Monday, April 28, 2008
"The Shell Game" by Steve Alten is almost five hundred pages in length.
It is provocative. Scary. For me, well written.
Could the American government have averted Sep 11, 2001? Would the government stage an attack on an American city to earn the "right" to counterattack?
Are these beyond comprehension?
Whatever your view, if you like suspenseful, thought-enducing fiction-that-might-not-be-all-fiction, this book is worth your time.
I am NOT saying I agree with it all...but the factoids that are included are, in many cases, new information for me, anyway.
If you think a certain politician is beyond reproach and infallible, you'd probably better take blood pressure meds before reading. If you think America is always right, you won't like the book.
If you are open to possibilities that may make you uncomfortable, I suggest the book strongly.
It may make you think..re-think...furious...curious...wondering.
And that's okay.
Saturday, April 26, 2008
I type Saturday afternoon as the annual Bible Quiz Fellowship National Tournament races to tonight's championship quiz.
But I post not of quizzing, but of Congresswoman Michele Bachmann from the 6th Congressional District in Minnesota.
She made time to be the speaker for this mornings' devotion. Imagine 400 teens, a couple hundred adults, gathered together to sing, pray, and then hear a challenge from a woman of faith who, among other things, challenged the students to seriously consider that the Lord might have a call on their lives to enter the realm of politics.
The congresswoman is a phenomenal speaker, mother of 6 (if I remember correctly) and foster parent of 23! Obviously of most importance is that she is a follower of Christ, and that several of her children have participated in Bible quizzing with our Minnesota/Wisconsin ministry.
She said that Bible quizzing is the "ultimate reality show," because it is based on Ultimate Truth - the Word of God. She provided hope as she declared that she and several other members of Congress gather regularly for prayer because, in her words, "our problems are so big that they are beyond our collective wisdom."
Her stated purpose was to remind the students of the incredible potential each one of them has; and that God's Word hidden in the heart equips them for every good work.
I had the chance to speak with her briefly, and she asked for prayer. She is a first termer running for reelection this year; and the Democrats have "targeted" her because of her conservative stance.
I committed to pray for her daily; and I respectfully ask you to consider praying for her daily, weekly, monthly, whatever.
If this morning's challenge was the only "plus" on this trip (and, by far, it is not), all the effort would be worth it.
An afternoon of quizzing awaits, so I'm out...
Friday, April 25, 2008
I type in the Marriott hotel in downtown Minneapolis. The Bible Quiz Fellowship National Tournament is underway. For those of you who "know" quizzing; yesterday I quizmastered ten quizzes and had two regular overtimes and one triple overtime! Never had one of those before in my almost-three-decades of doing this! Almost 400 students competing on 55 teams...Amazing stuff!
Read this at 5.45 this morning...Ponder, marvel, and practice your position:
To be in Christ - that is redemption; but for Christ to be in you - that is sanctification! To be in Christ - that makes you fit for heaven; but for Christ to be in you - that makes you fit for earth! To be in Christ - that changes your destination; but for Christ to be in you - that changes your destiny! The one makes heaven your home - the other makes this world His workshop.
W. Ian Thomas
We quiz all day today (Friday); seedings are posted tonight; and tomorrow eliminations begin until the champion is crowned Saturday evening.
Then the 28 students representing Family Life and the more-than-a-dozen adults who are giving their time to serve as coaches and chaperones board our charter bus and head back East. Your prayers are appreciated...
Monday, April 21, 2008
Tonight, Monday the 21st, I leave for Minneapolis, Minnesota with 28 fantastic teenagers and 16 adults for the Bible Quiz Fellowship National Quiz Tournament. Would appreciate prayers for the bus trip; for unity among the students (and adults!); and that we would reflect well on His Name throughout the journey. Pray for divine appointments to "brag on Jesus" at our meal stops, trip to the Mall of America, and to the hotel staff. Fifty-five teams will be competing; pray for a grand time to be had by all, and that we would all "grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ."
Don't know if I'll be able to post while on this whirlwind trip; and won't be back until Sunday the 27th.
By the way, the photo is of Midland Ministries quizzers...oddly don't have one of a full Family Life team...this will be a weird year, my last (of 20) with Family Life...as soon as the house sells we will be moving to Saint Joseph, Missouri to join the staff of Midland; so this won't be my last Nationals! And at least I'll get to see some Family Life quizzers and staff annually (assuming the Lord raises up someone to oversee quizzing as I depart!)
Saturday, April 19, 2008
So I got to the office to set up for the last quiz practice before we head to Nationals Monday night...loads on the plate, concerned about details, about selling a house, about a health issue with my wife...took this video (90 seconds) to remind me that God can turn water into wine; but He can't turn whining into anything! Maybe you need a shot of encouragement? Don't deny yourself the privilege of watching this!
