For years now I have heard of Iris Ministries and someone named Heidi Baker but it wasn't until I picked up this book that I felt like I had finally met her. I want to mention this from the beginning of this review that although this book was refreshing, it wasn't earth-shattering. In the best way possible, it was simple and full of Truth. This book is not about Heidi. Thankfully, it is about Jesus and His great love for humanity!
Rolland Baker describes Heidi in the forward by saying, "she had a privileged upbringing, living on a private beach, and lacked for nothing in education, comforts, and opportunity. But even as a small girl growing up, she pulsed and radiated with a consuming hunger for God." (page x) First off, how stinking adorable is it that her husband wrote her forward to her book? Seriously. Secondly, how refreshing is it to read that though the things of this world vied for her affections it is still possible to be won over by One so much stronger? I, for one, am really thankful for her testimony about her upbringing. It's not common.
While reading this book, I didn't just glean from Heidi but I unexpectedly gleaned from Mother Teresa as well. You will learn quickly that she is greatly inspired by her and thus she includes her quotes in various parts of her book and at the end of each chapter. For a book that I picked up in hopes of digging more into the heart of missions, it was beautiful to hear the wisdom of Mama T (Mother Teresa - for those of you who are more formal) included into Heidi's stories.
Like I said, I picked up this book to gain more insight into the heart of missions. What does that even mean? I'm not really sure but this book definitely built more meaningful perspective in my life as I followed Jesus to Thailand to love the Thai people. I was looking for something that wasn't going to teach me about information on missions but something that would show me Jesus in action. My heart was encouraged, my mind was provoked and my life was challenged. With Heidi, although she has her Doctorate in Systematic Theology, it is less about theology and more about love. In her words, "He reduced me to the simplicity of love." (page 43) With this truth, my heart was free to dream with Him as I read stories about how His love was changing lives.
In Compelled by Love, Heidi takes the Sermon on the Mount (found in Matthew 5 - 7) and spells out the simple message of His Kingdom. Each chapter she breaks down on of the Beatitudes and shares inspiring stories of it lived out. Here are some of my personal favorite points that she makes to help us learn from each Beatitude:
1. Blessed are the Poor in Spirit (Matthew 5:3)
"It doesn't matter about the things you have or don't have; what matters is the attitude of your heart. The poor are not arrogant. The poor are needy -- are you?" (page 3)
"Or do you have a mind-set like many in the Western world -- having a middle-class kind of heart? Are you someone who thinks, 'Yeah, whatever. God will either do it or He won't, so it doesn't matter'?" (page 3)
"Those who have much are often quick to accumulate and slow to give away. Yet those who have little are quick to share. They often give without remembering; they receive without forgetting. The poor are truly rich for the simplicity of their devotion." (page 17)
"Poor in spirit is a posturing of the heart rather than an economic position." (page 24)
2. Blessed are Those who Mourn (Matthew 5:4)
"Many, many questions began to arise: How do we become the ands and feet of Jesus to dying humanity? How do we bring comfort? How do we become the love of Jesus in a culture that is crying? How do we become the kindness - the mercy - of Jesus in a culture that is mourning? And, more specifically, how do you become a blessing for the poor? It must be an incarnational love!" (page 31-32)
"We must acknowledge that all suffering is valid pain. The suffering in rich nations is loneliness. The suffering in the rich nations is internal psychological pain. It is extremely relevant it is deep. People feel it, and it is just as real as a bloated belly, people starving, or disease and death." (page 38)
"The currency of love in the West is not always about money, but it is always about time and compassion. To heal an orphan in Mozambique takes a lot of love, a home, compassion and a bed and blankets... To heal an orphan spirit in America takes love, compassion, a lot of time, and undivided attention to ward one another. Both are valid, both are real, and both are costly." (page 38)
3. Blessed are the Meek (Matthew 5:5)
"God cannot use selfish ambition. He cannot bless vain conceit. He wants to rip it out of us." (page 52)
4. Blessed are Those who Hunger & Thirst for Righteousness (Matthew 5:6)
"The poor always want something to eat; they are always hungry. ... To learn about hunger, sit with the starving. To learn about thirst, sit with those who have nothing to drink." (page 59)
"The world today is hungry not only for bread but hungry for love: hungry to be wanted, to be loved. They're hungry to feel that presence of Christ. In many countries, people have everything except that presence, that understanding. That's why the life of prayer and sacrifice comes to give that love. By being contemplative, you are that presence, that bread of God to break." (Mother Teresa quote, page 71)
5. Blessed are the Merciful (Matthew 5:7)
"They believed that mercy triumphs over justice and that forgiveness always wins." (page 76)
"As she grew in love with Jesus, she also grew in mercy." (page 82)
"But when you know you are truly forgiven, you then learn how to forgive." (page 83)
6. Blessed are the Pure in Heart (Matthew 5:8)
"Sometimes we make things too complicated when we really need to remember that the Kingdom belongs to the children!" (page 88)
"My heart's desire is to be holy in love. I long for the purifying fire of His love to consume every hidden motive within me. As the heart is purified, we can see Him with greater clarity. I want to be fully possessed by God. I want to be utterly overtaken." (page 91)
