Sunday, August 31, 2008
Saturday, August 30, 2008
- Milton Vincent
Friday, August 29, 2008
Q. "What do you do when you realize you have been dozing?" (during prayer}
A. "If you doze off, don't give it a second thought. A child in the arms
of a parent drops off to sleep occasionally, but the parent isn't
disturbed by that as long as the child is happily resting there and
opens its eyes once in a while.
Thursday, August 28, 2008
There will be no "knights in shining armor" in God's kingdom; our armor
will have many dings and dents. No, no perfect Hollywood heroes will
ride to save the day; just wearied saints to look to God and, in
weakness, find Christ's strength. This, indeed, is the essence of God's
kingdom: divine greatness manifest in common people.
Monday, August 25, 2008
Each time I use the following quote in a message; at least one person asks me for a copy. Forgiveness is commanded by the Lord in straight-up terms...forgive, or we won't be forgiven.
But there is a pragmatic benefit of forgiveness also, and Neal Anderson describes it:
"You don't forgive someone merely for their sake. You do it for your sake so you can be free.
"Your need to forgive is not an issue between you and the offender, it's between you and God.
"Forgiveness is agreeing to live with the consequences of another person's sin. Forgiveness is costly. We pay the price of the evil we forgive. Yet you are going to live with those consequences whether you want to or not - your only choice is whether you will do so in the bitterness of unforgiveness or the freedom of forgiveness.
"Forgiveness deals with your pain, not another's behavior."
Saturday, August 23, 2008
There I was, reading my chapters for the day, when I got sideswiped by Psalm 48.9, which reads, in the English Standard Version,
"We have thought on Your steadfast love, O God..."
Have I? And when was the last time? What about you? What do you think of when you think of God's steadfast love?
Friday, August 22, 2008
Jane and Jacob
I marvel at how blessed I am to have the wife and children I've been loaned..."every good and perfect gift comes from God"...
Alas, no recent fotos of Josiah (24) and Joel (21)
Without editorial comment, here is his latest writing, received while I was finishing up my last week of camp, and obviously timely with the car accident related death of our 17-year-old nephew last Saturday.
Yes, it is long, but I urge you to thoughtfully read it.
An Open Hand or a Clenched Fist?
The Frightening Reality of a Fair Weather Faith
I don't know how else to say it, so I'll come straight to the point. Last Sunday, August 17, 2008, I came face to face with the fragility and weakness of my faith in God. It may have been the most frightening moment in my Christian life. Let me explain.
On Wednesday, August 13th, just five days earlier, I was in Oklahoma City meeting with the staff of Bridgeway Church. During lunch, as I was about to respond to another question, my cell phone rang. It's every parent's worst nightmare.
My younger daughter, Joey (23), was hysterical and virtually incoherent. It took at least ten minutes for me to get her calm enough that I could understand what she was saying amidst the tears and shock. She had been on her way back to Kansas City from Branson, Missouri, when her car grazed the side of a large truck that had moved into her blind spot. She was instantly airborne, her car virtually flying through the air at 65 mph.
The car flipped upside down, but not as you might expect. It didn't roll over, side to side, but rather back to front. The nose of the car dipped as the rear end rose, eventually landing on its roof. Joey immediately unhooked her seat belt, pushed away the airbag, and fell to the roof of the car which was now the floor.
Her immediate instinct was to call me. But I was helpless to do anything, being nearly four hours away. I called Ann in Kansas City and she quickly made her way to the hospital in Bolivar, Missouri, where the police took Joey for an examination.
Miraculously and mercifully, she had only an abrasion on her neck from the seat belt and a slight chemical burn on her forearm. No broken bones. No internal injuries. No bleeding. She was sore for several days (and still is, as of Wednesday, August 20th), but was graciously preserved from any serious injury. Everyone at the scene said they'd never seen an accident like that in which the driver walked away unscathed. The car was thoroughly crushed and destroyed. We have pictures to prove it. "I have no explanation for why your daughter isn't dead," said the police officer to me on the phone.
