Author Archives: mkaybaldwin

About mkaybaldwin

I have spent the majority of my life in central Indiana. I am a graduate of North centeral High School. I love to travel to visit family, especially my four nieces and nephews who live in Southeast Asia. I am the youngest of three. My oldest sister has Down Syndrome. After graduating from College, I began working at a church and for over 17 years served as a youth pastor and a caring ministries pastor. Currently, I am a Marriage and Family Therapist continuing in ministry through a different context.

Ezekiel 7-9; Hebrews 8

Photo by Mandy Baldwin

“By calling this covenant “new,” he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and outdated will soon disappear.”

Hebrews 8:13 NIV

I love new things….

  • A new journal
  • A new book
  • A new pen
  • A new dress
  • A new pair of shoes
  • A new year

What new things do you like?

The new covenant was put in place with the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. When I think about His sacrifice I am overwhelmed with gratitude. The old covenant was based on the law and obedience to the law.

As participants of the new covenant, what do we do with the old?

With my love for new things, I want to be able to walk away from the old. And yet… I cannot. I cannot walk away from the guidelines that God has laid down. I cannot forget what has come before the new…and I don’t think that’s what God is talking about in Hebrews.

Photo by Mandy Baldwin

The old covenant set the stage for the new. The old demonstrated our inability to do life on our own. The old pointed us directly to the new and specifically to Jesus. Therefore, we cannot get rid of it. I let it lead me to Jesus. I let it remind me of my dependence on Jesus. I let it remind me that I am no better than anyone else. The old covenant is a reminder of our equality before the Lord and our desperate need of His Grace and Mercy.

We don’t live in the old covenant because it is over…we live in the new. Live in the new, while remembering the work of the old.

How can you let the old point to the new?

Dear Lord, Thank you for new. For a new covenant, new starts, new beginnings, new hope, new life! Lord may the old remind us of the need for the new. May we be reminded of our need for you. Amen.

Mandy (mkaybaldwin)

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Jeremiah 47-49

Photo by Mandy Baldwin

Attack…flee…plunder…disgraced…capture…silenced…destruction….destroy…broken…

““Yet I will restore the fortunes of Elam in days to come,”” declares the Lord.”

Jeremiah 49:39 NIV

I am sitting on my front porch in the cool of the morning. The sun is filtering through the trees and I hear the steady traffic on the main road. There is a slight breeze and leaves are gently falling to the ground. It’s a slow morning with nothing that HAS to be done right now. I feel relaxed. And then I read the words of God recorded by Jeremiah and it’s like a shock through my system.

How can the God who loved the world so much that He died for her, call for such violence and destruction? That is not the God I know…but…that is a part of the God that I choose to love and follow.

Photo by Mandy Baldwin

What became a little clearer to me today is the importance of obedience. I know…we hate that word! Especially as adults who have found their independence. But God knows! He created us! He knows what we need, how we will find what our hearts ultimately long for, and how to live in such an angry and sad world. He knows! Not me! I don’t know. I struggle every day with what seems to be insurmountable in my life and in the world.

What do I do? What do we do?

We practice obedience. Not for others but because we believe that God truly knows. That’s what Jeremiah did. He couldn’t have been the first choice on anyone’s party list. The words he recorded from God were not going to make him popular. But he was obedient. And it was hard.

What is God calling me to be obedient about today? What is he calling you? What is one step we can make today? Remember that it’s because of our relationship with God that we obey. We don’t obey to gain it.

Dear God, obedience is hard! You know that, you have lived that, and you call us to obey not in order to be in relationship with you but because you are GOD and you know! You know best what we need and how to walk this hard path of life. God help us in our disobedience. Turn our hearts away from the false peace and towards your fulfilling love. Amen

Mandy (mkaybaldwin)

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Zephaniah 1-3; 1 Timothy 5

Photo by Mandy Baldwin

“”At that time I will gather you;
    at that time I will bring you home.
I will give you honor and praise
    among all the peoples of the earth
when I restore your fortunes
    before your very eyes,”
says the Lord. “

Zephania 3:20

I hated practicing piano…at least the way I should practice. I loved learning the songs I wanted to learn, but when I had to practice scales I hated it. I remember one time my mom coming home from work and asking me if I had practiced piano and I immediately said yes…even though I had not. I felt guilty but I didn’t come clean. It wasn’t until later when mom found my piano books stuffed under my bed did she find out. Punishment was also so difficult for me. I hated getting into trouble. The punishment wasn’t the hard part, it was my parents anger and frustration with me that hurt.

The thing I remember the most about that time was my mom hugging me and holding me close after my punishment. She reminded me that I am loved and accepted even in my sin. There had to be a punishment for my lie and then there was comfort in the punishment.

Photo by Mandy Baldwin

The first two chapters of Zephania are foretelling the punishment for rebellion and turning away from God. It’s the necessary correction that comes from sin. It seems extreme to us in today’s reality, but punishment we get. However, just like my mom, God turns His warm heart towards His people at their repentance. His heart is for their benefit not their punishment. He desires to bless and prosper them, not to punish them.

I’ve never known what to do with God’s wrath. I still don’t. It’s a part of who He is and I accept that. What I choose to focus on more, is his warm heart at our repentance and turning back.

Dear God, forgive us our sins. Help us to keep coming back. Help us to desire you more than anything else. Thank you that your heart is FOR us and and FOR our good. May we continue to rest in You. Amen.

Mandy (mkaybaldwin)

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Isaiah 45-48; Phil. 3

“But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith.”

Philippians 3:7-9 NIV

As I read the words above, I am sitting on my front porch in the cool of the morning. The sun is up and filtering through the trees. Traffic is light out on the main road and all seems well. I love this time of day. Time to sit, reflect, read and drink coffee. It can feel perfect. I want to just sit in this moment all day. But…I can’t. I have errands to run, people to meet and work to do.

