Unity Park

by Phil Baker

I went running yesterday for the first time in years. I chose to go to a park near my home. I’ve passed it many times on my way to church so it seemed like a nice place to visit.

The south Nashville area I live in is very culturally diverse and it’s reflected at this park. As I jogged the trail that encircled the playgrounds and soccer fields, I saw Hispanic families, African American families, Indian families, Kurdish, Egyptian and many others. As a white male, I actually felt like the minority! In fact, now that I think about it, I was the only white person I saw.

The weird thing is that I didn’t feel out-of-place at all. There was no sense of not belonging, disenfranchisement, or being unsafe. It just felt like I was around families. And even though these families were different colors and many of them spoke different languages, they were all very much the same. Friendly competition was divided only by jersey color, not skin color. The laughter of children knows no language barrier.

“This is heaven!” I thought to myself. “A picture, a foretaste of heaven!” The sun was shining. The trees and grass were green. A cool breeze blew through everything.

I was alone at this park. I didn’t know a soul. But somehow I felt united, part of my community. Just by being there and sharing in this communal space I was part of the many cultures and families there. I was part of their day. I was a member of their family.

In heaven, we dream about being reunited with loved ones and, of course, our Heavenly Father. But I also look forward to that day to be united with all the many tribes and tongues of the world. I look forward to having no division, no borders, and no barriers (language, financial, cultural or otherwise). There will be no social media arguments, no political debates, no aggressive negotiations. I will be united to the rest of the human race in one common holy occupation – praising God!

I can’t say I “loved” running that day. But I do plan to go back to that park. I will run for my health. But what will really bring me back is seeing “my families” again.

This fairly new park has a name. But I think I will call it my “Unity Park”.

Barley Fields & Bad Calls

Barley Fields & Bad Calls

by Brock Benson

Depending on who you were rooting for yesterday in the AFC and NFC championship games probably effects how your morning and week is getting started. For those who are Rams and Patriots you are elated and joyous to see you teams go to the biggest game on the biggest stage in two weeks down in Atlanta. But for Who Dat Nation and Chief Nation you probably have a little bit of a bitter taste in your mouth. If you are a Saints Fan you are feeling like your season was blown by a bad call. And if you’re a Chiefs fan you’ve sworn Belichick figured out a way to hack into the replay camera system. Let the conspiracy theories begin as we replay in our minds what could have been as Saints and Chiefs fans.

The past two weeks at Revive Church we’ve started a study from the book of Ruth and some of what we have been talking about I believe sheds particular light on the current NFL conversations and I’m sure will be the topic of some Super Bowl parties. The book of Ruth starts out in an incredibly depressing fashion. There is famine, death, and depression all wrapped into one. Naomi, a Jewish woman who has fled to Moab with her husband during a time of famine returns to her homeland without her husband and two sons and feels God’s hand is against her. A sentiment I bet is shared by a lot of Saints and Chiefs fans today. This is not meant to make light of Naomi’s loss or down play the frustration of loyal fans who love their teams. It’s simply a reality I think that’s worth looking at. Because the narrative in our minds about whatever it is that happens whether it’s a bad call or severe loss in life shapes the way we think, decisions we make, and the attitude we share to the world around us. Personally I think the events that unfolded last night are an important example of a bigger truth we many times fail to yield to.

Let me bring us back to the events transpiring in Ruth and Naomi’s journey. The narrative inside Naomi’s head is that everything is bad and everyone is against her. But this isn’t exactly true because she wasn’t returning completely empty. Her daughter-in-law Ruth decided to dedicate herself in loyalty and return with her mother-in-law. Ruth leaves the comfort of home in Moab and goes back to a land she doesn’t know about with her mother-in-law of all people. And to top it off her mother-in-law is not the most gracious person at this point in her life either. Naomi was in a place we’ve probably all experienced before and felt like. As if nothing is going our way and we’ve just come up short on luck.

When the Saints and Chiefs lost their games last night social media immediately began the conversations and thoughts in a lot of peoples’ minds. Why do the NFL overtime rules stink? Why does one call have to end our season? Why can’t we ever win the big game? Are these legitimate questions? Sure they are. To not ask them and to not think about them is to have your head in the proverbial sand if you will. Sports teach so much about life and so much how we really deep down view God. And that’s why they are powerful metaphors.

