the name of Jesus.

How can God use me?

"Ok, Father, I’ll take the food to my brothers." This young man was about to learn that faithfulness in the small things opens doors of opportunities to the big things.

Jesse knew he was sending his son into a war scene. But did he think his son would be in the war? I doubt it. What kind of a father would let his son go off into a war unprepared? Untrained? (1 Samuel 17:17-19)

But God knew. God knew it was a war scene. And God let David go. What kind of a God is he? A God who can see things we can not. God knew there were two battles being waged that day in the valley of Elah.

One battle was being waged by Goliath, a big hunk of a man. Nine feet tall, armor weighing 125 to 200 pounds. His shield was larger than a man. Everyday Goliath would come out and taunt and challenge the armies of God. (17:8-11) Everyday his insolence and bravado sent chills into the hearts of Saul and his men.

This was David’s first battle scene so far as we know. And it was a big one. All the soldiers knew that. None of them would take up Goliath’s challenge. They cowered in fear.

And then David said, "I’ll go fight him."

"You? You’re only a boy, a delivery boy. You do good with bread and cheese. But that guy out there is not a sandwich. He is a soldier. A big one. He’d break you in half with his bare hands."

And David said again, "Let me go. I’ll fight him." When he tried on the armor he said, "I can’t wear that stuff."

With the blessing of the commander David ran down to the stream. He looked into the
clear water for the stones he wanted. He picked out some smooth ones, put them into his bag and went after the bear of a man.

Goliath wasn’t impressed. (V.41-44) And David wasn’t impressed with Goliath. He ran at him with his sling, threw the rock and knocked the giant to the ground. David won.

He started out delivering cheese and he ended up delivering Israel.
He started out tightening $1.00 bolts and ended up flying the plane.

And it all started with an attitude of heart: "God, how can you use me?"

I told you there were two battlefields that day. One was in the valley of Elah. A valley where men pitched tents, cooked over open fires, sharpened swords, tested their bow strings, and laid awake at night worrying about the next day. A battle where men hurled insults and challenges to each other. A battle where men dreamed of killing.

The other battlefield that day was pretty much ignored by most people. It still is today. It was the battlefield of heart.

This battle was really fought and won in someplace other than the valley of Elah. For David it began sometime before. In 1 Sam. 16:12 God told Samuel, "I pick the boy David." Then, the Spirit of the Lord came upon David IN POWER (16:13).

Fighting a giant was really nothing to David. The spirit of God reigned in his heart. Fields of battle are much easier to win after you’ve won the battle of the heart. That is why David could say to Goliath, "I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty" (17:45). And, "This day the Lord will hand you over to me." This wasn’t really David’s battle - it was God’s.

And this explains why Saul wouldn’t fight Goliath. 1 Sam. 16:14 says the spirit of Lord departed from Saul and an evil spirit took his place. Saul lost the great battle, the battle of the heart. So Goliath really was a giant to him.

On that day many years ago there were two battles. One between armies. One in the hearts of men. In a sense, Golaith doesn’t even matter in the story. He was only filler. The real story was about a young boy who asked, "God, how can you use me?"

What do you think God’s answer to you will be when you ask that question?

Warren Baldwin

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

A Cheerful Look


A cheerful look brings joy to the heart, and good news gives health to the bones. Proverbs 15:30

Henry David Thoreau wrote, "The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. What is called resignation is confirmed desperation...." (Walden). Thoreau applied this saying to men whose work is oppressive and they fail to find satisfaction and enjoyment. But, it could equally apply to those who suffer in silence from any number of blows life can deliver. Think of a family that struggles financially all their lives but never gets their head above water. They miss vacations, new vehicles and a retirement program they hear so many others talk about.

Think also of a family that struggles with perpetual health issues. They can’t eat this; they can’t eat that. As neighborhood children gather to play baseball and football, their son or daughter watches from the safety of the living room window, but inside they hurt with a burning desire to be out there among friends, having fun.

