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Thursday, December 31, 2009

The English Standard Version Study Bible

I have truly enjoyed the English Standard Version for several years, and a bit over a year ago got the Study Bible. It is phenomenal. If you are looking for a fresh start for this "fresh" year, you may order it at the bottom link.

Here is what Bob Kaughlin says, not only about the ESV, but about the benefits of reading the Bible through:

1. If God made sure his words were recorded for us, why wouldn’t I want to read all of them numerous times?

2. Reading large portions of Scripture regularly slows me down so I can think about life from an eternal perspective. I was in tears today as I finished Revelation, realizing the purpose for which I was created and the sure future that lies ahead.

3. In my daily life, I am constantly bombarded with images, philosophies, thoughts, reasonings, and attractions from the world, my flesh, and the devil. I need large quantities of God’s thoughts, empowered by his Spirit, to resist them.

4. I trust my own thoughts too much.

5. Each time I read through the Bible, I’m humbled as I realize how little I actually know and understand God’s Word.

6. Reading a lot of the Bible helps me more easily see how it all fits together.

7. As a leader of congregational worship, I want people’s faith to rest on God’s Word, not my music or opinions. Therefore, I want Scripture to be the overflow of my heart, not something I occasionally use for a desired emotional effect.

8.The ESVSB was very even-handed in providing alternate interpretations of difficult passages, while continually directing my attention to other Scriptures for greater clarity.

9. The ESVSB notes never seek to say more than the Scriptures themselves say.

10. The large number of maps, charts, and illustrations were extremely helpful for understanding the geographical settings, details, and overall flow of different books.

11. I repeatedly felt pastored through the comments, as my heart was directed towards the living Word, the crucified and risen Savior, Jesus Christ. 

Targets Acquired!

What do I want to do in 2010?

Be in the sweet spot of God's will. That needs to be my moment-by-moment desire, goal, passion.

But I've "acquired" a few specific targets. Dare I make the public? Sure...

1. Refocus targeted prayers. Learn to "pray without ceasing" and maintain discipline to pray through my written prayer list.

2. Read my favorite book...Colossians...once daily for the year.

3. Research and help start a training, transition-type, Bible/mission school for young adults.

Lock and load! or, more pertinent, Pray - Aim - Do!

Sober Thoughts for the New Year

Good stuff from RAY ORTLAND

2010 might be your year of release.  It might be mine.  One year from today, we might be with the Lord.  Better by far.

How to get ready and stay ready?

One, let’s die fully reconciled.  Are we clear with every brother?  “Strive for peace with everyone” (Hebrews 12:14).

Two, let’s die fully consecrated.  Are we set apart to God?  “Strive for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14).

Three, let’s die fully forgiven.  Are we enjoying the grace of God?  “See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God” (Hebrews 12:15).

Four, let’s die in sweetness.  Is any resentment spoiling our hearts?  “See to it that no root of bitterness springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled” (Hebrews 12:15).

Five, let’s die in purity.  Is the blessing of God more savory to us than the pleasures of the body?  “See to it that no one is sexually immoral or unholy like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal” (Hebrews 12:16).

The battle rages.  Let’s be ready to die at any time.  Our moment will come.

Many a Truth Said In Jest Department


The Hazards of Being the Youngest!

Jacob serene and calm whilst being "attacked" by Josiah, Janelle, and Joel; CHRISTmas '09

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Two-Tree Theology

“Why can we have the tree of life? Because Jesus Christ climbed the cross, the tree of death. And because Jesus climbed the tree of death you can have the tree of life.”

- Tim Keller

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Missing Ingredient of Most "evangelism"

J. C. Ryle with a vital reminder as pertinent now as it was a century ago; as God's Word is never this and then listen carefully to "evangelistic" messages and read carefully "evangelistic" tracts...

“John the Baptist spoke plainly about sin. He taught the absolute necessity of ‘repentance’, before any one can be saved. He preached that repentance must be proved by its ‘fruits’. He warned men not to rest on outward privileges, or outward union with the church.

