Near the Cross

Posted: April 19, 2014 by philmartin4 in Book Recommendation, Book reviews, Gospel, Reading, Theology

“The whole value of the meditation of the suffering of Christ lies in this, that man should come to the knowledge of himself and sink and tremble.  If you are so hardened that you do not tremble, then you have reason to tremble.  Pray to God that he may soften your heart and make fruitful your meditation upon the suffering of Christ, for we of ourselves are incapable of proper reflection unless God instills it.” – Martin Luther, Adapted from his “Easter Book,” quoted from “Jesus, keep me near the Cross”


In the lead up to Easter, it is good to once again turn our gaze to the Cross and the empty tomb.  The whole event, however, has become so familiar that is easy to miss the richness, depth of beauty, and power of the cross.  I am thankful, therefore, for the small book edited by Nancy Guthrie.  “Jesus, Keep me near the Cross” is a collection of invaluable sermon and book excerpts written by 25 preachers from Saint Augustine to Tim Keller.  The short (max of 8 pages) messages each pack a powerful punch.  From the events leading to the Cross to the specific words Christ said while giving up his life, every aspect of this defining moment in history is dissected and preached piercingly right to the heart.

I am humbled to say that I’ve gone through many Easters since being a Christian without truly contemplating the Cross of Christ.  If there is any moment in our Savior’s life that we should seek to understand, it is this one moment.  I encourage you to buy this book and benefit from its boundless wisdom and insight.


The Greatest Gift’s I Have Received…

Posted: December 20, 2013 by thoughtsfrommyshelf in Thoughts
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I love Christmas! I love the way the house smells as family gathers around for a feast. I love the music that plays and the smiles it brings. I love the memories Christmas brings to memory and the opportunities to make new ones. I love gifts…I mean who doesn’t. But, gifts can also fail to make Christmas.

I remember when I was 8 years old, I wanted a a toy really bad and never got it. I probably cried. I don’t remember if I did, or maybe I hope I didn’t cry and I suppress the fact that I did cry. Well, I guess we will never know. Either way, that toy would probably be put to shame today. (Who remembers wanting a Ultimate Warrior action figure you stuck your finger in the back to make fight?)

The best gifts I have ever received are the ones that you cannot buy and you cannot take away. In no particular order I am grateful for gifts I didn’t earn and never bought. Things like:

  • Jesus and the reality that there is nothing I can do to earn His love any more, and there is nothing that I could do to make Him love me any less. He freely loves and sacrificed Himself for me despite my rights and wrongs.
  • My wife who has seen the best and worst in me and is committed to loving me. She is my love, friend, counselor, and biggest support. I love you Linds! Cherishing and appreciating you in a way that says “Thank you!” is something I hope I accomplish in more and more meaningful ways. I have the rest of our lives to display my love for you- and I look forward to it! Growing old together is going to be fun.
  • My family who has made and shaped who I am. I love the oldest to the youngest and am grateful for the ways you have influenced my life. I am thankful for the hard work ethic my mother and father displayed for me. My brothers and sister who are always there to enter into my joy and comfort me in my sorrow. I am glad to have all the nephews that I have- they all have contributed to my happiness in more ways that I can say. I love my niece, she is the only niece and therefore my favorite by default. I am proud to be a Cabrera because of you.
  • My son who is always up for a nerf gun fight, hiking, or some sort of imaginary battle against orcs and goblins. He is an 8 yr old ball of energy and he always has some joke to make me laugh. I am glad that I get to live like a kid again because of you, buddy! I am glad that I am your dad, your friend, and your point man when we have to breach the living room as if it were a Navy SEAL mission.
  • My Friends are way too many to mention. But I couldn’t be more grateful for the great group of people God has given us. My church, gym, and neighborhoods have given me a lot of friends to be thankful for. Thank you all for filling my house and allowing me to fill yours with memories, laughter, and food!

It is so easy to get caught up in what you want, need (or think you need), and/or get someone else. It is easy to think that what you need is one more thing. It is difficult to be content.  Truth is, it’s going to get old sooner or later. What doesn’t get old is the things you could never buy for someone at a store. Memories last longer than toys, clothes, and gadgets. Make this season a season where your gift is an extension of the gifts you already have more than it is a season of things you want.

What are some of the gifts you could never buy that you are grateful for?

Reading Music: Michael Gungor’s Doxology

Posted: September 17, 2013 by thoughtsfrommyshelf in Leisure, Reading, Uncategorized
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I am hardly ever using spotify to listen to music. The reason is that I prefer covers, live songs, or just rare jam sessions you can’t buy. There is something about live acoustics or live renditions that just captures my attention a little more. I normally have to create a playlist on youtube of my favorite songs since I can’t really find them any where else. I am going to start posting some of them here so that others can listen to them too.

If you have ever wanted to play the guitar, this is going to make you pick up a Fender. If you know how to play the guitar, I would love to see you do this! If you know of any chill songs, leave a link in the comment section.

Why passion for God must precede our preaching of God.

Posted: September 16, 2013 by thoughtsfrommyshelf in Mission
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John Piper writes, “Passion for God in worship precedes the offer of God in preaching”. But why? He adds to this statement, “You can’t commend what you don’t cherish.” I believe that he is right. Imagine someone wanting to persuade you of anything they view as valuable. Whether it’s a restaurant, a gym, clothing or anything really, no one is really interested in a uninterested description. If you were to tell me you went to the best burger place with the most nonchalant tone, emotionless facial expression, and dull word choice, I would more than likely not believe you.