A middle-aged man faces his failure everyday. Co-workers receive significant promotions and raises while he still languishes in obscurity. None of his hard work and devotion has caught the attention of company executives. He’ll end his career largely where it began, low on the rung of corporate position and pay scale.

Every teenage boy and girl knows the feeling of quiet desperation. Every teenager at some point feels alone, isolated, judged and unworthy. It may be acne, a body that doesn’t measure up to the image of feminine beauty or masculine toughness, or general insecurity, but every teenager has felt those devastating emotions. More than few adults have, as well.

A mother of a special needs child wrote this a couple of weeks before Christmas: "We did skip Christmas last year. We had the Christmas morning thing with Stephen and my parents came by on Christmas Eve to bring his presents, but we skipped our family get together. That’s right. No "Mia’s famous cheese ball", no cakes, pies or fudge. No eggnog, no hot apple cider. Baaah! It was almost as if Ebenezer Scrooge himself lived here (before his transformation). When did I start disliking the holidays so? What used to be my favorite time of year is now something I dread like a root canal. No, that isn’t true. I’d rather have a root canal. I think as Stephen has gotten bigger and the care giving has gotten more difficult, I’ve gotten older and more arthritic. Therefore, the part of me that once enjoyed doing those things was shoved aside as real life, as we know it, forced its way in. I want to enjoy the holidays, I just don’t have the strength to get there. Exhaustion is a wicked, wicked little monster."

The feelings of weariness, failure, aloneness and futility assail most everyone at some point. When those emotions linger they become stifling and oppressive. Elsewhere the Sage writes, "All the days of the oppressed are wretched" (Prov. 15:15a).

Writing and reading this seems heavy, even oppressive. But, it is the stuff of life, and Proverbs is not afraid of tackling some of the stickiest burdens we face. Proverbs acknowledges that sometimes the painful issues of life attack without mercy and leave our hearts hurting and bones aching.

Proverbs 15:30 addresses the inner being of a person. The heart is the center of emotions and thoughts. It is the inner concept we have of ourselves. We may feel like we are a failure, an outcast, a worthless being. These kinds of negative impressions of ourselves can come from the way others treat us or from our own misbehavior. When David summed up his feelings about his sin with Bathsheba he wrote, "Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me" (Psalm 51:10). David wanted purity of heart to replace the sinful images he had of Bathsheba. But I think he also wanted to feel freedom from condemnation. We repent after we sin and know in our heads that God has forgiven us. But can’t we sometimes carry that shame and reproach of that sin, and we can’t feel the freedom of forgiveness? I think that is what is troubling David.

David writes further, "Let me hear joy and gladness, let the bones you have crushed rejoice" (v.8). God didn’t literally crush David’s bones. But David is feeling such intense inner pain it is as if his bones are fractured. You can’t do much with fractured bones. You may not be able to stand, walk or lift anything. Life shuts down. A fractured spirit does the same thing to us. The weight of failure, shame and loneliness can shut us down like a fractured leg. "Heal me," David pleads. Let the feeling of fractured bones deep in my heart heal so I can enjoy life again."

What can we do for someone we may know suffering from any of these debilitating emotions? Proverbs 15:30 mentions two things we can do for the weary spirit.

One, we can give them a cheerful look. A cheerful look may be as simple as a smile or a kind greeting. But the effect of the cheerful look is immeasurable. The cheerful look is "probably the eyes of persons whose good demeanor encourages those with whom they come in to contact" (Tremper Longman, Proverbs, p.323). A sincere cheerful look communicates forgiveness, value, and dignity. That gives fresh hope and life to an aching heart that thinks it is unworthy.

Two, we can speak good news. "Good news gives health to the bones." Sometimes it is hard to know how to speak good news. What do you say to someone who has lost a job, their health, or a loved one? Great care must be given. Ultimately, good news is associated with what we know about Jesus: he loves us, he values us, and he wants to forgive us, no matter what we have done.

