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Thursday, July 31, 2008

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Worship Styles Need Not Produce Worship Wars

Here's some great counsel from J. I. Packer responding to a question about worship "styles" from "Modern Reformation" magazine:

Shane Rosenthal: What do you think about a niche marketing approach that has by virtue of the different worship styles--teen pop, alternative, and adult boomer--created generational segregation?

J. I. Packer: We have separated the ages, very much to the loss of each age. In the New Testament, the Christian church is an all-age community, and in real life the experience of the family to look no further should convince us that the interaction of the ages is enriching. The principle is that generations should be mixed up in the church for the glory of God. That doesn't mean we shouldn't disciple groups of people of the same age or the same sex separately from time to time. That's a good thing to do. But for the most part, the right thing is the mixed community in which everybody is making the effort to understand and empathize with all the other people in the other age groups. Make the effort is the key phrase here. Older people tend not to make the effort to understand younger people, and younger people are actually encouraged not to make the effort to understand older people. That's a loss of a crucial Christian value in my judgment. If worship styles are so fixed that what's being offered fits the expectations, the hopes, even the prejudices, of any one of these groups as opposed to the others, I don't believe the worship style glorifies God, and some change, some reformation, some adjustment, and some enlargement of spiritual vision is really called for.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Reminder - "He's Still Working on Us!"

“Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right, and stopping the leaks in the roof, and so on: you knew that those jobs needed doing and you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably, and does not seem to make sense. What on earth is He up to?

"The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of - throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were going to be made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.”

- C.S. Lewis

Thursday, July 24, 2008

The Benefit of Trouble

"Difficulties afford a platform upon which He can show Himself. Without them we could never know how tender, faithful and almighty our God is." - Hudson Taylor

Wednesday, July 23, 2008


We’ve had our house on the market for over six months…no bites, no offers, lots of lookers.

Do we get frustrated? Yeah. Is it tough? Sort of, especially for Jane and the two youngest; trying to keep the house “presentable.”

In our hearts, we know the Lord has a timing and a plan (and a buyer!). We don’t know the “whys” and may never know. But we do know the Lord is on the throne; that He has called us to Midland Ministries (where I am already on staff, though working out of my NY house) in Missouri…and that He will relocate us according to His will…

On a bike ride I pulled over and journaled the following ideas using the word “waiting.”

Waiting is a test…but it is not a “test” of God’s goodness, grace, or power; it is a test for us…will we keep our eyes on Him? Will we trust? Will we redeem the time? Obviously God knows how we’ll do on the “test”; so the time of testing is, again, for us…we learn, we grow, and we will look back with smiles…

A testimony of grace, strength and patience. Currently the testimony is “current events,” soon it will be “history” (His story?) that will remain Christ-honoring…

I don’t “get it.” Again, don’t know the “whys,” don’t understand the delay, have a few ideas and hints; but the bottom line is God is God, I’m not…

This too shall pass. Yes, it may be a “valley” of sorts, but the psalmist reminds us that we pass through the valley.

n everything give thanks. Not for everything, but in everything give thanks…Why? For this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.

Never take eyes off Jesus, for He is the author, perfector, and pioneer of our faith. Don’t focus on the economy, the housing market, the other houses for sale (or the ones with “sold” signs on them), but focus on Jesus.

od is good, all the time!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Looking for a Good Summer Book?

Just got done with "Nobody," an exciting mystery set in Las Vegas...homeless people, scamming pastor, crooked cops, genuine Christians and more mix it up in a fun book that has significant insights sprinkled throughout.
I recommend it highly! And, yeah, if you order it thru Amazon (below) I get a few pennies out of the deal!

Camp Counselors

The Stuff Christians Like guy wrote is hilarious, accurate, and, to the uninitiated or casual observer, perhaps a tad frightening! Check out his blog here

#356. The 7 Types of Christian Camp Counselors
I was a pretty mediocre camp counselor. I'm not sure why exactly, but I just don't think I added any value whatsoever to Camp Berea in New Hampshire. For some reason I was obsessed with earning a certificate in sharpshooting at the firing range. So roughly every free minute I had was speant sprawled out on an old mattress, shooting at a paper target with a rifle. Good times.