Each of these questions isn’t so much just a question about the game of football. It’s really about the game of life if you will allow me to explain. If we are not careful to guard our hearts, we blame bad calls or bad things that happen to us as the reason for our misery just like Naomi. We question the rules God’s ordained for us to live by because we struggle to believe His way is best. We are a people constantly battling to surrender our will to His. If the games yesterday didn’t show you that, or the current government shutdown doesn’t point you to that, then you need to have your eyes checked.

My dad always told me the game is bigger than one call (or several calls for that matter). Do those calls effect your psyche? Sure! They can impact it a whole lot. Calls can discourage and impact you greatly. I won’t diminish that fact for one minute. But we have to remember God’s hand is over the game of life and each of circumstances too. Upon arriving in the foreign land of Israel Ruth is led into a barley field by the hand of God. It’s in that field we see God’s plan is good and he works us around what we might think are bad calls to ultimately help us see its always His call!

Today we celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. If there was ever a contemporary example of someone who didn’t focus on bad calls but kept persevering it was him. Both Ruth and MLK should compel us as believers to not be shaped by a call or our own perceived rules system but to actively yield to God and his plan.  This is not easy and it takes a lifetime to fully understand what yielding our spirit means.

But that’s the journey we are on!

The Arrival of Advent

by Phil Baker

If you watch a documentary, you might hear a line like this…

“With the advent of the telephone, people could talk to loved ones miles away.”


“With the advent of the automobile, people no longer had to live in the city but could drive to their job from suburban communities.”


“With the advent of the airplane, people could travel great distances in a matter of hours.”

In instances like these, the word advent is casually used to gloss over the arrival of an invention that greatly altered the course of history. That’s all it means – arrival. You could just as easily say “With the arrival of the telephone, automobile or airplane…”

This time of year we like to pluck the word advent out of obscurity, dust it off and hoist it high into liturgical tradition. But it still just means arrival. And it actually signals more than just an arrival. It’s an arrival that changes things. Just as the telephone, automobile and airplane radically changed the world we live in, Jesus’ birth radically changed the world. And the funny thing is, we almost missed it. He didn’t burst onto the scene in a blaze of glory. He was born in a quiet little corner of the world. Only a few wise men and a handful of shepherds took notice. Surprising since we’d been looking for and expecting the Savior for hundreds of years before. Unlike the telephone, automobile and airplane which were inventions we didn’t see coming, the Christ had been necessitated and prophesied about all throughout the Old Testament.

It’s surprisingly easy to overlook world-changing events. We look so hard for what we think we should be expecting that our happiness, our purpose or even our salvation slips right past us. The countdown to Christmas begins earlier each year. Some people start on Thanksgiving. Others on Halloween. Some will even start counting down the day after Christmas! Why? What are we counting down to? We look forward to that one day when the whole family is under one roof. But I find that Christmas is not just a day. It’s a season. Christmas isn’t coming. It’s already here! Christmas music is playing on the radio. Christmas trees are up. Lights are on houses. For all intents and purposes Christmas is here! Ignore the countdown clocks. There’s nothing special about December 25th that can’t be enjoyed right now.

So don’t wait for Christmas day. Call that family member. Christmas is here!

Knock on your neighbor’s door. Christmas is here!

Enjoy time with friends. Christmas is here!

As we enter this Advent season, what are you expecting the arrival of? Could it be that that thing is already here? Is it (or something better) right under your nose? Don’t be so focused on the future that you forsake the present. Take a moment to look around. It could radically change your world!

Romans Pt. 1

by Brock Benson

Happy Halloween and Happy 501st Reformation Day! I’m glad to be back in the swing of things having preached now for the past two weeks and getting back in the flow of thought with the epistle of Romans. On Sunday we concluded the first major section of Romans as we explored chapter 11 and wrestled through the implication of God kicking Israel out and grafting us in and then how he will graft them in again using us! Heavy stuff I know so hopefully you’re not reading this early in the morning or late at night otherwise that might create some headache’s. Nevertheless I trust our time in the word Sunday was profitable for you and you were drawn closer to Jesus.

