Book Review: Outlive Your Life by Max Lucado

Title: Outlive Your Life
Author: Max Lucado
Publisher: Thomas Nelson (2010)

Some time ago, I was in the president’s office at a Christian NGO and noticed a new book on his desk. Making conversation, I asked, “What’s that one about?” It’s about the Christian’s responsibility in areas of poverty and injustice, he said. I made a mental note and determined to give it a read.

A couple weeks later, I began to read Outlive Your Life by Max Lucado. Over the course of 16 chapters, Lucado loosely examines the first twelve chapters of Acts in an attempt to show readers how they “were made to make a difference” in the lives of impoverished men, women and children around the globe.

Christian books on social justice and caring for the poor are tricky things. There’s a tendency to turn a God-honoring act into “God’s mandate” for the Christian life. A false gospel based around our work, rather than Christ’s work on the cross.

So where does Outlive Your Life land?

A weird place.

First, what did I like about this book?

Lucado is a very fast-paced writer; his style is easy-going, light and conversational. The plus side of this is that it makes this book a very quick read. The chapters are short (usually no more than about 4-5 pages) and you can breeze through it in a couple hours.

Lucado’s use of illustrations from everyday life help makes his subject matter come alive. He generally portrays himself as a bit of a goober, so you get the impression that he’s just a regular guy who puts his pants on one leg at a time (but when he puts his pants on, he sells hundreds of thousands of books).

When it comes down to the content, I greatly appreciated chapter 15, “Pray first; pray most.” This section in particular was a strong reminder of the importance of prayer and why everything we do, if we are followers of Christ, should be saturated with prayer.

Additionally, I did appreciate the idea behind the chapter, “Don’t write anyone off.” There’s no one that God can’t save—so why would we write off anyone as “unsave-able” when God is capable of doing more than we can imagine? After all, He saved Paul, who persecuted the Church & murdered Christians and used him as His instrument to spread the gospel throughout Asia Minor, and into Rome.

Now, having said that, there is a lot that concerned me about Outlive Your Life.

Some of it’s just goofy, like a strangely graphic description of a temple guard on page 78 (that I’m not entirely sure is historically accurate) that wouldn’t seem out of place in the movie 300. There’s some creative speculation into biblical stories in an attempt to engage readers… But there’s also this prevalent notion that sound doctrine isn’t as important as actions and working together for the common good. [Read more…]

The Real Heroes of Social Justice

I’ve been home now for a little over a day and have been thinking about how to wrap up my thoughts on this trip. There’s so much that I could write about. More experiences with children and families, why writing letters actually does make a difference… But the thing I keep coming back to is social justice.

Social justice is a weird animal.

Why? Because there is always a question of “who is the hero?”

Photo by Yuri Fortin, Compassion Honduras

There are a number of answers one could give; more often than not, though, the answer will be (overtly or covertly) a way of saying, “We are!”

It’s a real challenge for every organization.

Who is the hero of social justice organizations? The program? The supporters? The fundraising model?

You?

Want to know something that’s really, really freeing?

NGOs are not the heroes in the lives of kids like these. Neither are the programs, the supporters or the funding model.

So, who is then? [Read more…]

Being a Small Part of God’s Plan

Friday was the day that we got to visit with our sponsored children.

For a lot of people on the trip, there was a great deal of anxiety. Meeting your child is a big deal. So few children and sponsors ever get to meet, so I can understand why it means so much.

I met Jocsan almost four years ago, when I first came to Honduras. He was shy, a little withdrawn, but a really sweet kid. After we parted ways last time, I’d hoped I’d get to see him again someday.

Friday was that day.

This time, though, it wasn’t just Jocsan; it was his sister, Loren, too.

Loren is nine years old and she was very shy. She was quiet almost the entire time that we were together. Not that I blame her; the experience is incredibly overwhelming.

“Here’s the Canadian who sponsors you! Be excited! And… Go!”

That’s not what happens.

photo by Yuri Fortin, Compassion Honduras

Armin (my interpreter) and I met the two kids and their mom at the Wonderland water park in San Pedro Sula. They’d travelled all the way from Tegucigalpa, roughly a 4.5 hour drive (with a lot of winding roads). They got permission from their school to take Thursday and Friday off for this, but their mom, Bessie, said that even if they hadn’t, they still would have come. [Read more…]

Small Talk

Over the last several days, we’ve met dozens of children, but I’ve never really been able to have much of a conversation.

