Wednesday, December 31, 2008
Ah, those crazy Puritans...or were they? Here is a time-of-year-appropriate prayer to work through and think through from "The Valley of Vision," a collection of prayers penned by Puritans:
Length of days does not profit me
except the days are passed in Thy presence,
in Thy service, to Thy glory.
Give me a grace that precedes, follows, guides,
sustains, sanctifies, aids every hour,
that I may not be one moment apart from Thee,
but may rely on Thy Spirit
to supply every thought,
speak in every word,
direct every step,
prosper every work,
build up every mote of faith,
and give me a desire
to show forth Thy praise;
testify Thy love,
advance Thy kingdom.
I launch my bark on the unknown waters of this year,
with Thee, O Father as my harbour,
Thee, O Son, at my helm,
Thee O Holy Spirit, filling my sails.
Guide me to heaven with my loins girt,
my lamp burning,
my ear open to Thy calls,
my heart full of love,
my soul free.
Give me They grace to sanctify me,
Thy comforts to cheer,
Thy wisdom to teach,
Thy right hand to guide,
Thy counsel to instruct,
Thy law to judge,
Thy presence to stabilize.
May Thy fear by my awe,
Thy triumphs my joy.
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
“If we spend sixteen hours a day dealing with tangible things and only five minutes a day dealing with God, is it any wonder that tangible things are 200 times more real to us than God?”
- William R. Inge
Sunday, December 28, 2008
If you've not read Tozer, you've ripped yourself off. Now that I think of it, reading Tozer may rip at your heart...but it is surgery for His glory...consider this:
"Father, I want to know Thee, but my coward heart fears to give up its
toys. I cannot part with them without inward bleeding, and I do not try
to hide from Thee the terror of the parting. I come trembling, but I do
come. Please root from my heart all those things which I have cherished
so long and which have become a very part of my living self, so that
Thou mayest enter and dwell there without a rival. Then shalt Thou make
the place of Thy feet glorious. Then shall my heart have no need of the
sun to shine in it, for Thyself wilt be the light of it, and there shall
be no night there. In Jesus Name, Amen."
A. W. Tozer
Friday, December 26, 2008
Thursday, December 25, 2008
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
Depending on your age, you may remember a whacked-out song several years ago titled, "What If God Was One of Us?" It was far from biblical and, as usual, Christians spent most of their time hammering the song (and thus selling more copies) rather than using a song that everyone was listening to already as a springboard into discussing truth.
Anyway, God did become "one of us" (though not like us)on that first CHRISTmas morning...
As Wesley penned,
Veiled in flesh, the Godhead see;
hail the incarnate Deity
Pleased as man with men to dwell,
Jesus, our Emmanuel
From the Hagers to you, may the true and valid and timeless message of CHRISTmas resonate in and through you today and everyday...until the whole world knows!
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
I feel like my job as a parent is to teach my kid's three phrases: please, thank you, and I'm sorry. Those three phrases are three keys that will open any door.
"Please" symbolizes a humble approach to life without a sense of entitlement. It is the magic word. Or think of it as the master key. A simple "please" will open doors nothing else can.
"Thank you" symbolizes a grateful heart. When you stop saying "thank you" it stops the flow of blessing. But if you genuinely thank people when they do something for you, it keeps the door open.
And "I'm sorry" symbolizes courage. Why? Because it takes tremendous courage to admit that you were wrong. But if you learn to say "I'm sorry" when you make a mistake it reopens doors that have been closed.
So to recap...
"Please" opens doors. "Thank You" keeps them open. And "I'm sorry" reopens closed doors.
I know that sounds awfully simplistic. But the happiest and healthiest people are the people who are really good at those three things. They have mastered the three phrases. p
Monday, December 22, 2008
- Timothy Keller
This atheist makes an incredibly accurate observation that is both convicting and challenging. Do you have enough guts to watch this?
Attributed to a young rabbi:
“Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass. It’s about learning to dance in the rain.”
Reminds me of one of my favorite quotations:
"Hope is the ability to hear the music of the future.
Faith is having the courage to dance to it today."
- Dr. Peter Kuzmic, theologian, Slovenian-born, citizen of Croatia
The CHRISTmas season can be really tough on a lot of people, especially those who feel lonely, or who have lost a loved one recently. Perhaps the quotes will minister grace to those who need a touch from heaven.
Saturday, December 20, 2008
- Timothy Keller, “The Grace of Kindness”
Thursday, December 18, 2008
Whose purpose? Whose plan? His. Not my plan, not the "mission statement" purpose, but His purpose.
The comfort - The Lord will fulfill His purpose for me.
The challenge - His purpose may not align with what I think my purpose is...and that's okay..because "Thy Kingdom come" means "My Kingdom go."
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
Televangelists and others beat people up by saying they are sick because of sin in their lives, or because of lack of faith. This may be the case, but the Spirit of God will make that clear to the afflicted one; they don't need some dude in an expensive suit to tell them...
But just a reminder from the Word of God: (1 Peter 5.19) "Therefore let those who suffer according to God's will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good."
Suffering is part of living, with or without Christ. With Christ, He walks through it with us, and enables us to "consider it all joy." With Christ, it all "works together for good." With Christ we know suffering is temporary, and we look with great anticipation and hope to heaven.
And with Christ we don't simply endure, but we continue "doing good" even as we suffer.
The extreme name-it-claim-it-blab-it-grab-it-your-best-life-now types have to clip 1 Peter 5.19 (and other verses) out of their Bibles. And they must, to be consistent, click their tongues and shake their heads at all the apostles (and Paul) who suffered and died because of their faith.
Don't misread - God can, and does, still heal.
But one reason they are called miracles is because they don't happen often!
Monday, December 15, 2008
If you can make the time, watch part 1 and 2....but I beg/urge/plead with you to watch this portion. Do I concur with everything John MacArthur says elsewhere? Of course not. But this is an incredibly clear presentation of what the gospel is...as opposed to what some say it is.
And, yes, I do think it is rather ironic and miraculous that this appeared on TBN.
