Book Review of Rosaria Champagne Butterfield’s “The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert.”

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“Insightful Thoughts From a Beautiful Follower of Jesus”

Book Review By Dr. David P. Craig

Rosaria Champagne Butterfield (what a beautiful name) has written a delightful book highlighting her conversion to Christ and instruction on many topics that are thought provoking and insightful. Among the variety of topics covered in this book are evangelism; hospitality; education; homosexuality; church planting; male and female roles in complementarity; hermeneutics; dating; marriage; parenting; foster care; adoption; and worship.

The author writes in an entertaining way, and yet shares insights with tremendous depth and cogent logic. My wife and I have both enjoyed discussing the variety of topics brought forth by Butterfield and are grateful for her wisdom and biblical insight. Though we don’t agree with all of Butterfield’s conclusions we especially appreciated her honesty; critique of Christian legalism; and insights into reaching out to those who identify themselves in any way other than “Christian.”

As a pastor in a very secular community I was given many illustrations that will help me become better at reaching out to those who are “outsiders” of our church community. I am grateful that Rosaria has shared her “secret thoughts” publicly. As a result I think that my wife and I have been equipped to be “salt and light” in our community and will be more effective in our outreach to those who desperately need Christ (as do we) in our community.

Rosaria is to be commended for her service to our Lord as a Christian wife, mother, educator, evangelist, and disciple maker. Any follower of Christ would be encouraged in their pursuit of Christlikeness and better reflect His inner and outer beauty as a result of reading and practicing the wisdom articulated in this delightful book.

Book Review on Stu Weber’s “Four Pillars Of A Man’s Heart”

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“Required Reading For Every Man”

Book Review By Dr. David P. Craig

I’m one of those guys who is always about ten to twenty years behind on the latest books, television shows and movies. Stu Weber’s book came out many years ago (In the 1990’s) but as I prepared for a men’s retreat I’ll be leading in a few weeks I think this book stood out more than all the others I read as a book I would whole-heartedly recommend to any man. I missed it when it first came out, but I’m sure glad I read it. I would argue that this book is more relevant today than when Weber first penned it.

Many Christian men are clueless today about what it means to be a man. If men take their cues from our culture they are in serious trouble. However, if they look to the Scriptures for guidance they will find exactly what they need to know about biblical manhood. Stu Weber provides an essential guide to biblical manhood in this book. He identifies what he calls the “Four Pillars of Biblical Manhood.” These pillars when functioning in balance make for a man who is strong and balanced in the way that God designed him to be.

The four pillars (all found in Genesis 2:15-18) in a man’s heart are that he is to be a provider (King); protector (Warrior); teacher (Mentor); and a connector (Friend). If he is out of balance in any of these areas it will lead to chaos. However, if he is balanced in these areas of his life with his relationships; work; and ministry it will result in a tremendous impact on his marriage; family; church; and community/nation.

Weber has written a book that is biblical; full of illustrations and applications; and that is theologically sound. He defines, identifies, and explains clearly God’s design for men in a way that is logical and practical. This is a book that any man of any age will find encouragement, hope, and motivation to be all that he was designed to be for the purposes of God as a man in his brief time on earth.

8 THINGS EVERY CHILD NEEDS

baby imageEvery Child Needs…

At least one adult who is a positive role model.

To feel accepted.

Recognition.

A sense of belonging.

To feel safe and secure.

Some control over his or her environment.

Social interaction skills.

To accept responsibility for his or her behavior.

*SOURCE: Leah Davies condensed from http://www.kellybear.com

MARY’S MODEL FOR MOTHERS

Mary

By Luma Simms

For a mom living in an age where definitions of motherhood have become plastic, my radar is up for solid models of godly motherhood. We must not overlook one such model — Mary.

Many women were loved and blessed by God in the Scriptures, but one in particular was highly favored by God. The Angel Gabriel was sent to her to say:

Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you! . . . Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. (Luke 1:2830)

Of all the women in history, God chose Mary, set this peculiar favor on her, and gave all moms a model to study closely.

A Personal Mother

Mary was no womb-for-hire. She was not a surrogate mother God used, paid off, and sent away. Mary was a real mother to her son, Jesus. In her very real pregnancy she experienced a real labor and a real delivery. Mary went through all this as a flesh and blood woman. She delivered him in the same manner that mothers have been delivering babies since Eve. And Mary nursed Jesus at her breast with real colostrum until her milk came in. And when her milk came in, she probably nursed him for close to two years, as was the custom in those days.

Mary’s firstborn child was Jesus. Scripture tells us that Jesus lived a sinless childhood. Think about your toddler throwing a tantrum — Jesus never did that. What of the child that doesn’t make his bed or do his chores — Jesus never did that. Jesus was an obedient son and Mary had the privilege but also the heavy responsibility of parenting a perfect (in the fullest sense of that word) child along with the other children. Think about the wisdom and temperance a mother in that situation needs.

Mary was a personal mother to Jesus. He was her human son. All the hugs, kisses, and love we pour on our children — Mary must have done the same with Jesus.

A Pondering Mother

Many times in the Gospels we read about Mary “observing” and “pondering.” These are marks of a deep and thoughtful woman. Although Mary was young and poor, she was by no means uneducated. She knew her Scriptures.

But it’s clear Mary had more than head knowledge. She had a fruitful faith, and this becomes clear in Mary’s response to the Angel Gabriel in humility and her acquiescence to a providence that would subject herself to public shame and hardship. We see her faith as she stood by her son all the way to the end. She was there at the cross. And Gabriel’s words, well pondered no doubt, were ringing in her ears.

A Submissive Mother

For me, Mary has been the prime example of a submissive woman. Mary’s submission has always struck me as a contented yielding — not servility. This kind of submission is attended with dignity, courage, honor, and grace. It is neither slavish nor degrading.

We see it first in her interaction with Gabriel. She questions him, but not with faithlessness or impudence. The fact that Gabriel answers her instead of rebuking her, as he did to Zechariah, reveals much about Mary’s response.

The words I hope to speak are the words Mary does speak to Gabriel: “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38).

I shiver whenever I read these words. A poor young virgin has just been told that she will become pregnant in a culture where the penalty for that is stoning to death!

This is the contented yielding of a faith-filled young woman whose trust in God was deep.

In Mary’s relationship with Joseph, and particularly in her three big moves, she is submissive. Joseph says they will go to Bethlehem — she goes. Joseph says they have to flee to Egypt — she goes. Joseph says they will settle down in Nazareth when returning from Egypt — she goes. The fact that she never let her encounter with the Angel Gabriel puff her up nor used it against Joseph, speaks of her true humility.

She could have legitimately doubted Joseph — after all, God only spoke to him in a dream (and you never know about dreams), whereas Mary had been visited by a high-ranking angelic being!

Her deep contented yielding is a mark of the fruit of the Spirit.

A Model for Moms

Puritan Bible Commentator Matthew Henry says of Mary, “We have here an account given of the mother of our Lord, of whom he was to be born, whom, though we are not to pray to, yet we ought to praise God for.”

Indeed, we should praise God for Mary!

Mary has much to teach all women of all ages and all situations, as well as being a model for mothers: Unshaken trust in God, thoughtfully understanding, a lover of the Bible, humbly gracious, sacrificial, and content in her yielding.

This Christmas season, as we meditate on the Lord of glory who came as a real baby boy, may we also spend a little time meditating on the kind of mother God providentially ordained for him — Mary, a beautiful model for all moms.

SOURCE: December 21, 2013 @ http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/mary-s-model-for-mothers

Ray Pritchard on How To Pray For Your Wayward Child

Praying for Your Prodigal – Ephesians 1:18

Prodigal sons return

Sermon by Ray Pritchard preached in June 2006 – I received an email with a heartrending question:

I have a daughter that I don’t believe is saved. I pray for her but often times I can’t. I suppose that I’m angry she isn’t responding and feel incapable of helping her. What can I pray for on a daily basis so that she will come to Christ? At times I feel such sorrow, thinking she might go to hell.

