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Saturday, October 31, 2009

Our God IS A Mighty Fortress

Okay, it doesn't rock, Steve Green is not everyone's cup of tea; but on this day when spooks and goblins get too much attention, remember Jesus said there is only One whom we, who are His, need fear...and it ain't the devil or his followers...

Janelle Hager and Faith Williams October 30 Birthday Bash at the Hager Barn

Friday, October 30, 2009

Blaise Pascal on "Knowing"

“Knowing God without knowing our own wretchedness makes for pride.

Knowing our own wretchedness without knowing God makes for despair.

Knowing Jesus Christ strikes the balance because he shows us both God and our own wretchedness.”

- Blaise Pascal

"Law and Order" Depicts Abortion's Horror

I easily admit I am a "Law and Order" junkie, not so much the spinoffs, but the original series. This came across my computer today, and I am prayerful that many who watched were forced to think...and rethink...

Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Champs!

Daughter Janelle (kneeling, right)and her volleyball team took first place at a local tournament last Saturday. Ah, the joys (and energy) of youth!

The Difference Between Myth and Gospel

Of course most people think the gospel is a religious fairy tale. It is, as scripture points out, "moronic" to those who are perishing.

But, unlike the Great Pumpkin etc, when we share the Gospel, laced with Scripture, the Spirit of God uses the Word supernaturally. Never forget that every incident of "bragging on Jesus" is a victory, whether there is immediate "fruit" or not!

Ryan Ferguson recites Psalm 25

Rather cool!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Eye Can Testify to This

C. John Miller:

I have found that there is nothing like testings of the soul to drive me to Christ and break my pride. Samuel Rutherford says, “Pride rots in winter,” indicating that we must have much need of humbling to rot away our proud self-dependence.” In, The Heart of a Servant Leader, page 213.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

A Quick Test of Understanding of Christianity

Thanks to Justin Taylor's excellent blog for bringing this fantastic summation of the faith from J. I. Packer:

"You sum up the whole of New Testament teaching in a single phrase, if you speak of it as a revelation of the Fatherhood of the holy Creator.

"In the same way, you sum up the whole of New Testament religion if you describe it as the knowledge of God as one’s holy Father.

"If you want to judge how well a person understands Christianity, find out how much he makes of the thought of being God’s child, and having God as his Father.

"If this is not the thought that prompts and controls his worship and prayers and his whole outlook on life, it means that he does not understand Christianity very well at all.

"For everything that Christ taught, everything that makes the New Testament new, and better than the Old, everything that is distinctively Christian as opposed to merely Jewish, is summed up I the knowledge of the Fatherhood of God."

Evangelical Magazine 7, pp. 19-20, cited in Knowing God, p. 201.
Packer says on p. 202:

Our understanding of Christianity cannot be better than our grasp of adoption.

Friday, October 23, 2009


I got a few letters in high school; a few medals in the Army; and some other stuff since then...but it really all evaporates into "stuff" when I read these words from Jonathan Edwards:

"How great an honor will it be to a person to have God at the day of judgment owning a person, declaring before all men, angels and devils that that person is before his all-seeing eyes and that he stands innocent and perfect in his sight, clothed with perfect righteousness and entitled to everlasting glory and blessedness. How honorable will this render them in the eyes of all that vast assembly that will be together at the day of judgment. That will be an infinitely greater honor than any man or any angel declaring that they judge him upright and sincere and that eternal life belongs to him. What can be a greater honor than this -- to be owned by the great King and Lord of all things?"

Jonathan Edwards, The Glory and Honor of God, edited by Michael D. McMullen, page 61.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Discerning a Gospel-Based Preacher

by Tullian Tchividjian

Two weeks ago I mentioned in my sermon that God grows Christians by feeding them his Word. One way he does this is by providing the church with teachers and preachers. This means that if we are going to grow we need to be sitting at the feet of reliable carriers of God’s truth. This, however, begs the question: how can we identify a reliable carrier of God’s truth? The Bible makes it clear that there are many unreliable carriers of so-called truth. Satan masquerades as an angel of light seeking to deceive. So we need a lot of biblical discernment here. Just because a teacher or preacher comes in Jesus’ name with a Bible under his arm doesn’t automatically mean he is reliable.

Thankfully both the Bible and church history give us some direction here. So I want to provide you with a brief list of five questions (based on the five sola’s of the Reformation) that can help you discern the reliability of a particular teacher or preacher.

Question 1 (Sola Scriptura)
: Does the preacher ground everything he says in the Bible? Does he, in other words, begin with the authority and sufficiency of Scripture? A reliable carrier of God’s truth seeks to revel in, wrestle with, and expound from, the Bible. He starts with the Bible. All of his comments flow from what a particular passage in the Bible says. He doesn’t simply use the Bible to support what he wants to say. That is, he submits to what the Bible says, he does not seek to submit the Bible to what he says. He cares about both the Old Testament and the New Testament. He refuses to take verses out of context. He recognizes the unity of the Bible. He acknowledges that both the Old Testament and the New Testament tell one story and point to one figure, namely that God saves sinners through the accomplished work of his son Jesus Christ.