But fortunately for you and loads of other campers out there, there are lots of different types of camp counselors. Well not lots, but seven really. Here they are:

1. The Joe Cool
That guy that all the girls love.
Natural Enemy:
Sir No Showers a Lot
I wanted to be this guy. He was the counselor that was so cool he seemed out of place. It was like some land of cool had helicoptered him in on a rope. He listened to music you never heard of, had a tan even if the sun hadn't been out and like the man in the Dos Equis commercial, "his blood smelled like cologne." Best of all, he didn't seem to care about it. This was not something he was manufacturing in his cabin. This was natural. He wasn't shopping at the Chess King or wearing Z-Cavaricci's to look hip (what we did in the early 90s), he was comfortable in an old t-shirt. He was the dude Abercrombie ads try to create in a fake way. He had never surfed, but he could. He had a weird way with animals and set the fastest time in the swim test when no one was looking. My four year old might be this person one day. She had to get six stitches yesterday after a pool incident and waved off the lortab pain medication in favor of calmly reading a Strawberry Shortcake book while the doctor sewed up her chin. That is exactly how the Joe Cool would have handled it. He probably would have even made reading Strawberry Shortcake look cool, he's that good.

2. The Disciple
Prayer Warrior, Holy Roller, Hardcore for Heaven
Natural Enemy:
The Pastor's Kid
This girl was slightly more holy than Jesus. She is the one that got up each morning at 4 to greet the sun and wave at the sparrows in the woods, what a glorious feeling. She was a champ at Bible competitions but wouldn’t give you any of the answers because like a teacher that forces you to look up a word in the dictionary instead of spelling it for you, she wanted you to learn on your own. If she was in high school, she was heavily involved in the youth group. If she was in college, she attended the "Harvard of Christian colleges," whatever that meant that year. She wasn't judgmental like the Narc, but wasn't afraid to use the word "smite" or correct the special guest speaker the camp brought in if he was not doctrinally sound.

3. Sir No Showers a Lot
Stinky, Smelly, Dude bathe already
Natural Enemy:
Something about camp can bring out the smelliest in people. I guess because they're outside and in nature they think they can throw off the shackles of civilization like regularly bathing and deodorant. This guy often lives on the mistaken belief that girls dig guys that are filthy. The worst thing about this counselor is when he tries to tie his "dirt merchant" ways to some sort of holy mission. Some guys all grow goatees together but this guy makes not using water as a cleaning agent some sort of act of sanctity. There's a very good chance that he doesn't wear shoes but has instead allowed a few solid weeks of being barefoot to turn the bottoms of his feet as hard as leather. Avoid this guy at all costs. Don't ever let him help out in the kitchen.

4. The Nicest Person that Ever Lived
Natural Enemy:
That's not very nice of you to ask.
This is the only counselor that will write you when camp is over. No, scratch that, this is the only person from camp that will write you. And I'm not talking about emails or text messages. I'm talking about real letters, made of paper and stamp and time. Probably on her own personal stationary. She loves camp. She always has and takes feels true joy from helping you enjoy it too. Sometimes this person may be the daughter of the person that owns the camp, although occasionally the kids of camp owners are too close to the camp to see how special it is. It's just where their dad works.

5. The Reformed Rebel
The legend
Natural Enemy:
The Narc
This is probably my favorite camp counselor. Despite being young, they've been through the wringer a few times already. They used to pull pranks that are still legendary at camp but won't help you pull your own. Not that they are against pranks now but they want you to learn the lessons of this life yourself. They aren't afraid to show you bumps and bruises from the mistakes they've made and if you ever get into a campfire confessional, this is the person you want sitting next to you. They aren't afraid to cry and seem to have a really honest, intimate relationship with Christ. It's less like someone trying to shout up to the heavens and get the attention of a massive deity and more like someone talking with a friend that they really love.

6. The Narc
Phariswat Team, Fun Police
Natural Enemy:
Everyone, particularly people "making purple."
This is usually a self appointed title. I don't think that camps actually assign or completely endorse this person, but they exist. Their mission for the week or the summer is to make sure everyone is following the rules. They don't see the rules as something to help prevent accidents or injuries. The rules are guideposts to an efficient, effective camp experience and anyone that steps out of line needs to be corrected. Often this person is the only one that has access to the bullhorn which in some scary situations they actually brought from home. If you steal their bullhorn, hypothetically speaking of course, they will magically pull a whistle out of nowhere and use that instead to keep everyone on point.

