Monthly Archives: February 2013

In Honor of the 27 Million slaves around the world today!!!

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I Am Not but I know I AM by Louie Giglio

In 2002, I was introduced to Louie Giglio through his ministry to college students, Passion. Then in 2003, along with a couple friends, I traveled to the last actual One Day conference they did in Texas. Even though I have never met him personally, I would have to say he is a man God has used to greatly impact my life for His glory. I am very thankful for the ministry that Louie Giglio and his wife have at Passion as well as Passion City Church in Atlanta, GA. I have been inspired many times listening to podcasts of his as well as messages from the yearly Passion gatherings. Needless to say, because of Louie’s obedience to God’s calling in his life, thousands of people have been impacted and I love hearing how God continues to use him, not because of who he is, but because of how God loves to use people to show His glory to the world.

The last sentence in the above paragraph briefly states what this book is all about: little people like us being brought into the big, amazing, magnificent story of God to be used for His glory. Too often we try to live as if this world centers on us and history is all about us. This leaves us with a very small view of the world and a small view of God. Louie begins his book speaking of how God reveals Himself to Moses through the burning bush as “I AM” and how because of the name God gives Himself, the best way for us to remember who we are is to think of us as “I am not.” It is a play on words that is very simple, yet profound. Louie is great at communicating truths from God’s Word in a very practical and easy to understand way which can have a lasting impact on those who take the time to listen. Is this because Louie brings all this attention to himself or because he is just that gifted? No. He would be the first to point back to God and say that the only reason Passion has taken off like it has is because of the big God he serves and who has invited him to take part in the big story of God. This is what life is all about and the sooner we accept this, the sooner we can begin living a life that will leave a lasting impact in the lives of those people around us.

The synopsis on the back of the book has this to say:

“God is looking for ordinary people to play significant roles in HIS STORY.

Our God is more expansive and powerful than we could ever imagine, the all-mighty creator of galaxies beyond our reach. But He is also the loving creator who has formed and fashioned you. Yet, as valuable as you are to Him, God’s best for your life is to invite you into a story that is all about Him.”

This book spoke to me at the right time in my life in that too often, I forget how small I really am in comparison to God. I feel like God really needs me and that without me, the world would be in a bigger mess, or at least the little part of the world where I am involved. However, when I take a closer look at all that God is in control of, I cannot but be put into my rightful place, which is a benefactor in the story of God. God did not make this story all about Him and then just make us pawns who just go about doing His bidding mindlessly and without a choice. No, God gave us the choice to follow Him and then invited us to take part in the story that is all about Him. When we accept that invitation, our lives take on new meaning which is incomparable to anything this world has to offer. However, so many people are stuck in their own little worlds with a big view of themselves and a little view of God. Even professing followers of Christ can have this mindset. Imagine how the church would change for the better if everyone who was a follower of Christ, and thus a part of the body of Christ, would accept this mindset and opinion of God and themselves? It brings chills to my spine thinking about this because of how the church would be able to change the world because no one would be pointing to themselves or their own accomplishments. Everyone would be pointing to God and what He has accomplished and the fact that God has invited us to take part in this story of God that encompasses all of History.

After listening to Louie speak for so long, I can practically hear him speaking this book as I read it. God has given him a unique ability to speak truth in a way that makes sense and through this, from the start to finish this book will open your eyes. Louie uses Scripture and personal stories to really get the point of this book across to anyone who reads it. You will find yourself amazed but at the same time thinking, “why didn’t I think of that?” However, the biggest thing you will walk away from this book with is a renewed awe of God and thankfulness for being invited to play a part in the story of God.

Something I typically do in my book reviews is include a couple quotes from the book to just whet your appetite a little. Here are a couple for you to ponder that stood out to me:

“God was awesome before we ever heard or spoke His name.”

“You were in the mind of God in eternity past. Yet, as God thought about you and me, His mission wasn’t to point us to ourselves but rather to open our eyes to fully enjoy Him. From the start, God was intent on making sure we knew how truly magnificent He is.”

“And what’s really wild is that while He doesn’t need any of us, He is choosing to include us, inviting us into the Story that never ends.”

I highly recommend this book to anyone who will take the chance to read it. It will inspire you and encourage you in your walk with the Lord and yet remind you how much God truly loves you and longs to have a relationship with you. We do not deserve this place in God’s story He has invited us to share in but God, in His grace, chose to invite us along for the ride. After reading this book, you will have to make a choice: am I going to live as if life is really about me, or will I accept the fact and live out the truth that life and history is ALL about the real “I AM” who was, and is, and is to come?