"Sons and daughters of God who are pure in heart give preference to each other, knowing that there is always enough in the Father's house." (page 99)
7. Blessed are the Peacemakers (Matthew 5:9)
"You truly are blessed when you choose peace in the midst of war. We spoke peace to those who wanted us to fight with them. We chose to stay in a place of peace. If you stand, worship and love God in the midst of lack and difficulty, you will never lose." (page 107-108)
"We must love without limit. We will love without end." (page 110)
"To love in the midst of pain, to forgive in the midst of evil, to comfort in the midst of agony, to bring peace in a time of war is the heart of God. ... Love never fails, and if you remain in love, you will always win." (page 113)
8. Blessed are the Persecuted (Matthew 5:10)
"God does not demand that I be successful, God demands that I be faithful. When facing God, results are not important. Faithfulness is what is important." (Mother Teresa quote, page 121)
"If we had yelled or pushed back at the police, we would have lost the opportunity to choose love." (page 125)
"When you refuse to stop loving, no matter the cost, the Gospel is preached beautifully. Sometimes it is not until someone watches the witness of Jesus in the midst of opposition that they receive the Lord." (page 125)
"All I could do was trust God. I read the Book. I had to believe that when we were insulted or persecuted, when all kinds of evil were falsely said against us, God would win." (page 128)
Heidi did a beautiful job at pointing to Scripture and then telling stories to explain what that verse could mean lived out in our lives. Overall, this book was a beautiful testimony of lives compelled by Jesus and making a difference in Mozambique! Here are some of my favorite "take-aways" from this book:
1. Never Recovering
"I have never recovered from that day!" (page 2)
Heidi shares a story about a deeply personal and life altering encounter that she had with the Lord. This quote was her response. It struck a chord deep within me for some reason. This is how encounters with the Lord should be! We should never be able to recover from them!
2. Papa God
"I always pray a great phrase in Swahili, Shika Baba, which means 'hold on to the Father'." (page 11)
"You have to believe that you are welcome in the Father's house." (page 103)
"The spirit of adoption means we were hand chosen by our heavenly Father. .. (speaking of her natural children) I did not get to pick them; I give birth to them, but I think they are absolutely awesome. ... But when we adopt children, we actually go out and look for them -- we choose them." (page 97)
For a few months now, the Lord has been teaching me about the words "Papa God". More intimate than Father and even more than Daddy, these words have begun to birth a deeper relationship in my life with my Papa God in Heaven. I think that it is infinitely crucial to learn how to be a daughter or a son when it comes to your relationship with the Father. Otherwise, we are missing out on so much love and identity that comes by being able to know that we have a Papa who loves us and is looking out for us. So much peace and joy enters into your life with this realization! I'm so thankful for the insights that Heidi gave on this subject in her book. It was quite timely for me.
Side note: I am a firm believer that out of the overflow of this revelation, a greater love for physically adopting children can/should grow! Heidi shared her moment of realization on page 61 saying, "since that day, I have taken in every orphan child that jesus put in front of me, and I have asked my precious co-workers to do the same."
3. Stop for the One
"Our job is to love each person, one at a time, to stop and lend help every day for each of the suffering and the sick." (page 32)
"Ministry, however, is simply loving the person in front of you. It's about stopping for the one and being the very fragrance of Jesus to a lost and dying world." (page 35)
"A strong vocation is based on being possessed by Christ. He is the Life that I want to live. He is the Light that I want to radiate. He is the Love with which I want to love. He is the Joy that I want to share. He is the Peace that I want to sow. Jesus is everything to me. Without Him, I can do nothing." Mother Teresa quote, page 118)
"Be the living expression of God's kindness: kindess in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile, kindness in your warm greeting.... give them not only your care, but also your heart." Mother Teresa quote, page 29)
These may easily be the biggest lesson that I took away from this book. Simply put, stopping for the person in front of you is so radical yet it is such a reflection of the life that Jesus lived. Lord, teach me Your ways that I may stop for the person in front of me.
4. My Inheritance
"It is friends, children, and family who are our true riches. And He has given me my Mozambican family as my inheritance." (page 47)
Tears flooded my eyes as these words sank into my heart's deep. After living here in Thailand for only a few short months, I barely, but surely, know this to be true! I have few words to describe what these words meant so I will leave it at that.
Step Into the Classroom.
Whatever your now looks like and regardless of your future endeavors, this book is for you. As believers in Jesus, living out the Sermon on the Mount is crucial. In Compelled by Love, Heidi Baker does a beautiful job at articulating stories that are truly compelling. I'm realizing more and more that there are no missions books, just books for Christians. You would do well to step into the classroom of learning to love God and to love people with all that you are. Books like this one are great resources but they mean nothing if they only remain in your mind and do not explode into your heart.
Compelled by Love: How to Change the World Through the Simple Power of Love in Action
By Heidi Baker
Published by Charisma House
For More Information on Heidi: Heidi Baker's Ministry Website