Sunday, December 14, 2008
A saint's life is in the hands of God as a bow and arrow in the hands of an archer. God is aiming at something the saint cannot see; He stretches and strains, and every now and again the saint says, I cannot stand any more. But God does not heed; He goes on stretching until His purpose is in sight, then He lets fly.
Saturday, December 13, 2008
I've said, a few times, that the most useless thing on the face of the earth is a typical Christian. God can't save them, allegedly He already has; and He can't use them for they are not pursuing Him, passionate about Him, or promoting Him.
But I know there are periods of my life where I slide dangerously close to "typicalism." The preventative is daily submission, daily praise, daily discipline.
And now there is a prescription I take myself and heartily encourage you to take also.
It is Mark Batterson's Wild Goose Chase.
I've read it in two days; and will re read it often. I am an underliner...love to underline sentences, paragraphs, etc. After three pages of Wild Goose I quit underlining...as I'd have virtually the entire book underlined!
Batterson challenges me to see fanaticism as normative for the life of a Christ follower. I double-dog-dare you to get this book and be revolutionized. Will it stick? That's up to you and me.
Here's a sampling to whet your appetite (and, when you want to buy the book, do so on the link at the end so I can get a few pesos...hey, I'm a missionary who raises support..every cent helps!)
I wonder if churches do to people what zoos do to animals?
I wonder if some of us are living such safe lives that not only we are bored, but so are our guardian angels?
When Christianity turns into a noun, it becomes a turnoff. Christianity was always intended to be a verb.
We can get so busy doing 'ministry' that we don't have time for ministry.
It is much easier to act like a Christian than it is to react like one.
That's enough for you to get a nibble of flavor.
Buy this book. Read this book. Apply this book.
Here's the deal. Buy it, if you don't like it, I'll buy it back from you.
Get it here:
Wild Goose Chase: Reclaim the Adventure of Pursuing God
Thursday, December 11, 2008
I was in the courthouse in Troy, Kansas when Tamara Kostman was sentenced after pleading no contest to the charges she murdered her newly born child.
Should she have been sentenced to a long prison term? Absolutely.
But had she visited an abortionist a few hours prior, the baby would be just as dead and she would be free today.
Is there not a disconnect? President-elect Obama states he will do all he can to make abortion easier (on everyone except the unborn child), and is a vocal supporter of “partial-birth abortion.”
To be consistent, perhaps he will extend a presidential pardon to Ms. Kostman?
Any human is shocked to hear of a woman strangling her just-born child. How can America sing “God bless America: while the thousands of daily deaths of the unborn do not shock?
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
If you watched the video in the immediate previous post; make the time to watch this!
"When God is not greatly praised, it's only because we don't think He's that great of a God. When our worship is small, it's because our concept of God is small. When we offer God little-bitty sacrifices, it's because we've somehow reduced Him in our hearts to a little-bitty God. Our vision has become clouded, our hearts distracted." - Louie Giglio
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
My precious and beautiful daughter Janelle wrote this a while ago for her birth mom...In case you are not aware, Janelle's birth mom was a girl we met at a camp in Wisconsin; who a few months later got pregnant at the age of 13. She had heard me preach some narrow-minded things about abortion, contacted us; through prayer and His direction, we adopted Janelle at birth (and, several years later, another young woman connected with us with a similar story and we adopted Jacob...Josiah (24) and Joel (22) are our children the old-fashioned way!)
Here is what Janelle wrote:
A Reminder for My Birth-Mom
by Janelle E. Hager
When you’re depressed; I’m the One to turn to…
When you’re angry, I’m there for you…
When you’re hurt, My shoulders are there for you to cry on…
When you have a secret, My ear is there for you to whisper in…
When you’re going through a hard time, I’m here to hold your hand…
I was there when you asked Me into your heart…
I was there when your mom left…and then came back…
I was there when you got pressure into doing things you know you shouldn’t…
I was there when you told your parents the news…
I was right there next to you for those long nine months…
I was right there when you told your parents about adoption…
I was there when you chose the family…
I was there through the pain…
I was there when you met with the family…
I was there when you and the family chose a name…
I was there holding your hand in the hospital…
I was there when you first laid eyes on the baby…
I was there through the tears…
I was there when you handed the baby over to the family and said, “Here’s Janelle”…
I was there when the papers were signed…
I was there when the family gave you a hug and said, “Thank you, Davida”…
God…Your Father (by adoption)
In the mall yesterday a guy asked me, when I told him I had just moved to the area, if I came here to retire!
Why would he think I was old enough to retire? (refrain from comments, please)
But it reminded me that I've no desire to "retire." This is not a statement that retirement is sin...but why would I want to quit doing what I love doing?
It saddens me that so many followers of Christ hate their jobs/careers. Not once-in-a-while, not just-on-Mondays; but always they dislike intensely their jobs.
Malcomb Forbes got it right when he said, "The biggest mistake people make in life is not trying to make a living at doing what they most enjoy."
If you are a student, seek His face, His path, and recognize that He has gifted you and called you to a career...find it!
If you are an adult working at a job you hate...find what you are good at, what you are gifted for, and do it...
Monday, December 8, 2008
If you'll look at my amazon carousel to the left, you will see my updated CHRISTmas book recommendations.
Wanna bless someone with non-fluff CHRIST-centered books? Some of these have been around a while, a couple are new...but they are ALL great books that will encourage, edify, and exhort Christians; and may well serve as an introduction to the Savior for non-Christians.
And, yes, as a home missionary who subsists on missionary support...if you click thru to Amazon via my carousel, whatever you purchase will be credited to my account, and I'll get a few cents from your purchase (and you'll get my gratitude!)
So, look over the recommendations, and give 'em a try!
Sunday, December 7, 2008
C. J. Mahaney writes of "spiritual meteorites," who burn bright with the love of Christ for a while, then suddenly fade from fellowship and faith.
I fear such things happen primarily because "soulwinners" do their thing their way, produce "decisions" rather than converts, and, even if the salvation is Spirit-born, the "soulwinner" then trucks off to score more "decisions" and leaves the new-born child of God on his own.
The contemporary "evangelist" all-too-often makes "decisions" for Christ easy (heads bowed, eyes closed, raise your hand etc). Contrast that with the gospels, where, at least in my reading, Jesus always made it easier to say "no" than to say "yes."