Romans chapters 1 -11 are some of the heaviest doctrinal chapters in all the bible and since today, after all, is Reformation day I wanted to do a special post kind of summarizing some of the major themes we have touched on up to this point. Before I do just a quick historical blurb for those lost on the reformation day reference. Reformation Day, October 31st, is not primarily owned by culture as Halloween. It’s also the day Martin Luther, because of God’s revelation to him in large part through the book of Romans, decided to nail 95 theses of theology to the chapel door in Wittenburg and with that started the Reformation which would in a sense give birth to a new denomination known as Protestantism. At Revive we are a Southern Baptist church in our specific denomination but protestant in a wider sense also. We started our journey through Romans last November and with almost a year past since we’ve covered certain parts of this gigantic book it’s simply a good idea to take this moment to do some inventory.

Part of my motivation for this post is pragmatic too. I came across a survey this week that really kindled my belief in the need for this post and for why we’ve been walking through the book of Romans for as long as we have. The survey specifically mentions the need for more central Christological teaching within the church. No survey is perfect and it definitely is not infallible as God’s word is but it still points out concerns I think are wise to discuss in a forum like this. Romans has major contribution to Christology too so what better opportunity to give us all some savory Halloween reading.

Starting Sunday we’ll begin looking at what most call the practical part of Paul’s letter to the Romans in chapter 12. But up to this point he has laid the foundation for what he will say in the final section through the doctrines of chapters 1-11.  Specific to the survey mentioned above is Romans 5 which we covered back in May of this year is how Jesus is the second and better Adam. The original Adam in the garden suffered from sin in the fall but Jesus, the eternal second Adam, gives us hope that the fall wouldn’t have the final answer. He did on Calvary and ultimately will when He returns! I don’t need Halloween candy right now my blood sugar is already spiked!

The thesis is found in chapter 1 verse 16 to 17

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to all everyone who believes to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written the righteous shall live by faith.

If you stand back now with me 11 chapters into Romans we can more fully see how these verses inform Paul’s train of thought. Both in Paul’s day and in our own. It’s critical we see the importance and priority on not just belief, but right belief. It’s increasingly popular to embrace spiritualism in the current era but it’s less popular to say there is real discernible truth. Romans forces the believer to square up to the idea of not only personal but corporate depravity as itself a discernible truth. Through the first two chapters in Romans Paul especially harks on the idea that sin has distorted us and everything we experience. While it might not be a truth we readily like, it’s still a truth we have to be reminded of. How this pragmatically helps you and I is with interpretive discernment on critical cultural conversations that will inevitably continue to happen. Sin has distorted those with a conservative political persuasion and those with a liberal outlook. Or to put it more crassly since it is Halloween, Republicans and Democrats are both wrong and right some of the time but neither is right or wrong 100% of the time.

God’s judgment, another major part of what we’ve considered this past year, covers all sin not just the sin we want to mention. Let me just pause a moment here and specifically bring to mind our conversations from Romans 2 again. It was here Paul addressed what I believe to be the most dangerous and damning of all sins to our specific area and time which also would be judged by God’s judgment “religiosity”.  Let me unpack that further for a moment. In Nolensville specifically it’s become increasingly clear that we are a town full of extremely good people. The mayoral candidates have both mentioned this I believe in their campaigns. That should really cause a pause in our hearts as gospel-centric people who realize from Romans how demining good works are to save our souls from the wrath of God’s perfect righteousness. Now before you write me off please come to hear what God has laid on my heart for this Sunday too because I believe good works are critical in the life of someone who says they are a believer but they also can be traps in a community like ours.

Time is running away from me so I am going to summarize the rest of where we’ve been in three words. Faith, Life, and Access. Faith alone is what Paul compels and argues for especially with his Jewish counterparts trying to Jewishize gentiles at the time he wrote. Life is not simply a torture sentence to be endured until Jesus returns. Rather it is a beautiful journey God compels us on through his very power (Romans 6-8). Finally God is accessible to all Jews and Gentiles. His gospel plan includes both of us. The events in Pittsburg or Washington don’t take God by surprise. He knows believers everywhere are suffering and his plan is still to bring ultimate restoration soon!