This parent speaks for mothers and fathers everywhere who pray for their prodigal children, often for years, with seemingly no results. I do not doubt that praying parents must at some point feel like giving up, and it must be hard not to get angry when you see your children repeatedly making bad choices or showing no interest in the gospel. What do you do then? How do you keep believing for your own prodigal son or daughter? When I use the word “prodigal,” I’m referring to anyone who has drifted away or run away or totally rejected their Christian heritage. It could refer to a college student who simply stops going to church or to a man who thinks he doesn’t need “religion” or to someone who becomes an atheist. A prodigal could be someone who gets so busy in their career that they have no time for God. In all those cases, the prodigal was raised in a Christian home or had a Christian background and for some reason no longer lives for the Lord. In thinking about cases like this, we often wonder if the prodigal is saved or lost. The answer is, only God knows because only he can read the heart. We see the outside and to us, it may be easy to conclude that the person we thought we knew so well was never saved in the first place. But our knowledge is limited. While the prodigal may appear to have totally rejected his background and he may give all the appearances of being lost, only God knows for certain.In thinking about hard questions, it’s crucial that we start in the right place. Nowhere is this more important than when we pray for our prodigal sons and daughters. Because we have so much invested in them, we may be tempted to give up because the pain of praying when nothing seems to be happening finally becomes overwhelming. After I wrote about this topic on my weblog, I received the following email from a distraught father:

What about prodigals who have been saved and walk away from everything they know to be true? Our daughter has been drifting and living a sinful lifestyle for the past two years. She has recently chosen to totally walk in the ways of the world. She is involved in an abusive relationship and has turned her back on her parents/brothers. This is a young lady who is musically gifted, loves people, and has served the Lord since she was 3 years old. We are a Christian family and have always been close knit. She and I have always had a strong relationship emotionally and spiritually until she got involved with the abusive boyfriend. She has given up everything she loves and has lost her identity. She continues to cut off all communication with us. It is breaking our hearts and we try our hardest to trust the Lord and believe He alone can rescue her from herself. I guess I am just looking for some words of wisdom and encouragement on how we can be the “hope givers” in her life.

Stories like this could be multiplied. And not just about our children. A prodigal may be a pastor who ran off with a woman in his church and now has rejected his family and his faith. It might refer to a brother who used to be an Awana leader who now refuses to go to church at all. It could refer to a former best friend who now lives an openly homosexual lifestyle. You may have learned about Jesus from someone who now rejects the very faith they once taught you. Very often prodigals start out as people who, having been deeply hurt by the circumstances of life, feel abandoned or cheated or mistreated by God.

�A godly mother prays for her wayward son. He was raised in the church, he went to Sunday School, he knows the Bible, but when he left home, he left it all behind. For many years she has prayed for him but to this day he remains a prodigal son. �A wife prays for her husband who left her after twenty-three years of marriage for a younger woman. He seems utterly unreachable and the marriage heads swiftly for divorce.

�A husband prays for his wife who has terminal cancer. She has six, maybe seven months to live. None of the treatments stop the rampaging tumors. The elders anoint her with oil and pray over her in the name of the Lord. She dies five months later.

�A young man prays fervently for deliverance from an overpowering temptation, but the struggle never seems to end. The more he prays, the worse the temptation becomes.

And so we cry out with the Psalmist, “Why, O Lord, do you stand far off? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?” (Psalm 10:1)

 Calvin And Hobbes

You wouldn’t think that such a serious subject would make it to the comic strips, but I happened to find it there a few years ago. The comic strip is called “Calvin and Hobbes.” It’s late November and a little boy is waiting with his sled for the first big snowfall. He waits and waits but all he finds is brown grass … and no snow.So he says, “If I was in charge, we’d never see grass between October and May. Then, looking to the heavens, he says, “On ’three,’ ready? One … Two … Three. SNOW!” Nothing happens and the little boy is downcast. Then he shouts to the heavens, “I said snow! C’mon! Snow!” Then shaking his fists he cries, “SNOW!” Now thoroughly disgusted with God’s failure, he says, “Ok then, don’t snow! See what I care! I like this weather! Let’s have it forever!”

But his defiance does not last. In the next frame we see the little boy on his knees offering this prayer, “Please snow! Please?? Just a foot! Ok, eight inches! That’s all! C’mon! Six inches, even! How about just six?? Then he looks to heaven and shouts, “I’m WAAIITING …”

In the next frame we see him running in a circle, head down, fists clenched, making a little-boy sound which the artist spells out as “RRRRGGHHH.” That’s not an English word but every parent has heard it many times. Finally, the little boy is exhausted, his energy spent, his prayer unanswered, with snow nowhere in sight. In the final frame, he looks up at God and cries out in utter desperation, “Do you want me to become an atheist?”

There are many Christian people who feel just like that little boy, only they have prayed for things much more important than a few inches of snow but the end result has been the same. And in their frustration and despair they have cried out to God, “Do you want me to become an atheist?” Some of them have. Most haven’t, but the pain turns many of them into prodigals.

The Heart Has Eyes

At this point we come face to face with the crucial importance of good theology. We need to be reminded that an astounding miracle lies at the heart of our faith. We believe something absolutely incredible–that a man who was dead came back to life on the third day. We believe that God raised him from the dead. Now if God would do that for his Son, indeed if God has the power to raise the dead, who are we to question God’s power to change the hardest hearts? After all, if you go to the cemetery and stay there waiting for a resurrection, you’ll wait a long time. There are lots of people going in and no one coming out. You will see plenty of funerals and no resurrections. What are the chances that a man who had been tortured and then crucified and then buried in a tomb would be raised from the dead? The odds would seem to be against it. You can’t start with what your eyes see or what you can figure out. And you can’t trust your feelings in something like this because your emotions can play tricks on you. We must therefore start with God who can raise the dead, not with the person who is spiritually dead.If it is God alone who can raise the dead, then our focus must be on God alone.

Here are three verses that will help us as we think about praying for our prodigals:

“Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life” (Proverbs 4:23 NIV).

“The king’s heart is in the hand of the LORD, Like the rivers of water; He turns it wherever He wishes” (Proverbs 21:1 NKJV).

“I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened” (Ephesians 1:18 NASB).

The heart has eyes. Did you know that? When Paul speaks of “your heart,” he’s not referring to the organ in your chest that pumps blood throughout your body. The term “heart” refers to what we might call “the real you,” the place inside where the decisions of life are made. The heart is the place where you decide what values you will live by and what direction you will go and how you will live your life each day. Every important decision you make starts in your heart. And your heart has eyes that can be open or closed. When the eyes of your heart are closed to the light of God, you stumble blindly through life, making one dumb choice after another. You fall into sinful patterns, you break God’s laws, you end up driving into the ditch, you make the same mistakes over and over again, and you enter one dead-end relationship after another. Why? Because the eyes of your heart are shut and you lack moral vision. The light of God is shut out of your life. That means you can see and be blind at the same time. That is, you can have 20/20 vision with your physical eyes, but the eyes of your heart can be blind to the light of God. There are lots of people like that in the world. Physically they can see but spiritually they are totally blind.

 Get off the Bench and Into the Game

That describes many young people raised in the church. They know God but their eyes are so filled with the things of the world that they are blind to the truth. Let me illustrate. Here we have a young man who has been raised in a Christian home. He’s been going to church for years—Sunday School, Vacation Bible School, children’s ministry, and the youth group. Now he goes off to college and at last he’s on his own. He meets a girl and they start dating. Soon they are sleeping together. When his parents hear about it, they are furious and worried and upset and they wonder what to do. They argue and plead and cajole and threaten and quote Scripture, all to no avail. What is the problem? It is precisely this: The eyes of his heart are closed to the truth of God. And until those eyes are opened, all the yelling in the world won’t make much difference. A few years ago I met with a young woman who had been part of our church’s youth ministry. She came to see me at the request of her mother who was at her wit’s end in dealing with her daughter. The young woman was sweet and friendly and very open when we met. We talked for a while about this and that, and finally I came to the point. When she went off to college, she met a boy she liked, they started dating, and now they were sleeping together. This much the mother had confided to me. Was it true? The young lady answered yes. I knew it wouldn’t do any good for me to argue with her because she and her mother had been arguing about it for quite a while. But I did ask if she thought it was wrong to sleep with her boy friend. She shrugged her shoulders and said, “I guess so.” Her answer wasn’t really defiant and she didn’t seem angry. In fact, she was very friendly and not rebellious in her manner. She was just a nice girl, raised in the church, who now slept with her boyfriend at college. And what’s wrong with that?As we were talking, an illustration came into my mind. Whenever you watch a football game, you’ll usually see three different groups of players. The first group is the players on the field. They give all they have on every single play. The second group is on the sidelines. They stand together, watching the action the field, waiting for their turn to get into the game. But often there is a third group of players who don’t seem very interested in the game. They sit on the bench laughing and talking and goofing off. Sometimes they turn around and wave to the people in the stands. They could care less whether their team is winning or losing because they’re just along for the ride. As far as the team is concerned, they might as well not be there at all. I explained all of that to the young lady and made this application. Living for Christ means that you’re playing on his team. You’re either on the bench or you’re in the game. “Your problem is, you’re sitting on the bench goofing off when you ought to be in the game serving the Lord. Bench warmers sit around, goof off, laugh, cut up, and trade jokes while the game is going on. If you ever decide to get in the game, you won’t have time to do the things you do now.”