Are invitations bad? Not at all.
But when there is no focus on the horribleness of our sin, the need for repentance, and the radical-ness of following Christ in obedience, there will be simply more spiritual meteorites...rather than growing disciples of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Friday, December 5, 2008
If you go to Dallas Theological Seminary, you'll see a photo honoring Dr. Howard Hendricks (a phenomenal speaker and author). Etched in glass beneath the photo are these words:
"I live with the dread of tame, domesticated Christianity. I fear for my students that they will chase after what they want -- and therefore miss what God wants."
Chew on that...
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
Read 1 Timothy 6 yesterday, noted seven "orders" from verse 11 to the end. Praying/thinking about developing a series of messages on the text; but here are the orders I picked out:
1. Flee these things ("these things" are described in the previous paragraphs of text)
2. Pursue righteousness
3. Fight the good fight of the faith (which presupposes some fight the wrong fight(s)
4. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called
5. Keep the commandment unstained
6. Guard the deposit entrusted to you.
7. Grace be with you. (so reads the last verse; I feel it takes conscious effort to focus on His grace; and all six of the previous marching orders need to be laced and strengthened with grace.
Monday, December 1, 2008
Sunday, November 30, 2008
Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word."
And, with the caveat that truth is truth regardless of who says it, here's advice from Colin Powell:
"Success is the result of perfection, hard work, learning from
failure, loyalty, and persistence."
Saturday, November 29, 2008
My reading took me into Psalm 119 this morning, and verse 156 spawned reflection:
"Great is your mercy, O Lord; give me life according to your rules."
Yes, thankfully God is full of mercy (which is new every morninga), but He is also a God of rules. Jesus was "filled with grace and truth."
It's too easy to claim God's mercy and grace while ignoring His rules and truth.
And it is hard to balance! Alas, the only way to learn balance is to lose it, but I need to guard myself and ask the Spirit to help me be Biblically-balanced lest I slide into licentiousness or legalism...
Comment with any insights you have into this ongoing exercise of keeping balance!
“Legalistic remorse says, ‘I broke God’s rules,’ while real repentance says, ‘I broke God’s heart.’ Legalistic repentance takes sin to Mt. Sinai, gospel repentance to Mt. Calvary. Legalistic repentance is convicted by punishment, gospel repentance becomes convicted by mercy.”
- Timothy Keller
Thursday, November 27, 2008
Every seven years our anniversary falls on Thanksgiving...and we are especially thankful that we are (finally) in Missouri!
We will celebrate the day with friends we've known for many, many years...the picture was taken a couple years ago at Quiz Nationals, left to right, our best man Scott Lash, Jack, Jane, and maid of honor Debbie (Laffoon) Long...Scott is a pastor and Debbie's husband (who also attended our wedding) is also a pastor...
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
Tim Keller has written a compelling book dealing with the prodigal son(s), and he makes this vital observation:
“Here, then, is Jesus’ radical redefinition of what is wrong with us. Nearly everyone defines sin as breaking a list of rules. Jesus, though, shows us that a man who has violated virtually nothing on the list of moral misbehaviors can be every bit as spiritually lost as the most profligate, immoral person. Why? Because sin is not just breaking the rules, it is putting yourself in the place of God as Savior, Lord, and Judge just as each son sought to displace the authority of the father in his own life.”
- Timothy Keller, The Prodigal God (New York, NY: Dutton, 2008), 43.
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
Monday, November 24, 2008
This is from Gary Bauer of "American Values." I know many don't care for Mr. Bauer, but the facts in this particular piece speak loudly for themselves:
A Fact-Free Election?
We just went through an election where the facts didn’t matter. And if you don’t believe me, then sit down for this item. Talk show host John Ziegler commissioned a poll by John Zogby to test the knowledge of more than 500 Obama voters in a nationwide survey conducted after the election. The results are shocking. It must be noted upfront that virtually all those surveyed had high school diplomas, and more than half had college degrees. Only 2% of Obama voters earned “perfect or near-perfect scores on a post election test which gauged their knowledge of statements and scandals associated with the presidential tickets.”
For example: 57% could not correctly say which party controlled Congress; 88% did not know that Obama said his policies would bankrupt the coal industry; 56% did not know that Obama started his political career at the home of two former domestic terrorists; and 72% did not know that Joe Biden dropped out of a previous campaign due to plagiarism. But, 94% knew Sarah Palin had a pregnant teenage daughter; 86% knew Sarah Palin had $150,000 in clothes purchased for her; and 87% said that Sarah Palin stated she could see Russia from her house. Sarah Palin never actually said that – Tiny Fey of Saturday Night Live fame did. You can learn more about this poll and John Ziegler’s upcoming documentary, “Media Malpractice” at: www.HowObamaGotElected.com.
This may seen humorous, but it is no laughing matter. Elections have consequences, and there are serious issues at stake. Yet, throughout the campaign, I regularly ran into pro-life voters who did not know that Barack Obama strongly supported the Freedom of Choice Act and had pledged to sign it as one of his top priorities. I got angry emails from folks taking me to task for suggesting that Obama supported same-sex “marriage.” But they did not know that he had called the Defense of Marriage Act “an abhorrent law” and supports its total repeal. Clearly, in the next election cycle we have to do a lot better educating the electorate.
Sunday, November 23, 2008
Here's a sober quote to contemplate in these few days before Thanksgiving:
“I ought to go to Christ for the forgiveness of each sin. In washing my body, I go over every spot, and wash it out. Should I be less careful in washing my soul?
I ought to see the stripe that was made on the back of Jesus by each of my sins. I ought to see the infinite pang thrill through the soul of Jesus equal to an eternity of my hell for my sins, and for all of them.
I ought to see that in Christ’s bloodshedding there is an infinite over-payment for all my sins. Although Christ did not suffer more than infinite justice demanded, yet He could not suffer at all without laying down an infinite ransom.”
—Robert Murray M’Cheyne, quoted by Andrew Bonar, Robert Murray M’Cheyne (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1960), 175-176
Saturday, November 22, 2008
Martyn Lloyd-Jones lived from 1899 to 1981. I don't know when he wrote the following; but his observation is, sadly, so apropos today. We've got all the bells and whistles, focus groups and branding, but not much is happening. Lloyd-Jones' analysis and diagnosis remains "spot on."