There are many, many more doctrines and teachings in Romans we haven’t fully addressed in this post nor in the sermons the past year because truthfully God’s word is in-exhaustible. It’s the gold mine that keeps producing! Or it’s the proverbial candy jar that never runs out! (I really want a Kit-Kat right  now) However you want to look at it understand God’s word and the book of Romans is full of treasured truth we do well to study, consider and apply. I wish we could talk more about the doctrines of election, sovereignty, and covenant vs. dispensational theology. But for now we will leave this section of Romans with hopefully a better framework then when we started!

See you Sunday!

Fear Not

Fear Not

by Phil Baker

Have you ever heard this sound?

If you’ve watched any amount of reality TV you’ve heard it. It’s a staple of Hollywood sound design. This sound usually signifies a plot twist or the dubious intents of an antagonist. It’s simply a bow being drawn across a cymbal.

How about these sounds?

This unique instrument creates a variety of sounds that have the same effect – to chill us to the bone!

With these audio cues, TV and movie producers create a sense of fear in us. They tell us something bad is about to happen.

It’s fun to be scared…sometimes. Like on Halloween. But this is the safe, fun kind of fear. Its similar to the kind Hollywood churns out. And Hollywood has gotten really good at fabricating fear. But there are some fears that aren’t so fun. Fear of losing your job. Fear of getting sick. Losing a loved one. If we’re not careful, fear can overtake our lives.

But the Bible tells us to not be afraid.

“Fear Not” appears in the Bible 365 times. People have always been afraid. Especially of God. “Fear Not” is usually said when God shows up. But we really shouldn’t fear God. At least not in the sense I’m talking about here. Psalms actually says “fear of God is the beginning of wisdom.”

Fear of God is actually the only fear we need. All those other fears are…well…fake. If you pursue God first, everything else will fall into place. So fear of anything else is a lie (Thanks Zach Williams).

This world can manipulate our feelings and create fear in us just as easily as reality tv. Don’t let it. Don’t listen to those fake sound effects. They only serve to give you pause when you should immediately obey. Look to God and His word. Fear not.


Give yourself Up: Sermon Recap

by Brock Benson

Sometimes technology fails us. For those of you who were out of town this past Sunday celebrating Labor Day and tried tuning into the worship service, the internet went down on so we couldn’t stream to our normal place on Facebook. However for those who of you who would like to go back and listen to the message you can click here. Or it’s on our podcast channel too.

The big idea and take away Sunday was giving ourselves up. In Luke 5:8-10 Peter had given himself up in his declaration to Jesus even though certain scholars might debate me on that. Regardless I think it’s safe to say at the most basic level this was the beginning of the sunrise for Peter’s salvation moment.  The term “sinner” is the first time Luke uses the word in his gospel. And so we aren’t exactly sure what he means by it until later on in his gospel where we have more context and instances of its use. However we still know Peter is being shaped by Jesus in a profound way. Furthermore those near Peter are also being shaped by Jesus and their views are being expanded because of this whole fish catching episode. Some of those present are simply caught in the moment of excitement and some are seeing Jesus in a whole new way and their view of him is being expanded. From this point forward the disciples would continually have Jesus stretching and expanding their view of him. This leads me to reiterate a very important question from Sunday’s message – How big is our view of God?

If we have a limited view of God and he isn’t actively shaping and stretching us in new ways, we can be sure our motivation and desire to share who he is with others will be negatively affected too. Some practical suggestions I’d like to give are a few books. A.W. Tozer- The Pursuit of God, JD Greear –  Stop Asking Jesus Into Your Heart, and Gospel Wakefulness by Jared C .Wilson are all books I can say with a high level of confidence would help in this particular area. Two of these I have in my personal library at the church office if you’d like to borrow them.