If our young people sleep around, or if they get drunk on the weekends, if they cheat and cut corners, if they are rebellious and unmotivated, those things are only symptoms of a deeper, more fundamental issue. They’ve never made a personal commitment to get serious about Jesus Christ. They’re sitting on the bench when they ought to be in the game. And I tell you this with total certainty, once you get into the game, once Christ becomes the center of your life, no one will have to tell you not to sleep around, and no one will have to tell you, “Don’t get drunk on the weekends.” You just won’t do it. Once the eyes of your heart are opened, the light of God’s truth will come flooding in and you’ll never look at anything the same away again. Sometimes we worry too much about the symptoms without dealing with the root issues of life. We should pray, “Open the eyes of their heart, Lord,” because when that happens, life will radically change. They will grab their helmet and get in the ballgame for the Lord. They’ll go to the huddle and say, “You call the play, Lord. I’m ready to do whatever you say.”

 “I Just Don’t See It”

Opening blind eyes is the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit. He and he alone can do it. But he can do it, and this is the source of our hope. We see this principle very clearly when we witness to those who don’t know Christ. After sharing the gospel with them as best we can, sometimes they will say, “I just don’t see it.” That’s not an excuse. They truly don’t see it. That’s why you can talk to a lost person until you are blue in the face and it will do no good. You can quote Billy Graham, Josh McDowell, Francis Schaeffer, and if you’re creative, you can throw in some John Calvin and Martin Luther. Quote Abraham Lincoln and Mike Ditka if you like. It will do no good. You can quote Scripture all day long and the lost will still be lost. Until their eyes are opened, they will not “see” the truth about Christ.What is the answer? We must pray for the lost that God will open their eyes, give life in place of death, enable them to hear, create within them a desire to understand, give them a hunger for Jesus, and then grant them faith to believe the gospel. In short, as we prepare to share Christ with others, we must fervently pray that God will go before us. When we pray for the lost, we are saying to God, “You go first! If you don’t go first, all our efforts will be in vain.”

This is why we pray for our children and grandchildren and for our family members and for friends and loved ones who today are far from God. As our children grow older, we discover over and over again how little control we have over them. We cannot compel their obedience because we cannot compel their hearts. But we can pray and cry out to God and say, “O Lord, open the eyes of their heart. Help them to see the light of truth.” If you have a prodigal daughter, pray like this: “Lord, open the eyes of her heart so that she can see Jesus.” That prayer is so simple and yet so profound. Apart from God’s grace, we all have the same problem. Our hearts are closed and we cannot see the truth. Only God can open the eyes of the heart. When God opens those eyes, she will see the truth and light from heaven will come flooding in. Do not focus on her going to hell. Focus your prayers on God and his power to change her heart. Ask our Father to do what only he can do—open the eyes of her heart so that she will come to know him.

A Mother’s Tears

One of my favorite stories about the power of prayer to reclaim a prodigal is over 1600 years old. It begins with a woman named Monica who was raised by Christian parents in North Africa. When she was old enough, her parents arranged a marriage to a pagan man. Evidently the marriage was very difficult because of divided spiritual loyalties. Monica and her husband had three children who survived. Two of them followed Christ but one son left the faith of his childhood. By his own admission, he chose the path of worldly pleasure. For many years he lived with a mistress and together they gave birth to a son out of wedlock. He broke his mother’s heart by joining a religious cult. Monica prayed for 17 years that her son would return to Christ and to the church. Looking back, her son said that she watered the earth with her tears for him, praying more for his spiritual death than most mothers pray over the physical death of a child. She fasted and prayed and asked God to save her son. One day she went to see the bishop and with tears asked why her son was still living in sin. The bishop replied with words that have become famous across the centuries: “It is not possible that the son of so many tears should perish. Your son will be saved.” He was right. It took several more years of fervent praying but eventually Monica’s son came to Christ. His name is Augustine. We know him today as St. Augustine. He is universally regarded as one of the greatest thinkers in Christian history. Sixteen centuries later his books and writings are still in print. He makes it clear in his Confessions that his mother prayed him to Jesus. She would not give up and eventually God answered her prayers.I think the bishop was right when he said, “It is not possible that the son of so many tears should perish.” How precious are a mother’s tears! There is no substance on earth more valuable than the tears of a godly mother. There are mothers and grandmothers who have prayed their children and their grandchildren to Christ. There are mothers and grandmothers who have seen their children in the “far country” of sin and have prayed them step by step back to the Father’s House. When everyone else gave up, godly women laid hold of heaven and claimed their offspring in Jesus’ name. And God heard those prayers and answered them.

Please do not misunderstand. I do not believe that our prayers contain merit in and of themselves. But God has ordained both the means and the ends of salvation. And the two chief means of salvation are fervent prayer and the proclamation of his Word. We pray because everything depends on God, and we preach because the gospel is the power of God for salvation. Your prayers are part of heaven’s plan to reach out to the prodigals in your life and bring them back to God. If you are heavily burdened for a loved one, you may be sure that that burden does not come simply from yourself. The burden is a gift from God, a token of his mercy toward the prodigal who at this moment cares nothing for the Lord. Your prayers are thus an indispensable link in the chain of God’s purposes.

I met a woman recently who told me that she prayed for fifty years for her brother to be saved. For most of that time, he showed little interest in spiritual things. But through an amazing series of events, he saw his need of Christ and embraced him as his Savior. For the last six years, he grew in his love for the Lord and he made his faith known to everyone. When he died in March, he died as a Christian, trusting in Christ to the very end. Fifty years is a long time to pray. I’m sure the woman must have felt like giving up many times. Surely it sometimes seemed hopeless to her. But God granted her faith to keep praying and not to lose heart. Eventually her prayers were answered with the miracle of her brother’s conversion. How happy she was when she told the story. And rightly so. Lest we miss it, let me make the theological point very clearly. Salvation is of the Lord, but that does not mean that our prayers do not matter. Our prayers are part of God’s plan to bring the lost to Christ.

A few days ago I received this email from a man I have never met:

I am one of those who never thought my older brother would ever be saved. I had lost all hope for him. Then, May 18 of this year I visited him in the hospital in Missouri (I live in Arkansas) and led him to the Lord. He cried like a baby afterwards and testified to his nurse a few minutes later when she came into his room. BTW, he is 75 and I am 73 and I have prayed for him for many years. God is faithful!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

 God is a Better Parent Than We Are

Finally here is one more email that arrived from a mother whose prayers have not yet been answered:

Our third son is a prodigal, (although I suppose we are ALL prodigals in some fashion!). I have experienced a depth of relationship with God that I didn’t know before mothering a prodigal. God has continued to walk this road of parenting with us, revealing his character to us, and growing us through the trials. Before, I didn’t understand the joy in trials that James 1:2-4 speaks of quite like I do now. It is an opportunity to become mature in our faith as we have heartbreak and disappointment in different situations. I thank God for our son actually. He has been, and is the iron that sharpens me. I trust that God is working deep in his heart, even though the outside doesn’t often look that way. I believe that someday his eyes will be opened, and God will remove his heart of stone will give him a heart of flesh! And the renewing of his heart and his mind will be a great testimony to God and who he is.

Everything I have been trying to say is in that email. Here is a mother who has grown spiritually as she has prayed for her son who at this moment is still far from the Lord. Instead of becoming bitter, she has been changed on the inside and brought closer to the Lord. God often uses the prodigals in our lives to bring us closer to him. As long as we try to control our loved ones, either through anger or through our tears or by arguing with them or complaining about them to others, as long as we focus on them, they will not change–and neither will we. Sometimes in our despair, we become prodigals ourselves because our anger at them has ruined our own walk with the Lord. As we pray for our prodigals, we must remember that the first change needs to happen in us. Until we are changed, and our anger is turned to love, we will become bitter and hardened ourselves. And that can happen even though we go to church every Sunday, pray the prayers, sing the songs, serve the Lord, and do all the outward things the church asks us to do. At that point we ourselves have become prodigals just as surely as the loved one for whom we are praying. Notice two key sentences in this woman’s note: “I thank God for our son actually. He has been, and is the iron that sharpens me.” Those are the words of a woman whose heart has been softened and not hardened as she has prayed for her son. The change we seek in others must start in our heart first. I believe God will answer that mother’s prayer sooner or later. A few years ago, when we needed some encouragement, the Lord put this thought into my wife’s heart: “God is a better parent than we are.” No matter how much we love our children, he loves them even more. No matter how much we want the best for them, he wants it even more than we do, and he truly knows what it is best. Not only that, he can see from where they are to where he wants them to be, and no matter where the starting point is, he knows how to lead them from here to there. He does it infallibly, with an abundance of wisdom, a generous helping of tender mercy, and he wastes nothing along the way. Sometimes parents look at their children, especially when they seem to be far from the Lord, and we feel hopeless or guilty or angry or frustrated, or maybe all of the above, and we wonder where God is in the midst of our pain. There are many ways to answer that, but this much is certain. He is not silent or absent or uncaring. Nor is he stumped or surprised by young people who seem to have rejected all they have been taught.