“This is just the teaching that we all need. We are naturally dead, and blind, and asleep in spiritual things. We are ready to content ourselves with a mere formal religion, and to flatter ourselves, that if we go to church we shall be saved. We need to be told, that except we ‘repent and are converted’ we shall all perish.”
~ J.C. Ryle

Because of this missing ingredient, we see lots of "decisions" but few "disciples," lots of people laughing to the "counseling room", but little lasting fruit. Praying "the prayer" (which is not found in Scripture) and recording a "decision" does not a convert make.
People must be recognize they are cosmic rebels and thus "lost" before they can genuinely be converted and "saved." And, of course, the only One who can do that is the Holy Spirit, usually through the proclamation/sharing of the Word of God.

Monday, December 28, 2009

It's Not "Just" How We Get Saved

“From start to finish, the whole Christian life is by grace through faith. A new life in Christ commences with faith, continues by faith, and will be completed through faith. To put this another way, the Gospel is for Christians just as much as it is for non-Christians. We never advance beyond the good news of the cross and the empty tomb…Therefore, the Christian always looks back to the Gospel and never to the law as the basis for his righteousness before God…There is no such thing as performance-based Christianity…Justification is a doctrine for the whole Christian life from start to finish. It is not simply a doctrine for coming to Christ in the first place…Justification is a doctrine to live by each and every moment.”
Philip Ryken, Galatians, pp. 90-92

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Read B4 Resolutionizing!

Though I am one who likes to evaluate, examine, and resolve at this time of the year, I am grateful to
 JUSTIN TAYLOR for this:

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, in Spiritual Depression

Would you like to be rid of this spiritual depression?
The first thing you have to do is to say farewell now once and forever to your past.
Realize that it has been covered and blotted out in Christ.
Never look back at your sins again.
Say: ‘It is finished, it is covered by the Blood of Christ’.
That is your first step.
Take that and finish with yourself and all this talk about goodness, and look to the Lord Jesus Christ.
It is only then that true happiness and joy are possible for you.
What you need is not to make resolutions to live a better life, to start fasting and sweating and praying.
No! You just begin to say:
I rest my faith on Him alone
Who died for my transgressions to atone.
And, remember this from Robert Murray M'Cheyne:

 For one look at yourself,
take ten looks at Christ!

CHRISTmas family shots by Faith Williams

Friday, December 25, 2009

We The People - Ray Stevens

Oh, some will be offended by the use of the word I call king-james-donkey (even though it isn't heard); and there may be one or two who actually are FOR obama care; but, in the words of my Rush Limbaugh hating brother, our CHRISTmas present from Washington was the destruction of our country.

Easier to Quote to Other People

On this CHRISTmas day afternoon I reflect on events of the last several months.

The most recent occurred early this week as a young missionary had an aneurysm and passed into his Savior’s presence the next day. He, his wife, and their two young children were booked to go back to the field in early January.

On the Saturday before the tragedy they updated their facebook to say they were on the way back, and to report that “God is so good.” On Wednesday the widow updated, “The Lord Gives, and Takes Away. But, Blessed be HIS Awesome Name! It is not about us. It is about God's glory! Our life is like a vapor, make it count for the Lord! Serve Him like my Hugo, store up treasures in Heaven because you might be there before you think! I love you all, keep the faith!

The young lady recognizes the fact that when she typed “God is so good” on Saturday, He is also “so good” when Hugo was struck, and when he passed into Jesus’ presence.

It’s somewhat like when someone survives an accident, and says, “God was really with us during that episode.” So if a Christian dies in an accident, was God not with them? Of course not…

The older I get the more I recognize I don’t know a whole lot. Some of the things I used to think were crucial to the faith I now recognize are not really too important.

But three truths remain as bedrock:  God is wise; God is good; and God is sovereign.

And, though it is easier to quote Romans 8.28 to someone else; when we are in tough situations the verse and its truth still apply.

Are all things “good”? No. But our God is so big, our God is so mighty…and He causes all things to work together for good. For everyone? Nope. But for those “who love God and are the called according to His purpose.”

It applies when my 17-year-old nephew was killed in a car accident. It applies as Hugo took his eternal position in heaven. It applies to a young pastor whose blog I follow who starts chemo and radiation for a brain tumor soon. It applies to a dear friend whose granddaughter lived only a few days.

And, as many say often (but sometimes repetition causes us to hold loosely rather than tightly to truth), and is regularly expressed in prison chapel, “God is good, all the time; and all the time, God is good.”