 

I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review as a part of their Blogging for Books program in exchange for an honest review.


Dangerous Calling by Paul David Tripp

 

Dangerous Calling

This book is, simply put, a must read for any individual who desires to enter full-time, part-time or lay pastoral ministry. I would actually go so far as to say that this book would be an eye-opener for anyone in the church because many people in the church do not truly understand everything a pastor faces in his life and ministry. Paul David Tripp does an amazing job of capturing the dangers and temptations that face not just the pastor, but his family as well. Dangerous Calling takes a long, in-depth look at pastoral ministry and reveals what could be considered a darker side of ministry.

Before reading this book, I was only vaguely familiar with Paul Tripp and his ministry, and most of my exposure was through Twitter and a couple podcasts. I must confess that I am pleased I went with the recommendation to review Dangerous Calling. As a part-time youth pastor for the last two years, I have faced only portion of what many pastors have faced throughout their ministry. However, everything I read in Tripp’s book was presented in a clear and understandable way. What Paul writes in this book makes perfect sense and was not only a challenge to me, but also an encouragement because it shows that I am not alone in my struggles, nor will I ever be alone.

From the very beginning of the book, you see that Paul Tripp is not trying to hide behind a façade of seemingly perfect ministry. He is more than willing to share his own personal stories of struggle and weakness as a pastor that God brought him through and used in his own life and ministry to bring him to where he is today. He helps the reader understand that he is not above them looking down on them, but trying to walk alongside of them to encourage them and help them so they do not make some of the same errors he has made. He also uses stories from pastors who have come to him for help and encouragement. However, all of these stories and examples and insight are meant to bring us to the understanding that pastors still need the same grace we preach just as much as those we preach to need it. Pastors have not arrived at a certain level of holiness that has allowed them to become a pastor. Pastors are not above the gospel. Pastors are not at a place in their spiritual walk where they need something besides the gospel to keep them going. The hope of glory according to the Bible is Christ IN us, not Christ AND us. So the gospel includes everything we need to live a life that brings glory to God and leads us into a more intimate relationship with the Lord. This gospel is the same for everyone, from the newest follower of Christ to the most seasoned and battle-worn disciple. We are all saved by the same grace and are all called to make disciples. The temptation thought that faces many pastors today is the idea that they have arrived and they are somehow above those they are preaching too. This could not be further from the truth. Paul Tripp does an amazing job at explaining this in a way that helps humble a pastor but yet encourage them and push them towards the gospel.

I believe this book would do well in the hands of any seminary student as well and would be a very beneficial and insightful text for any would-be-pastor. In one part of the book, Paul shares stories from different seminary classes he has had the opportunity to teach and how it opened his eyes to how seminary is a very beneficial tool to help train ministry leaders, but it can also be extremely dangerous as well if the student’s heart is not truly where it needs to be. This topic is discussed in chapters entitled “Big Theological Brains and Heart Disease” and “More than Knowledge and Skill.” Being a pastor takes more than just theological knowledge and communication skills and counseling wisdom. Being a pastor takes a heart that seeks to chase and follow after God’s heart step by step. If the heart is not in it, the person filling the pulpit will do little to truly fill the role of a pastor in their local church. Dangerous Calling served as a great reminder and heart check for me in my ministry. Many times I have found myself falling short of my calling and with how I respond to and love people and this book brought me to an understanding of how I daily need God’s grace and to preach the gospel to myself in order to give me a heart after God’s own heart. The heart is the key to any ministry position and if our heart is left to wander, our ministry will wander as well.

Here are a couple noteworthy quotes from the book:

“In pastoral ministry, it is very hard to keep what God says is important, important in your heart.”

“It is critical to understand that your ministry will always be either propelled by or victimized by what you treasure.”

Being a pastor is much more than just a position to hold or a profession to seek. Your life is always under pressure from both the internal and external. Internally you have a battle raging as a follower of Christ and as someone attempting to lead and shepherd other Christians. You also face external pressures from those very people within your church as well. These pressures can eventually lead a pastor to crack, especially if their heart is not in the right place.

There are so many other quotes I could include or points I could make that I drew from this book but I am just going to strongly encourage you to actually pick up a copy of the book as well and read it for yourself. I highly recommend reading it as your eyes will be opened to the dangerous calling that pastors face. If you are following God’s leading in your life to be a pastor, this book will be great. Or, if you simply want to understand how you can minister to your pastor, this book would be well worth your time.