You may wonder, then, why Sunday would have been a difficult day for me. I was filled with such indescribable gratitude for what God had done. My heart was flooded with joy and delight as I reflected on how close she had come to death and how wonderful it was that she emerged without serious harm.
The tears of thanksgiving and profound appreciation and worship flowed freely and unashamedly. My hands were lifted high in adoration and praise as we sang that now familiar and somewhat dated chorus, "He is exalted, the King is exalted on high, I will praise Him!" We then sang what has quickly become one of my favorites, "Beautiful," by Phil Wickham, one verse of which is as follows:
"I see your power in the moonlit night
Where planets are in motion and galaxies are bright
We are amazed in the light of the stars
It's all proclaiming who You are,
Suddenly, my hands began to tremble ever so slightly. The tears dried up. Without warning, giving me no chance to prepare my heart, this horrifying thought raced through my mind: "Would I be lifting my hands in love and adoration of the Lord if Joey had died last Wednesday? Or would my raised and open hand be a clenched and defiant fist? If she, like so many who had similar wrecks, had died, would I have praised God for being ‘Beautiful'"?
I was spiritually paralyzed. A shiver of raw fear ran down my spine. No words can adequately explain the emotional terror that gripped my soul. Was I the sort of person who would only worship and honor and love God so long as he saved my daughter's life? Was I the sort who would happily and profusely speak of the mercy of divine providence only if it shined on me favorably?
If Joey had not survived the wreck, or if she had been severely injured or paralyzed, would I have declared God to be beautiful, or would I have seen him as ugly and uncaring and indifferent? Was my faith the sort that flourished only in fair weather, or would it withstand the storm of tragedy and loss of the worst imaginable kind?
I couldn't answer my own questions. I froze in fear. Would I have cursed God instead of extolling him had my precious little girl died? How have other people coped when their child was lost? What did they think of God? Was he still worthy of their praise? Was he still deserving of their devotion and affection and love? Was he still "exalted" as "King on high"? Was he still beautiful in their eyes?
I wish I could tell you that I reassured myself by saying, "Hey, Sam, don't worry. Of course you'd still love God. The pain would be unbearable, but your faith would withstand the test. You're strong. After all, you're a Calvinist. Your whole life and ministry are built on the stability and strength of divine sovereignty."
I wish I could tell you that's what passed through my mind. But it didn't. Maybe I would still have praised him. I certainly hope so. Oh, God, please let it be so! But I felt vulnerable in that moment in a way I never have before. I felt weak and frail and terrified that my faith was only as good as were the circumstances of my life.
I have many times glibly and proudly quoted the words of Job: "Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord" (Job 1:21). It's always been easy, because the Lord has not as yet "taken away" anything of great value to me. He came close, but he gave her back. If he hadn't, could I have honestly and sincerely said, "Blessed be the name of the Lord"? I don't know. That's what scares me.
I want to believe that I would still love and honor God following the sort of loss Job suffered. I desperately want to believe it. I labor in my study of God's Word and in prayer and in so many other ways to cultivate a heart that is quick to submit to his sovereign ways. But I would be less than honest if I didn't say that I was shaken the other day.
There's no great struggle in affirming God's sovereignty when he has given rather than taken away. I felt no strain last Sunday in saying, "Blessed be the name of the Lord," because Joey was standing next to me. Had it been otherwise, would I follow the advice of Job's wife and "curse God and die" (Job 2:9)? I don't know. I pray not. God help me.
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
So...my nineteenth consecutive year of preaching at Pioneers for Christ camp near Quakertown, Pa is history. Here's a photo of the staff...the director, Donny, was a sophomore or junior in high school the first year I went...the vast majority of the pictured staff were campers with me back-in-the-day...Pray that decisions made last week are being fleshed out in "real life 101."