CHRISTmas at the Hagers 2009


Thursday, December 24, 2009

Breath Of Heaven

Try to imagine that you've NEVER heard the real message of and listen as if for the first time. May familiarity never lead us to lose the wonder and majesty of that amazing intervention of our altogether wondrous Father and Lord.


That first CHRISTmas...

Hope...wrapped in a baby

Love...wrapped in a baby

Peace...wrapped in a baby

Forgiveness...wrapped in a baby

Acceptance...wrapped in a baby

Righteousness...wrapped in a baby

Joy...wrapped in a baby

The the life I could not live...

Three decades later...

The baby wrapped in my filth

The baby wrapped in my guilt

The baby wrapped in my sin

The baby taking my hit.

The baby declared with power to be the Son of God by His resurrection...wrapping me in His holiness...

merry CHRISTmas

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Linus' Reminder

Truth be told, I never liked the voices on the animated Peanuts; but I'm glad loads of people hear the real message of CHRISTmas every season


“The conduct of the wise men is a striking example of faith. They believed in Christ when they had never seen Him – but that was not all. They believed in Him when the Scribes and Pharisees were unbelieving – but that again was not all. They believed in Him when they saw Him a little infant on Mary’s knee, and worshiped Him as a king. This was the crowning point of their faith. They saw no miracles to convince them. They heard no teaching to persuade them. They beheld no signs of divinity and greatness to overawe them. They saw nothing but a new-born infant, helpless and weak, and needing a mother’s care like any one of ourselves. And yet when they saw that infant, they believed that they saw the divine Savior of the world. ‘They fell down and worshiped Him.’

“We read of no greater faith than this in the whole volume of the Bible. It is a faith that deserves to be placed side by side with that of the penitent thief. The thief saw one dying the death of a criminal, and yet prayed to Him and ‘called Him Lord.’ The wise men saw a new-born babe on the lap of a poor woman, and yet worshiped Him and confessed that He was Christ. Blessed indeed are those that can believe in this fashion!”

~ J.C. Ryle

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

What part of the Body of Christ are you?

I love Chan's writings; and have met people in his church who say what you see is what you get. This is pretty funny...many a truth is said in jest!

Monday, December 21, 2009

The Final Word (1988)

It's an oldie,and not everyone like's Michael's style; but, oh, the words!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Favorite CHRISTmas song

Enroute to church Jane remarked that this was her favorite CHRISTmas song; and I concur. As funny a guy as Mark Lowry is, this song is rich in sober insight...

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Almost a Year Ago

Just stumbled across a photo of me, Jacob, and Josh McDowell from the REVIVE Conference Midland hosted last January. We are hosting Andy Lapins of Transfired Ministries this February, read more HERE

Lock-In Aftermath

Just got home from yet another lock-in; this one Midland Ministries annual December bowling all-nighter. Some students received counsel regarding the gospel; and we trust the Spirit of God drew some to the Savior.
Great to see some college students home; as well as about 170 or so teens and youth pastors/workers.

But, as Janelle and I drove home I thought of the truth of something I heard long ago:

Mary had a little lamb,
Grew up to be a sheep;
Went into youth ministry,
And died from lack of sleep.

But whatta way to go!

Friday, December 18, 2009

The Heavens Declare!

"How big is our God, how strong and how mighty?" Yet how frail and weak He became on that first CHRISTmas...

How To Destroy a Church

Wise words of warning from D. A.Carson in a tremendous book:

“The ways of destroying the church are many and colorful.  Raw factionalism will do it.  Rank heresy will do it.  Taking your eyes off the cross and letting other, more peripheral matters dominate the agenda will do it–admittedly more slowly than frank heresy, but just as effectively over the long haul.  Building the church with superficial ‘conversions’ and wonderful programs that rarely bring people into a deepening knowledge of the living God will do it.  Entertaining people to death but never fostering the beauty of holiness or the centrality of self-crucifying love will build an assembling of religious people, but it will destroy the church of the living God.  Gossip, prayerlessness, bitterness, sustained biblical illiteracy, self-promotion, materialism–all of these things, and many more, can destroy a church.  And to do so is dangerous: ‘If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him; for God’s temple is sacred, and you are that temple (1 Cor. 3:17).  It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”
- D.A. Carson, 