The Luke 7 woman could tell us about a cheerful look and good news from Jesus. In her quiet desperation she barged into a luncheon of Jesus and some important Pharisees. She was a sinful woman, and everyone there knew that. When she touched Jesus feet one of the Pharisees thought to himself, "How could Jesus let her touch him? She is a sinner!" Implied in his evaluation of this woman was derision and disgust. No doubt the woman felt the eyes of the Pharisees boring into her with the unspoken message: "You make me sick."

But Jesus let her touch his feet. Then, looking at the woman, he spoke to Simon the Pharisee and said, "Her many sins have been forgiven - for she has loved much." Remember, he spoke to the Pharisee, but looked a the woman as he spoke. And what do you think his stare was like? I’ll bet it was cheerful. Jesus gave a cheerful look and good news to this desperate woman. Then he told her, "Your faith has saved you; go in peace." She could go in peace because Jesus brought joy to her heart and given health to her bones.

A cheerful look brings joy to the heart, and good news gives health to the bones. We know the one who delivers joy and is the good news - Jesus. We have experienced his healing.

There is a mass of men leading lives of quiet desperation. We can’t change their circumstances. They still have to work jobs that may not be fulfilling, work through feelings of failure, loneliness and worthlessness, and struggle with health issues. But we can help change their lives. We can deliver joy and health with the power of our look and the story we tell of Jesus.

Warren Baldwin

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Build or Destroy


Through the blessing of the upright a city is exalted, but by the mouth of the wicked it is destroyed. Proverbs 11:11

Some personalities are so dynamic people are irresistibly drawn to them. Salesmen sell cars, politicians draw votes, and preachers win converts often on the power of their persona. Most of us may not possess such irresistible drawing power, but we all do have a level of influence that may far exceed even our own perception. Proverbs 11:11 address that issue.

The effect of our character, our personal power, builds or destroys communities. "Through the blessing of the upright a city is exalted." The blessing of the upright is likely the power of their pure character mediated through their speech. Verses 9 through 14 all address the effect of speech. The righteous bless with their speech while the wicked destroy with theirs.

The blessing of righteous speech is to exalt a city. To exalt means "build up." A city is built up by the construction of houses for people to live in and, in ancient times, by protective walls around the city. In such an environment people can thrive in security and safety.

The speech of the wise man does the same thing for a city. With his speech the wise man teaches firm principles of honorable living, like honesty, kindness and hard work. More than just talking about principles, his life models them. The wise man encourages people within his charge to live up to higher standards, and he expresses appreciation for them when they do. His is also able to offer an appropriate rebuke when necessary, but always with a view toward building a life, not discouraging one. After years of exposure to the speech and life of the wise man, the city, be it a business office, church or home, is taught and enabled to live better because of him.

But the mouth of the wicked destroys. While verses 9 through 14 address speech, most of it is about the speech of the wicked man. He derides his neighbor and betrays a confidence. Years of his influence destroys relationship and people (v.9).

The speech of the wicked man has the following affect on people. One, he debases them, usually in front of other people. He may minimize their accomplishments in a subtle way by simply saying, "Oh wow," with a mocking grin or more overtly by comparing their success with others who have done more. "Well, I know people who have done even better and at a younger age." He gossips about others, reducing the esteem other people have for them (v.9). The affect is to leave the person feeling less than what he should for his accomplishment, and creating embarrassment for him by doing it in front of others.

Secondly, the wicked man discourages others with his speech. Consistent debasement through putdowns, mockery and belittling comments kills initiative in the victim’s heart. Fear crowds out incentive to try; failure confirms the expectation of the wicked man. Children raised in such an environment may reason it is worthless to ever attempt anything worthwhile in life, or they may spend their life in vain pursuit of trying ever harder to achieve an accomplishment that will win the wicked man’s approval, all so they can feel worthwhile.

