Category Archives: Discipleship

My heart is heavy

 

Through the last month, I have been reading Christine Cain’s book Undaunted. It has been a book I wish I could have read when I was in my early 20’s because of how powerful it has been to me. Christine is an Australian who has traveled the world speaking to various groups and her heart is to reach those who have been victims of human trafficking, or sex trafficking. Her and her husband started the organization A21 Campaign to help expose the problem of human trafficking and eventually and hopefully bring it to an end. The fact that it is even a problem in this world today tells an even bigger story of the depravity of humanity.

When you think of human trafficking, what first comes to mind is slavery and dealing with older people. However, the problem does not just involve older people, it involves people of all ages. The even more unfortunate part of human trafficking is the fact the biggest targets for those in human trafficking are little children through teenagers. When I say children, just being open and honest here of the severity of the problem, it can mean kids as young as infants. Let that sink in for a second. Romans 1:30 speaks of how humans can be “inventors of evil.” Little kids are taken from their homes and beaten and abused by others for their own pleasure and profit. How has the human race become so depraved as to actually do something so hideous and horrible? This breaks my heart even more now that I have an almost 3 year old daughter at home. Unfortunately, it does not break my heart like it should and as it no doubt breaks the heart of God.

Christine shares personal stories of how God brought her to the place of giving all she has to this cause and how He helped her overcome fears and feelings of inadequacy to actually begin doing something. She shared a powerful story of how her, her husband and a couple friends were lost in the Australian wilderness overnight and most of a day. Nick, Christine’s husband, left the other 3 to go try to find help and was gone for a number of hours before finally finding civilization and a helicopter to go back in and rescue the others. When she heard the helicopter, she say that God clearly spoke to her in a way that she has never forgotten. She remembers that when she first saw it, her thoughts were “We’re saved. We’re saved.” She shares what God spoke to her heart that day:

“Yes, Christine, you are saved. Remember what it is to be saved. Remember what it is to be lost. Remember the darkness and the difference between feeling carefree one morning and by evening sad and scared and sorry for being careless. Remember that I am here. Remember that I want to save every soul. And remember what it is to be unable on your own ability to get out of the dark. “

Too often, once we are saved, it is easy to forget what it is like to be lost, or caught in darkness. We forget what it is like to be scared and without hope. We do not like to think that there are people out there who have no hope unless we as Christ’s followers stand up and do something. We believe that since we are able to “pull ourselves up by our bootstraps” then these people should be able to also. But that just reveals how uninformed we are.

One of the most powerful stories she shares is when her and Nick took one of their daughters to get a flashlight at Wal-Mart. After picking one out, they gave it to her and she turned it on and because of how bright the store was, she could not truly see the flashlight working. So she asked them “Can we please go find some darkness.” This little girl spoke mountains of truth into their lives through that statement and even as I sit here thinking about it, is that my mindset? Do I realize that Christ in me is a light and through me, God wants to shine a light into the darkness all around me? Do I really want to seek out darkness so Christ can truly shine? Or am I content with being in so much light that I forget about the darkness all around me? Or, am I fearful of what it might mean to my life?

I have to admit, I have many fears in my life and many times, I find myself being more driven by them than by my faith in God. It’s amazing that even those of us who claim to have faith in the almighty, powerful God who saved us from death and darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son can still be driven by fear. Christine’s book truly challenges you to live undaunted in the world around us. We need to stop living so blindly and allow our eyes to be opened to the world around us, the hurt, the pain, the darkness; and then we need to run towards it because we have the light. We have the answer; we have God’s Spirit inside of us and His mission to make disciples as we are living this life. We are to be carriers of justice and hope and peace in this world. But we cannot do that while waiting for them to come to us. We need to go to them.

One final story for this post comes when Christine was able to meet face to face with some girls who had been trafficked. After talking with them for a while one of the girls asked why she was there. She was able to share with them the gospel and why she had come. The girl’s response was this:

“If what you are telling me is true,” she yelled, “if what you say about your God is true – then where were you? Where have you been? Why didn’t you come sooner?”