7. The Rebel
The bad seed, the "how did that guy get to be a counselor" guy
Natural Enemy:
Whoever finds the contraband he hid in a shallow hole by the ropes course.
This person is pretty rare, which I think is probably a good thing. But sometimes, you'll encounter a counselor that seems to break all the rules he's supposed to be enforcing. He sneaks out at night when the kids are asleep to go into town and mingle with some locals. He wears his ropes course safety helmet backwards and is the only one in recorded history to have actually hit the camp owner with a water balloon. It makes little sense that he works at the camp but there's a theory that he got the job through blackmail. Or his dad is the pastor. Either way, keep an eye on this guy.

I haven't gone to camp in years but if I do get to make a cameo someday, expect to find me hanging out with the Reformed Rebel and the Narc's stolen bullhorn.

What Do You Know About Jack Hager?

The photo is of me and a camper a couple weeks ago in Polo, Missouri. Nice shirt, huh? you know Jack? Or, better, is there anything you'd like to know about Jack?

If so, leave me a comment and I'll answer as straight-up as I can.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Jacob Hager lost a tooth!

Ah, a momentous moment in the life of Jacob...the loss of first two teeth grow behind the "originals"...job security for orthodontist?

A Great Presentation of Petra's "Song for Annie"

You'll need to pause my music list (left column), but if you remember Petra's "Song for Annie"...or if it is new to you...this serves as an important reminder...

Hung Up About What Church Did/Does to You?

Ah, such wisdom from Jared Wilson who blogs at

Memo to The Whiners
If all that The Church did to you growing up was make you wear dressy clothes, sit through boring sermons, withstand ten verses of "Just As I Am" accompanied solely by bowel-rattling organ, listen to Sandi Patty and/or The Master's Five, or believe your soul is in eternal jeopardy if you don't choose Jesus, you were not abused by the church.

There are worse things than suffering the unhip-ness of church culture. God doesn't care about your haircut or what style of music you listen to, and if you think a lost world would like Jesus more if only his followers looked more emo, you're an idiot.

Growing up uncool or "cheesy" because of the church is not traumatic, and if you think it is, go spend some time in the burn ward or listening to victims of domestic abuse.

Get over yourself, grow up, and get a life.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Mike Farris - WOW! (pause my play list on left column)

Heard this guy for the first time from a friend's stereo while a bunch of us were playing volleyball Friday.
I'm liking it!

Cross Focused

Here are a couple weighty thoughts concerning the Cross of Jesus:

“The cross which is the object of faith, is also, by the power of the Holy Spirit, the cause of it. Sit down and watch the dying Saviour till faith springs up spontaneously in your heart. There is no place like Calvary for creating confidence. The air of that sacred hill brings health to trembling faith.”

- C. H. Spurgeon

"Once you look at the cross, you can't look at anything else, no matter
how horrid it appears, and infer that God's intention is to do us harm.
The truth is that God is good."

- William Backcus

Friday, July 18, 2008

Camp Food Observations

This is from, a blog I regularly read:

#353. Camp food.
from Stuff Christians Like by Prodigal Jon
I make poor food decisions.

I once participated in a 2lb cheeseburger eating contest.
I would fill water bottles with Mexican cheese (queso) dip and carry them around with me if it was socially acceptable.
At my house, the five second rule has been generously extended to a minute and a half.
I ate a steak and cheese sub out of a vending machine when I was a mailman.

So it is with some degree of irony that I attempt to write about the food we get when we go to camp. I am not a culinary expert. I am not talking about the snack wagon/store/place you get candy bars. I am not talking about the meals that might be deemed "good" by the campers. I am strictly focusing on the food that will kill you if given the chance. The meals that are so dangerous to consume that you actually question the relationship with God that the cooks have. "Maybe they are backsliding. Maybe they are angry at God right now and decided to express that anger through this broccoli dish. Maybe that is it," you think to yourself.