"People seem to think that the masses are outside the Christian church because our evangelistic methods are not what they ought to be. That is not the answer. People are outside the church because looking at us they say, "What is the point of being Christians? - look at them!" They are judging Christ by you and me. And you cannot stop them and you cannot blame them." Martyn Lloyd-Jones
Reminds me of an ditty I learned decades ago:
You are writing a gospel,
A chapter a day,
People read what you write,
Whether faithless or true,
Tell me, what is the gospel,
According to you?
Friday, November 21, 2008
Where's the wolf? Right there, indistinguishable. Jesus said, "Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves" (Matthew 7:15).(HT: David Roper blog)
Be alert! Sanctifiedidly (I know it's not a word, but it should be) paranoid! There is an enemy...your job is to 1)Submit to God, 2) Resist the devil. Too many try step two without concentrating on step one. That's the road to spiritual disarmament.
“If you are one of God’s children, there is something in your life that will not wear out. In fact, it has the amazing capacity to be new day after day after day. Scripture says that God’s mercies are ‘New every morning.’
Now, you know you need mercy, because you know you need forgiveness and help. Almost every day you mess up in some way. Almost every day you face things that are bigger than the size of your personal wisdom and strength. You and I constantly need the mercy of forgiveness and the mercy of enablement. And so, it is very encouraging to know that God’s mercy is new every day! God’s mercy never grows stale and it never loses it’s transforming power. God’s mercy is brand new morning after morning after morning.
This also means that God’s mercy is form-fit for the problems that you are facing right here, right now. Each morning you are given new mercies for the particular things that you will face that day.
So, you can wake up tomorrow with courage and hope. And you can do this, not because of your strength and wisdom, but because you know that the most important thing you have ever been given will never wear out. You can also have hope because you know that the God who has given that new mercy, knows exactly what you are about to face.”
—Paul David Tripp
Thursday, November 20, 2008
The Hager family is finally in Missouri. We are still unpacking both at home and office; but we are here!
As we adjust I'll be posting more often, so subscribe via email or rss, or just keep checking!
I'd love to see some comments also! Like, for starters, what are the top three things (other than Jesus, salvation, and hope) that you are thankful for?
Yup, the photo is of our new HOME!
Diapers get changed, lightbulbs get changed, tires get changed...but apparently the "change" President-elect Obama orated about is going to be, to coin Bob Dylan, a "slow train coming."
Waxman? Lord help us. Again, maybe America gets what she deserves...
My main concern is not the economy, nor even the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan...my chief concern is the ongoing war on the unborn...and how Obama and his henchmen promise not only to continue the slaughter...but to make it ever easier to snuff out the result of poor choices.
Are there any people who voted for Obama honest enough to admit they are disappointed in his appointments?
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Suffering is relative...the Hager family has had a rough year, but it pales in comparison to so many others...but, it is sort of like puppy-love - it is real to the puppies!
Here's a great insight into suffering:
“Suffering helps us look for our Savior. If we never have any trouble along the journey, we would never have any reason to long for Heaven. Like the Israelites, we need the house of bondage to help drive us to the Promised Land.”
- Philip Graham Ryken, Exodus: Saved for God’s Glory (Wheaton, Ill.; Crossway Books, 2005), 37.
Friday, November 14, 2008
I type this in a motel located in Pontiac, Illinois. In a little while we will journey to our new house-to-make-a-home! Our NY lawyer says, prayerfully, the sale of our NY house will "close" today. We have early entry into our new place tonight; and the truck will arrive Saturday afternoon.
Just a reminder...it was 13 months ago that I announced my coming resignation from Family Life (NY) to assume a position with Midland Ministries (MO). That resignation became official June 30; but our house simply didn't sell...until the buyer showed up in September...
So we know some stuff about waiting. We also know that the Lord God reigns omnipotent...His timing is perfect, and we were privileged to see His fingerprints all over what appeared to us to be "delay."
We are so thrilled to finally be relocating.
It was a long wait!
Speaking of waiting, read these wise words:
“He came back.
After that brutal Friday, and that long, quiet Saturday, he came back.
And that one intake of breath in the tomb changes everything. It changes the very reason I drew breath today and the way I move about in this world because I believe he’s coming back again. The world has gone on for more than two millennia since Jesus’ feet tread the earth he made. What would they have said back then if someone had told them that some two thousand years later we’d still be waiting? They would’ve thought back to that long Saturday and said, ‘Two thousand years will seem like a breath to you when you finally lay your crown at his feet. We don’t even remember what we were doing on that Saturday, but let me tell you about Sunday morning. Now that was something.’
These many years of waiting will only be a sentence in the story. This long day will come to an end, and I believe it will end in glory, when we will shine like suns and stride the green hills with those we love and the One who loves. We will look with our new eyes and speak with our new tongues and turn to each other and say, ‘Do you remember the waiting? The long years, the bitter pain, the gnawing doubt, the relentless ache?’ And like Mary at the tomb, we will say: ‘I remember only the light, and the voice calling my name, and the overwhelming joy that the waiting was finally over.’
The stone will be rolled away for each of us. May we wait with faithful hearts.”
—Andrew Peterson, CD liner notes for Resurrection Letters Volume II (Centricity Music: 2008)
Monday, November 10, 2008
A Post-Evangelical America
The religious building blocks of Obama's victory.
Newsweek Web Exclusive
Nov 6, 2008 | Updated: 4:01 p.m. ET Nov 6, 2008
Just as "race" has a whole new meaning in America this week, so, too, does "faith." For at least four decades, white evangelicals have been the religion-and-politics story in this country. Their power, their rhetoric, their numbers, their theology—all have been so dominant that many of us in the media had forgotten that religious faith could be expressed any other way. Last summer, a colleague and I wrote a profile of president-elect Barack Obama that described his Christian faith—a journey that started with a deeply spiritual but not religous upbringing, progressed through a considerable amount of reading, searching and ambivalence, and culminated in an emotional homecoming in a socially active, black church in Chicago.