In my comfort I struggle to consider it a loss for the sake of Christ. I don’t know about you, but I like comfort. I like financial security, I like beautiful days, I like air conditioning, I like enough food on the table, I like a car with enough gas. Life is good!! And in that, I am a minority. My reality is very far from the majority of people in this world. It’s even further from the reality that Paul was in when he wrote these words

Paul was in prison. Suffering and yet counting it joy for the sake of Christ. I used to think that I had to suffer in order to fully understand Paul’s words. The reality is, however, that we all suffer in some way because we live in a fallen broken world. So how do Paul’s words…God’s words…change me?

For me…I look at my foundation and my support.

  • Am I clinging to momentary comfort or to Christ?
  • Is my faith in Christ dependent on comfort, or on Him?
  • How do I use my comfort for the sake of Christ, just as I use my suffering?

I know I get this wrong more times than I get it right. I’m eternally grateful for the grace of Christ and His work that continues in my imperfection.

How can you firm up your foundation in Christ today?

Father, thank you for your words, your direction, your grace and your righteousness. Continue to work in and through us as we seek to cling to you and stand on you as our foundation. May our lives speak of you and your goodness and mercy and salvation.

Amen

Mandy (mkaybaldwin)

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Isaiah 23-25; Romans 15

Sunrise – Photo by Mandy Baldwin

I have always struggled to understand Romans. I always felt it was a mix of law and grace. How do those two go together? I do the right things and feel good because I did it! Then I mess up and struggle with guilt and shame. The grace of God is comforting in those times when I wonder what to do. So I double down and try and work harder. Is there a balance?

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Romans 15:13

I have always found this verse encouraging. Our God is a God of hope. Our God IS our hope… not the law, not Holiness, not marriage, not the new job, not money. So much of the time I have found myself hoping in those things that are up to me. Up to me to figure out how to do or how not to do. Instead, I am learning what it looks like to Hope in God. Hope in who He is. Hope in His character.

I have not found the balance between the law and grace. I doubt I ever will. While I wait, however, I have hope. So…what do I do?

  • I continue reading. I read Romans again. I read the old testament. I read the new testament. Time with God will never be wasted.
  • I work at having the grace for others that I desire from God.
  • I work through my own unmet desires with the help of God as a way of keeping Him as my hope and not the meeting of those desires.
  • I keep moving in the direction that I believe God is calling me.

What can you do today to place God as your hope?

Dear God, thank you that you have not left us alone to figure out life, but you have given us direction and you have given yourself. Forgive us for the ways we get it wrong. Help us to give the same grace to others that you give to us. Thank you for the way you move in our lives. Amen.

Mandy (mkaybaldwin)

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Hosea 2-4; Romans 5

“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance;perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. ”

Romans 5:1-5, NIV

What brings you hope? According to Romans 5, the work of God brings the most hope. However, it costs something. It costs our comfort. When in the midst of suffering it is extremely difficult to continue, at least continue with life as usual. It can be hard going to work; interacting with friends and family; going to parties; going to church.

I am training for a half marathon in November. Yes, it will take me that long to prepare…and even then, we shall see. Right now I’m at the point of running 5 minutes and then walking 3 minutes. I do that 3 times. I can’t tell you how much I want to stop and walk when I reach 3 or 4 minutes. Continuing to run when everything inside me (mostly my lungs) wants to stop is painful! When I’m running with a friend, it’s a lot easier to keep running. On my own? Sometimes I quit and sometimes I don’t. I can tell I’m improving. The stress and struggle is working.

After 6 weeks of training…I have hope.

Has your suffering brought you hope? Has God brought you through something that has created hope and peace? Looking back and remembering what God has done is a good practice. Take time today to remember. You are different today than when you first started your journey with God. Have hope because of the suffering you have been through to give you hope for the suffering you are in now because your God has not abandoned you; He has not forgotten you; He is with you.

Dear Father, you know suffering. You know how our suffering can lead us astray. We ask you boldly today to make yourself known to us in our suffering. Provide your peace and hope in the midst of suffering while we continue to persevere. Amen.

Mandy (mkaybaldwin)

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Joel 1-3; 1 Thess. 3

“May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you.”

1 Thessalonians 3:12, NIV

In our reading today there is a huge contrast. In Joel we read about the hardship that the Lord’s people were experiencing. Joel called Judah to repent and cry out to God for salvation. The Lord responded with compassion and saved them and their land and cattle. Then the Lord called them to war.

In 1 Thessalonians, Paul was so encouraged to hear about the faith of the Thessalonians and their consistent belief in Jesus. He encouraged them to continue and to increase their love for each other and everyone else. Paul asked the Lord to increase their love.

I have to be honest and say I have always struggled with the contrast between The Old Testament and The New Testament. I have taken classes and understand the cultural conditions that existed during each time. I have taken many classes and read many books about theology. However, I still cannot understand the contrast between the God that calls for war and the God that calls for peace and love.

So what do we do? I have learned from a mentor that I don’t force an answer where there is not a clear one. I wait. I wait for wise council, I wait for the Holy Spirit’s leading and and I wait for confirmation. Currently, in my life, I have been led by the Spirit to love and not turn the shovel in my garage into a sword. I don’t give answers I don’t have. I will answer, “I don’t know.”

So friends, as we wait for the Lord’s return… as week seek to follow the Lord’s leading… as we share the “good news” that has changed our lives, let us also be comfortable in the spaces of contrast and unknown.

Dear God, I pray as Paul did that you would strengthen our hearts so that they would be blameless and holy in your presence. Allow us to be confident in who You are even in the unknown. May we sense your nearness and love because You first loved us. Amen.

Mandy (mkaybaldwin)

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