But regardless of the cause for the meal in question, there is no denying that we will all face them at some point in our camp going experiences. And when you do, I want you to know there are five things you need to look out for:

1. The cover it with cheese approach.
One trick that I noticed early on was the "cover it with cheese" approach. This is as simple as it sounds. Did you serve some kind of Tuna Casserole on Monday? Then put a thick layer of cheddar cheese on the leftovers and serve it on Thursday as "Tuna Queso Surprise." No one will be the wiser.

2. The old oil approach.
I used to work at a company that had what we called "the death café." I loved the guys that worked there and ate there all the time. But the trick was to make sure you ate there early in the week. Rumor was that they reused the cooking oil all week. So what was a fresh chicken strip on Monday was now not so fresh on Friday when it was cooked in oil that had also cooked Pollock, Cod, French Fries, Tater Tots, etc. I could never verify if this was true or not, by why gamble with your belly?

3. The fry it approach.
In college, my brothers' fraternity purchased a deep fryer. Life would never be the same. That's because there is a strange intoxication that comes over a person when they have access to a deep fryer. (It's probably similar to how I feel about laminators. I would never leave the house if I had one.) You start out slow, frying standard stuff, like French fries and onion rings. And you love the crackle the oil makes, the color shift that occurs as frozen foods change from white to a muted yellow. But soon, that's not enough for you. So you start frying other things. Things that have no business in a deep fryer. Things like candy bars and Twinkies and eventually, anything that is not nailed down. If you ever can't identify a fried object in a camp cafeteria, walk away. Just walk away.

4. The international crisis approach.
Have you ever had a pizza burger? You shouldn't, but I have eaten many in my day. Sometimes, camp chefs decide to mix different nationalities. So instead of just having pizza, typically seen as an Italian meal, or an old fashioned hamburger, arguably seen as an American meal they are available the world over, they combine the two. What you end up with is a mountain of ground beef, spaghetti sauce, some sort of mystery cheese and one half of a bun. It's not quite a sloppy Joe, not quite a meat pizza. It's basically just an international crisis. If you ever show up to eat and it's "Mexican Sushi Night," go back to your cabin as fast as you can.

5. The sandwich night approach.
My friend's mom is brilliant. When he was growing up and she didn't want to cook, she invented "make your own sandwich night." Her kids thought it was a lot of fun and she didn't have to do any of the work. The only problem when this is applied to camp settings is that often, the "make your own" idea is that sometimes it's a move used to cloak something going on in the kitchen. An oven is broken, someone called in sick to work, a family of monitor lizards was found living in the soup mix closet. Something is amiss that is preventing some real cooking going on. So they throw the mic to you and ask you to remix your own sandwich. Be wary of this, be wary of this.

I promise that you probably saw some different secret camp chef techniques. But these are the ones I grew up with. And I stand by the belief that they will save you from many gastronomical nightmares.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Do We (Still) Care?

It appears to me that Christians, in large number, have tired of the fight against abortion. I hesitated posting the photo of a 22-week old (aborted) baby here; but conviction won out - we must be reminded that the slaughter continues.

Here's part of a letter to the Editor of Time magazine published in the July 21 issue. The letter is from Kelli Conlin, President, National Institute for Reproductive Health in New York City.

Here's what she writes,

"There are three ways that women and teenagers can take responsibility for a pregnancy: abortion, adoption, or parenting. One option is not more responsible that the others. Each is a valid choice, as long as the chosen path is the best for the individual pregnant woman." (emphasis added)

Should not the unborn childs' "best" be considered?

My view of abortion is one of the ONLY things that did not change when I began following Jesus. I knew abortion was wrong, was in fact murder, if for no other reason that it could have been me.

Do we still care enough to at least pray that legal abortion is ended?

Bob Dylan - Does He Ask Himself this question Still?

While we are on the subject, do you?

Benefits of Waiting

Chuck Swindoll against speaks to my situation as we wait for a buyer for our NY house...and maybe to yours if you are in "waiting" mode...This is from his devotional that I use daily, and recommend highly (and, yeah, you could order it off the link below):

by Charles R. Swindoll

Read Esther 4:12--17; Isaiah 40:31

Now, even though what happened in the three days between chapters 4 and 5 is not recorded, don't think for a moment that God is whiling away His time, busy with other things. Remember, He may be invisible, but He is at work. That's the beauty of His invisibility. He can be moving in a thousand places at the same time, working in circumstances that are beyond our control. During a waiting period, God is not only working in our hearts, He's working in others' hearts. And all the while He is giving added strength. Remember Isaiah's words about waiting?