Two and a half more days here in Ulysses, Pa for Corning Area Bible club camp. Janelle and Jacob are with me, as Jane flew out early this Tuesday morning for California to be with her sister and family as they prepare for the burial of their 17 year old son who died in a car accident very early Saturday morning.
God is good...all the time...All the time...God is good.
Sunday, August 17, 2008
Here's another song from "Something to Say" by Matthew West...Heard it for the first time last week; means a bit more now as our 17 year old nephew was killed in a car accident in California very early Saturday morning
Don't know how I've missed this for so long; heard it last week for the first time, drove to a store and bought the last copy of the CD. It's from his CD "Something to Say", which is simply a phenomenal album...EVERY song has something to say and is fantastic...and all too often very convicting.
Friday, August 15, 2008
(turn off, or pause, my music list left hand column before playing video)
For a few weeks in July I did the Mister Mom thing...a real switch, as usually I am on the road speaking and Jane stays home to take care of everything.
But between the wedding in Massachusetts and the trip to Florida to be with her Dad while he underwent tons of medical tests, it was me and Jacob for the first part, and me and Janelle and Jacob for the latter.
Meals, laundry, cleaning, keeping track of kids...and all the rest...yikes!
I've always appreciated the work Jane does...I just have more empathy now!
On Tuesday Jane flies to California for a week to be with her youngest sister, whose oldest (of eight) child (17) died very early Saturday in a car accident...She will stay a week; so after camp concludes here at Penn York Thursday I'll again be Mister Mom for a few days...what a privilege, responsibility, and, yes, joy!
Proverbs 31 takes on a deeper meaning!
Thank God for First John One Nine! The word "confess" means "to agree with," no excuses, no blame, but rather simple (not simple to do, but simple) agreement with God that I have sinned.
There is nothing wrong with requesting prayer for all sorts of situations, but I've confessed to the Lord, and now to you, that I've been worrying too much about the lack of sale of our house. Sure, it's easy to say it's human, it's natural, and all that...but...
There is no getting around Philippians 4.5,6; Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Couple that with 1 Thessalonians 5.16-17, Be joyful always; pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus. and I receive the not-so-gentle slap from the Holy Spirit.
I'm to cast the sale of the house on the Lord, as it is a care; and because, as He shows over and over, He cares for me!
And when I do the casting I am to accompany it with thanksgiving...God is answering prayer, He will answer prayer, He will provide...
I know that in my head, but there is a disconnect from my head to my heart.
So I confess, repent, and trust.
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
A good friend, Kevin Davis, put "weight" and "wait" together in a recent communication...
Yes, "waiting", in our case for the buyer of our NY house to show up so we can move to Saint Joseph, MO, is a "weight" that hangs on us, clings on us, and, if we forget God, depresses, distracts, and denies.
Denies what? The sovereignty of God. If my frustration grows, it is, in truth, frustration with God...though I may not actually express "Why haven't You sent a buyer yet?" my attitude screams it. There is a lapse between what my "head" believes and how my "heart" beats.
I know God is sovereign; I know He has a plan and a timing and a purpose. I also know that He may never know why the delay.
But there are times when the "weight" of the "wait" is truly heavy...and, of course, that is when I need to "cast all my "weights" (cares) on Him"....why?...."because He cares for (me)."
So even as you pray the Lord would be pleased to send a buyer soon...pray for the Hagers, that we would not carry the "weight" of the "wait," but that we'd hurl it unto Jesus....and trust Him even as we, yeah, "wait on the Lord" and as He "renews our strength."
Monday, August 11, 2008
Got back to camp, played basketball and chatted with a 32-year old staff member about life in general, and life with Christ particularly. We came to some conclusions...
Then I got on line, and received this from Pete Wilson, Pastor of Cross Point in Nashville...maybe God is confirming, challenging, working? Here are Pete's words:
I just finished up a book by Francis Chan called ‘Crazy Love’. What a great book, especially the first four chapters! While the series is not based on the book (we just stole the title) there is a quote that I used in yesterday’s message that I wanted to reflect on a little further.