Question 2 (Sola Gratia): Does the preacher freely emphasize that because of sin, a right relationship with God can only be established by God’s grace alone? Beware of any teaching that emphasizes man’s ability over God’s ability; man’s freedom over God’s freedom; man’s power over God’s power; man’s initiative over God’s initiative. Beware of any teaching which subtlety communicates that a right relationship with God depends ultimately on human response over Divine sovereignty.

Question 3 (Sola Fide): Does the preacher stress that salvation is not achieved by what we can do, rather salvation is received by faith in what Christ has already done? It has been rightly stated that there really are only two religions: the religion of human accomplishment and the religion of Divine accomplishment. Does the preacher emphasize the former or the latter? A reliable carrier of God’s truth always highlights the fact that God saves sinners; sinners don’t save themselves.

Question 4 (Sola Christus): Does the preacher underline that Christ is the exclusive mediator between God and man? Does the explainer both affirm and proclaim that Jesus is “the way, the truth, and the life” and that nobody comes to the Father but by Christ? Does he talk about sin and the necessity of Christ? Preachers must learn how to unveil and unpack the truth of the Gospel from every Biblical text they preach in such a way that it results in the exposure of both the idols of our culture and the idols of our hearts. The faithful exposition of our true Savior from every passage in the Bible painfully reveals all of the pseudo-saviors that we trust in culturally and personally. Every sermon ought to disclose the subtle ways in which we as individuals and we as a culture depend on lesser things than Jesus to provide the security, acceptance, protection, affection, meaning, and satisfaction that only Christ can supply. In this way, good preachers must constantly show just how relevant and necessary Jesus is; they must work hard to show that we are great sinners but Christ is a great Savior.

Question 5 (Sola Deo Gloria): Does the preacher exalt God above all? A reliable explainer will always lead you to marvel at God. A true carrier of God’s truth will always lead you to encounter the glory of God. A God-centered teacher is just that: God-centered. He will preach and teach in such a way that you find yourself hungering and thirsting for God. You will listen to sermon after sermon and walk away with grand impressions of Divine personality, not grand impressions of human personality.

This is just a start, but I hope it serves as a resource to help you determine the reliability of a particular teacher or preacher.

The (U.S.) Mission Field

Though I remain convinced that the Spirit-powered Word of God is bigger than statistics and surveys, the following video (thanks to my friend John Gilberts for pointing me to it) is stunningly convincing that, first, our nation is a HUGE mission field (as opposed to those who declare it "gospel-saturated") and that we need to seize the technology available to supplement the "foolishness of preaching"

Our Mission Field from City on a Hill Productions on Vimeo.

Just do it!

Procrastination is my sin,
It's caused me naught but sorrow.
I know that I should stop it,
In fact, I will....tomorrow!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

"Satisfaction through Substitution"

John R. W. Stott's "The Cross of Christ" is a fantastic book (and is orderable on the "carousel" at the left). In days of "cloudiness" over what the Cross represents, clarity is found in this incredibly worthwhile book.

Here are two vital paragraphs that I urge you to read slowly and prayerfully:

"We strongly reject, therefore, every explanation of the cross of Christ that does not have at its center the principle of “satisfaction through substitution,” indeed divine self-satisfaction through divine self-substitution. The cross was not a commercial bargain with the devil, let alone one that tricked and trapped him: nor an exact equivalent, a quid pro quo to satisfy a code of honor or technical point of law; nor a compulsory submission by God to some moral authority above him from which he could not otherwise escape; nor a punishment of a meek Christ by a harsh and punitive Father; nor a procurement of salvation by a loving Christ from a mean and reluctant Father; nor an action of the Father which bypassed Christ as Mediator.

"Instead, the righteous, loving Father humbled himself to become in and through his only Son flesh, sin and a curse for us, in order to redeem us without compromising his own character. The theological words satisfaction and substitution need to be carefully defined and safeguarded, but they cannot in any circumstance be given up. The biblical gospel of atonement is of God satisfying himself by substituting himself for us.

"The concept of substitution may be said, then, to lie at the heart of both sin and salvation. For the essence of sin is man substituting himself for God, while the essence of salvation is God substituting himself for man. Man asserts himself against God and puts himself where only God deserves to be; God sacrifices himself for man and puts himself where only man deserves to be. Man claims prerogatives that belong to God alone; God accepts penalties that belong to man alone (158-59)."

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Best Weapon Against Heresy?