Yet those who wait for the LORD
Will gain new strength;
They will mount up with wings like eagles,
They will run and not get tired,
They will walk and not become weary. (Isaiah 40:31)

Even though the prophet's pen put these words on the sacred page centuries ago, that verse of Scripture is as pertinent and relevant as what you read in the paper this morning---and far more trustworthy. From this verse we learn that four things happen when we wait.

First, we gain new strength. We may feel weak, even intimidated, when we turn to our Lord. While waiting, amazingly we exchange our weakness for His strength.

Second, we get a better perspective. It says we "will mount up with wings like eagles." Eagles can spot fish in a lake several miles away on a clear day. By soaring like eagles while waiting, we gain perspective on our situation.

Third, we store up extra energy. "We will run and not get tired." Notice, it's future tense. When we do encounter the thing we have been dreading, we will encounter it with new strength---extra energy will be ours to use.

Fourth, we will deepen our determination to persevere. We "will walk and not become weary." The Lord whispers reassurance to us. He puts steel in our bones, so to speak. We begin to feel increasingly more invincible.

We'll gain new strength. We'll get a better perspective. We'll store up extra energy. We'll deepen our determination to persevere. All that happens when we . . . wait.

A Missionaries "Job Description"

The is an absolutely great and important reminder that is applicable to every apprentice of Jesus as we are all missionaries:

“We are not sent to preach sociology but salvation; not economics but evangelism; not reform but redemption; not culture but conversion; not progress but pardon; not a new social order but a new birth; not revolution but regeneration; not renovation but revival; not resuscitation but resurrection; not a new organization but a new creation; not democracy but the gospel; not civilization but Christ; we are ambassadors, not diplomats.”

—Hugh Thomson Kerr

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Myth of Postmodernism

Okay, I admit it...I am glad when something I've been saying/writing/thinking is agreed with by somebody smart!

Here is part of what William Lane Craig (research prof at Talbot) wrote in the July issue of "Christianity Today":

"...some might think the resurgence of natural theology in our time is merely so much labor lost. For don't we live in a postmodern culture in which appeals to such apologetic arguments are no longer effective? Rational arguments for the truth of theism are no longer supposed to work. Some Christians therefore advise that we should simply share our narrative and invite people to participate in it.

"This sort of thinking is guilty of a disastrous misdiagnosis of contemporary culture. The idea that we live in a postmodern culture is a myth. In fact, a postmodern culture is an impossibility; it would be utterly unlivable. People are not relativistic when it comes to matters of science, engineering, and technology; rather, they are relativistic and pluralistic in matters of religion and ethics. But, of course, that's not postmodernism; that's modernism! That's just old-line verificationism, which held that anything you can't prove with your five senses is a matter of personal taste. We live in a culture that remains deeply modernist."

The entire article is worth reading; too bad most find even the extract above too long and too hard to read. If you made it this far, drop a comment and tell me what you think! Ah, there's that word..."think." And as Edison said, "Thinking is the hardest work there is, which is why so few engage in it."

Perhaps truer of most Christians than we'd like to admit...

Monday, July 14, 2008

Brain Boggling Briefing

John Piper explains:

"God cannot make plain all he is doing, because there are millions and millions and millions and millions of effects of every event in your life, the good and the bad. God guides them all. They all have micro purposes and macro purposes. He cannot tell you all of them because your brain can’t hold all of them.

Trust does not demand more than God has told us. And he has given us immeasurably precious promises that he is in control of all things and only does good to his children. And he has given us a very thick book where we can read story after story after story about how he rules for the good of his people.

Let’s trust him and not ask for what our brains cannot contain..."

Through Jesus' Eyes

(Turn off music on left before playing)
Backdrop video is, of course, 9/11, but the message of the song is vital any day for the apprentice of Jesus...

Sunday, July 13, 2008


Though I recognize that every situation, every moment gives me two basic opportunities - to worship or to whine - I do slip into whining now and then.

Why hasn't my house sold yet? Why are some people so stinking legalistic while loveless? These are a couple whine-issues.