When something truly grips your heart you talk about it with a wonderful tone, flowery language, and pull for metaphors and similes to make sure you get your point across.

God is bigger, more majestic, greater and far more indescribable than we make Him out to be. Let’s see the display of his magnitude in the Bible, in the cross, and in our lives and declare it to others in a unbelievably believable way!

My prayer is that they experience something different than what is described of Einstein by Charles Misner

The design of the universe…is very magnificent and shouldn’t be taken for granted. In fact, I believe that is why Einstein had so little use for organized religion, although he strikes me as a very religious man. He must have looked at what the preachers said about God and felt that they were blaspheming. He had seen much more majesty than they had every imagined, and they were just not talking about the real thing. My guess is that he simply felt that religions he’d run across did not have proper respect for the author of the universe.

How would people view the way you talk about the glorious God of the gospel? Would they believe the unbelievable news offered to them? Or would they be so staggered by the fact that God would do the impossible to demonstrate His love for them?

Be Willing To Take a Punch And Learn From It

Posted: August 14, 2013 by thoughtsfrommyshelf in Leadership
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I’ll admit that at first glance boxing, Muay Thai, and MMA doesn’t look like much of an art or a science. It looks likes the kind of fist fight that tends to happen on the play ground, men’s locker room, or at a bar. Truth is, the more you know about the actual technique, precision, range, and speed that is takes to successfully land a punch the more you appreciate any form of fighting as a sport. I like to describe fighting as a chess match with punches. But in order to play the game you have to be willing to take a punch.

I encourage students and fighters to ask their training partner why they were such an easy target. I have been taught to ask people to help point out why a particular punch was landing. Was I dropping my hands? Am I opening myself up for counters when I launch an attack? Is my technique flawed? Or is my timing or footwork off?

It could be so many things that lead to why you get hit. You have to be okay with that. It is part of the sport. If you don’t want to get hit, maybe boxing isn’t your sport and the closest you will get to fighting is a couple of Wii nun chucks. But when you get hit you should have the humility and teachability to ask what went wrong.

The same happens in any position of leadership. You are going to do something wrong and a lot of times it feels like catching an overhand from a heavy handed heavyweight. As a leader you can’t just shake it off and act as if making mistakes is okay. You can’t keep fighting a fight where you are letting your opponent land strikes consistently without being able to recover from it.

The best fighters and some of the best rematches and trilogies of all times have involved fighters who have gone back, studied their tapes, and corrected their weaknesses and worked on executing their strengths.

Leaders, you are going to make mistakes. You are going to make decisions that you shouldn’t have made. You are going to fail someone. Are you going to learn from it? Are you going to shrug it off and keep making the same mistake? Or are you going to ask your staff, friends, family, and those closest to you for input so that you can lead better?

Fighters who test their chin by repeatedly taking heavy hits don’t last long. Leaders who repeatedly make poor decisions quickly lose the respect of those under them. Take a punch, but learn from it. Acknowledge a weakness, but seek to strengthen it.

What is one weakness that if changed would have significant impact on those you are leading?

Leaders Can Learn A Lot From Boxing

Posted: August 12, 2013 by thoughtsfrommyshelf in Leadership
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There are lessons that we learn in one area of our life that can translate and change the way we act in other areas of our life. Lessons that make and shape who we are. It is my conviction that leaders are not born leaders they are developed. In the same way that I believe that the best fighters who have won belts were not born champions- they worked hard to become the fighters they are in the ring.

As I have been reading books on leadership, I have seen the same character traits in great fighters. As I have read books on coaching leaders, I have seen the same tips applied by hall of fame corner men. As I have read about developing leaders and what to avoid in building them, I have admired the leadership of some coaches and have been able to see the flaws made in the corner of my favorite fighters.

A lot of people want to be leaders. The problem is that not all leaders want to ask the question, “Am I doing all that I can to become the person I need to be in order to be a great leader?” Having been a fighter, a cornerman, and now a director of a campus ministry my hope is not only to share lessons I have learned but to envision leaders to be men and women of conviction, character, and competence.

So what’s the starting point? Well, in order to become a fighter you have to join a gym and surround yourself with people who will get you where you want to go. In the same way, leaders grow in their conviction by listening to others. You become a better fighter when someone comes alongside you and pushes you beyond the limits you set for yourself. My hope is that this becomes a series of blogpost that serves as a form of instruction, encouragement, and correction.

For the next couple of weeks…welcome to the gym!


My Brother, trainer, and corner man- Sergio Cabrera

Conversations w/ David Platt

Posted: August 6, 2013 by thoughtsfrommyshelf in Uncategorized
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Radical has been posting individual videos of David Platt answering some questions regarding his book Radical, disciple-making, the local church, and global missions that will lead to a simulcast August 14th. The simulcast is going to be a teaching/QnA on his newest book Follow Me. 

All 11 videos in this conversation are numbered below, and they correspond to the following questions:

  1. Three years after Radical, what has been encouraging and what has been concerning about responses to the book?
  2. What is the role of the church in following Christ?
  3. How does living radically fit with the normal Christian life?
  4. What does living radically look like for David Platt?
  5. What’s the difference between God’s commands and His individual callings?
  6. How is radical devotion to Christ different from religious legalism?
  7. How does caring for the poor fit with the church’s primary task of making disciples?
  8. Should we lead people in a ‘sinner’s prayer’?
  9. What led you to write Follow Me and why do you see it as more foundational thanRadical?
  10. What are some cultural misunderstandings about follow Christ addressed in Follow Me?
  11. What should we expect from the Follow Me simulcast?