God is a better parent than we are. That’s really good news for those times when we’ve blown it. Because he loves our children far more than we do, he will lead them even when they don’t know they are being led. He can bring them back to himself, though the road back may be long and hard and torturous, though it may seem to go in circles or even be going backwards for a season.

At some point we must relinquish our children into his hands and say, “Lord, they belong to you. Always have, always will.” They never were ours to start with. It is so hard to yield them to the Lord, but it is made easier if we remember that his love never fails, that he knows what he is doing, and that he is a better parent than we are.

Do you have a loved one who is far from the Lord? Does it seem totally impossible that he or she will ever change? Do you get angry thinking about their foolish choices? Do your prayers seem useless to you? Pay no attention to your feelings. There is more going on in the heart of your loved one that you can know.

Don’t give up.

Keep on praying.

Keep believing.

You never know what God will do.

When you pray for a loved one who seems hardened against the Lord, pray that the eyes of their heart might be opened so that the light of God can come flooding in. And if that seems hopeless, at least it puts the hopeless case at God’s doorstep, which is where it belongs. On Saturday night there was a “hopeless case” in the Garden Tomb. On Sunday morning the whole world changed. You never know what God will do, so keep on believing and keep on praying. God specializes in impossible situations, and he loves to prove that hopeless cases aren’t hopeless after all.

So never give up. Pray, pray and keep on praying. Your prayers accomplish more than you have ever dreamed.

© Keep Believing Ministries

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About Ray Pritchard:

Ray Pritchard image

Dr. Ray Pritchard serves as president of Keep Believing Ministries. He has ministered extensively overseas in China, Bolivia, Columbia, Paraguay, Belize, Haiti, Nigeria, Switzerland, Russia, India and Nepal. He is a frequent conference speaker and guest on Christian radio and television talk shows. He has written 27 books, including Stealth AttackFire and RainThe Healing Power of ForgivenessAn Anchor for the SoulThe Incredible Journey of Faith,The ABCs of WisdomLeadership Lessons of Jesus (with Bob Briner)Why Did This Happen to Me?, and Credo: Believing in Something to Die For.

For 26 years he pastored churches in Los Angeles, Dallas and Chicago. Most recently he pastored Calvary Memorial Church in Oak Park, IL for sixteen years. He is a graduate of Tennessee Temple University (B.A.), Dallas Theological Seminary (Th.M.) and Talbot School of Theology (D.Min.). He has been married to Marlene for 37 years. Their three sons (Josh, Mark and Nick) have spent time in recent years teaching English in China. Josh and Leah were married in July 2006. They have one son, Knox, who was born in August 2010. Mark and Vanessa were married in July 2007. They have one son, Eli, who was born in July 2011. His hobbies include biking, surfing the Internet, anything related to the Civil War, and playing with Dudley and Gary, their very excellent basset hounds.

Book Review on Bear Grylls “To My Sons: Lessons For the Wild Adventure Called LIfe”

Inspiring Quotes From an Inspirational Dad – Reviewed by David P. Craig

TMS Grylls

Anyone who has ever watched Bear Grylls’ adventures on “Man vs. Wild” can’t help but amazed at his spirit of adventure, ingenuity, courage, wisdom, and passion for life. In this little book Bear Grylls gives his favorite Bible verses, life quotes, and wisdom and dedicates this collection to his boys. It is a wonderful compilation for any Father to seek to implement in his own life and emulate for the lives of his children. Grylls emphasizes a love for Jesus Christ, a love for others, and maximizing your time in life by serving others. Let me share some of my favorite quotes from the book:

“Aim to live a wild, generous, full, exciting life–blessing those around you and seeing the good in all.”

“Have a few close friends who you see often–their friendship matters more than having many shallow acquaintances.”

“Choose your job carefully–do work that excites you. It is where you will spend so much of your time.”

“Cheerfulness in adversity is a key character trait in the game of life.”

“Moments of doubt are part of life. Accept them and remember that Jesus Himself said, ‘My power is made perfect in weakness’ (2 Corinthians 12:9).”

“Understand that failure is an essential stepping-stone on the road to success.”

“Give more than you take, especially with friends and family. See the best in people–as Christ does with you.”

“Spend more time with your family and less at work–no one on their deathbed says they wish thye had spent more time in the office!”

“No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care.”

“You have two ears and one mouth–use them in proportion: Listen twice as much as you speak!

“But remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth” (Deuteronomy 8:18).

Thank God for your many blessings; then go out there and blossom. It is okay to succeed.”

I recommend this little book – especially for dads to share with their children. It would make an excellent gift for Father’s day, and a great gift for father’s to give to their sons when they become dads someday.

Wisdom For Parents in Communicating With Your Child

Child playing at the Beach

CHILDREN LEARN WHAT THEY LIVE

If a child lives with criticism, she learns to condemn.

If a child lives with hostility, she learns to fight.

If a child lives with fear, she learns to be apprehensive.

If a child lives with pity, she learns to feel sorry for himself.

If a child lives with jealousy, she learns to feel guilty

If a child lives with encouragement, she learns to be self-confident.

If a child lives with tolerance,she learns to be patient.

If a child lives with praise, she learns to be appreciative.

If a child lives with acceptance, she learns to love.

If a child lives with approval, she learns to like herself.

If a child lives with recognition, she learns to have a goal.

If a child lives with fairness, she learns what justice is.

If a child lives with honesty, she learns what truth is.

If a child lives with sincerity, she learns to have faith in herself, and those around her.

If a child lives with love, she learns that the world is a wonderful place to live.

– Dorothy Law Nolte

John Piper – 12 Ways to Love Your Wayward Child

suffering image man with hand over head

Many parents are brokenhearted and completely baffled by their unbelieving son or daughter. They have no clue why the child they raised well is making such awful, destructive decisions. I’ve never been one of these parents, but I have been one of these sons. Reflecting back on that experience, I offer these suggestions to help you reach out to your wayward child.

1. Point them to Christ.

Your rebellious child’s real problem is not drugs or sex or cigarettes or pornography or laziness or crime or cussing or slovenliness or homosexuality or being in a punk rock band. The real problem is that they don’t see Jesus clearly. The best thing you can do for them—and the only reason to do any of the following suggestions—is to show them Christ. It is not a simple or immediate process, but the sins in their life that distress you and destroy them will only begin to fade away when they see Jesus more like he actually is.

2. Pray.

Only God can save your son or daughter, so keep on asking that he will display himself to them in a way they can’t resist worshiping him for.

3. Acknowledge that something is wrong.

If your daughter rejects Jesus, don’t pretend everything is fine.

For every unbelieving child, the details will be different. Each one will require parents to reach out in unique ways. Never acceptable, however, is not reaching out at all. If your child is an unbeliever, don’t ignore it. Holidays might be easier, but eternity won’t be.

4. Don’t expect them to be Christ-like.

If your son is not a Christian, he’s not going to act like one.

You know that he has forsaken the faith, so don’t expect him to live by the standards you raised him with. For example, you might be tempted to say, “I know you’re struggling with believing in Jesus, but can’t you at least admit that getting wasted every day is sin?”

If he’s struggling to believe in Jesus, then there is very little significance in admitting that drunkenness is wrong. You want to protect him, yes. But his unbelief is the most dangerous problem—not partying. No matter how your child’s unbelief exemplifies itself in his behavior, always be sure to focus more on the heart’s sickness than its symptoms.

5. Welcome them home.

Because the deepest concern is not your child’s actions, but his heart, don’t create too many requirements for coming home. If he has any inkling to be with you, it is God giving you a chance to love him back to Jesus. Obviously there are some instances in which parents must give ultimatums: “Don’t come to this house if you are…” But these will be rare. Don’t lessen the likelihood of an opportunity to be with your child by too many rules.