Yesterday morning I was reading the Word and got slapped, lovingly, by the Spirit as I looked at 1 Chronicles 17.16, "Who am I, O Lord God, and what is my house, that You have brought me thus far?"

The Lord has brought me and my family "thus far" in our pilgrimage of faith (just as He has you...), and how dare I (we?) whine?

Among other things, He has called me to Himself, forgiven me, justified me, called me to ministry, allowed me to "brag on Jesus" vocationally for almost three decades, given me a wonderful wife and four incredible children...

Whine? Forgive me, Lord...the One who has "brought me thus far..."

I look forward, in faith and trust and assurance, to the next steps.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

"Beyond the Gates" - Not for Everyone

I just watched "Beyond the Gates," a film depicting part of the 1994 Rwandan genocide. I'm still reacting. My chief feeling is amazement that God hasn't zapped us all (yet).

The horrendous, callous, despicable slaughter is depicted (the film is rated "R" and should be) against the backdrop of a British priest and a British teacher who want to make a difference.

The film doesn't sensationalize (how could it?). Virtually everything happens within the confines of a school/church that becomes a temporary sanctuary. It is almost two hours of tenseness.

A quotation from Elie Wiesel is shown at the films' end. The italicized portion is the only part that appears in the film, I found the context thanks to google.

“The opposite of love is not hate, it's indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it's indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it's indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it's indifference.” Elie Wiesel

Tony Snow's Observations

This is long, but worth the read. Hopefully you know Tony Snow died early Saturday morning. After being diagnosed with cancer he wrote the following. He makes important observations that perhaps can only be seen from the desperation of knowing you are very, very ill.

"Blessings arrive in unexpected packages, - in my case, cancer.

Those of us with potentially fatal diseases - and there are millions in America today - find ourselves in the odd position of coping with our mortality while trying to fathom God's will.

Although it would be the height of presumption to declare with confidence "What It All Means," Scripture provides powerful hints and consolations.

The first is that we shouldn't spend too much time trying to answer the "why" questions:

Why me? Why must people suffer? Why can't someone else get sick? We can't answer such things, and the questions themselves often are designed more to express our anguish than to solicit an answer.I don't know why I have cancer, and I don't much care. It is what it is, a plain and indisputable fact. Yet even while staring into a mirror darkly, great and stunning truths begin to take shape. Our maladies define a central feature of our existence: We are fallen. We are imperfect. Our bodies give out. But despite this, - or because of it, - God offers the possibility of salvation and grace. We don't know how the narrative of our lives will end, but we get to choose how to use the interval between now and the moment we meet our Creator face-to-face.

Second, we need to get past the anxiety.

The mere thought of dying can send adrenaline flooding through your system. A dizzy, unfocused panic seizes you. Your heart thumps; your head swims. You think of nothingness and swoon. You fear partings; you worry about the impact on family and friends. You fidget and get nowhere. To regain footing, remember that we were born not into death, but into life,- and that the journey continues after we have finished our days on this earth. We accept this on faith, but that faith is nourished by a conviction that stirs even within many non believing hearts - an intuition that the gift of life, once given, cannot be taken away. Those who have been stricken enjoy the special privilege of being able to fight with their might, main, and faith to live fully, richly, exuberantly - no matter how their days may be numbered.

Third, we can open our eyes and hearts. God relishes surprise.

We want lives of simple, predictable ease,- smooth, even trails as far as the eye can see, - but God likes to go off-road. He provokes us with twists and turns. He places us in predicaments that seem to defy our endurance; and comprehension - and yet don't. By His love and grace, we persevere. The challenges that make our hearts leap and stomachs churn invariably strengthen our faith and grant measures of wisdom and joy we would not experience otherwise. 'You Have Been Called'. Picture yourself in a hospital bed. The fog of anesthesia has begun to wear away. A doctor stands at your feet, a loved one holds your hand at the side. "It's cancer," the healer announces. The natural reaction is to turn to God and ask him to serve as a cosmic Santa. "Dear God, make it all go away. Make everything simpler." But another voice whispers: "You have been called."