I cannot imagine the feeling in that room at that moment. But I can understand her question. God tells us to love our neighbors as ourselves. If something were to happen to someone in your family or in mine, wouldn’t you stop everything and help them or search for them if they were lost? If something were to happen to my family, I would give up everything to search for them and would not stop until they were found. If that is the case, if we say we love God, how can we sit by and do nothing when those around us, those God calls our neighbors, are hurting and lost? This just makes me think even more about the part where they were lost in the wilderness and God told her to remember what it was like to be lost.

If we as Christians have this light to shine in the darkness, how can we just sit back and be ok with what is happening in the world around us? If you were sitting face to face with someone who had been trafficked, what would you say to them if they asked you why you didn’t come sooner? How would you respond? At that time, I really believe your life would be put in perspective and what you spent your time doing would be shown their true importance. Unfortunately, we are so easily distracted. I can honestly say this book has truly helped open my eyes and challenged me to not let fear drive me. I have God’s Spirit in my life and a mission from Him that He wants me to accomplish. And because of that, I can live undaunted. Because of the Gospel at work in my life, I can live without fear because the Gospel changes everything.

Before I close, I want to share a couple quotes that stood out to me:

“He does not ask, Are you capable? He asks are you willing?”

“The oppressed do not see too much difference between those who would keep them down and those who do nothing to help. There is no in-between.”

“Saving costs something. Rescuing risks everything.”

“When you’re not lost – when you’re safe – it’s hard to understand the urgency of needing to be found, needing to be rescued.”

If you are not sure where to begin, you can start by checking out organizations such as International Justice Mission, A21 Campaign, Freedom 4/24, End It Movement, Do Something Now, Liveyourdream.org and Polaris project. These are a few to start with but there are so many more out there working to the same end.

2 Timothy 1:7 says “for God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of love, power and sound judgment.” Let’s live that way and run towards the darkness with the light that we have. Thank you for taking the time to read this review. If you want a challenge, please go out and pick up the book, it will definitely challenge and change you.

In compliance with regulations introduced by the Federal Trade Commission, I received a complimentary copy of by Zondervan in exchange for this review.


Does it matter how we live?

 

I have been thinking a lot recently about 2 Corinthians 5:14-15. This past Sunday I shared it with the youth and college students at Temple Baptist. It says:

“For the love of Christ controls us because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and He died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for Him who for their sake died and was raised.” (ESV)

The reason I have been thinking about this passage recently is I have noticed a trend moving in the church today, especially in younger people, where everyone can just live their lives the way they want to while professing to be a Christian. One can live however they want to and everything is fine because God loves everyone. We can do whatever we want all because God loves us and wants us to have a good time in this life. He is a God of grace and mercy so you can lie, steal, cheat, lust, etc. as long as your choices are not as poor as the next person.

However, this passage does not in any way give that impression. In fact, it says the exact opposite. First, as a follower of Christ, we should be controlled by the love of Christ. There are many times I have to remind myself about this. If the love of Christ is not controlling me as a follower of Christ, then what is controlling me? Nothing else should control me and have a tighter grip on my life than Jesus Christ. How can the love of Christ control me? It takes work and effort on our part. One does not become a follower of Christ and never have to work at living for God. Daily living for the Lord takes discipline and Bible reading and prayer and allowing God’s Spirit to guide you. This does not come easily to everyone. But that is what it truly takes to live a life controlled by the love of God.

Along the same lines, why should the love of Christ control us? Because of the Gospel. Verse 14 states the Gospel in a simple way, “One (Jesus) has died for all, therefore, all (followers of Christ) have died.” That is the Gospel clearly stated. We deserved to die the death Jesus died in our place, or on our behalf, or for our sake. He died so we would no longer live for ourselves. This is the essence of sin, living for ourselves. It is the very thing that caused Adam and Eve to sin. They wanted to live for themselves and fell for the lie of Satan that God was holding out on them and that their best life was right on the other side of eating the fruit of the tree God told them not to eat of. We are still trying to eat of that fruit even though God has given us His Word to show us the better way to live, His way. His is the way which leads to everlasting joy and peace, not temporary happiness and pleasure.

Moses chose to be with God in the wilderness than have the pleasures of Egypt without Him. By choosing to live for ourselves, we choose to live in the pleasures of Egypt apart from God while still trying to experience God in the wilderness. However, as you read through the Old Testament, we see that did not play out in the Israelites favor. Moses chose to let God lead Him and control his life.