Luke 5:10 is the heart of the passage where Jesus connects the dots and finally issues the mission to the fisherman of Galilee they will now be involved in a new enterprise – People catching. One of the more profound points I think from the verse is Jesus initial instructions. “Do not be afraid.” In such an upbeat passage as this one is with all of the celebratory ideas we see happening why does he tell them not be scared? The New living translation translates verse 9 as people were awestruck at what had happened. I believe part of Jesus encouragement and instruction about not fearing is a crucial part of any evangelistic efforts we engage in. I think this is a main takeaway for those of us who are historically on this side of the passage.  But in the moment of Jesus miracle I have to wonder if the direction to not be scared was because only he realized how deeply wounded their identity now was. Professional fisherman being out fished by the carpenter from Nazareth doesn’t go well on the fishing guide resume. And it doesn’t get you the big corporate sponsorships. Perhaps Jesus knew that to engage in evangelism as he was doing meant one had to be willing to deeply wound someone’s identity so they could know who their true identity comes from. Jesus was actively showing us his willingness to confront, love, encourage, and challenge all at the same time in his effort with the fisherman. This is evangelism and discipleship in its purest form.

Yesterday Cassie and I took the boys to see Incredibles 2.Kandler had already seen it once but this would be Garner’s first movie-going experience. He did great and I think he loved the movie except for a few moments when the music got really loud.  Watching the movie reminded me of common strategy I think many of us have the capability of employing for gospel efforts but don’t take readily advantage of. (SPOILER ALERT: Please forgive me but I might end up giving away a little bit of the movie but I can’t help it because it stood out so clearly.) In the movie there were three major movements. Chosen Mom, Loving Dad, and a baby boy who helps the whole world see again. If you’re a believer those three movements should scream out to you the movements of our story. The Story of God redeeming us. My brother-in-law Kyle Reed shared with me several years ago something I won’t soon forget “every good story is retelling the story.”  I’m misquoting his exact words but this was the essence of his thought. Since that point it’s been cool to see how this is so true. I’m deeply grateful the Bakers who lead Movies by Moonlight also subscribe to this philosophy by creating questions and thoughts for our feature presentations at MxM during the summer who help those in attendance see the gospel through the film.

Fishing in the first century wasn’t a leisurely past time like it is for a lot of us today. In fact in the NET bible it says this notes for Luke 5:10

The occupation of fisherman was labor-intensive. The imagery of using a lure and a line (and waiting for the fish to strike) is thus foreign to this text. Rather, the imagery of a fisherman involved much strain, long hours, and often little results. Jesus’ point may have been one or more of the following: the strenuousness of evangelism, the work ethic that it required, persistence and dedication to the task (often in spite of minimal results), the infinite value of the new “catch” (viz., people), and perhaps an eschatological theme of snatching people from judgment.

So many times I am passive about so many things including evangelism. I take too much of a God’s sovereign approach. (Which He is!!!!!) But watching Incredibles 2 with the family yesterday reminded me how God can use anything as a bridge to the gospel. But I have to be faithful to keep net casting so those who need to know the living God might.

Often I’ve thought of evangelism and discipleship as tracks and studies. I think both of those strategies have their place and time. But many of us are missionaries to people who are in many senses much like us. Building a wooden bridge between your driveway and your neighbors wouldn’t be natural when you can just walk right down the sidewalk. There are sidewalks all around us.  Let’s learn to walk down them and see who’s on the other side.

May we become better fisher of men!

On the journey with you,

Pastor Brock

Cast – Partnering Problems

Cast – Partnering Problems

by Brock Benson

Sunday we continued on with another week of Cast in Luke 5 where we started back in the spring.  Our attention has been learning about Jesus’ calling of the first disciples and how we can become fishers of men. As we discussed Sunday, this entire passage and series is on the subject of evangelism and what it looks like to be a fisher of men. Sharing our faith isn’t easy. Especially when we are unsure what the person on the receiving end believes or thinks about faith in general.

It’s critical we remember the command to share isn’t an optional one but an expectation Jesus left us with. There are millions of opinions on what is right, wrong, and how far is too far when it comes to sharing Jesus with someone else. So much so we could spend an eternity talking about the best methods. But that’s not really the point. The point is we have a life changing proclamation of good news. It is the only cure for the human condition of sin.

During Sunday’s message we centered our focus on the response of Peter and the disciples to the miracle Jesus performed while on the boat with them. Luke 5:6-7 tells us the disciples caught such a larger number of fish upon obeying Jesus WORD that their nets were breaking and their boats were sinking. Peter was so convicted by the whole encounter he told Jesus to get away from him because he realized he was in the presence of true deity. Peter was beginning to see himself clearly and God more clearly. This was Peter’s moment. It was in this moment that Jesus drew even nearer to Peter as we will discover this week and next week. This is paramount for us as we rest in the gospel. The gospel is about us seeing who we are; sinners, and simultaneously seeing who God is – Savior. Peter’s response is a typical one you’ve probably seen if you’ve had the chance to share Jesus with someone before. I’m not worthy so get away. But Jesus doesn’t leave! Jesus stays! All the while on a boat!