Thursday, April 17, 2008
One of my most favorite things is peddling my bicycle. Had a day off today; and spent part of the morning riding with Jacob (as evidenced in a photo posted a couple days ago), and this afternoon rode for about three hours as I traveled the west side of Keuka Lake.
This part of New York is beautiful, and it's inherent beauty will be missed when we move to Saint Joseph, Missouri (as soon as our house sells...pray pray pray).
Riding is a wonderfully relaxing time to think, pray, breath, enjoy.
Can't wait to explore Missouri on my bike...with family along!
One more quiz practice this Saturday; then off to Minneapolis for the national tournament...just me...28 teens...14 adults...on a bus...yippee! It really is a highlight of my life, ministry, and year.
Wednesday, April 16, 2008
Christ invaded my life while I was in jail. Months later I was sentenced to prison. During those days I learned that one of the chief failings of the laughingly-referred to "criminal justice" system is that the very system meant to help programs inmates to fail.
By giving them excuses for their behavior. The system told me I was incarcerated because I had a bad attitude because of my service in Vietnam. They might tell another inmate that being a minority was his downfall; or his parents' divorce; or his economic status. Certainly these factors contribute, but Jack went to prison because Jack made some rather dumb choices!
The most disgusting phrase in our culture is, "It's not my fault."
I'm reading Chuck Colson's newest book, "The Faith." Thus far it is a very good read (and, if you have a desire, you will see it listed in the top left-hand column as one of "Jack's Picks")
Just read this sentence...which, like much of Colson's stuff...is so patently obvious; yet I've never thought of it in precisely this way:
"And you get God wrong because without human responsibility there is no need for a Savior."
Ponder that for a while...
Monday, April 14, 2008
I'm reading a great book by Alistair Begg, The Hand of God, which seeks to demonstrate God's sovereignty throughout the life of Joseph. Though I've not yet finished it, I recommend it highly! Especially helpful for me during a foggy time when I'm praying about a major decision that will have a massive impact in me and my families life and ministry...
Anyway, in the book is told the partial story of Dr. Helen Roseveare who served in the Belgian Congo during the horrific uprising in the mid-1960s that resulted in dozens of missionaries being brutalized and murdered.
Roseveare was in the middle of all this chaos; saw friends shot and dropped into mass graves, and was a victim of brutalization beyond belief.
In a letter to Alistair Begg, Dr. Roseveare declared, "The phrase God gave me years ago, during the 1964 rebellion in the congo, in the night of my own greatest need, was this: 'Can you thank Me for trusting you with this experience, even if I never tell you why?'"
Ponder that for a while. How often have we heard, or said, "Well, I sure don't get this, but I'm sure God will tell me why I'm going through this situation...."
The question Dr. Roseveare heard from God echoes in my heart, and I pray continues to bounce around my heart and mind..."Can you thank Me for trusting you with this experience, even if I never tell you why?"
Sunday, April 13, 2008
As summer approaches I look back at last year and remember Janelle having fun in a dinky pool:
Saturday, April 12, 2008
The joys of childhood! Jacob(2nd from left) turned six on April 10, and we had a small family party. Then today, Saturday, Jane surprised him with a birthday party with a few of his buddies. Military theme...push ups, sit ups, low crawl, patrol through the forest where "enemy" forces (brother Joel, sister Janelle) attacked them with water balloons etc...obligatory ice cream and cake; and a wondrous time was had by all.
Tuesday, April 8, 2008
Three decades ago I was in Bible school. At the same time I began working with a large youth ministry. Thus for thirty years (what is such a young guy doing in such an old body?) I have been vocationally involved in ministry. God has opened doors for school assembly programs, prison and jail work, speaking to scores of civic agencies and service clubs, hundreds of churches, and a wide variety of other speaking venues.