A great many readers of that story expressed the view that because Obama is pro-choice, because he did not go to church with regularity—and because his former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, held some radical views and expressed them aggressively—the senator from Illinois was not a Christian. "Obama is without a foundation of faith," wrote one reader.
If this week's exit polls tell us anything about religion, they remind us that there are tens of millions of voters in this country who believe in God, read their Scripture, pray, regularly attend a house of worship—and do not consider themselves born-again Christians. In 2008, 44 percent of Americans who go to religious services more than once a week voted for Obama; in 2004, just 35 percent of those people voted for Kerry—a nine-point increase and the most surprising number in all the religious polling. "It's very cool," says Jim Wallis, founder of the left-leaning evangelical group Sojourners, "that the story is not white evangelicals again."
Other than that, the exit polls provided few surprises. White evangelicals did not like Kerry, and they do not like Obama. Just 26 percent of evangelicals voted for Obama compared to 23 percent for Kerry—a negligible change despite estimates from Wallis and others that Obama's numbers in this particular precinct would be much, much higher. Other faith groups also played to type. Nonwhite religious voters went overwhelmingly for Obama—79 percent, compared to 69 percent in 2004—as did Jews (82 percent compared to 75 percent in 2004). Forty-six percent of Roman Catholics voted for Obama—a factoid that pro-choice advocates were touting earlier this week as an unprecedented victory. Here, a little historical perspective helps: Catholics have voted for the winner in every presidential race since Kennedy and for a generation have been split nearly down the middle on choice, with those supporting the Supreme Court's decision in Roe v. Wade slightly ahead.
Drill down a bit, and the numbers get more interesting. In states such as Colorado, Indiana and Florida, where the Obama camp worked incessantly to convert red to blue, the number of evangelical converts to the Democratic Party was surprisingly high. In Colorado, for example, 27 percent of evangelicals voted for Obama, compared to 13 percent for Kerry in 2004.
Overall, the religious vote for Obama did not reflect a massive shift in ideology and priorities among evangelicals but rather muscle-flexing by a coalition of others of faith—including and especially African-American churchgoers and Latinos who tend to be both more religious and more socially conservative than the population at large. The pro-Obama faithful represent a wild diversity of the American religious experience, including mainline Protestants, church-shoppers, the curious, the spiritual but not religious, the heterodox (those who subscribe to several traditions), the intermarried, the community-minded, the intellectually provoked but skeptical, and the traditionalists. Indeed, it includes almost every committed person of faith except those whose church culture insists on a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
The exit polls echo findings by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, which last year published a massive study showing Americans to be deeply spiritual—90 percent of them say they believe in God—but less and less concerned with denominational orthodoxy. Like Obama, a quarter of Americans practice a faith different from the one they were raised in, the Pew survey showed. Among Protestants, that number is a third. Even a quarter of atheists say they believe in a higher power or a universal spirit.
Darrell Bock is a professor at New Testament Studies at the Dallas Theological Seminary who voted for Obama. For Christians like him, social issues such as abortion and gay marriage were not litmus tests this year. If Christians were concerned about "the economy, competence, our role in the world, the way we've prosecuted the war on terrorism—then they switched their vote and made the middle group larger." George Bush came to power telling an evangelical story that appealed to his base, a story of sin and redemption, of simple faith, of good and evil. This familiar story—and stories like it—has overshadowed every other religious theme in America for 40 years. Obama—his deep religious faith and his peripatetic spiritual biography—shines a light on all other religious paths in America, various as they are, and infinite.
Saturday, November 8, 2008
Should she do time? Of course.
But are we not all complicit in her horrendous action?
Had she (allegedly) murdered her child a few hours before birth, or any time in the preceeding nine months, she would be enjoying freedom.
Instead, for whatever perverse reasons, she (allegedly) delivered the child at home and, rather than sticking a needle in his neck and collapsing his head, she (alledgedly) suffocated the child.
Is there a genuine difference between this and partial-birth-abortion that is promoted by the president elect?
And, somehow, may God have mercy, if not on America, on the tens of millions of additional babies who will be slaughtered unless God changes Obama's heart on this issue.
May we all pray and fast to this end. And may we recommit ourselves to praying, fasting, and acting to somehow stop the slaughter.
I have to go; I have an opportunity to visit the mother before she is shipped to prison.
UPDATE I was able to visit Tamara, she professes and seems to be genuinely converted. Tried to share the reality of prison versus the stereotypes; and prayed with her.
Friday, November 7, 2008
Just saw a women sentenced to 20 years in prison for murdering her just-born son. Yes, she should do time; but why is this so horrible when, had she gone to Planned Parenthood it would have merely been a slight financial charge?
There is a possibility I will meet with her Monday (here in Troy, KS where I am finishing up a week of meetings Sunday) before she is shipped. Pray.
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
I urge you to read, and heed:
I remember as a middle-schooler watching the film, “The Day After.” It was, at the time (the height of the Cold War), a rather alarming film about the prospect of nuclear war. We watched with rapt attention as mushroom clouds, frantic citizens, traffic jams, blinding light, and nuclear fallout destroyed “life as we knew it.”
It strikes me that many Christians have been watching this election like middle-schoolers fearfully paralyzed at their first look at nuclear realities. Our fear of nuclear destruction was warranted. The Christian anxiety about this election is not.
So it’s the day after the election, and your candidate didn’t win. Aside from the natural nauseating post-game let-down feeling, what are you to think and feel? Here are a few quick thoughts:
1. Remember that President Barack Obama is not just the first African-American president, he is also the 45th white President. There will no doubt be many associations made between his skin color, assumptions about his race, and a host of successes or failures during his presidency. But let us Christians avoid such errors. Let us avoid saddling this one man with the responsibility of representing a “race” of people, or saddling the people with this one man’s failures or achievements. Let us be good theologians and attribute all that President Obama is to either his fallen nature or to the work of grace in his life. We may all celebrate in his achievement, and we may all recognize in him things fundamental to human nature—not to “race.” His presidency is as much a testament to the progress of all Americans as it is a proud moment for African Americans.