If your daughter smells like weed or an ashtray, spray her jacket with Febreze and change the sheets when she leaves, but let her come home. If you find out she’s pregnant, then buy her folic acid, take her to her twenty-week ultrasound, protect her from Planned Parenthood, and by all means let her come home. If your son is broke because he spent all the money you lent him on loose women and ritzy liquor, then forgive his debt as you’ve been forgiven, don’t give him any more money, and let him come home. If he hasn’t been around for a week and a half because he’s been staying at his girlfriend’s—or boyfriend’s—apartment, plead with him not to go back, and let him come home.

6. Plead with them more than you rebuke them.

Be gentle in your disappointment.

What really concerns you is that your child is destroying herself, not that she’s breaking rules. Treat her in a way that makes this clear. She probably knows—especially if she was raised as a Christian—that what she’s doing is wrong. And she definitely knows you think it is. So she doesn’t need this pointed out. She needs to see how you are going to react to her evil. Your gentle forbearance and sorrowful hope will show her that you really do trust Jesus.

Her conscience can condemn her by itself. Parents ought to stand kindly and firmly, always living in the hope that they want their child to return to.

7. Connect them to believers who have better access to them.

There are two kinds of access that you may not have to your child: geographical and relational. If your wayward son lives far away, try to find a solid believer in his area and ask him to contact your son. This may seem nosy or stupid or embarrassing to him, but it’s worth it—especially if the believer you find can also relate to your son emotionally in a way you can’t.

Relational distance will also be a side effect of your child leaving the faith, so your relationship will be tenuous and should be protected if at all possible. But hard rebuke is still necessary.

This is where another believer who has emotional access to your son may be very helpful. If there is a believer who your son trusts and perhaps even enjoys being around, then that believer has a platform to tell your son—in a way he may actually pay attention to—that he’s being an idiot. This may sound harsh, but it’s a news flash we all need from time to time, and people we trust are usually the only ones who can package a painful rebuke so that it is a gift to us.

A lot of rebellious kids would do well to hear that they’re being fools—and it is rare that this can helpfully be pointed out by their parents—so try to keep other Christians in your kids lives.

8. Respect their friends.

Honor your wayward child in the same way you’d honor any other unbeliever. They may run with crowds you’d never consider talking to or even looking at, but they are your child’s friends. Respect that—even if the relationship is founded on sin. They’re bad for your son, yes. But he’s bad for them, too. Nothing will be solved by making it perfectly evident that you don’t like who he’s hanging around with.

When your son shows up for a family birthday celebration with another girlfriend—one you’ve never seen before and probably won’t see again—be hospitable. She’s also someone’s wayward child, and she needs Jesus, too.

9. Email them.

Praise God for technology that lets you stay in your kids’ lives so easily!

When you read something in the Bible that encourages you and helps you love Jesus more, write it up in a couple lines and send it to your child. The best exhortation for them is positive examples of Christ’s joy in your own life.

Don’t stress out when you’re composing these as if each one needs to be singularly powerful. Just whip them out one after another, and let the cumulative effect of your satisfaction in God gather up in your child’s inbox. God’s word is never proclaimed in vain.

10. Take them to lunch.

If possible, don’t let your only interaction with your child be electronic. Get together with him face to face if you can. You may think this is stressful and uncomfortable, but trust me that it’s far worse to be in the child’s shoes—he is experiencing all the same discomfort, but compounded by guilt. So if he is willing to get together with you for lunch, praise God, and use the opportunity.

It will feel almost hypocritical to talk about his daily life, since what you really care about is his eternal life, but try to anyway. He needs to know you care about all of him. Then, before lunch is over, pray that the Lord will give you the gumption to ask about his soul. You don’t know how he’ll respond.  Will he roll his eyes like you’re an idiot? Will he get mad and leave? Or has God been working in him since you talked last? You don’t know until you risk asking.

(Here’s a note to parents of younger children: Set up regular times to go out to eat with your kids. Not only will this be valuable for its own sake, but also, if they ever enter a season of rebellion, the tradition of meeting with them will already be in place and it won’t feel weird to ask them out to lunch. If a son has been eating out on Saturdays with his dad since he was a tot, it will be much harder for him later in life to say no to his father’s invitation—even as a surly nineteen-year-old.)

11. Take an interest in their pursuits.

Odds are that if your daughter is purposefully rejecting Christ, then the way she spends her time will probably disappoint you. Nevertheless, find the value in her interests, if possible, and encourage her. You went to her school plays and soccer games when she was ten; what can you do now that she’s twenty to show that you still really care about her interests?

Jesus spent time with tax collectors and prostitutes, and he wasn’t even related to them. Imitate Christ by being the kind of parent who will put some earplugs in your pocket and head downtown to that dank little nightclub where your daughter’s CD release show is. Encourage her and never stop praying that she will begin to use her gifts for Jesus’ glory instead her own.

12. Point them to Christ.

This can’t be over-stressed. It is the whole point. No strategy for reaching your son or daughter will have any lasting effect if the underlying goal isn’t to help them know Jesus.

Jesus.

It’s not so that they will be good kids again; it’s not so that they’ll get their hair cut and start taking showers; it’s not so that they’ll like classical music instead of deathcore; it’s not so that you can stop being embarrassed at your weekly Bible study; it’s not so that they’ll vote conservative again by the next election; it’s not even so that you can sleep at night, knowing they’re not going to hell.

The only ultimate reason to pray for them, welcome them, plead with them, email them, eat with them, or take an interest in their interests is so that their eyes will be opened to Christ.

And not only is he the only point—he’s the only hope. When they see the wonder of Jesus, satisfaction will be redefined. He will replace the pathetic vanity of the money, or the praise of man, or the high, or the orgasm that they are staking their eternities on right now. Only his grace can draw them from their perilous pursuits and bind them safely to himself—captive, but satisfied.

He will do this for many. Be faithful and don’t give up.

©2013 Desiring God Foundation. Used by Permission.

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Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: By John Piper. May 9, 2007 ©2013 Desiring God Foundation. Website: desiringGod.org

Dr David P. Craig on the Question: “Am I Pastor or a Life Coach?”

Answer: “I’m a Pastoral Life Coach”

About the picture above: From the left [me] David P. Craig; in the middle – my uncle Enrique – the brother of my mother – and a faithful disciple and evangelist of Jesus, and on the right, a church member named Jorge. I had just preached on what family relationships from Ephesians 5 :22 -6:4 look like when Christ is at the center of them. It was a tremendous honor to preach in Spanish with several family members present on my mother’s side. My family has a long history of church involvement – planting; preaching; and service in Quilmes – a large city in a suburb of Buenos Aires. I had just returned from a week of training pastors in the Northern part of Argentina – Jujuy; and was about to do some training with some young church leaders at A Christian Camp Facility in Buenos Aires.

In January of 2006 I had returned from a trip to South America to train pastors and missionaries (almost all of them were bi-vocational; in the Province of Jujuy on the Northern Argentinean and Southern Bolivian border. I have been on such trips in Europe, Asia, the Caribbean, and many times in Argentina (the land of my roots – My parents were born there and I have adopted many of their customs – especially drinking an Argentine tea called “mate;” becoming a soccer fanatic – especially of River Plate and Quilmes, and of course their national team (Messi is the Best!); and loving all foods Argentine – especially “asados” with “entrana” and chorizos; empanadas, bocadillos, tortilla, and gnocchi. I also grew up learning “Castellano” – the Italian sounding Spanish of the Argentines – full of slang – they have a unique word, phrase, or idiom for everything!

Both of my grandfathers were preachers. My dad’s father – John Craig (my youngest son, Johnny aged 16, is named after him) – was a Plymouth Brethren missionary who was born in Belfast, Ireland and spent over 50 years in Argentina and Uruguay planting churches, being an itinerant preacher, and making disciples (I’ve spoken in parts of Argentina where people have told me that my grandfather led them to the Lord and discipled them – it always brings me to tears of joy). John Craig died at the age of 86 and he was still pastoring a church in the Province of Tucuman in Argentina shortly before his promotion to Heaven.

My mom’s dad – Saul Moreira (of Portuguese heritage) was a beloved Bible teacher and expositor of the Bible. Everyone loved to hear “Don Saul” teach – children, co-workers, and the various “Hermanos Libres” churches in and around Quilmes – a large suburb of Buenos Aires  La Boca is most famous for the “Boca Juniors Football Club” and the dance known worldwide as the “Tango.”