Chan said this,
The goal of American Christianity is often a nice marriage, children that don’t swear, and good church attendance. Taking the words of Christ literally and seriously is rarely considered. Most of us want a balanced life that we can control, that is safe, and that does not involved suffering.
This quote hit me like a truck. See, here’s my problem.
I want to give. I just don’t want to give in a way that impacts my family’s lifestyle.
Back to Jack's thoughts: I am certain I'll be posting more about this book...if you want to join me in reading
I’m fine sacrificing my time as long as it doesn’t get in the way of my agenda.
I want to trust God with all aspects of my life, but I still desire to control all the outcomes.
Back to Jack...I'm sure I will be posting more on this book...I am praying my heart is ready to read, heed, obey...want to join in the reading? You can get it from Amazon on the link below...and, as always, if you purchase the book that way, a few shekels will be added to my account...
Sunday, August 10, 2008
It is odd that the church celebrates, trains, begins families...and then on Sunday the same church divides families...toddlers here, children there, teens there, singles over here...etc.
There are times when that is helpful; and certainly noisy children are like good intentions, they should be carried out immediately.
But why divide the Body by age and marital status?
My reading of Nehemiah 8 birthed those thoughts.
Verse 2, in the English Standard Version, says, "So Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly, both men and women and all who could understand what they heard."
Verse 3 states he read for hours and reiterates that he read "in the presence of the men and the women and those who could understand."
That verse continues with the amazing declaration that "the ears of all the people were attentive..."
Now the latter part of verse 7 may explain, at least in part, why the people were attentive..."all the people stood."
Verses 7 and 8 dictate the duties of those who proclaim the Word, "help the people understand the Law...read from the book, from the Law of God, clearly...give the sense, so that the people understood the reading."
So is there an age when understanding occurs? I believe it varies. Some toddlers could sit through church and gain insights; others couldn't. But I do wonder why the very place where families begin and should be nurtured divides them?
I am not suggesting we throw the baby out with the bathwater. There is a place for separation...Nehemiah 8.13 states "the heads of fathers' houses of all the people...came together to Ezra the scribe in order to study the words of the Law." Sounds like a mens group to me!
Saturday, August 9, 2008
But, the folks at "Theological Word of the Day" did a good job:
The “emerging church” is a representative designation for a growing ethos or way of thinking among many dissatisfied Christians (primarily those in Protestantism). While there is no primary leader or credal unity among those in the emerging church, there are certain characteristics that stand out among “emergers,” as they are called. These characteristics are not necessarily found in all emergers, but are representative of the emerging ethos.
1. Epistemologically, they are less optimistic about our ability to come to know “the” truth, but find value in many perspectives.
2. Theologically, they are prone to questioning traditional theological dogma.
3. Politically, they call for change and social activism and often a disassociation with the Republican party.
4. Sociologically, they call on the church to reach out to those in need with love and compassion.
5. Missionally, they focus on “mission” as the everyday role of Christians that should permeate every aspect of their life.
Emerging leaders are varied and diverse. Among some of the most prominent are Dan Kimball, Brian McLaren, Scot McKnight, Doug Pagitt, and Tony Jones.
As part of my regular reading I am in Nehemiah 7, and verse 2 (ESV) reads, "I gave my brother Hanani and Hananiah the governor of the castle charge over Jerusalem, for he was a more faithful and God-fearing man than many.
So Hananiah wasn't the most "faithful and God-fearing" man; but he surpassed "many."
I wonder how often churches, ministries, etc pass over a worker because he or she isn't the most whatever-they-are-looking-for? How much work is not done, how much experience not gained; because those doing the hiring/placing are looking for "ideal" rather than "available"?
Of course prayer for discernment and direction must lace the process, but as General George Patton said, "A good plan today is better than a perfect plan tomorrow."