 

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Crossway in exchange for this review. Thanks for taking the time to read this review and feel free to leave comments or questions.


Fear: Thoughts from a Fed Ex Forklift

It has been a little over a month since my last post and there have been a number of topics I have contemplated writing on but just did not follow through with it. However, for the topic I am going to write about today, it has been a constant in my mind recently and God is definitely helping me work through this each and every day. That topic is fear.

I do not really know where to begin so I am going to attempt to type my way through the beginning and hope that it flows well into what I really want to touch on. From the time I was young, there have been fears that have haunted me and sometimes ruled my life, or even kept me from truly living the life God laid out for me. Fears such as falling to my death, being in an airplane and it crashing, being made fun of/picked on, etc. When I was in high school, I wanted to be accepted and popular so I did anything I could to fit in and be accepted. This in turn caused me to make choices that did not fit with who I was as a follower of Christ. I believed that I would eventually grow out of those fears and move on with life as it seemed most adults did, and in a way I did.

However, for many of you reading this, you know part of what I said so far is true in that you are able to “outgrow” some of your fears. But on the other hand, other fears come into our lives or some just take on a different form as you age. Fears grow with you. Right now I deal with different fears (and some similar) than I did when I was younger. I no longer deal so much with the same fears as when I was younger but other fears have grown in their place. A few I deal with now are failing as a husband or father or youth pastor, losing my wife or daughter, dying and not leaving enough to take care of my family after I pass are a few examples. The fear that comes to mind most frequently is that of losing my wife or daughter or something happening to them where I am helpless to save them. I seem to constantly be fighting this fear and pray God will protect them when I am not around. One of my current jobs is a part time dockworker at Fed Ex Freight where I work on a forklift unloading and loading freight onto trailers. Since I can do most of the work without really needing to use my mind, I have started listening to podcasts throughout the morning. This has served to challenge me in my walk with the Lord and I am glad I have this opportunity to be taught by people around the country. It is also one of the reasons I am so thankful for the job. But anyways, one of the podcasts I listened to Thursday was one by Britt Merrick, a pastor at Reality, a church in Santa Barbara, California. I cannot remember how I came across Britt but I am very thankful that I did. If you have some time, look up the blog prayfordaisy.com; it is the story of his daughter, Daisy, who has been battling cancer for a number of years now. At only 8 years old, she is in her 4th bout with cancer. The story saddens me, especially now that I am a father, and brings tears to my eyes. It causes me to think how I would respond if my daughter were to be in this position and how I would handle it.

The podcast I listened to was titled “When Sparrows Fall” and was his first time speaking at Reality for a while due to his family being away for a period of time as they tried different procedures and treatments, even going to Israel for a treatment and to spend some time as family, in hopes their daughter would be healed. Let me just say there were a number of times on my forklift while listening where I was fighting back tears but I could not help being moved. If you are reading this post, I encourage you to look up the podcast and listen to it. Britt speaks from his heart and shares his own fears through this whole ordeal. He speaks honestly and how he went through a period where it seemed God had completely left him to deal with his daughter’s fight for life alone. He says that when they went to Israel, he was out for a run and was trying to speak to God but it just seemed God was nowhere to be found and it left Britt completely depressed. I love the fact that Britt, a pastor, shares how he battled depression through this because I feel that so often, pastors are put on pedestals where it seems they never have any true struggles and hardships or have to deal with parts of life like everyone else does. This period of silence seems to go on for a while and it comes to the point where his wife basically tells him that he needs to snap out of it or his wife is going to lose it because she cannot be strong enough for them both. This is what eventually helps lead him out of the depression and to a breakthrough in his walk with the Lord where God is able to reveal more about Himself to Britt in a way that would not have been as powerful had he not gone through this time. I do not want to give away anymore of the podcast but I want to share what God really used to speak to me. Britt and his wife had just been told some unnerving news and they were just stunned when one of the ladies from their church sent his wife a text explaining that she didn’t know why but just felt that she needed to share a verse with them, Isaiah 41:10. This verse says:

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

This verse did not suddenly change their circumstances but it served as a powerful reminder and personal message that God is there. He is going to be the one to help them through this. God is going to give them the strength to make it through this ordeal. Apart from God, they did not have the strength to face another day, but with God, they could face it with His strength and with His power knowing that He was not distant. They were also reminded of Psalm 34:18 which says “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” Those two verses were refreshing for Britt and his wife and gave them reason to keep pushing, to keep going and not give up.