This brings us to the end of the passage above: “might no longer live for themselves but for Him who for their sake died and was raised.” The part translated as “for their sake” in ESV, in the NASB is translated as “on their behalf.” When someone does something on your behalf, it is done in your place and no longer needs to be done. This means since Jesus died on the cross, we no longer need to pay for our sins because it is already done. Nothing we do can help pay more or less for our sins. Nothing we do can bring more grace to our lives and nothing can take grace away from our lives. God loves us all the same no matter what we choose to do with our lives. This means God loves the most faithful pastor of a mega church or small town church the same as He loves Osama Bin Laden. Thus, because all God did for us, we are to live our lives to Him. As followers of Christ we can no longer say “it is my life, I can do what I want.” Everything we do, from eating to how we dress to how we talk to what we watch on TV or listen to on the radio should all be done out of love for Christ.

But how is this possible? This seems pretty legalistic and rigid don’t you think? To say that God wants us to consider Him in everything we do is crazy. Two more passages:

Colossians 3:23 – “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.”

1 Corinthians 10:31 – “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”

It is not legalistic, it is what Christ desires from us as His followers. Read what Galatians 2:19-20 says:

“For through the law, I died to the law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

These verses contain the same idea as 2 Corinthians 5. Lastly, look at Galatians 5:16: “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” What are the desires of the flesh? You can simply say it is the desire to live for ourselves. Can you imagine a world where followers of Christ truly had this mindset instead of the mindset that I can do what I want? If we are a follower of Christ, we cannot live the way we want because our lives are no longer our own, “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” (1 Corinthians 6:20) Can it be any clearer?

To close, I don’t want this post to only sound negative and restrictive because that is not how God presents Himself. God tells us many times that life in Him is the abundant life. Life lived according to His Word brings life. The more we live for ourselves, the more we become slaves to it and to our own passions which is in direct contrast to what God desires for us. God wants our very best. Living for ourselves does not bring us the very best. It eventually leads to a less satisfying life for many reasons, more than I will take time to go into here. But I would urge you as a follower of Christ to look at your life. What is controlling you and guiding you? Only God’s love can lead to the most fulfilling life regardless of your current circumstances and situations.

When asked why we live how we live, may our response be “for the Love of Christ controls us.”

Thank you for taking the time to read this post. It is always my prayer that this encourages you and challenges you in your walk with the Lord. Feel free to pose any comments or thoughts.


Family Shepherds by Voddie Baucham Jr.


I chose to review this book for a couple reasons. First, I heard a message by Voddie Baucham speaking at Passion One Day from the 90’s that was inspiring and so when I saw he had written a book, I knew I wanted to read it. Second, a couple of my friends, Matt and Carolina Price, mentioned another book of his which caused me to look for other books by him. Thus, when I came across Family Shepherds, I knew I wanted to read it. I am extremely satisfied and happy that I did in fact get this book. It was both challenging and inspiring as I strive to be the leader, husband and father that God has called me to be.

The back has this to say about the book:

“It’s hard to overestimate the importance of the family and that of father’s in particular. We’ve heard it said, ‘As the family goes, so goes the nation.’ But it can also be said that ‘as the father goes, so goes the family.’”

As a youth pastor, I could not agree more with this statement. As I view families in public, it is extremely easy to notice families that have disconnected fathers and those who have non-existent fathers as well. We question why the country is going the way that it is but all we need to do is look at how men are beginning to act. You see it from celebrity fathers all the way down to “regular” fathers. Men are not taking responsibility to raise their own children; and then they wonder why their kids eventually take a turn for the worse at some point in their lives.

God has given men the position of leadership and it is in our nature to lead in one way or another. The sad thing is that most men are leading in a negative manner. Multiple studies have been done by both Christian and secular groups and they are finding overwhelming evidence of the impact that fathers have on their children. Voddie does not just present the evidence but goes in depth with ways that will challenge men to lead well and become a true man of God.

Family Shepherds is divided into 5 parts: 1. The need to equip family shepherds, 2. Family discipleship and evangelism, 3. Marriage enrichment, 4. The training and discipline of children, 5. Lifestyle evaluation.