2. Keep working on the issues you care most passionately about. There is no reason to think that President Barack Obama can overthrow the will and work of God in the world. So what if he is the most pro-choice/pro-abortion candidate in history? Isn’t God still the most pro-life God in all creation? The man in the presidency has changed; our Lord has not. So we keep laboring in the cause of justice knowing that the Sovereign Lord is just as likely (maybe more likely!) for His glory to do with a President Obama—who so clearly opposes his will in many areas—greater things on the abortion front than He might do with a professing Christian president. God may yet bring to Himself more glory in prevailing on the abortion issue by making the most sizeable and godward progress during the administration of one who is so decidedly against His will! That would be just like Him: raise the opposition to demonstrate more His glory. Put your hope in the living God!
3. Pray for those in authority over you. No really; pray for him. Consider that when Paul instructs the church to pray for those in authority he then directly connects such prayer with the ability of the church to “live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness” (1 Tim. 2:1-2). One wonders how much of the peace- and godliness- and holiness-destroying circumstances in our country stem from the absence of prayer for those in authority. Our prayer meetings are empty. Our pastoral and personal prayers are self-centered. We barely feel the urging emphasis of Paul when he assigns “first of all” importance to “requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving” on behalf of our leaders. Can there be any wonder that our leaders so often serve themselves and not the people? And can any man stand against the will and power of God when the Lord’s people really pray for them? No they cannot. Really; they cannot. Pray for President Obama with the full assurance of faith.
So, it’s the day after the election. Things have changed, in some obvious and more subtle ways. But Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever!
God’s election of you, if you’re a Christian, has not changed. His purpose to conform you to Christ has not changed. You really have won all that matters for eternity. That’s not to downplay the importance of some issues discussed in this election.
But really, if McCain had won, how would your day today be in reality any different than your day yesterday? The laws today would be the same laws yesterday.
Your work would still be before you. You haven’t lost any ground yet.
Perhaps you’ve been given greater incentive to pray, reminded of what matters eternally, and in those things shone a more fruitful path forward. The Lord omnipotent reigns. Rejoice in full assurance!
- Ed Welch, Running Scared (Greensboro, NC: New Growth Press, 2007), 195.
Tuesday, November 4, 2008
1) Today is my daughter's 14th birthday. Such a blessing. We adopted her at birth (her birthmom was a 14-year-old girl we met at a camp). How I pray for her to stay close to Jesus, to pursue purity, and to walk with Him all her life.
2) Jane's Dad is in ICU in a Florida hospital. He had lung surgery a couple weeks ago, and Sunday developed blood clots; thus far the doctors have not been able to get rid of the clots.
3) We are supposed to load up the truck on November 12th and actually move!
4) Oh, yeah, there is an election today!
As you can imagine, me being in Kansas and Jane and the two younger children being in NY, and her Dad in Florida, and the "scheduled" events make this a very difficult time. I believe the lives of hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions of unborn babies will be saved or lost as a direct result of this election.
But "our God reigns." We are to "cast all our cares on Him" because "He cares for us."
We are to "trust in the Lord with all our heart, not lean on our own understanding, in all our ways acknowledge Him, and He will make our path straight."
And, yes, we are to "Rejoice in the Lord always", and in a rare form of repetition, Paul says "and (in case you didn't get it the first time) again I say rejoice!"
Be happy? Nope. Rejoice.
But following Christ is NOT "easy." Sorrow, tribulation, and trials are not obliterated when one comes to salvation...in fact they are increased.
But through it all I am to "rejoice."
And I can, because
1) I know Jesus loves my daughter so much more than I ever can
2) Jane's Dad (also named "Jack") knows Christ, and, like all of us, his "times are in God's hands).
3) God knows how the move will take place.
4) Again, "our God reigns." Perhaps America gets what she deserves; perhaps what is foreseen (by us) is not what He has planned; and even Obama's heart and mind is not beyond the reach of the Lord of the universe.
Friday, October 31, 2008
So dove into the Word for a little while, got to thinking about one of my favorite verses:
Psalm 119.165 Great peace have those who love Your law; nothing can make them stumble.
Wondered about other references to "great"...didn't do an exhaustive study, but did find these quickly:
Nehemiah 12.43 "...God had made them rejoice with great joy.
Eph 2.4 "But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which He loved us..."
Daniel 9.18 "...For we do not present our pleas before You because of our righteousness, but because of Your great mercy"
James 5.16 "...The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working."
And here is my for-now favorite:
Jude 24 "Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of His glory with great joy."
Now, the way Jude 24 reads, I wonder if the "great joy" is ours or His?
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
Early summer Jane and I talked about an invitation I had to speak for a week in a church in Troy, Ks. The pastor, Jerry, and I went to Bible school together and have remained close. We decided that I should accept the assignment, and laughed that we’d probably be moving right around that time…
Thursday morning I begin the drive to the Midwest to, first, help with Midland Ministries’ Bible quizzing on Saturday, and on Sunday morning begin the week in the church.
And, yeah, we could be loading the truck while I am gone! Or, perhaps more likely, that will transpire as soon as I return to New York, probably November 11.
Everything is still a bit in limbo as we don’t have final word from Saint Joseph nor an “etched in stone” closing date here.
So I drive off to preach, and Jane, Janelle, and Jacob stay in New York. On Wednesday Joel will fly from Chicago to Buffalo to help with the move.
So I use the blog to simply invite you to pray with us for safety for all the traveling, for power in ministering the Word, and for all the details of this move to…finally…be revealed to us. We are already and still thanking the Lord for working it all out…just waiting to see how He does it!
Monday, October 27, 2008
relationship...It does not settle all questions of blame and justice and
fairness...But it does allow relationships to start over. In that way,
said Solzhenitsyn, we differ from all animals. It is not our capacity to
think that makes us different, but our capacity to repent, and to forgive."
Thursday, October 23, 2008
“The first order of business is to know the gospel . . .
The gospel or good news of Jesus Christ is that God the Father, who is holy and righteous in all his ways, is angry with sinners and will punish sin. Man, who disobeys the rule of God, is alienated from the love of God and is in danger of an eternal and agonizing condemnation at the hands of God. But God, who is also rich in mercy, because of his great love, sent his eternal Son born by the Virgin Mary, to die as a ransom and a substitute for the sins of rebellious people. And now, through the perfect obedience of the Son of God and his willing death on the cross as a payment for our sins, all who repent and believe in Jesus Christ, following him as Savior and Lord, will be saved from the wrath of God to come, be declared just in his sight, have eternal life, and receive the Spirit of God as a foretaste of the glories of heaven with God himself.”