About the picture above: My Grandfather – Saul Moreira – was one of the project supervisors of the building of the bridge pictured above “Puente Transborador” – built in 1914 is one of the most recognized bridges in all of South America. The Bridge is located in what many consider the heart of Buenos Aires – “La Boca.” The La Boca neighborhood was so named for its position at “the mouth” of the Riachuelo, and its role as the port of call for thousands of immigrants from Italy, Spain, and other European countries in the 1800’s and early 1900’s. It’s within walking distance from of the birth of the “Tango” in El Caminito, and the home of the famous Boca Juniors Football Club).

When I was 17 years old (almost the age of my youngest son) I was a soccer, football, basketball, and baseball FANATIC! On any given day you would see me with a ball in competition depending on the season – I was fiercely seeking a victory in one of these sports. Growing up in the 1970’s and 1980’s in Huntington Beach, CA., I was a diehard Laker fan (during the Magic Johnson vs. Larry Bird era); a HUGE Dodger fan -during the Dodgers vs. Cincinnati Red Machine; when the St. Louis Rams were the L.A. Rams and played in Anaheim; and the L.A. Galaxy didn’t exist and we had season tickets for the L.A Aztecs. I still vividly recall going to the L.A. Coliseum and witnessing the amazing offensive and defensive skills of some of the best players in world soccer history – Johann Cruyff, Pele, and Franz Beckenbauer.

About the picture above: My room in Huntington Beach in 1975.  I was ten years old and already a sports fanatic. Notice the Rams (in L.A. back then) souvenirs on the left and the Los Angeles Dodgers souvenirs on the right. There is a 10th Anniversary Houston “Astrodome” pennant on my desk, and I’m reading a baseball world series magazine from 1975. I still love the Dodgers; wear Hawaiian shirts; but prefer the San Diego Chargers to those “traders” – the St. Louis Rams.

In my junior year of High School I was involved in a serious car accident. My best friend at the time was driving his Jeep and we were cut off by a drunk driver after the first day of baseball season my junior year. My dad and mom were on a business trip in Europe at the time. My older sister and the great staff at the hospital in Fountain Valley took terrific care of me. I suffered numerous broken ribs, bones, and had a lot of stitches in my head. I can remember shaking in bed at the hospital for a week straight and had a migraine headache for the next three months that subsided gradually so I could take catnaps here and there.

It was during that time that I received my calling to the ministry. Up until that year I was dreaming of either being a pro soccer or baseball player. Before the car accident I made my decision to focus on baseball and have a terrific junior season at Liberty Christian High School in Huntington Beach. I had dreamed about being a Los Angeles Dodger with the goal of taking over Bill Russell’s job at shortstop  The reality is I was a good baseball player, but not “great.”  I think if I had focused on being great at one sport instead of being “good” at four sports – I would have had a chance to make the pros (I ended up playing soccer in college for 3 years in Portland).

About the picture above. From about 1975 to 1980 my family would get about 20-30 games of season tickets during some of the Dodgers best years. The first Dodger game I went to was in 1974 and Ron Cey “The Penguin” hit a home run against the New York Mets to win the game in the 9th inning. I was imediately hooked on the Dodgers.Here is a picture of the “Fabulous Four: Ron Cey – 3B; Davey Lopes – 2B; Bill Russell – SS; and Steve Garvey – 1B.

I missed all of baseball season my junior year. During that summer – I started thinking more seriously about my life.  I had been a disciple of Jesus Christ since I was six years old.  I always loved the Lord, went to church weekly, loved going to “big church” (my pastor was the well-known Bible expositor – David L. Hocking. I’d rather hear “Pastor Dave” preach the meat of the Word than “watered down” Sunday school lessons designed for children who’d rather play with lincoln logs, than listen to a teacher. From an early age I’ve always loved apologetics and anything to do with the Bible, Theology, the Gospel, and the Church for whom Jesus gave His life.

However, the summer of 1983 was different from any previous summer in my short life. My passion for sports waned, and God gave me a renewed passion to know Him intimately and magnify Jesus in the proclamation of the Gospel. My senior year of high school I didn’t play any sports for the first time since I was six years old. I realized that I was a follower of Christ second, and a sports idolater first. I needed to repent of my sin of “sports idolatry” and was struck by what the Apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians 10:31, “So whether you eat, or drink, or whatever you do, do it all to the glory of God.”

Up until my junior year of high school I had been a selfish “sports-aholic,” primarily living for the thrill of victory and to avoid the agony of defeat. I had been living for my glory first, and Christ’s second. I was convicted by the Holy Spirit of this rebellious state and moved by the Holy Spirit “to be transformed by the renewing of my mind” (See Romans 12:1-2).

Over the summer I started asking and wrestling with these questions:

“What if I had died in that accident?”

“What have I accomplished in life that will actually last for eternity?”

“What will I do that will last for eternity for the rest of my life?”

“What things will last on into eternity when I die?”

“Why did God create humans for in the first place?”

“How many people do I know that have I never told about Jesus?

There were many more questions like those above. However, my senior year was different. I started going to a Christian Book store called “Pilgrim’s Progress” and started devouring theology books by J.I. Packer, R.C. Sproul, David Martyn Lloyd-Jones, and many others. While all my friends were going on dates and spending money on movies – I was saving money to buy more books. I studied Greek that fall in a discipleship relationship with my Bible professor in High School – he was a Talbot Seminary student at the time (I would eventually earn my Master of Divinity at Talbot in 1991); I started teaching a junior high Sunday school class in my church; I was witnessing to everything that breathed – I even practiced on my cocker spaniel – “Carlitos” and my cat “Jinx.”

Two defining moments happened to me in the summer of 1983. The first was through an evangelist that you’ve probably heard of – Luis Palau. Billy Graham, Bill Bright, and Luis Palau have planted more seeds of the Gospel than perhaps all the other evangelists of history combined. Luis Palau was passing through on his way to Los Angeles and came over for dinner one evening. Anyone who has ever eaten my mom’s cooking, would NEVER pass up an opportunity to eat her food! If she were younger (she’s 80 today – and still cooks up a storm), I’m convinced she would have her own show on the Food Network and be more popular than Paula Dean or Giada DeLaurentiis!

About the picture above: Luis Palau has literally preached to more people than anyone in the history of Christianity next to Billy Graham – and he’s done it in perfect Spanish and English.  I haven’t heard or seen much of Luis since our days at Multnomah – but I will be forever indebted to Luis for recommending I attend Multnomah University. I received some great training there. However, the best gifts I received were some of my life-long godly friends – who are all comrades in the ministry of the Gospel around the world. Luis Palau’s nephew George Palau, who with his wonderful wife – Stacey – runs an orphanage in Mexico is one of those very close friends. George is one of the greatest servants of Christ I’ve ever known. I have learned much more from him, than I ever will from Luis. Nothing against Luis. But one of the great things about being a Christian is that we all impact one another up close in the context of community – especially when we minister to those who are suffering and in great need. George drove all the way from Mexico yesterday to spend the day with me. I love George, Dave Steele, Eddie Remley, and Mark Wilks, as if they were my very own brothers – and in Christ we are a “band of brothers.” 

Luis Palau is one of the few “big name” Christian heroes that I really respect and admire. He is one of the few pastors I know that is the same in his home, as when he is in front of a crowd of 100,000 people. What you see or hear from Luis is what you get. He practices what he preaches, and is quick to repent when he blows it. My parents grew up in the same Plymouth Brethren (“Los Hermanos Liberes”) church as Luis in Quilmes, Argentina and have known him since he was very young.

Getting back to the dinner. My mom made her famous Caesar salad, homemade spinach ravioli with her amazing Osso-Bucco and meat-sauce, and we had her amazing homemade “dulce de batata” for dessert (I remember – because these are three foods I never eat anywhere else – because no one comes close to preparing these items as well as my mom). After this very filling and satisfying meal Luis and I went for a long walk. I picked his brain and remember asking him, “Luis, how do you know if you are being called to the ministry?”

I honestly can’t remember his exact reply. I just remember that he affirmed my calling and recommended that I attend the same college he attended when Ray Stedman (author of the very influential book “Body Life” and, at that time Pastor of the influential Peninsula Bible Church in Northern California) helped bring a young Luis to the United States to be pastorally trained – because he heard Luis preach on a trip to Argentina and saw how gifted he was. Ray Stedman made it possible for Luis Palau to go to Multnomah School of the Bible in Portland, Oregon. The school’s motto was, “If it’s Bible you want, then you want Multnomah”.  Luis encouraged me to visit the school and noted and affirmed my passion to know the Word and to make Jesus known.

The second “defining moment” for me came in letting my parents know that I believed and felt overwhelmingly that God was calling me to full-time ministry. God was blessing my teaching, evangelism, and discipleship with youth. I couldn’t imagine doing anything more worthwhile for the rest of my life. I wanted to make my time and life count for what would matter for eternity.