J. C. Ryle lived from 1816 to 1900. Sometimes we think the heresies and other imitation "Christianities" are new...but they are old. The following quote from Ryle remains true today; and that is why I will spend the weekend telling teenagers they MUST get into the Word regularly and systematically in order to fight the good fight.

“What is the best safeguard against false doctrine? I answer in one word, ‘The Bible: the Bible regularly read, regularly prayed over, regularly studied.’ If we want a weapon to wield against the devices of Satan, there is nothing like ‘the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God.’ But to wield it successfully, we must read it habitually, diligently, intelligently, and prayerfully. This is the point on which, I fear, many fail.” (emphasis added)

~ J.C. Ryle

Monday, October 19, 2009

Facebook Song

I recognize this is old, but it was new to me today...and is rather funny...and contains perhaps more truth than humor?

Value Volunteers

All in ministry know the incredible value of volunteers. Yet sometimes the following cartoon may come closer to our definition of "volunteer" than we'd admit. Let's work on verbalizing our gratitude to those who give of themselves!
Wizard of Id

Friday, October 16, 2009

A Trio of Prayers for Every Day

HT: Between Two Worlds

From Paul Tripp’s chapter, “War of Words,” in The Power of Words and the Wonder of God, pp. 43-44 (Justin's emphasis):

I have committed to pray three prayers each morning.

The first one is a confession: “God, I’m a man in desperate need of help this morning.”

The second prayer is, “I pray in your grace that you would send your helpers my way.”

The third prayer is, “And I pray that you would give me the humility to receive the help that comes.”

Thursday, October 15, 2009

While I'm Waiting - John Waller

It doesn't seem that long ago we were waiting for the Lord to provide a buyer for our NY I'm waiting; not so patiently; for my eye to heal. This song is both encouraging and provoking...provoking to quit whining and start worshiping!

Lord, Help Me Not to "Play" at Faith!

"This is my endlessly recurrent temptation: to go down to that Sea (I think St. John of the Cross called God a sea) and there neither dive nor swim nor float, but only dabble and splash."

C. S. Lewis, "A Slip of the Tongue," in The Weight of Glory, page 187.

Letterman and the Crucifixion

Good thoughts; good reminder; thank God for the truth of the Gospel!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Stop Thinking Like a Victim!

As I continue to kick myself in the rear for complaining too much about my wounded eye; the following applied directly to me as I got it from PHIL COOKE:

____ happens. The world isn't fair. I wish it was, but it's not. So let's get over it. Quit looking for pity, sympathy, or a shoulder to cry on. Most important - stop sharing your problems with people who can't help you solve them. Quit wasting your time wallowing in your distress or having rambling conversations about all the people out to get you. It's not helping you get out. Obviously, there are times we need help, but in most cases, you don't need anyone's sympathy, you need a new attitude. The minute you start thinking like a victim is the minute you give away your power and your confidence. Move on. You have too much potential to get stuck in that rut.

The Percs of Being a Staff Kid

A couple weeks ago Midland hosted Shaving Cream Jousting...of course that meant we had to spread some shaving cream...Jacob was more than willing to help:

Truth in Jest

Ah, the life of the follower of Christ is not always rosy or about living "your best life now." "In this world you will have tribulation" says the Lord. Alas, all too often I whine like Lucy:

Monday, October 12, 2009

Honest-to-God prayer

Scotty Smith pastors the Christ Community Church of Franklin, Tn. He posted the following prayer which resonates loudly and deeply with me; perhaps with thee:

Dear Lord Jesus,

While I still believe, with all my heart, you are the only Savior, I now see how more of my heart needs more of you and more of the gospel.

There is nobody on the face of the earth that needs the gospel today, and its transforming resources, more than me, and I am SO glad to be able to acknowledge this reality. I need you today, Jesus, as much as I did in March of 1968 when you washed away all my sins and covered me with the robe of your righteousness.

You have saved me in the past, when I was justified by grace alone through faith alone; you are saving me in the present, as the Holy Spirit applies more and more of your finished work to my whole being; and you will save me in the future, when you return to finish making all things new, including ME!

Lord Jesus, though I’m never tempted to look to any other name for my justification, I am very tempted to look to other names and means for my transformation—worse of all, is when I look to me to be my own savior. But only you, Jesus, are able to save completely those who come to God through you, for you are always living to pray for us and to advocate for us (Heb 7:25). You are my righteousness, holiness and redemption, and that’s why I only boast in you today! (1 Cor. 1:30-31)

So I come to you today, Jesus, right now! Save me more fully from my fear of man, my need to be in control, my ticky-tacky pettiness. Save me from trying to be anybody’s savior. I want to get irritated far less often and to be spontaneous much more often. I want to “light up” more quickly when I hear your name, Jesus, and not be downcast, when I don’t hear my name.