As I reflect back over the marvelous things God has done, I wonder if I’ve really learned anything in those 10,950+ days. The following are observations made and/or confirmed. Since there is nothing new under the sun, I’m certain these things have been recorded before, but I offer them simply as “lessons learned” in the hope they may serve as encouragement, or provide an “uh-huh” moment:
*People are much, much more important than programs
*“New” rarely is synonymous with “better”
*Worship is a matter of the heart, not posture or posturing
*When someone says, “I don’t want to gossip; I just want you to pray about something,” insert something in your ears
*Most committees take minutes and waste hours
*When youth workers say the teens are bored with something, it usually means the youth workers are bored, not the kids
*If we don’t encourage people to think, we are not discipling, we’re merely creating more religious groupies
*Musical styles are not worth discussing, much less fighting over (lyrics may be)
*It is possible to have a Christian meeting without food (or an invitation)
*Non-Christians expect more of Christians than Christians do
*A walk talks, and a talk talks, but a walk talks louder than a talk talks
*It is easy to spend so much time “earning the right to be heard” that you never say anything
*Acts 1:15 records that Peter preached to “a gathering of about one hundred and twenty,” Acts 19:7 says Paul laid his hands on “about twelve men,” thus evidencing the Holy Spirit’s lack of concern with numbers - Whereas most evangelicals would say "a gathering of 123" and "eleven men"
*Most evangelicals will sign petitions to get the Ten Commandments back in school though most of them could not list the Ten
*Neither teens nor adults can spiritually live on periodic “big” events
*Only God can convince someone that their perceived “conviction” is, in fact, a personal preference
*The often-voiced arguments against rock music are nothing but the parroting of closet racism
*If you verbalize a strong view of anything you will be labeled narrow-minded and opinionated
*If it hurts you to confront, you are probably okay; if you eagerly anticipate it, forget it
*God’s Word is always relative
*Youth speakers are less than a dime a dozen; speaker that will hang out with the kids between pulpit times are a rarer breed
*Other than people, time is the only irreplaceable commodity
*Never preach above your experience
*Don’t let what you don’t know mess up what you do know
*It’s dangerous to use personal pronouns while referring to the ministry you serve
*A real danger for the disciple of Christ is making the Bible, witnessing, worship, or ministry an idol
*Aggressive listening is demanded from the speaker as well as from the audience
*Never tell counselee that they are saved. That is the ministry of the Holy Spirit
*Never tell a teen that he or she is “the church of the future.” They are the church of today
*It is high time for the Body of Christ to quit messing with the scaffolding and spend more time strengthening the foundation.
Well, probably nothing drastic in the above, but they are some observations make not in a textbook but in the reality of life. Very often people ask me what my favorite verse is, and my primary response is Deuteronomy 29:29. Look it up, as it sums up rather handily my view on life.
Saturday, April 5, 2008
All too often we make a big deal (as we should) out of Good Friday and Easter Morning...and then cease thinking about the Cross. Here is an important reminder from one of the very best books regarding the Cross I've ever read (If you have not read this book...you should add it to your library...I guarantee you'll return to it often):
“All inadequate doctrines of the atonement are due to inadequate doctrines of God and man. If we bring God down to our level and raise ourselves to his, then of course we see no need for a radical salvation, let alone for a radical atonement to secure it. When, on the other hand, we have glimpsed the blinding glory of the holiness of God, and have been so convicted of our sin by the Holy Spirit that we tremble before God and acknowledge what we are, namely ‘hell-deserving sinners’, then and only then does the necessity of the cross appear so obvious that we are astonished we never saw it before.”
- John Stott
Thursday, April 3, 2008
Ah, the joys of moving. As most know, we have been called from Family Life Ministries in New York to Midland Ministries in Saint Joseph, Missouri.
The big hurdle is the sale of our house here in Bath, NY. It has been on the market a while, and we have no tangible bites...yet. There is a "prayer-ability" (as opposed to possibility!) of a friend purchasing it if the Lord provides a bit more funding. We have an open house scheduled for this Sunday from 1 to 3 PM.
I am confident of God's call and direction; thus it is sin for me to worry about the sale. "If you pray, why worry; if you worry, why pray?" But though I'm redeemed, I am still human; and though I know God is bigger than the economy, I'm a bit perplexed.
But "our times are in His hands." He has promised to meet "all our needs" and He can move the hearts of kings, thus He can move the hearts of buyers. I know all that and more in my head; but sometimes my heart rears up and cries, "How much longer, Lord?"
The fact is that after taking 28 teens and 14 adults to Minneapolis for the National Bible Quiz tournament April 21-27 I will take a few weeks to finalize my duties at Family Life. It would be ideal to make the move following that...but...first...the house must sell.
It takes clouds, rain, and sun to set the stage for a rainbow.
So, swallowing hard, trying not to grit my teeth, I fix my eyes on Jesus, "the author and pioneer of our faith" and, while begging Him to provide the buyer; at the same time I thank Him for doing just that.
And, as I "wait on the Lord" I shall strive to redeem the time, do my duties as unto Him, rejoice in my salvation, family, friends, and calling...and will draw on His Spirit to encourage ("courage") my heart.
Wednesday, April 2, 2008
This is from David Wells in his forthcoming book, "The Courage to be Protestant."
"This co-opting of showbiz, this transformation of Christianity into entertainment, is rapidly becoming the norm today, not the exception. Pastors are straining to outdo each other in becoming as chic and slick as any show in Las Vegas.
"I pity satirists who might be tempted to try to tweak these segments of the evangelical world. Theirs is a mission impossible. It can no longer be done. No matter how indelicately they might exaggerate, no matter how much they might embellish to make a point, no matter how many descriptions they might offer of the tasteless things that are happening, it will most likely be met with only a yawn and a bored question: “So … ?” Nothing seems improbable. None of it, in fact, ever seems exaggerated and none of it seems improper. It has now become impossible to insult some evangelicals. How the Wittenburg Door stays in business, I do not know."