Upon catching the fish there is a situation we see unfold in Luke 5:7. The catch Luke tells us was so great the fisherman on Peter and Jesus’ boat had to signal to their partners in the other boat to come to their aid. Asking for help is something first century fisherman or any fisherman for that matter are rarely accustomed to doing. But they did it in this instance because their mission had overwhelmed them. God’s mission is too big for one boat.

Another idea and observation we discussed was the act of retrieving the nets into the boat once Peter’s partners had been called. Were they on different boats because they had differing fishing philosophies to begin with? Was there friction during the excitement of getting the fish on the boat as to how best to go about the process? Some of these things we don’t know. But one important point is God’s blessings and power brings challenges and problems. New people to a team normally bring new ideas and thoughts which sometimes create real challenges.

One of the core principles I was always taught when it comes to bible study and bible teaching is called “crossing the hermeneutical bridge”.  In other words what is the passage saying for the 21st century believer me? Be careful when you ask this question because sometimes you really learn. LOL.

Tuesday morning driving to work I was in my normal routine of taking the trash to the dump and heading into the office when some of Sunday’s message hit me square in the eyes…literally and spiritually. I like to drink a big cup of Dunkin Donuts coffee in the morning with about a third of the cup filled with creamer. (Here is my man card.) Another abnormal trait I have is I like to drink my coffee out of a mug with no lid (so the mug doesn’t tear my lips up). (Again presenting my man card.) I had drunk about half the cup as I made my way down Sunset Road to the church office when I got lost in the moment listening to the radio. I set the cup on my thigh as I headed through the Sunset school zone when I hit one of our lovely bumps along Sunset road. Coffee went flying out of the cup before I realized it and made the proper adjustment. While it wasn’t a complete spillage it was enough to grab my attention.

One of the top concerns it seems like I’ve heard about Nolensville is how poor our roads are. And how bad they all are because of the construction. Is this true? Absolutely! Sunset Road looks more like a train track at some places than it does pavement. Often times I swerve driving down it so I can avoid the crazy potholes that are every 3 feet. It’s seriously ridiculous. But as this happened the hermeneutical  bridge came into clearer view. Sunset Road is a part of my community and it’s wrecked because new people are moving to our community seemingly overnight. Construction is booming and houses can’t get built fast enough. The havoc that is Sunset Road is one of those good problems. Like the nets breaking and the boats sinking. It means people are here. People are a part of God’s mission. This doesn’t mean wrecked roads makes us more holy as a town. It simply means more pavement is going to have to be purchased and crews hired to patch, build, maintain etc. But to fail to see the bigger picture I’m afraid is us missing the plan of God as it unfolds.

As we finish the week up and we look forward to circling back together as a family Sunday morning, look for the moments God’s giving you. Sometimes the moment is an irritating one and others might be really subtle. Part of being a good fisherman is learning to read the water. By God’s grace may we have eyes to see!

On the Journey with you!


Back to School -Blues or Bliss?

Back to School -Blues or Bliss?

by Brock Benson

This morning marked our first morning of the fall semester for one of Revive Church’s biggest ministries to the Nolensville Community – Parents Day Out. Revive Parents Day Out, which formerly operated under the title of Stepping Stones, was started more than 20 years ago with one of our founding members, Toni Crosby, as the first ever Director.  Since its inception this ministry has been a part of many families’ lives in the town of Nolensville and surrounding communities. It’s always special for me to be a part of this ministry in the background and hear different conversations happening between our teachers and parents checking in after the summer of activities has passed and the formal grind of fall now works itself out.


Garner, Cassie and I’s second boy, attends Mrs. Laura’s class in PDO. And since he is used to the “routine” of going to work with Dad dropping him off was a breeze this morning. No issues, stress or tears. (Believe me it’s not always this easy…) I was thankful to see him adjust so well and am grateful I can spend more time with him even though he is in a different room while I’m in the office.