I think this has a lot to do with expectations; being so concerned that I need to say something profound that will impact these kids lives forever, or avoiding saying something that would inadvertently damage them beyond measure. (No pressure, huh?)

Thursday was different.

In our last project visit, I had a chance to really just relax and have some fun. And after an intense game of volleyball, I took a seat on the stairs to have a drink and recharge.

Carmen sat down next to me and started talking.

I learned that she was eleven years old and has one brother named Pedro who is also at the project. She has two cats, named “White” and “Black.” She loves science & social studies, and she wants to be a lawyer.

I asked her why and she said, “I just like what they do.” (Seems as good a reason as any, I think.)

She asked me whether I play any instruments, and I told her about how I used to play the trombone when I was a bit older than she is now. We talked about music, drawing, family, our favorite colors, what I do for a living…

We just talked. No pressure, nothing seriously profound. Just a nice conversation.

I think it’s what both of us needed.

I wonder how often our expectations get in the way of us simply enjoying the opportunities and connections that God brings into our lives? To miss the trees for the forest sometimes. (Yes, I meant to say it that way in case you were curious.)

If I’d been stuck in that mode, I don’t know that I would have been able to enjoy this time with Carmen.

Her sitting down with me was a wonderful gift from God. Our conversation may not have been earth-shatteringly profound, but it made an impact. And I’m grateful for it.

Future Leaders for a Nation

From left to right: Alexa, the program specialist, Karen, Luis and Maricella

Wednesday night we had dinner with three of Compassion Hondura’s Leadership Development students and the program specialist. These young adults are exceptional graduates from Compassion’s child sponsorship program who have been given the opportunity to get a university education and become Christian leaders in their communities and country.

Karen joined the sponsorship program at nine years old and says it was a place of great blessing. She graduated from the program at 18 and is now studying Psychology at the National University of Honduras in Tegucigalpa.

“[Psychology] lets me serve Christ and talk to people about Him, [and] to tell people how valuable they are to God.”

Luis is 20 years old and is studying to be an industrial engineer. He joined the sponsorship program at 7 and graduated at 18. “The tutors taught us to be clean and healthy, but I may have been coming just for the food. I got to like it and had fun. I only had one sponsor, a Presbyterian Church in California. Many people wrote me often.”

Leaving home to continue in his studies is hard for Luis (to get the courses he needs, he has to move to another school). The church he grew up in was where he learned about Jesus. It was where he was baptized. “But I’mm going to miss my mother and her cooking,” he said with a smile. “My mother is a great cook.”

“I want to graduate and the first thing I’m going to do is buy a house, because ours is in bad shape. When I get my degree I want to work, help my family and build my house.”

Maricella is getting a degree in international commerce. Her story is one of the most tragic; her older brother died two years ago at the age of twenty-one of a degenerative disease; her younger brother is confined to a wheelchair by the same illness. She wants to graduate because she feels that she’s the only hope there is for her family, her church and her community. She wants to own her own business so she can help her family.

What stood out to me the most meeting these students is their commitment to serving Christ, helping their families and loving people. It was inspiring to see these young men and women who had nothing growing up and now have an opportunity to help change the direction of their nation.

I think they can do it.

Pray for them.

Thinking Beyond Today

Did you know that if you ask the average child in this area what he wants to be when he grows up, he won’t be able to answer?

It’s true.

During Tuesday’s visit to a church in the Copan Ruins, the project workers shared with us that most of the kids have never really given it any thought.

They’re too busy just trying to get through the day to think about what the future might hold.

That’s why it was really encouraging for us to see “My Plan for Tomorrow,” a resource in Compassion’s curriculum designed to help children ages 12 and up to figure out what direction they want to go with their lives.

[Read more…]

"What the Children Need Most is…"

The other day, we were shown the project offices at the church we visited. After seeing the meticulous records and going through a whole list of questions, I asked a project worker, “If there was one thing you’d like us to tell Canadians [and Americans, too] back home, what would it be?”

She thought for a moment and said:

Pray.

“What the children need most is your prayers. They have a lot of issues and need a lot of help. They have medical problems and some have mental problems… but what they need is your prayers.”

This was not what I was expecting as an answer, but it’s so obvious.

More than anything else—even more than the financial support that sponsors provide—the children need our prayers.

One of the challenges I’ve come up to here (besides the language barrier) is that I’m being confronted with how lazy I am spiritually.