- Thabiti Anyabwile, What Is a Healthy Church Member? (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2008), 40-41
Jeremiah 5.30, 31 An appalling and horrible thing has happened in the land: the prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests rule at their direction; my people love to have it so, but what will you do when the end comes?
Jeremiah 6.10 ...behold, the Word of the Lord is to them an object of scorn; they take no pleasure in it.
Jeremiah 7.8 Behold, you trust in deceptive words to no avail. (Don't know about you, but when I read that I think of many "Christian" bestsellers...)
Jeremiah 7.28 ...This is the nation that did not obey the voice of the Lord their God, and did not accept discipline; truth has perished; it is cut off from their lips.
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
Since repentance is a key missing-ingredient of contemporary churchianity, this observation of Tim Keller is vital:
“In the religious approach, repentance separates you from the source of your power and your hope and your confidence - because that's a good record.
But in the gospel, repentance reconnects you to the source of your power and your confidence and your joy. Why? Because the source of your self image, the source of your power, the source of your confidence is not your record, but His record. Not what you have done, but what He has done.”
- Tim Keller, “He came to himself” (message given at Redeemer Presbyterian Church)
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
"Each time, before you intercede, be quite first, and worship God in His glory. Think of what He can do, and how He delights to hear the prayers of His redeemed people. Think of your place and privilege in Christ, and expect great things!" Andrew Murray
Easy to type, much more difficult to do...if you are in the minority of Christians who are developing a prayer life, it is all too easy to tackle it as a "to do" item, check it off, move ahead. Instead, as Murray admonishes, I need to make time to "be still, and know that (He) is God. I need to remember answered prayers, and thank God, in faith (and in advance) for His response to the prayers to come.
Monday, October 20, 2008
Bounced off the page today in my normal "thru the Bible" reading:
Psalm 103.17, 18 "But the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear Him, and His righteousness to children's children, to those who keep His covenant and remember to do His commandments."
Friday, October 17, 2008
I didn't have a lot of time, but I came up with these:
1. God is (Ro 1.18-23)
2. Go is God, I am Not, though I often want to be (and thus I am a sinner) Ro 3.23, Isa 53.6
3. God hates my sin Ro 2.5-11
4. God loves me Jo 3.16, Ro 5.8
5. Jesus took the hit Ro 3.23-26
6. I need to man up, fess up, repent and receive the gift Ro 6.23, Ac 20.17-21, Ac 26.15-20
7. I need to pass it on
Thursday, October 16, 2008
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
Jumped off the page during my reading this morning:
Isaiah 50.10,11 "Who among you fears the Lord, and obeys the voice of his servant? Let him who walks in darkness and has no light trust in the name of the Lord and rely on his God.
"Behold, all you who kindle a fire, who equip yourselves with burning torches! Walk by the light of your fire, and by the torches that you have kindled! This you have from My hand: you shall lie down in torment."
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
- RC Sproul, The Holiness of God
Monday, October 13, 2008
be constantly crossing our paths and cancelling our plans by sending us
people with claims and petitions. We may pass them by, preoccupied with
our more important tasks, as the priest passed by the man who had fallen
among thieves, perhaps - reading the Bible..... it is part of the
discipline of humility that we must not spare our hand where it can
perform a service and we do not assume that our schedule is our own to
manage, but allow it to be arranged by God.
Sunday, October 12, 2008
The curious paradox of the atoning death of a bloody Jesus rising above the plane of human history with a mocking crown of thorns is that he is offensive in an attractive way.
It is the utter horror of the cross that cuts through the chatter, noise, and nonsense of our day to rivet our attention, shut our mouths, and compel us to listen to an impassioned dying man who is crying out for the forgiveness of our sins and to ask why he suffered.
Tragically, if we lose the offense of the cross, we also lose the attraction of the cross so that no one is compelled to look at Jesus. Therefore, Jesus does not need a marketing firm or a makeover as much as a prophet to preach the horror of the cross unashamedly.
—- Mark Driscoll, "Listening to the Beliefs of Emerging Churches"
Saturday, October 11, 2008
Friday, October 10, 2008
But just a reminder from the book of Acts, particularly as it describes the conversion of Lydia, who already was a "worshiper of God" (which, of course, confirms that, like the apostle Paul (prior to the Damascus Road), you can love God and serve God and yet be unsaved).
Acts 16.14 states, "...The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul."
Step one...The Lord opens a heart
Step two...one of the Lord's flunkies brags on Jesus
Addendum Spoke to someone about this; I did not make my point clear...If the Lord has not initiated step one; all of our step twos will be ineffective (though, if we push, we may produce a "decision," but not a conversion. Why? Because "salvation is of the Lord."
Tuesday, October 7, 2008
I know that this past year has tremendously increased the passion in my prayer life...and now that the struggles of selling the house and buying a house, and all the inherent junk there seems to be racing to a conclusion, I do not want that passion to ebb; but rather hope/pray this is the genesis of a continually growing awareness, effectiveness, and practice-ness of praying "at all times."
Thus this quote came to be at a very timely juncture:
“God uses the past and present difficulties of your life to lead you into a life of prayer. No one ever just decides to be a prayer warrior. God does something in a life that makes the person sense this need of God.” -Bill Thrasher
We are so prone to put God in a box regarding most every aspect of life...to include conversion. This is a very important reminder from Chuck:
A QUICK TURNAROUND
by Charles R. Swindoll
Read Acts 9:1--4
The essence of genuine repentance is that the mind does a turnaround. The Greek word is metanoia, meaning, literally, "to change one's mind." That's precisely what happened to the once-proud Pharisee on the road to Damascus. So many things within Saul's thinking changed---and changed completely. He changed his mind about God, about Jesus, about the Resurrection, about those who followed Christ. He must have shaken his head for days. He thought Christ was dead. Now he was convinced Jesus was alive. This One who knew his name also knew what he'd been doing. The raging rebel had finally met his match, and there was no place or way to hide.