Your quandary has drawn you closer to God, closer to those you love, closer to the issues that matter,- and has dragged into insignificance the banal concerns that occupy our "normal time." There's another kind of response, although usually short-lived an inexplicable shudder of excitement, as if a clarifying moment of calamity has swept away everything trivial and tiny, and placed before us the challenge of important questions. The moment you enter the Valley of the Shadow of Death, things change. You discover that Christianity is not something doughy, passive, pious, and soft. Faith may be the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. But it also draws you into a world shorn of fearful caution. The life of belief teems with thrills, boldness, danger, shocks, reversals, triumphs, and epiphanies. Think of Paul, traipsing through the known world and contemplating trips to what must have seemed the antipodes (Spain), shaking the dust from his sandals, worrying not about the morrow, but only about the moment. There's nothing wilder than a life of humble virtue, - for it is through selflessness and service that God wrings from our bodies and spirits the most we ever could give, the most we ever could offer, and the most we ever could do.

Finally, we can let love change everything.

When Jesus was faced with the prospect of crucifixion, he grieved not for himself, but for us. He cried for Jerusalem before entering the holy city. From the Cross, he took on the cumulative burden of human sin and weakness, and begged for forgiveness on our behalf. We get repeated chances to learn that life is not about us, that we acquire purpose and satisfaction by sharing in God's love for others. Sickness gets us part way there. It reminds us of our limitations and dependence. But it also gives us a chance to serve the healthy. A minister friend of mine observes that people suffering grave afflictions often acquire the faith of two people, while loved ones accept the burden of two peoples' worries and fears. 'Learning How to Live'.

Most of us have watched friends as they drifted toward God's arms, not with resignation, but with peace and hope. In so doing, they have taught us not how to die, but how to live. They have emulated Christ by transmitting the power and authority of love. I sat by my best friend's bedside a few years ago as a wasting cancer took him away. He kept at his table a worn Bible and a 1928 edition of the Book of Common Prayer. A shattering grief disabled his family, many of his old friends, and at least one priest. Here was an humble and very good guy, someone who apologized when he winced with pain because he thought it made his guest uncomfortable. He retained his equanimity and good humor literally until his last conscious moment. "I'm going to try to beat this cancer," he told me several months before he died. "But if I don't, I'll see you on the other side."

His gift was to remind everyone around him that even though God doesn't promise us tomorrow, he does promise us eternity, filled with life and love we cannot comprehend, - and that one can in the throes of sickness point the rest of us toward timeless truths that will help us weather future storms. Through such trials, God bids us to choose: Do we believe, or do we not? Will we be bold enough to love, daring enough to serve, humble enough to submit, and strong enough to acknowledge our limitations? Can we surrender our concern in things that don't matter so that we might devote our remaining days to things that do? When our faith flags, he throws reminders in our way. Think of the prayer warriors in our midst. They change things, and those of us who have been on the receiving end of their petitions and intercessions know it. It is hard to describe, but there are times when suddenly the hairs on the back of your neck stand up, and you feel a surge of the Spirit. Somehow you just know: Others have chosen, when talking to the Author of all creation, to lift us up, - to speak of us!

This is love of a very special order. But so is the ability to sit back and appreciate the wonder of every created thing. The mere thought of death somehow makes every blessing vivid, every happiness more luminous and intense. We may not know how our contest with sickness will end, but we have felt the ineluctable touch of God. What is man that Thou art mindful of him? We don't know much, but we know this: No matter where we are, no matter what we do, no matter how bleak or frightening our prospects, each and every one of us who believe, each and every day, lies in the same safe and impregnable place, in the hollow of God's hand."

Tony Snow

Celtic Thunder - - Highest Recommendation

Okay, I love and like all kinds of music; but even after a few weeks this amazing DVD (and cd) is at the top of the list.
The orchestra is phenomenal, the voices are stellar, the arrangements are amazing, the variety is astounding.
Did I say I liked it?
Spend a few bucks (you can click on the link below and help me out a bit also!) and enjoy!

Friday, July 11, 2008

The Laziness of Legalism

I've decided that the legalist is truly lazy.

It is so convenient to measure length of shorts, length of hair, count earrings, listen for musical beats, etc rather than examine fruit.

The latter takes time and effort...and focus. The "making a list and checking it twice" of legalism is simply nodding knowingly and checking off points.

What brought this rant on? My wife was criticized for an outfit she wore. Gently criticized, yes, but nevertheless criticized.