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Trinitarian Salvation

“When God planned the great work of saving sinners, he provided two gifts. He gave his Son and he gave his Spirit. In fact each person of the Trinity was involved in the great work of salvation. The love, grace and wisdom of the Father planned it; the love, grace and humility of the Son purchased it; and the love, grace and power of the Holy Spirit enabled sinners to believe and receive it.
“The first great truth in this work of salvation is that God sent his Son to take our nature on him and to suffer for us in it. The second great truth is that God gave his Spirit to bring sinners to faith in Christ and so be saved.”
—John Owen, "The Holy Spirit"

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Don't Forget to Enjoy Life!

This picture of youngest child, Jacob (now 7),  rejoicing over a soccer goal is over a year old, but the shot reminds me that "He has given us all things richly to enjoy." No matter how dire the circumstances, our God is so much larger; and the bottom line is that He is good, He is wise, and He is sovereign. "Except you become as a little child..."

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Treasure and Ponder Prayer

This is astoundingly, personally applicable! Written by Scotty Smith, Pastor of Christ Community Church in Franklin, Tn:

So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. Luke 2:16-19

Dear Lord Jesus, I’m very much convicted by and drawn to Mary’s response, early in her journey of nursing you and knowing you—the very God who created all things, sustains all things and makes all things new. She “treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.”

“Hurrying off” like a shepherd to tell others about you has always been easier for me than sitting still… and letting you tell me about yourself.

It’s always been easier for me to talk than to listen, to stay busy than to relax, to be “productive” than to be meditative… I confess this as sin, Lord Jesus. This isn’t okay. It can be explained, but not justified. 

For knowing about you is not the same thing as knowing you. An informed mind is not the same thing as an enflamed heart.

To know you IS eternal life, and I DO want to know you, Lord Jesus, so much better than I already do. Lead me in the way of treasuring you in my heart and pondering who you are… and pondering everything you’ve already accomplished through your life, death and resurrection… and everything you’re presently doing as the King of kings and Lord of lords… and everything you’ll be about forever in the new heaven and new earth, as the Bridegroom of your beloved Bride. There’s so much to treasure and so much to ponder…

It’s not as though I’m a stranger to treasuring and pondering, for I treasure and ponder a whole lot of things, Lord Jesus—things, however, that lead to a bankrupt spirit and an impoverished heart.
May the gospel slow me, settle me and center me that I might be able to say with the Psalmist, “Whom have I in heaven but you? And being with you, I desire nothing on earth. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever (Ps 73:25-26).” So very Amen, I pray, in Jesus’ name.

Blessing Guilt?

Do the blessings God showers down upon us ever make us feel like Snoopy? Why?

Monday, December 14, 2009

Pushing "Primal"

I thoroughly enjoy Mark Batterson. In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day not only is the best-titled book of all time, it is a great read. Wild Goose Chase, his second book, is incredibly challenging.

Now comes his latest, Primal, carrying the subtitle “A Quest for the Lost Soul of Christianity.”

Why “Lost”? As Mark writes in the first chapter, “…we have accepted a form of Christianity that is more educated but less powerful, more civilized but less compassionate, more acceptable but less authentic…”

Sensitive? No. Truthful? Yes.

The solution? One sentence in the book summarizes, “We can’t afford to be merely good at the Great Commandment. We’ve got to be great at the Great Commandment.” (emphasis mine)

How? The remainder of the book offers insights and practical ways to develop a heart of primal compassion, a soul of primal wonder, and mind of primal curiosity, and a strength of primal energy.

It is obvious Mark reads widely and thinks deeply. Illustrations not only “fit,” but are memorable and applicable.

I read the book at one sitting. I will reread it a tad slower. Prayerfully I will apply it as well.

Just a caveat, there is nothing “new” here. It reminds me of Peter telling us in Scripture, loosely paraphrased, “I’m gonna tell you this stuff again, even though you already know it.”

It is one thing to “know,” another to “do.”

Make Primal the first book you read in 2010, and you will “do” more in the new year.