Finally, as a result of the debasement and discouragement, the wicked man destroys those who fall under his influence. People feel ashamed and unworthy of doing well. They give up worthy aspirations, become embittered and angry, and can become wicked themselves, destroying the people they influence just as they were destroyed.

Having a forceful personality helps in selling cars, drawing votes, and winning converts. But such dynamic charisma is really not needed to effect much good. The quiet, consistent voice of a righteous man who teaches wisdom, expresses appreciation, encourages good work, and gives positive recognition for accomplishment is building a city. He is exalting the staff in his office, the members of his church, and the children and spouse in his family. The foundation of his city is firm, the walls are strong, and the inhabitants of his dwelling are free and secure to live, love, even fail, because they know they have room to try again. Any city is blessed by such a man.

Warren Baldwin

Sunday, June 20, 2010

An Apt Word


A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver. Proverbs 25:11

Knowing what to speak, to whom to speak and when to speak is a function of godly wisdom. "It is only fools who speak all the time, without regard for the circumstance ... The wisdom formula is to speak the right word to the right person at the right time" (Longman, 453).

A well-timed word has several positive attributes to it. One, it reaffirms our value. A teenager cut from the basketball team, a husband and father terminated from his job, a wife reeling from an unsought-for divorce all suffer from devastating hits to their lives and psyches, pain felt very deeply within their being. A corollary to such blows is that we question our own worth or value. We have, after all, just been rejected by a team, business and relationship from which we drew a significant sense of our own identity. We may wonder if we will ever find another place or person to belong to. A well-timed word at this juncture can rescue us from swimming in the sea of self-doubt and reaffirm that we are people of worth.

Two, an apt word refocuses our vision. Lingering in the shadow of our damaged self-worth is blurred vision. The future looks foggy at best, and any vision we may have left is bleak, even ominous and threatening. It is natural that from the humiliating defeats and emotionally disturbing setbacks would come reticence to face the future. What lies ahead? If I have failed now, what prospects do I have for better results in the future? If I have been rejected, can genuine love ever find me again? A timely word to such a person is one that considers their circumstances, acknowledges the pain and uncertainty choking their heart, and offers even the slightest vision that the future can be faced.

Three, an appropriate word is one that rekindles hope. The future is very uninviting when it seems to offer only prospects of continued gloom and doom. Living with the fear of never belonging again, lacking financial resources or having no one to bond intimately with is gloomy. But that well-timed word, if embedded and nurtured in the heart of the sufferer, can eventually sprout and grow, offering vision and hope of a brighter future that we can participate in.

Finally, a well-timed word can even deliver necessary rebuke. To rebuke someone is to expose them to the truth of their situation, their attitude or behavior, and the appropriate response they need to make. Rebuke is usually appropriate for someone who persists in inappropriate or dangerous behavior. Rebuke may not apply initially to someone struggling with situations of rejection and hurt as I descried above, but, there may come a time when even they need a gentle nudge to open their eyes. "Ok, you lost your job, I’m very sorry. But you are not likely to find another job by watching tv all day, seven days a week. It’s time to pull yourself together and get back out there." It may seem out of place discussing rebuke after describing an apt reply as one that reaffirms value, refocuses vision and rekindles hope. But, an apt reply isn’t limited to situations of encouraging the broken-hearted; it can also apply to those pursuing paths that can render them hard-hearted. (For more discussion of an apt reply functioning as rebuke, see the essay "Judicial Decisions).

The finesse of Jesus’ response to the woman entrapped in sin demonstrates the power of the apt reply. Even if she didn’t know the law the woman knew the Pharisees initially advocated stoning her. That is quite a blow to one’s self-composure and image! Jesus said, "Neither do I condemn you." But he didn’t withhold rebuke. "Leave your life of sin," he said next. He acknowledged her sin and told her to abandon it, choosing instead to live morally and spiritually. With this gentle rebuke and freedom from condemnation, the woman’s value was affirmed and was she free to envision a future of hope and second chances (John 8:1-11).