What I mean is that I too often take prayer for granted, or see it as the last resort after I’ve tried to white-knuckle my way through a situation.

But that completely misses the point.

It misses the point of the gospel, which pointedly shows us that no amount of white-knuckling can to what only Christ could. And because of His death for our sins, the Father hears our prayers.

So why not take advantage of this gift?

These kids need our prayers. We need our prayers.

And God is good and faithful to answer for His glory and our joy.

Tiny Smiles and Big Hearts

On Monday we had our first “official” visit to a Compassion partner church, The Ark of Salvation in San Pedro Sula. The children meet in the church while they’re building a new classroom facility.

This is one of the little faces that greeted us today. This girl, and all the children her age, were making puppets.
[Read more…]

"I Just Want My Husband to Be Saved"

This is Fanny. She’s 46, married and has five children. The youngest is in the sponsorship program. Her husband sells eggs from their home.

Our visit to Fanny's home

Her four-year-old son is registered in Compassion’s program at The Ark of Salvation Church down the street.

We came to her home to ask a few questions about how having her son in the program has affected her life. She and her oldest daughter are Christians, and she is glad that her son is now going to a church.

as we talked, we asked her if there was anything we could pray with her about. Her answer was simple:

“I just want my husband to be saved.”

And we did.

First Corinthians 7:14 says that “the unbelieving husband is made holy because of his wife.” Because of her influence and consistent Christian lifestyle, there’s every chance that his heart would soften to the gospel and he would be saved. It would be amazing to see this happen.

To see this family united in Christ.

I believe it can happen.

Fanny and her family

“I just want my husband to be saved,” Fanny told us.

I want that, too.

Private, Precious Moments

Sunday, we began the first “official” day of our tour with Compassion. Today, we spent the bulk of the day at the Jehovah Jireh Church, one of Compassion’s partners in the country.

During the Sunday service, the pastor shared a short message, encouraging us to continue to be a blessing (Ayax translated for us).

Shortly before we’d arrived at the church that morning, Ayax told us that of the 41,000 children supported by Compassion in Honduras, at best, 180 receive a visit from their sponsor in a year—that’s such a small group of kids! But for those kids, it’s when, for the sponsor and for the child, the relationship really becomes “real.” There’s actually a flesh and blood person writing and receiving letters.

It’s a very special time, Ayax said. I had no idea just how special that moment would be for one of my team members.
[Read more…]

Travel, Tortilla Soup and Treats

Saturday was the first of our big travel days on this tour of Honduras. We flew from Toronto to Miami and finally to San Pedro Sula, where we arrived very late in the evening.

San Pedro Sula, the second largest city in Honduras, is the industrial hub of the nation, but it’s also one of the most dangerous. Ayax, a colleague from Compassion Honduras, shared with state of the city, as we drove to our hotel. Even though it’s dangerous, even though there is so much poverty, there is still hope.

Why?

Because of the Church.

The Church is here and God is working through her. Children are meeting Jesus and they’re telling their families about Him, too.

It’s amazing.

This is just a small portion of the items we brought for the kids - we ended up with four suitcases, four boxes and six bags worth of gifts!

After we arrived at the hotel, we set to work putting together packages of gifts for children at the church projects we’ll be visiting. With all 22 of us working together, we got it taken care of pretty quickly and then enjoyed a small meal before bed (in my case, tortilla soup, which was delightful, in case you were wondering).

Perhaps the biggest treat of the trip so far has been meeting the Compassion Honduras staff—including my old friend Alexis.

Alexis is the third from the left in this photo; Ayax is on the far right.

He and I met in 2006 when I was here on a missions trip; he was one of the four translators who worked with us. We also joined Compassion’s staff pretty close to the same time (within a few months of each other). He’s an amazing guy who loves the Lord and also really loves Compassion. I’m looking forward to spending some more time with him and all of our staff throughout the week.

Blogging with Compassion: Returning to Honduras

Four years ago, I went to Tegucigalpa, Honduras on my first (and so far only) missions trip. Our team went to put on a day camp for kids at eight locations over five days. Most of these were Compassion partner churches.

A few months before I left, I’d started sponsoring a young boy named Jocsan (pronounced “Hock-san”). He was six, going on seven, at the time.

During that trip I got to meet him.