And the criticizer? One who goes to a buffet with her scads of children and orders water but lets them fill their cups with soda. One who overloads a car with children (though since they are never seatbelted anyway I guess it can't be overloaded).


Thursday, July 10, 2008

Worth A Look

Personal responsibility, personal choice, personal commitment...Growing and going for Jesus, for yourself, for any purpose takes two terrible four-letter words - - - t i m e & w o r k
Here's a great video that impacts positively:

Our Only Defense

“When I come to the Lord after I’ve blown it, I’ve only one argument to make. It’s not the argument of the difficulty of the environment that I am in. It’s not the argument of the difficult people that I’m near. It’s not the argument of good intentions that were thwarted in some way.

I come to the Lord with only one appeal; his mercy. I’ve no other defense. I’ve no other standing. I’ve no other hope. I can’t escape the reality of my biggest problem; me! So I appeal to the one thing in my life that’s sure and will never fail. I appeal to the one thing that guaranteed not only my acceptance with God, but the hope of new beginnings and fresh starts. I appeal on the basis of the greatest gift I ever have or ever will be given.

I leave the courtroom of my own defense, I come out of hiding and I admit who I am. But I’m not afraid, because I’ve been personally and eternally blessed. Because of what Jesus has done, God looks on me with mercy. It’s my only appeal, it’s the source of my hope, it’s my life. Mercy, mercy me!”

—Paul David Tripp, Whiter Than Snow

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Monday, July 7, 2008

I May Never Go Near the Ocean Again!

I'm sure the Lord, who made everything, had a real good reason for making the great white...but, yikes!

I Wanna Know What Love Is...

My favorite definition of love is, "I want for you, what is best for you, for the longest period of time."

Here is another attempt to portray love in words:

The proof that you love someone is not that you have warm affectionate
feelings toward them. The proof is in your actions, your words and your
sacrifice, your willingness to give the best of yourself and your
willingness to get nothing in return.

Katherine Walden

Though both these definitions are aimed at defining love for another person, the second definition is particularly applicable to our love for our Lord.

Do my actions, words, sacrifice, willingness to give the best of myself indicate a passionate love for the Lord? And am I willing to love and serve Him even if I "get nothing in return"?

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Don't Get the Tar & Feathers, But...

I love America. I'm grateful to be a citizen of a free nation.

But my allegiance is to the Lord Jesus Christ, and to His Father, who "so loved the world..." not the United States.

I am uncomfortable seeing an American flag adjacent to a "Christian" flag.

And I believe it is very difficult to live for Christ in our nation.


We just celebrated "Independence Day." Yet we are totally dependent on the Lord.

We are told to "look out for number one," yet our Savior reminds us "if you want to be great among God's people, learn to be the servant of all."

"Go for the gold" rings our unofficial anthem. Be content, rings scripture.

American citizens demand our "rights." Exactly what rights does a bondslave of Jesus have?

I love our country. I pray for her leaders (not just those I agree with...). I spent four years serving in the Army.

But it is not, nor has it been, nor will it be "God's country."

And thus we should guard ourselves from off-balance patriotism which could tragically slide into idolatry.

Friday, July 4, 2008

His Comfort

Struck again by the word picture of Psalm 3.3, "But you, O Lord, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head."

Sorrow comes in various sizes and depth; but sorrow is a reality. The hung head of sorrow can be comforted by the One who knows what it is to weep.

Of course a hung head may be caused by shame. The same One who knows what it is to be tempted (and yet remain without sin) is willing to "lift our head" as we confess and repent.
When down, call upon the One who is more than able, more than willing, to "lift our head."

Ponder as We Celebrate

"Lord Jesus, thou who art the way, the truth, and the life; hear us as we pray for the truth that shall make all free. Teach us that liberty is not only to be loved but also to be lived. Liberty is too precious a thing to be buried in books. It costs too much to be hoarded. Help us see that our liberty is not the right to do as we please, but the opportunity to please to do what is right."

Peter Marshall

Thursday, July 3, 2008

The Cross Reveals:

Vital reminder from an ancient source:

“Q: Who has truly pondered the weight of sin?

A: The one who has truly pondered the weight of the cross.”

- Anselm of Canterbury