Each section is filled with Scripture to back up his points and written extremely well to inspire any professing Christian man to step up because the church and the world need us to. However, one of the most challenging parts of this book was how Voddie constantly challenged men with knowing what they believe. No man can truly lead his family in a God honoring manner without being a student of the Word; it is not possible. For us to be Godly men and leaders, we have to be men of God’s Word, who study, read, and love it. Apart from God’s Word, it is impossible to be a Godly leader. Yes some men might become good fathers and husbands and men, but only God can lead men to become great fathers, husbands and men. We need to be able to pick out false teachings on raising children and being men. The world is constantly coming out with self-help books and “instruction manuals” that have some pretty good advice, and even when put next to God’s Word, it is hard to pick out the lies from the truth. That is why we need to be men of the Word if we are to lead our families to become disciples of Christ, so we can pick out the stuff that misses the mark of the inerrant Word of God.

This book greatly challenged me in how I am going about leading my family? How am I leading my wife and daughter into a closer walk with the Lord? Or am I going about my life just hoping they grow closer to the Lord? As men we are to lead. If we are not leading as we should, there is not much of a hopeful future. I sincerely challenge any man, whether you are a husband and father yet does not matter, to get this book. You will come away challenged and inspired to be, first off, a devoted follower of Christ and second, the leader God intended us men to be.

 

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Crossway in exchange for this review.


Primal by Mark Batterson

After reading In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day, I had a rough idea of what I was going to get from this book as well. I was right in that this book was worth my time reading it. Mark Batterson does a great job of challenging his readers to truly seek out what Christianity is all about. He shares stories from his personal life as well as from friends and members of the church he pastors, National Community Church. However, what makes this book worth reading is that it is not just based on his experiences or friends experiences; it is based on Scripture, God’s Word. With Scripture as a main driving force behind it, this book is of course going to challenge anyone who takes God’s Word as seriously as it should be taken.

Mark Batterson uses this book as a teaching on the topic of the greatest commandment in Scripture, taken from Mark 12:30: “Love the Lord your God with all your Heart, with all your Mind, with all your Soul and with all your Strength.” All the way through Primal, Mark gives readers a great perspective as to what it means to truly love God each of the four mentioned ways: heart, mind, soul and strength. Mark begins the book by sharing what even got his mind going towards the idea behind this book. He was on a trip to Rome with his wife and one church they visited was built over catacombs, which is where 1st and 2nd century Christians would have gathered together to worship. Let me share a paragraph from the book that will do a better job explaining what happened:

“As we navigated those claustrophobic catacombs, I was overcome by the fact that I was standing in a place where my spiritual ancestors risked everything, even their lives, to worship God. And I felt a profound mixture of gratitude and conviction. I live in a first-world country in the twenty-first century. And I’m grateful for the freedoms and blessings I enjoy because of where and when I live. But when you’re standing in an ancient catacomb, the comforts you enjoy make you uncomfortable. The things you complain about are convicting. And some of the sacrifices you’ve made for the cause of Christ might not even qualify under a second-century definition.

As I tried to absorb the significance of where I was, I couldn’t help but wonder if our generation has conveniently forgotten how inconvenient it can be to follow in the footsteps of Christ…” (p. 2-3)

That paragraph and sentence are just a portion of what this book is all about. It is a book that will have you looking forward to when you pick it up again, not just because it is an emotional draw, but because it hits home. Primal will have you looking into what you say you follow and believe and have you asking yourself whether or not you are even trying to live out the greatest commandment of loving God with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength. It is a tough order to follow and yet Mark does not leave you at the doorstep feeling discouraged. He helps you take a look at your life and find out where you might not be giving everything you could, or should, to Christ.

All in all, I highly recommend this book for any Christian who wants to be a fully committed follower of Christ. It will challenge and encourage you to look through your life and even question if you are missing something God might want to do for you and through you. So go ahead and pick up this book and begin the Quest of finding the Lost Soul of Christianity. Let me leave you with a few quotes from the book:

“When we lose our sense of wonder, what we really lose is our soul. Our lack of wonder is really a lack of love.” – p. 51

“Obedience will open the eyes of your understanding far more than any commentary or concordance could.” – p. 80

“God won’t grow us beyond our ability to disciple people” (in regards to his church) – p. 124

 

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