Now how does this apply to me and my fears? If we dwell on our fears too much, they become paralyzing and take control of our lives. Fears can keep us from truly living and giving everything we have. Fears keep us from taking risks for God. Fears cause us to in some ways question God’s goodness, even when nothing bad is happening to us. Fear in essence causes us to worry. That is what many of my fears were doing to me. They were not drawing me into a more intimate relationship with God, they were causing me to not trust God fully with every part of my life. Many times, I fight fears in my life because of where I am in my life right now and where God has my wife and I. I have two jobs but cannot afford for my wife and I to have a house or apartment to ourselves and we have to live with her family. Now do not get me wrong, it is a huge blessing to be able to do this and in other cultures around the world, this is a normal thing. But here in America, it is not the norm and many times it causes me to doubt whether I am truly where God wants me. It basically causes me to fear. That fear causes me to worry and worry causes me to not trust God fully which is a hard place to be because then we try to take things into our own hands. This fear causes me to look at friends who appear to have so much more and wonder why God has us in this place. Why is God not blessing me like He is blessing others? Why can I not find a job that will provide for my wife and I to be able to have a home to ourselves? Why? Why? Why…

Honestly, I do not have the full answer right now. I do not know why God is having Marcie and I go through this period in our lives. I know and believe that in the future, when I look back, I will be able to see this situation from a different perspective and understand more of what God was doing and it might even make sense. How do I know this? Because I can do it right now by looking back at my life and seeing how God has already worked and brought me to where I am. I have to remember that God is with me. God is the one who will strengthen me in every area of my life when I need it. Going back to fear, if we dwell on our fears and let them rule our hearts and minds, we will be left depressed, discouraged, worried and so much more. We will basically be left with the life sucked right out of us. If fear rules our lives, we will never want to step out in faith. We will never want to take a step that might put our family or ourselves in a place of risk.

Is that the life God calls us to? Is that the life of true faith? Fear flies right in the face of faith. Faith is defined as complete trust or confidence in someone or something. If we have faith in God, then where is room for fear? For me, fear causes me to doubt the Bible and God when He says He has our best interest in mind. It causes me to think that God might not want what is best for me. If I was facing what Britt and his family was facing, how would that be for my good? I do not know. All I do know is that God has promised to be with me no matter what I face. He will not leave me or my family alone. He will help strengthen us just as He is helping Britt through this period of his life and struggle they are facing. If something were to happen to my wife or daughter, what would I do? Well, I would weep. I would mourn. I would try to face the days following and constantly remember the good times we shared. It would be extremely difficult. But what would really keep me going more than anything is that God has promised He would be with me. If something were to happen to me and my wife and daughter were still here, He has promised to be with them as well and He would help them through that time. And through all of that, we would come to know God in a deeper, more satisfying and intimate way which we would have never known before.

I hope that everyone who has read this far is not feeling sad of discouraged or even fearful because of what I have written. That was definitely far from being my intention. However, I did want to face write about fear and how God has challenged me through some of my fears and brought me to know Him more.

What is my response now that God has spoken to me in this way? Well that is a simple question to answer: to LIVE!!! To not allow fear to rule my life and paralyze me and keep me from experiencing life but to embrace it with all that it is, the ups and the downs. To live each day to the fullest and to live to bring God glory because He has promised to never leave me nor forsake me. He has promised to strengthen me through any and every situation I face.

Matthew 6:33 says that we should be seeking God first and foremost with our lives and He will give us everything we need and then verse 34 says not to worry about tomorrow. Why do I think that verse is right after a verse about seeking God? Because it is a direct response to fear in our lives. When we seek God and His Kingdom and His righteousness first with our lives, He helps us see that He will provide for us everything we need for our lives. He will help us through each day. So if He is going to help us face today, why would He leave us tomorrow? Why do we need to worry about tomorrow? We don’t. We just need to live today. How do we face our fears? How do we gain victory to where our fears do not control us? By seeking God first and foremost in our lives because then we will know Him enough to know that He will not leave us to face our fears alone. What else helps me face today in spite of my fears? The Gospel. The good news that this life is not all there is and that God made the way for us to be in a relationship with Him and that because of what He did through the cross, we will be with Him for eternity.

Thanks for taking the time to read this post. I pray that it has encouraged you and challenged you in some way. Feel free to leave a comment as well. May God bless you today and make Himself known to you in a way that is specific to your circumstance and situation.

theToddLynn