After I got Garner dropped off at class I proceeded to man the front door for our parents as they arrived into the building. Helping at the door is not something I do every day but the first day is always a good time to see the new faces to the program as they respond with mixed emotions of smiles, frowns, anxiety and everything in-between. I hadn’t planned on helping with the door this morning until it dawned on me that there’d be a lot of parents showing up with supplies who were also trying to corral youngster. It’s a recipe for disaster if you’re trying to get multiple kids into a building with an armful of supplies!! So getting the door was a small way I could serve and I am so glad I did because what happened next was deeply meaningful to me.


About halfway through drop off time I opened the door for two particular moms that caught my attention. As they exited and made their way back to the cars I noticed both of them had tears in their eyes. I don’t mean like “I got something in my contacts” tears. I mean real crying tears. In the most pastoral tone I could muster I told them both they’d be alright and we’d take good care of their precious little ones.  These young moms had dropped their babies off I presume for the first time ever at an organized program like ours and were feeling the emotional weight and it overwhelmed them. It makes even more sense to me now why Parent Teacher Organizations put on their boo-hoo breakfasts for all the Kindergarten parents each year. We need each other to help cope.


The emotion both of these mom’s felt today was something I first experienced two years ago when Kandler, my oldest son, entered the halls of elementary school for the first time as a kindergartener. No longer was he at home with Cassie or at Revive Parents Day Out with me, but he would now begin being shaped by others who I didn’t really know. Every parent probably has a similar story they could share when they were forced to recognize God’s sovereignty in a real way and this was mine. Kandler was, is, and will forever be God’s. Not mine. I must trust Jesus to shape him through his experience at school just as I must do everywhere else God will lead him in his life. NOT EASY!


On the other end of the spectrum the first day of Parents Day Out for others was like a long lost holiday that finally had arrived and been declared! Eager to have some personal time and get their affairs back in order, there were a handful of parents who instead of tears were grinning ear to ear. I guess the contrast comes in especially if you’ve never put a kid in school before. But to see it so clearly today really made me stop and think. Am I sad for another semester or happy? But more importantly why? What’s the reason behind my reason? If I am sad is it because I am struggling to rest in God’s plan and protection for my child? If I am happy is it because I see my kids as a burden at times to my own personal agenda? The answer to all of these is sometimes yes and sometimes no.


Solomon in Ecclesiastes 3:1 says “For everything there is a season and a time for every matter under heaven:” Right now many families are in the Back to School season and schedules are getting adjusted and plans are being formulated as we set in for the long haul before Thanksgiving break. With each shifting season of life it’s a great opportunity to look inside and ask questions about our hearts. What’s even more vital is to rest in the answer. Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit is our living hope who knows we can’t handle the emotional toll of life and the decisions we all have to make for those we love most dearly. But He also intercedes with groaning for us in the middle of each of these moments. Whatever emotional climate your heart may be in during this season, gaze on the author of the story. I promise you the story He is writing is worth it.





The Tower and the Pool

by Phil Baker

The biggest obstacle most people face to belief in a loving god is the problem of pain and suffering in the world. If there is a loving god, why is there evil in the world? How could a god who loves us allow school shootings and disease? These things exist. Therefore, a loving god must not exist. Even those who believe God does exist struggle with this paradox. But we hold to our faith and wait for the day when we can ask God face-to-face why he allows such atrocities.

The disciples didn’t have to wait. They had Jesus right there with them.

And, guess what!  They asked him!

As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him. We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” Having said these things, he spit on the ground and made mud with the saliva. Then he anointed the man’s eyes with the mud and said to him, “Go wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing.

John 9:1-7

It was common then to have a karma-like view of life. If you did bad things, bad things would happen to you. Jesus tried to counter this type of thinking by showing that bad things happen (a man is born blind) so that good things can happen (Jesus can heal him and God can be glorified).

Jesus healing the man is an act of grace. It is an example of God’s mercy sent to us through Jesus. So it’s fitting that the name of the pool is “Sent”. Siloam was a small neighborhood in Jerusalem. It is mentioned one other time, in the book of Luke. Jesus was teaching and was again asked about the problem of sin and evil. As he explained that there are no degrees of sin – everyone is a sinner – he referenced a recent event where a tower in Siloam collapsed and killed 18 people. Like the blind man, everyone wondered if these 18 deserved their fate through something they had done. Again Jesus corrected their thinking. But instead of showing grace and mercy, this time he highlighted the need for repentance.