[Read more…]

Help Haiti Live Feb 27 – Benefit Concert for Earthquake Relief

One month following the 7.1 earthquake that struck Haiti, an all-star cast of musicians is gathering for Help Haiti Live, a two-city ticketed concert event taking place on February 27th, 2010 to benefit Compassion International ’s Haiti disaster relief fund. The concerts are sponsored by Gaylord Entertainment Company, They will be ticketed and also streamed live at HelpHaitiLive.com.

With extraordinary need still existing in the devastated country, Alison Krauss & Union Station (featuring Jerry Douglas), Amy Grant, Big Kenny, Mat Kearney, Jars of Clay, Rebecca St. James, NEEDTOBREATHE, Brandon Heath, and a to-be-announced special headliner will participate in two concert events, live from Los Angeles at the historic Wiltern Theater and at Nashville’s famed and Gaylord-owned Ryman Auditorium. Produced to inspire live concert and on-line audiences to financially support the relief work of Compassion International in Haiti, all talent and production fees have been donated, along with streaming services (Livestream.com), allowing proceeds to go toward Compassion’s disaster relief fund.

“This cause has been something our employees have taken very close to heart in recent weeks, and they’re thrilled for Gaylord to be involved in such an inspiring event. We’re also proud to support the generous efforts of all the artists who are donating their time and talent to make this concert a success,” said Colin Reed, Chairman and CEO of Gaylord Entertainment Company.

Tickets for each event will range in price from $25-75 and can be purchased at Ticketmaster.com and all Ticketmaster locations beginning Monday, February 15th, as well as through The Ryman box office: 800-745-3000 or ryman.com, and through Live Nation for The Wiltern at http://www.livenation.com/venue/the-wiltern-tickets

Nashville/Ryman Auditorium, 7:30pm cst:

Hosted by Big Kenny. Performances by Alison Krauss & Union Station (featuring Jerry Douglas), Jars of Clay, Mat Kearney, Dave Barnes, Matt Wertz, Brandon Heath.

Los Angeles/Wiltern Theater, 7:30pm pst:
Message from pastor Francis Chan. Performances by Special Guest headliner, Amy Grant, Leann Rimes, Rebecca St. James, NEEDTOBREATHE

All money raised in response to the Haiti earthquake will be used immediately to re-equip Compassion’s local support structure and to provide for the immediate needs of Compassion-assisted children and families. Compassion has been meeting the physical and spiritual needs of Haitians for more than forty years and will continue to serve them in this time of extreme need. Already Compassion International has supplied more than 15,000 families with clean water, food, blankets, temporary shelter, medical supplies and counseling.  Donations will lay bricks, feed, educate, clothe, heal and rebuild Haiti for many months to come in Jesus’ name.

Around the Interweb (01/24)

“It is Well with My Soul…”

Churches Helping Churches released a powerful video presentation of the devastation in Haiti on Friday, one that is tempered with incredible hope: 

At 4:57, Mark Driscoll interviews a pastor from Haiti who, despite everything, still has joy. When asked why he’s smiling, where is his joy, he answers, “It’s from the Lord.” 

God is good, folks. 


 

In other news

John Newton in a letter to Rev. Thomas Jones (October 20, 1767): “As to myself, if I were not a Calvinist, I think I should have no more hope of success in preaching to men, than to horses or cows.” (via Kevin DeYoung

“Tell Bud, ministry isn’t everything.  Jesus is.” (via Ray Ortlund

Ed Stetzer: “Be careful with your words. You only have so many to use in your upcoming sermon, so choose them wisely. Those words may comprise your very last sermon. Have you considered that?” 

More photos from Haiti (via Compassion’s Flickr page): 

[vodpod id=Groupvideo.4540560&w=425&h=350&fv=offsite%3Dtrue%26offsite%3Dtrue%26lang%3Den-us%26page_show_url%3D%252Fphotos%252Fcompassioninternational%252Fsets%252F72157623133539077%252Fshow%252Fwith%252F4293585965%252F%26page_show_back_url%3D%252Fphotos%252Fcompassioninternational%252Fsets%252F72157623133539077%252Fwith%252F4293585965%252F%26set_id%3D72157623133539077%26jump_to%3D4293585965]

more about “Haiti Earthquake“, posted with vodpod 


In case you missed it

Here are a few of this week’s notable posts: 

My review of Joshua Harris’ new book, Dug Down Deep. Read the review then go buy the book. 

Airing my frustration with progressive sanctification

If the gospel is dull, then what is worth being called exciting

Martyn Lloyd-Jones reminds us that the gospel is the most exciting and astounding thing that has ever and will ever happen.