An apt word delivered to a hurting soul is "a masterpiece of human art" (Bland, 225), comparable to richly designed apples of gold in settings of silver. The beauty of both enrich our lives and testify to the wisdom and skill of the master artisan who crafted them.

Warren Baldwin

Sunday, June 13, 2010



Without wood a fire goes out; without gossip a quarrel dies down. As charcoal to embers and as wood to fire, so is a quarrelsome man for kindling strife. Proverbs 26:20-21

A lightening strike, a dropped cigarette or a campfire not properly extinguished can smolder for days, finally igniting a few dry leaves culminating in a forest fire that can burn for weeks, even months. Trees and homes miles away from the spot where the fire began can be torched in minutes from the inferno unleashed by that original smoldering ember. Under the right conditions, forest fires can become impossible for even multiple teams of fire fighters to put out. It may take the arrival of fall snows to finally extinguish the blaze. Or, as the sage says, a fire may not play out until it is deprived of a substance to burn. There is a three-step progression in the scenario I have just presented: a smoldering ember, dry kindling, and finally, a raging fire.

A similar three-step progression is present in these two verses in Proverbs. First, there is the smoldering ember, a quarrel between two people. Then there is the dry kindling to feed that ember and give it greater life, gossip. Gossip is the spreading of tales by the participants in the quarrel. With enough time and gossip the third step is realized, strife. The quarrelsome man who can’t or won’t keep his discontent or disagreement contained, but must spread it through the kindling of gossip, fuels the fire until it becomes a bitter conflict involving numerous parties. Strife, or discord, is one of the acts of the sinful nature (Galatians 5:20), and it can burn out of control, scorching and burning people miles away from the original smoldering ember.

A quarrel is simply a verbal battle between two people. There is usually some degree of heat and flame of emotions in the verbal feud, but in time quarrels usually die down.

Like a fire, though, quarrels can be fed highly combustible material. For a fire it is dry wood; for a quarrel it is gossip. Gossip in this verse also means whisper in Hebrew. The idea is that one is going around on the sly whispering damaging things against someone else’s character and position. Should one or more of the participants in the quarrel take their grievances to others, not for wise counsel on how to handle the situation but rather to whisper against and slander the other party, then more people are dragged into the fray. Soon five, six, even ten or more people may be agitated and riled up against each other, and they may not even know why!

I have seen situations of two people frothing in anger against each other over what other parties in the quarrel had told them. These guys were not original participants, and didn’t even know all the details of the initial argument. They were just dragged in and began burning like dry timber and they didn’t even know why. Situations like this can erupt at work and church, burning with a fury that can last for weeks. It may not die out until everyone involved is literally exhausted and singed from the heat of the verbal and emotional blaze.

After once such inferno I asked a participant in that holocaust, "What happened? What was going on to create such a blaze where people were fighting and seemed to hate each other?" She said, "I don’t know. Everyone was just so angry and excited and saying things that were so mean. I don’t know how it started and why it went on for so long. But it was very ugly and unnecessary."

It started as a disagreement between two people that became a quarrel. The quarrel was not allowed to die down but was fed with the kindling of gossip and slander, causing it to burn hotter and wider. Soon, a dozen people were sucked into the blaze of bitter conflict, angry, hot, and ready to do battle on a larger scale. And no one really knew why.

Quarrels, gossip and strife are the external manifestations of a deeper issue in the heart of the one engaged in this unholy activities. The inner issue is and evil and malicious spirit. The evil spirit of one who creates discord and contention among other people is discussed in the next several verses, where the Sage says, "A malicious man disguises himself with his lips, but in his heart he harbors deceit" (Prov. 26:24). Verse 26 says his wickedness will be eventually become known.

Families, churches, businesses and community programs can be devastated in the incineration caused by the slanderer. To protect yourself and those around you, simply do not engage this man or woman. Only by joint refusal to participate in the ungodly triad of quarrels, gossip and strife can we starve the fire of fuel and save our relationships.

Warren Baldwin