That’s more than enough confession for one day… Indeed, Jesus, I must be saved, I am being saved, through your name alone. Hallelujah!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Reflecting After Three Months

On July 8 the infamous (to me) waterballoon incident occurred at Super-C Camp, Polo, Mo. For the uninformed, it was there and then that a three-person slingshotted balloon collided with the left side of my face, resulting in "orbital blowout" and "traumatic hyphema." (The photo is day-after)

It was not my best moment!

A couple months later had to have in-and-out surgery to release a muscle that had been caught in one of the crevices, and had some gel-stuff put in to seal the aforementioned crevice.

And now, three months after the fact, the eye remains heavily dilated and, alas, still more-than-a-bit "off" as far as tracking with the "good" eye.

So, what has the Lord taught me through this relatively minor issue? After all, it is not cancer, I can still function...

It amazes how such a "little fox" like being out of focus can be so draining. I don't feel pain, but I assume the eye is trying to focus and can't (yet) so there is an underlying tiredness. Occasionally the glare of the sun on the dilated eye is a bit of a pain.

There is still some numbness under the eye, one of the doctors said that could be a forever thing. The docs also advise it could be up to a year for any damage that is going to heal, to heal.

Being out of focus certainly contains a wealth of illustrations!

Other than that, I've not learned much. It is an annoyance, makes it a tad more difficult to read/type/write. I continue to pray for healing back to "normal" vision, and will trust the Lord in the interim. If He says "no" or "wait" I will grit my spiritual teeth and move on.

But I do hope in the not too distant future I'll be able to post a "I can see!" update on the blog!

Words - Even Scripture - No Good if not Understood

One of the difficulties of communicating Biblical truth is that deep words become so familiar to us that we forget our audience may have no clue of what we speak:





to name just communicate we must define; and dare not "assume" our audience - regardless of age - understands what, to us, are basic.


Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Packer on Increasing Repentance

“We need to realize that while God’s acceptance of each Christian believer is perfect from the start, our repentance always needs to be extended further as long as we are in this world. Repentance means turning from as much as you know of your sin to give as much as you know of yourself to as much as you know of your God, and as our knowledge grows at these three points so our practice of repentance has to be enlarged.”

- J.I. Packer

Monday, October 5, 2009

Well, I Thought It Was Funny!

Recognize that some might think this disrespects a, ah, sacred song; but I found it to be a spot of laughter in a rather busy afternoon:

Transfer of Trust

“Faith is transferring your trust from your own efforts to the efforts of Christ. You were relying on other things to make you acceptable, but now you consciously begin relying on what Jesus did for your acceptance with God. All you need is nothing. If you think, ‘God owes me something for all my efforts,’ you are still on the outside.”

- Timothy Keller

Sunday, October 4, 2009

The Silo Project

For many, many months my son has been working with musical friends to produce a video and album and more..."The Silo Project" official teaser follows:

The Silo Project Official Teaser from Joel Hager on Vimeo.

Here's a full song video:

Everett Thomas "Herald of Hope" Featuring David St├╝kenberg and Hayward Williams from Joel Hager on Vimeo.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

God Knows Best

I pray, I don't get; I grumble, I complain, then (finally) I accept His best:

Friday, October 2, 2009


Good stuff from Ray Ortlund:

"For am I now seeking the approval of man or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ." Galatians 1:10

Paul had lived for human approval. That's what his uppity legalism had really been about. It's why the word "still" is in there: "If I were still trying to please man . . . ." Paul gave it up, in order to please God.

It is so freeing to stop caring so much about what people think. It is so freeing to lift your eyes to Christ, whose approval is all that finally matters. What does he want from you? Not that people would think you're wonderful, but that your gospel would be pure and honoring to him. You can't control how people respond. That is their own responsibility before God. And if your gospel is pure, some will inevitably disapprove (2 Cor 2:15-16) and will blame you for it. Why? The impenitent are incapable of self-awareness. Don't be discouraged. Just keep your gospel clear. And keep your heart close to the Lord.

Here is his word to you: "Approved."

Happy Birthday, Snoopy and Gang

Fifty-nine years ago the first "Peanuts" comic was published. Here it is:

I think there is some great "theology" portrayed in many of the strips. In fact a somewhat controversial book titled "The Gospel According to Snoopy" was floating around decades ago.

One of my favorite cartoons was Linus and Charlie arguing about the Great Pumpkin. Charlie asks Linus how he can believe in such a thing; Linus retorts that when Charlies stops believing in Santa Claus, Linus will give up on the Great Pumpkin. Charlie closes the strip by saying, "We are obviously separated by denominational differences."

A Sentence Description of Christianity

“The essence of the Christian religion consists in this, that the creation of the Father, devastated by sin, is restored in the death of the Son of God, and recreated by the Holy Spirit into the kingdom of God.”

- Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, vol 1