A few days after my walk and talk with Luis Palau, I sat down at approximately 11:30 a.m. at the kitchen table with my mom. My parents are godly people. My dad has worked hard since he was seven years old and he has had several successful businesses in Argentina, England, and the United States. My dad has always been incredibly giving and very involved in ministry. I don’t ever remember getting up in the morning not seeing my dad with an open Bible and drinking mate (Argentine tea). My dad has been an elder and on the Board of several missions around the world. He devours theology, and manifests all the fruit of the Spirit. There is not a single man on the planet that I admire, respect, and desire to be more like than my father. He has been such a good model and such an influence in my life – that I could probably write a whole book on his influence for good in my life.

Meanwhile, getting back to the table with my mom. My dad was working in his office – he added an office to the garage over our Huntington Harbor home, so he didn’t have to drive to Los Angeles anymore. I sat down with my mom and was hesitant to bring up my “calling” for fear that my parents would think I was “loco.” I thought I would share it with my mom first before bringing it up to my dad. My plan up until that summer had been to get a baseball scholarship to a Pac Ten (now Pac 12 or whatever they call it) school, preferably UCLA (Go Bruins! – largely through John Wooden’s influence in my life – his book “They Call Me Coach” was the first book I read from cover-to-cover; John Wooden pictured below)), and to major in Business Administration. I never thought of being anything but a professional athlete – my only difficult decision was I wanted to play all four major USA sports – baseball, football, basketball, and soccer! I’m sure hockey would have been in there too, but nobody except for Canadians knew what that was in the 1980’s – until we won the Olympics in the “Miracle on Ice”!

About the picture above: John Wooden won 10 National Championships as a coach of the UCLA Bruins Basketball team. Wooden had some great players; but he was also able to make great players make other players even better. I think John Wooden (a committed Christ follower) would have been a great pastor as well. He is a perfect model of a life coach – committed to Christ; committed to bringing out the best in individuals; and their teams, churches, and organizations. Everybody wins when they have a good coach. John Wooden was simply the best!

I would literally dream almost every night, and daydream in my classes in school of throwing the over time touchdown pass in the last seconds of the Super Bowl to lead the Rams to victory over the Steelers; hitting a grand slam in the bottom of the ninth in the seventh game of the World Series before the home crowd in Los Angeles over (who else?) the New York Yankees; shooting a three-point shot in over time to win the NBA championship for the Lakers against the Celtics.  I dreamed of taking the Americans all the way to the final in the World Cup and beating Germany, Argentina, or Brazil by scoring a hat trick in bringing the World Cup to the USA for the first time. I even remember in my dreams calling my cousins Ariel and Martin in Argentina to apologize to them for beating their homeland in their favorite sport!

Oh yeah – sorry, sidetracked – back to the table with my mom. When I told my mom about the stirring in my heart, my desire to know the Scriptures, my passion to proclaim Christ, and my desire to attend Multnomah in Portland – she began to sob. I was thinking to myself, “Oh no, now I’m in trouble – there goes the family business.”

My mom came around the table and gave me a big hug and went and got her Bible and read from 1 Samuel 1 – the story of Samuel’s being dedicated to the Lord (I encourage you to read it). She read the entire chapter to me out loud and then after reading the last three verses of chapter 1 and the first 2 verses of chapter where Hannah says and prays the following:

And she said, “Oh, my lord! As you live, my lord, I am the woman who was standing here in your presence, praying to the Lord. For this child I prayed, and the Lord has granted me my petition that I made to him. Therefore I have lent him to the Lord. As long as he lives, he is lent to the Lord.” And he worshiped the Lord there. And Hannah prayed and said, “My heart exults in the Lord; my horn is exalted in the Lord. My mouth derides my enemies, because I rejoice in your salvation. “There is none holy like the Lord: for there is none besides you; there is no rock like our God.” (1 Samuel 1:26-2:2)…

She came and hugged me, and said that Hannah’s was her story and Samuel’s story was my story. Rachel (my mom) told me that the doctors told her she would never have a child again. She lost two children due to complications between my sister – Miriam – and myself.

I never knew the story of my mom and dad’s loss until this day, at this moment, at the table in our kitchen. In short, my mother had always wanted six children (two of them I will meet for the first time in Heaven one day). I have two brothers – Daniel, 15 years my senior and George, 10 years older than me; and a sister that’s 8 years older than me – Miriam. One child my mom lost was never named (but will have a name that Jesus has given according to Revelation), the other was named Michelle.

My mom went and got my dad from the office and she shared the story of how she prayed that if God gave her another child – she and my dad would dedicate him to the Lord – just as Hannah had dedicated Samuel. Talk about a confirmation! We all wept and prayed, and thanked the Lord for His answers to prayer to my faithful parents prayer to bring glory to the Lord Jesus Christ.

About the Picture above: My parents have been the biggest influences on my life spiritually. My dad, Daniel, will be 90 in January; and my mom, Rachel, will be 81. They prayed for me before I was born. They read the Bible to me from the time I was a baby (and still quote it to me on the phone or every time we are together). They are my biggest heroes in life. They are going to be married 64 years on December 4, 2012. My parents have always been my biggest fans, but better than that – they have been huge fans of Jesus, His Church, and the spread of the Gospel around the world. They have had a lot of difficult times financially, physically, and have lost almost all their life-long friends. And yet they always have a smile on their faces and exhibit the peace of God that surpasses all understanding. I love them with such admiration, appreciation, and respect that I will never be able to convey in words. I am a Christian today because of the sovereign election of God in eternity past; and love and follow Jesus because they modeled His love and grace when I was growing up, and continue to do so, to this very day. I can’t think of two people who better model what the Apostle Paul said, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Jesus Christ.”

Since that day I have gone on to earn a B.S. (at Multnomah); a M.Div. at Talbot School of Theology; a doctorate and doctoral work in Theology and Pastoral Leadership at Westminster Seminary in Escondido, and Northwest Graduate School in Seattle. I have been a youth and senior pastor in California and Washington State. I have traveled to more than 30 countries on missions trips and training pastors and missionaries. I have discipled dozens of men. My best education was one I never purposely applied for, but have most definitely been “accepted” to. It’s proverbially called “The School of Hard Knocks.” I would concur with the great Reformer Martin Luther who summarized his learning in this way, ““Suffering has made me a better theologian than any book I’ve ever read.” However, I don’t think I’ve seen the tip of the iceberg of what God has entrusted unto me as a steward of the glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ.

The questions I asked earlier are questions I’m still asking. Having been diagnosed with cancer recently and beginning radiation and chemotherapy in the next week, I pray that God will continue to change me and conform me to His Son. I pray that whether I live another forty-six years, or only have days to live for him – that people will know, see, and hear about my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I desire more than anything that all my family members would know and follow Jesus. I firmly believe with the sentiment, “This life will soon be past, only what’s done for Christ will last.”

I have lived a wonderful life. I have been bruised and broken, but not crushed. I am becoming stronger through life’s trials and tribulations. Since the age of seventeen all I’ve ever wanted to do, is know Jesus intimately and make Him known.

This past year I’ve been doing some “life coaching” through a non-profit ministry I established called Vertical Living Ministries. I started this Pastoral ministry with the help of some wonderful people who have sacrificially contributed generously, so that I can make multiplying disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ around the world. I have trained people one-on-one and in small and large groups, discipled men and women, and trained people in Christ-centered living through this ministry.

I originally established Vertical Living MInistries to provide training for leaders in poor countries. We who live in America have access to so many good resources by way of books, conferences, Bible Colleges, and Seminaries. I have been to countries where pastors share one Bible amongst themselves and have absolutely no training or access to any resources whatsoever. However, now with my cancer, I really don’t know where God is calling me. However, I know that I will always be a pastor. I am a shepherd. I have had Jesus shepherd me, and I simply want to find other sheep who will follow hard after the Good Shepherd.

I call myself a Pastoral Coach because I want to encourage Christians to make Christ number one in their lives. I love “life” coaching because I can help disciples of Christ focus on the following nine areas of Christo-centricity.  Just as we talk about  a Planetary system that’s Helio, and not Geo-centered, I like to think of life functioning best when our lives revolve around, and in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

(1) Spiritually – Your Relationship to God through the Lordship of Jesus Christ. My main focus here is to help people understand the life transforming ramifications of the Gospel in your life: past, present, and future ramifications for today. Most Christians only remember or hold on to their past, or future in Christ and forget how the Gospel needs to be lived out on a daily basis – we are continually learning to repent and grow in our faith with Christ at the center of it all.