There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And he answered them, “Do you think these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”

Luke 13:1-5

Think about these two references to Siloam. A tower and a pool. One is a tall building. The other is a low well. One is a positive edifice. The other a negative depression. One reaches toward heaven. The other is recessed into the earth. At one, mercy is shown. At the other, salvation was needed.

Jesus had two sides that were just as opposing. At times he reached down to touch the lowly. Other times he raised his hands to praise his father. Sometimes he showed mercy (and it was gratefully received). Other times he prescribed repentance (and it was sadly rejected). What he was doing was setting an example for us to follow. We are to be like him. We are to be both a pool and a tower. We are to serve humbly and to proclaim boldly. Reach down and reach up. We are called to be both visible and invisible. We are to be the visible, tangible hands and feet of Jesus in the world. While, at the same time, we are to divert attention from ourselves to the source of our love.

When I think about the problem of evil in the world (and in my own life), God twists the question around on me. If there are Christians, why is there evil in the world? Then I am forced to ask myself if I am a tower and a pool? Am I reaching down to heal? Am I standing up for righteousness? Am I both brave and humble? Who am I in this messed-up world?

The answer comes back to me – I am Siloam. I am sent.

Confessions of an Easter Bunny

Confessions of an Easter Bunny

by Phil Baker

I am the Easter Bunny. If you didn’t already know that, I’m sorry to burst your bubble. I’ve been playing the Easter Bunny at Revive for several Easters now and it is probably one of my favorite times.

Kids have funny reactions to the Easter Bunny. As soon as I come out in costume some kids stare at me, some cry, and some run up and give me a hug. The kids that stare are usually the younger ones. This may be their first time seeing Mr. Bunny. They need time to process and decide how they feel about him. It’s understandable. A large costumed character can be a lot to deal with. The ones that cry usually have recently had an experience with another Easter Bunny that didn’t go well. They see me and get flashbacks of their parents forcing them to sit on my lap, like some sort of holiday PTSD. But the ones that run up to me are the ones I love. I don’t have to explain why. The Easter Bunny is a celebrity. They know me and love me. They just want to come up and thank me for the Easter basket they received earlier that morning.

As the Easter festivities at Revive go along, a few of the kids who were “on the fence” about the Easter Bunny might warm up to me. I do my best to put them at ease and charm them into coming closer so their parents can snap a picture. One thing that seems to happen over and over during these interactions is that the kids will often give me one of their Easter eggs. It is such a sweet gesture. They just worked hard searching for and gathering these eggs and now they want to give one to me?! Why would they do this? Maybe they want to be my friend. Maybe they know that Easter Eggs come from the Easter Bunny so they are just giving back what is mine. Or maybe they just want to give.

Of course, I don’t keep the eggs. I thank them for their offering (as best I can in my own bunny miming way) and give it back to them. If they were previously unsure about the Easter Bunny, this usually closes the deal. We’re friends now. And that’s all I really want.

A few days after Easter (as I was coming down from my candy high), I thought about this exchange and how it reminds me of our interactions with God. When God shows up in our lives, some will stare, not sure what to make of it. Some will cry at how He has interrupted the plans and expectations they had. But some will recognize Him immediately and run to Him.

God has placed Easter eggs in our lives. They might be a job, children or a spouse. They might be your stuff, your dreams or your future.  As we wander this field of life, we fill our basket with these eggs.

And then we see God.

And we look down at our basket.

How are we going to react? Will we run to thank Him? Will we cry and run away, fearful that He will take away our eggs? Or will we just stop and stare?

What being the Easter Bunny has taught me is that maybe the best response is to offer our eggs back to God. This is what Abraham did with Isaac. This is what Hannah did with Samuel. Call it reciprocation, reciprocity or re-gifting. This simple exchange of receiving something from God, offering it back to Him only to have Him give it back to us, is just another way to grow your relationship with Him.

He, like the Easter Bunny, just wants to be your friend.