Prophetic Words About Jellyfish "christianity"

J. C. Ryle lived from 1816 - 1900. I am not aware when he wrote the following lines, but the words are indicative of his prophetic voice, keen mind, and spiritual awareness of the disease he correctly diagnoses:

“One plague of our age is the widespread dislike to what men are pleased to call dogmatic theology. In the place of it, the idol of the day is a kind of jellyfish Christianity – a Christianity without bone, or muscle, or sinew, – without any distinct teaching about the atonement or the work of the Spirit, or justification, or the way of peace with God – a vague, foggy, misty Christianity, of which the only watchwords seem to be, ‘You must be..liberal and kind. You must condemn no man’s doctrinal views. You must consider everybody is right and nobody is wrong’.”
~ J.C. Ryle

Just for a Laugh!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Devil - Kiss My Backside

images-1“It is the supreme art of the devil that he can make the law out of the gospel.  If I can hold on to the distinction between law and gospel, I can say to him any and every time that he should kiss my backside.  Even if I sinned I would say, ‘Should I deny the gospeI on this account?’ . . . Once I debate about what I have done and left undone, I am finished.  But if I reply on the basis of the gospel, ‘The forgiveness of sins covers it all,’ I have won.”
Martin Luther, quoted in Reinhard Slenczka, “Luther’s Care of Souls for Our Times,” Concordia Theological Quarterly 67 (2003): 42

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Hustle/Bustle Defocusing You? Invest Three Minutes Here!

Time Stewardship

"A man has no time for which he is not accountable to God. If his very diversions are not governed by reason and religion, he will one day suffer for the time he has spent in them."
Thomas Merton

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Hang on!

When a train goes through a tunnel and it gets dark, you don't throw away the ticket and jump off. You sit still and trust the engineer.

Corrie Ten Boom

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Things Not Always What They Seem - Thankfully

Snoopy depicts what happens to me too often; when I walk by "sight" and not by "faith." What appears to be a problem, or even a calamity, proves to be a non-issue, or at least relatively so.

Even if we are in a valley, there is Light, and the shadows come because something gets between us and the Source of Light...

Anything blocking your vision?

Thursday, December 3, 2009

How Vital is the Virgin Birth?

The first is from Greg Laurie, I have a comment at the end:

Popular talk show host Larry King was once asked, if he had the choice to interview one person in all of history, who would he choose?

He replied that he would like to interview Jesus Christ, and that he would ask Him just one question: “Are you indeed virgin born?”

“The answer to that question,” said King, “would explain history to me.”

Larry understood that the teaching of the virgin birth is pivotal. If Jesus was not supernaturally conceived in the womb of Mary, then He was not God. And if He was not God, then His death on the cross really meant nothing at all.

Even worse, He would be a fraud, giving false hope by claiming to be God in human form and also claiming to be the only way to a relationship with the Father.

Belief in the virgin birth is essential
I would go so far as to say that if you don’t believe Jesus was supernaturally conceived in the womb of a virgin named Mary, then you can’t be a Christian!

You might say, “That’s outrageous!” No, it really isn’t.

Jesus said, “Unless you believe that I AM who I claim to be, you will die in your sins” (John 8:24).

The Bible teaches that He was supernaturally conceived in Mary’s womb. He was “fully God,” yet “fully man” at the same time.

Listen, Christ was God, not because He was virgin born. He was virgin born because He was God.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “If Jesus Christ is not true God, how could He help us? If He is not true man, how could He help us?

THIS FROM ME: I do not think, and indeed hope, that Laurie is not saying you have to believe in the Virgin Birth to become a Christian. But to profess to be a Christian and deny the virgin birth is to denude yourself of a saviour. Had Jesus been born in the "natural" way He would, like you, been born a sinner and could not provide salvation. The doctrine is vital, not "simply" because of the miracle; but because of its essentiality to the gospel.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Wrong Beginning - Tragic Result

“Hundreds of professed converts, under religious revivals, go back to the world after a time, and bring disgrace to religion. They begin with a sadly mistaken notion of what is true Christianity. They fancy it consists in nothing more than a so-called ‘coming to Christ’, and have strong inward feelings of joy and peace.

“And so, when they find, after a time, that there is a cross to be carried, that our hearts are deceitful, and that there is a busy devil always near us, they cool down in disgust, and return to their old sins. And why?  Because they had really never known what Bible Christianity is. They had never learned that we must ‘count the cost’.”
~ J.C. Ryle