Friday, August 8, 2008
Brandon Ebel is the president of Tooth and Nail Records. Here's what he says about "Vintage Jesus" by Mark Driscoll and Gerry Breshears (Crossway), "In a society where the Nicene Creed doesn't hold as much water as a tall Americano, (the authors) take an unabashed stance on biblical theology that comes as a refreshing yet timeless hyssop in response to a Christian sociological breakdown of truths."
Matt Lindland won a silver medal in wrestling at the 2000 Olympics and a top-ranked mixed martial arts fighter. Here's what he says about the book, "This book presents an honest view of Jesus without giving in to the pressure to soften Him up...This is a Savior worth fighting for."
Bruce Ware is a theology professor, and he says, "Driscoll and Breshears uphold cherished realities that others in our day, sadly, despise and discard."
How's that for a trio of recommendations?
Here's mine - BUY THE BOOK! Read it! You'll laugh, you'll be shocked, you'll learn. And, if you buy it off the link contained here, I'll make a few pennies...but that is not the important thing...
Here's a couple quick quotes from the book that I underlined (but just about every page has several underlined passages!)
"No one is more loved and hated than Jesus Christ."
"Interestingly enough, the demons have some of the highest Christology in the gospels."
"Sadly, in our day there are even pastors and Christian leaders who lack the courage to simply say what Jesus said and declare Him to be the only way to heaven."
I also love the note the authors put at the front of the book - "This book is dedicated to anyone who takes Jesus seriously, but not themselves." And, yeah, I hope and pray that applies to me!
Wednesday, August 6, 2008
As most know, we've been trying to sell our NY house so we can physically move to Saint Joseph, Missouri, where I have already joined staff and am already at work...though from a distance. Nothing happening (from our limited perspective) on the house..keep praying. We are confident of God's call, thus confident of His timing, though our hearts desire is to be there yesterday!
Jane, Janelle, Jacob and I were able to get away for three days to a good friend's rustic cabin in what is known as the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon (Blackwell, Pa). Just a phenomenal time - I'd get up early and ride my bicycle for at least an hour; then we'd breakfast, hike, bike, float down the river (not very deep this time of year, so it was sometimes more "push" than float!)...No running water other than the river...so perhaps we, ah, were a bit "ripe"?
But it was one of those priceless family times that will forever be in our memories...and for which we thank the Giver of all good gifts.
Why has He not given us a buyer yet? Not a clue...but we rest in His sovereignty...most of the time!
I leave very early Friday for my annual Korean-American Teen Camp near Philadelphia; to be immediately followed by a teen camp at Penn York camp in Ulysses, Pa. Appreciate your prayers for the ministry which will take place; as well as for Jane and the younger two at home...and for Josiah and Joel as their summer employment ends and they take their next steps in this exciting, if sometimes frustrating, journey called life!
Saturday, August 2, 2008
I’m no longer restricted to the limits of my own strength and wisdom. By his grace, I’ve a new identity and a new potential. I’m a child of God; the risen Christ now lives inside of me. I need no longer fear people or circumstances; I don’t have to feel weak in the face of suffering or temptation, because I no longer rest in the resources of my own ability. I’m in Christ and he’s in me.
This new identity gives me new potential as I face the realities of life in this bent and broken world. God’s grace gives me reason to ‘take heart.’”
—Paul David Tripp
Friday, August 1, 2008
I saw E.V. Hill deliver this message at a PK event in Indianpolis years and years ago...the truth he conveys is the main reason I am so passionate about Bible quizzing and anything else that gets students into the Word, and thus the Word into students. When all else fails, do what Jesus did...Hit him!
A man may be haunted with doubts, and only grow thereby in faith. Doubts
are the messengers of the Living One to the honest. They are the first
knock at our door of things that are not yet, but have to be,
understood...Doubt must precede every deeper assurance; for
uncertainties are what we first see when we look into a region hitherto
unknown, unexplored, unannexed.