Now let me pause to clarify something important. Some Christians try to impose their rigid system of dos and don'ts on the issue of conversion. I want to caution against that sort of exercise. It's impossible to find any single place in Scripture that reveals the one-and-only way every sinner comes to Christ. While the message of the Gospel is the same, methods differ. We are so conditioned by denominational backgrounds, religious traditionalism, and narrow-thinking prejudice, we miss the point of God's grace. We tend to require more than God does! Be careful about exacting requirements on someone who genuinely turns to the Savior.
Lost people are saved while listening to a great song about Christ or while hearing a preacher or Bible teacher explaining God's Word from a pulpit or over television or on the radio. Others are saved during a small-group Bible study. Many come to Him on their own, while praying in the privacy of their homes. Day or night a sinner can call on the Lord Jesus Christ in faith and be saved. Let's stop making it so complicated. As it happened with Saul, grace abounds.
Regardless of exactly when Saul was converted, he realized that the living Jesus, whom he had hated and denied his entire life, was now his Savior and Lord.
Is He your Savior and Lord too?
Taken from Charles R. Swindoll, Great Days with the Great Lives (Nashville: W Publishing Group, 2005). Copyright © 2005 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc.
Monday, October 6, 2008
Read Acts 9:1--4
For more than three decades, Saul controlled his own life. His record in Judaism ranked second to none. On his way to make an even greater name for himself, the laser of God's presence stopped him in his tracks, striking him blind. Like that group of shepherds faithfully watching their sheep years earlier on another significant night outside Jerusalem, Saul and his companions fell to the ground, stunned.
That's what still happens today when calamity strikes. You get the news in the middle of the night on the telephone, and you can't move. As the policeman describes the head-on collision, you stand frozen in disbelief. After hearing the word "cancer," you're so shocked you can hardly walk out the doctor's office doors. A friend once admitted to me that, after hearing his dreaded diagnosis, he stumbled to the men's room, vomited, dropped to his knees, and sobbed uncontrollably. Life's unexpected jolts grip us with such fear we can scarcely go on.
For the first time in his proud, self-sustained life, Saul found himself a desperate dependent. Not only was he pinned to the ground, he was blind. His other senses were on alert and, to his amazement, he heard a voice from heaven say, "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?" (Acts 9:4). Saul was convinced he had been persecuting people---cultic followers of a false Messiah. Instead, he discovered that the true object of his vile brutality was Christ Himself.
We live in a culture that regularly confuses humanity with deity. The lines get blurred. It's the kind of sloppy theology that suggests God sits on the edge of heaven thinking, Wonder what they'll do next. How absurd! God is omniscient---all-knowing. This implies, clearly, that God never learns anything, our sinful decisions and evil deeds notwithstanding. Nothing ever surprises Him. From the moment we're conceived to the moment we die, we remain safely within the frame of His watchful gaze and His sovereign plan for us.
Taken from Charles R. Swindoll, Great Days with the Great Lives (Nashville: W Publishing Group, 2005). Copyright © 2005 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc.
Sunday, October 5, 2008
As in all of lifes adventures, there are struggles and victories and times of waiting and, yeah, times of doubt.
Thought this quote from former Olympic skater Nancy Kerrigan was timely as it came into my in-box this morning:
"Part of being a champ is acting like a champ. You have to learn
how to win and not run away when you lose. Everyone has bad stretches and
real successes. Either way, you have to be careful not to lose your
confidence or get too confident."
And, remember, we are not merely "champs," but in Christ we are "more than conquerors."
Monday, September 29, 2008
Just received a copy of John Piper's "Spectacular Sins - and Their Global Purpose in the Glory of Christ." Short, small-sized book.
Struck by this in the introduction: "At the all-important pivot of human history, the worst sin ever committed served to show the greatest glory of Christ and obtain the sin-conquering gift of God's grace. God did not just overcome evil at the cross. He made evil serve the overcoming of evil. Me made evil commit suicide in doing its worst evil."
Saturday, September 27, 2008
Had to chuckle late last night. A friend asked me to look at a website for a new multilevel marketing scam, oops, I mean "opportunity."
It was flashy, well-written, and kept my interest even at the midnight hour.
Until I got near to the end, where the guy is telling me that he used to be broke (like me) but "discovered" this great concept "and my life took a 360-degree turn!"
Oh? That's exciting.
Perhaps he meant something like a 180?
And I wonder if I've ever said something like, "My life took a three-hundred-sixty degree turn after I met Jesus"?
Of course that leads to thoughts of repentance...
Fingernails across a blackboard, or worse. That's the feeling I get when I hear some well meaning but dumb person say, "Oh how I love the youth of our church. They are the church of tomorrow!"
Yeah, right. So what are they today? It's obscene to say they, by inference, that they are not the church of today!
It's a great saying to keep students uninvolved, uncommitted, and unchallenged. And, of course, that's the way they will be as they get older, because "what you will be, you are now becoming."
They are the church of today, and they are capable of great things.
A French artillery officer came up with "night writing," raised dots on a page of orders that a soldier could "read" without the danger of lighting a lantern.
A 13-year old blind teen heard about it, and begged the officer to transfer the concept to the blind. The officer didn't see the value.
The teen kept working on it, and simplified the process himself.
You've probable guessed the name - Louis Braille.
Don't let students off the hook by telling them (or treating them as if) they are the church of tomorrow.
They are today's church; and there is a job for them to do in the church.
Put 'em to work!
“The curious paradox of the atoning death of a bloody Jesus rising above the plane of human history with a mocking crown of thorns is that he is offensive in an attractive way.
It is the utter horror of the cross that cuts through the chatter, noise, and nonsense of our day to rivet our attention, shut our mouths, and compel us to listen to an impassioned dying man who is crying out for the forgiveness of our sins and to ask why he suffered.
Tragically, if we lose the offense of the cross, we also lose the attraction of the cross so that no one is compelled to look at Jesus. Therefore, Jesus does not need a marketing firm or a makeover as much as a prophet to preach the horror of the cross unashamedly.”
—Mark Driscoll, Listening to the Beliefs of Emerging Churches (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2007)