(2) Marriage – Your triune covenantal relationship with Christ at the center. Marriages can work for two unbelievers, and even sometimes when an unbeliever is married to an unbeliever. However, it was designed by God to not be a marriage of two, but of three. I help couples to practically make Christ the center of their “solar system” in their marriage.

(3) Family/Parenting – How to be a Christ-centered family and raise Children that love Jesus above all else. For many parents, their children become “idols.”, especially for women.  Their identity, security, and significance is oftentimes wrapped up in the performance, success, and behavior of their children. If their children are doing well – they are doing well. However, if a child rebels or is unsuccessful in life – they take it personally, and lose their way. Many “empty nesters” – especially women, become depressed and feel like life is meaningless when their kids move out of the home. I help parents to see that our security and significance needs to be properly placed in submission to the Lordship of Christ. Only God never changes. If we place our security in our kids or anything else – we are in big trouble. In raising our children we are merely short-term stewards of what is rightfully God’s. The greatest thing we can do as parents is to model Christo-centricity for our children. I’m grateful that my parents modeled and taught me daily that the most important thing in life is my relationship with and service unto Jesus.

(4) Vocationally – Your Work in the World and with the Church. Most women have the idolatry of “motherhood.” Most men see their significance and security in their work. Their identity is wrapped up in their position, possessions, and provisions for their families. Well, what happens to the man who loses his job, gets physically incapacitated, or runs into midlife.  You’ve been working at a job for 30 years and come to realize that you were climbing the wrong ladder that was leaning up against the wrong wall in your “prime” years? Men and women both have pseudo securities – or what the Bible calls “idolatry.” I try to teach people how to view their talents, passions, skills, abilities, and hobbies as unto the Lord. Ultimately, God is our boss and we will spend the bulk of our lives working – but do we find the pleasure of God in our work? Few things excite me more than seeing businessmen or women shine brightly for the sake of Christ in the context of making a profit that will last for eternity in the lives of others.

(5) Health – Taking care of your body that God will use on this earth until the day of your final glorification. This is one of the most neglected areas for Christians. It’s very easy to get out of balance in what we eat, how we exercise, and being responsible with the stewardship of our bodies. I love what C.S. Lewis says, “You don’t have a soul, you are a soul. You have a body.” In other words, we are dualists. We have an immaterial part of us, and we are housed in a physical body that must be maintained. Sometimes, we can’t control what happens to our bodies (Doctors don’t know how I got cancer). However, even if we have ailments and age, we still need to be responsible in taking care of our bodies as best as we can, so we can serve Jesus as long as we can, and as effectively as we can, while we “house” the soul.

(6) Friendship – Your connections and building bridges with others as you reflect Christ in your community. Too many people are wrapped up in work, family, and get isolated outside of community. I thank God for the emphasis on community by many churches. However, if you want to have friends, you must be a friend. Nobody models this better than Jesus, “a friend of sinners.” Friends are so important – especially in tough times. Having friends and family means the world to me especially when the “going gets tough.” I firmly believe that especially among pastors (health and friendships are two of the most neglected areas in this list of nine – and that it’s what will “do them in” during mid-life or their retirement years).

(7) Financially – Your stewardship of God’s resources. I can honestly say that having to give away or sell more than 6,000 theology books in the past five years, going from a 3,400 square foot house we owned to a 1,600 square foot condo we rent, and having to give away all our pets (four cats and a dog) have been some of the hardest things to go through, but also some of the best. Money and possessions (having control) is a huge idolatry in our culture. Simple is better. Jesus left earth for Heaven literally naked – and so will we. However, are you content with only Him and nothing else? Look at the difference Jesus made two thousand years ago, and is still making today. He owned nothing and left no possessions behind. Nothing “owned” Him. What owns you? I believe that generosity exhibits the nature and character of God perhaps more fully than any other trait. For example, I don’t think it’s coincidence that the most famous verse in the Bible is about the greatest sacrifice and the greatest gift: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16). Aren’t you glad God is a giver? How about you? I believe that Tim Keller is dead-on here when he says, “Idolatry is just a failure to obey God, It’s setting the whole heart on something besides God… Where your money goes most effortlessly, that’s where your heart really rests.” In my life I’ve found peace and rest not in the economy, but in Jesus alone – and He never changes – satisfaction is truly found when you realize that when God is all you have, He’s all you really need.

(8) Mentoring – Investing in Others Using your unique Skills, Gifting, Talents, Personality, and Passion. I’m forty-six years old and have never really been formally discipled or mentored by anyone. That’s a tragedy of the first order. I firmly believe that every single man and every woman has strengths and skills to teach future generations, but these don’t typically happen without intentionality. I train people to use their unique gifts, passions, abilities, skills, and so forth and pass those on to future generations – with intentionality. It really upsets me to no end to see how self-absorbed we’ve become. We have our I-pads, I-pods, and I-phones, and have become “I-focused”! Don’t get me wrong – I love technology, but for many it’s become an obsession and an idol. We need to become more focused on Jesus and others if we want to make a difference that will last into eternity. I love what Paul says about Jesus in Philippians 2:4-5, “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus.”

(9) Discipleship – You’re investing in the Spiritual Growth of other followers and would-be followers of Christ. Nothing gets me more riled up than the lack of lifestyle and intentional discipleship taking place among Christians. Again, without intentionality this just doesn’t happen. I have asked men in their twenties up until their eighties if they have ever been discipled by another man – In thirty years of doing ministry I hear “Never” or “What are you talking about” at least 90% of the time. This is unconscionable! And yet, the great commission is all about “making disciples” of all nations. Are you intentionally making disciples in your circle of influence with your children, friends, neighbors, spouses, family, co-workers, teammates, and fellow students?

It is my prayer and hope to take the baton that has been passed on to me from my godly heritage in these nine areas. I hope that God will use my cancer to further the Gospel. I desire to teach, preach, and live for the glory of Christ while I have breath.

My life verses are 1 Timothy 4:16 where the Apostle Paul says to Timothy: “Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.”

Acts 20:24, where the Apostle Paul proclaims, “But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus Christ, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.”

And Romans 8:16-18 & 28-30, where the Apostle Paul declares, The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us… And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.”

It’s been about 13 months since I last preached – I haven’t had any invitations. And yet the passion of my soul is to preach the Gospel. Sometimes I feel like a Pastor who is a dinosaur in the 21st century, fast-paced Church. I have tried to get a job in a modern church for the past 13 months – in churches that appear to want CEO’s, not Shepherds; Programs, not Preachers; is more concerned about being politically correct and pragmatic than Theologically correct and Christ-centered. Whether I end up pastoring again in a local church or life coaching, I can’t help but be what I am – dependent on God’s mercy and grace as I battle cancer. Since the age of seventeen all I’ve ever wanted to do, is to know Jesus and to make Him known.

I love Him because He first loved me. I love the gospel and to declare it with my whole heart, mind, and soul. I love to shepherd people – not because I’m a great shepherd, but because I have a Great Shepherd! His name is Jesus! As long as I have breath I will declare Him among the nations. I will serve Him because He came to seek, serve, and save me first. He is my peace, and He is the hope of all nations. He will reign on the Earth again, and I will reign with Him. Until that day, I believe wholeheartedly with these words of Paul David Tripp:

“No matter how great your weakness is, God’s power is greater. No matter how out of control your life is, God’s sovereignty is greater. No matter how alone you may feel, God’s presence is greater. No matter how out of control your life is, God’s provisions are greater. No matter how deep your sin is, God’s grace is deeper. No matter how foolish your foolishness is, God’s wisdom is greater. The same sovereign God who planned the details of your life sent his Son so you would have what you need to face what He willed for you.”

According to the New American Oxford Dictionary a “Pastor” is “one who gives guidance to someone.” A coach is “a tutor who gives private or specialized teaching.” It is my desire to guide people with the experiences and education I’ve received and to teach them of Jesus at the center of all of life. Whether in a local church as a pastor, or in the Church universal as a “pastoral life coach.” I only want to invest in that which matters for eternity. All these years I have preached the Gospel – how one can have peace with God through the Lord Jesus Christ. Now as I battle cancer, it is my desire to preach with my life and suffering how to have peace with my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Once again I quote from the Apostle Paul,

For if I preach the gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting. For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!” (1 Corinthians 6:19)

“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” (12 Corinthians 5:14-15).

“Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order 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 comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:8-14).

 Sola Scriptura! Sola Fide! Sola Gratia! Solus Christus! Soli Deo Gloria!

 (Scripture Alone! Faith Alone! Grace Alone! Christ Alone – To God be the Glory Alone!)