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Friday, December 31, 2010

I Need The Gospel - Today!

As 2010 evaporates and I anticipate 2011...as I reflect back, not only over the year, but the years; I am clobbered with the reality that is so wondrously expressed in the following prayer by SCOTTY SMITH. I want to live moment-by-moment in the awareness of the truth contained in this:

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!

Tozer Tip for Years End

I do not advise that we end the year on a somber note. The march, not the dirge, has ever been the music of Christianity. If we are good students in the school of life, there is much that the years have to teach us. But the Christian is more than a student, more than a philosopher. He is a believer, and the object of his faith makes the difference, the mighty difference. Of all persons the Christian should be best prepared for whatever the New Year brings. He has dealt with life at its source. In Christ he has disposed of a thousand enemies that other men must face alone and unprepared. He can face his tomorrow cheerful and unafraid because yesterday he turned his feet into the ways of peace and today he lives in God. The man who has made God his dwelling place will always have a safe habitation.

A.W. Tozer

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Thursday Tozer Tidbit of Truth

“The only fear I have is to fear to get out of the will of God. Outside of the will of God, there’s nothing I want, and in the will of God there’s nothing I fear, for God has sworn to keep me in His will. If I’m out of his will that’s another matter. But if I’m in His will, He’s sworn to keep me.”
- A.W. Tozer, Success and the Christian

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

A New Favorite Quote

This by Phil Yancey is worth reading, rereading, reflecting, chewing on and meditating on:


“We creatures, we jolly beggars, give glory to God by our dependence.  Our wounds and defects are the very fissures through which grace might pass.” 

Personal? Really?

How do these things get started?

Here are some online definitions of "personal":

adjective
1.
of, pertaining to, or coming as from a particular person; individual; private: a personal opinion.
2.
relating to, directed to, or intended for a particular person: a personal favor; one's personal life; a letter marked “Personal.”
3.
intended for use by one person: a personal car.
4.
referring or directed to a particular person in a disparaging or offensive sense or manner, usually involving character, behavior, appearance, etc.: personal remarks.
5.
making personal remarks or attacks: to become personal in a dispute.
6.
done, carried out, held, etc., in person: a personal interview.
7.
pertaining to or characteristic of a person or self-conscious being: That is my personal belief.
8.
of the nature of an individual rational being.
 
So from where did the term "personal savior" come? Don't really care, don't want to research it, just want to eradicate it. "Accept Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior" Really?
 
It waters the slippery slope into isolated faith, a dumbed-down Jesus who is at our beck and call to serve us...after all, He is allegedly our personal savior...  
 
End of mini-rant. Comments/observations more-than-welcome... 

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Tacky Time!

One of the biggest blessings in the Lord moving us to Missouri was reconnecting with Johnny Williams...who I've known since 1978...he is now not only a see-often friend, but also my pastor...Love him and his family, and glad we get everyone together once in a while...last night it was a Mexica fiesta at their home, with a white elephant gift exchange and a "dress festively tacky" theme...rather fun:

Monday, December 27, 2010

He Came To Us - Will We (keep) Coming to Him?

Ah, that fleeting time between the actual CHRISTmas holiday and New Years. Laced with festivity, anticipation, maybe resolutions?

As we bathe in the afterglow of celebrating His birth, we dare not lose sight of His purpose...to give Himself as a ransom for many.

The glorious gospel is not simply how we get saved/converted/born again; the gospel is what we are supposed to live and walk in.

Here's a reminder I find helpful...

Sunday, December 26, 2010

It Is Not Over....

When the song of the angels is stilled,
when the star in the sky is gone,
when the kings and princes are home,
when the shepherds are back with the flocks,
then the work of Christmas begins:
to find the lost,
to heal those broken in spirit,
to feed the hungry,
to release the oppressed,
to rebuild the nations,
to bring peace among all peoples,
to make a little music with the heart…

And to radiate the Light of Christ,
every day, in every way, in all that we do and in all that we say.
Then the work of Christmas begins.

Howard Thurman

Saturday, December 25, 2010

A Prayer for Jesus' "Birthday"

A gem from SCOTTY SMITH:

Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. Luke 2:11
     Dear Jesus, a most grateful and glorious “Happy Birthday!” to you. Though you have existed forever in joyful, intimate relationship with the Father and the Holy Spirit, this is the day we celebrate your coming to us and for us.

     I join myriads of my brothers and sisters, throughout the world from every age, in celebrating the day angels “Harked!”…  shepherds ran… and Mary pondered the good news of great joy which fills my heart this early morning.

     Jesus, we praise you for being born in Bethlehem, the “house of bread.” We were a famished people, binge eating at many empty buffets, “spending money on that which is not bread.”But you came as the Bread of Life, and you brought the incomparable feast of the gospel to our souls. Now we are truly satisfied… now we are finally alive and we “delight in the richest of fare.” (Isa. 55:1-3)

     We praise you for entering our world in the “town of David,” Israel’s much loved shepherd-king. But David was a mere hint and whisper of who you are.

     Jesus, only you are the Good Shepherd—the one who laid down his life for his sheep. As surely as you were born in a stable, you were destined to offer your life for us as the Lamb of God—the perfect sacrifice for our sins. And now, alive forevermore, you shepherd us with relentless engagement and perpetual kindness. We are so well cared for.

     Jesus, only you are the King of kings… reigning over and working in all things, for your glory and our good. You are the ruler of all the kings of the earth… setting them up and sitting then down at your sovereign discretion. No other kingdom, but yours, is everlasting. Knowing these things to be true, we have a peace which passes all understanding.

     You are the long-time promised and much longed for Christ—the Messiah. We don’t have to look for another, for every promise of God finds its fulfillment—its unequivocal “Yes!” in you, Jesus. The joy this gives us is immeasurable.

     You are the Lordthe Lord of all lords, very God of very God. There’s no threat to your sovereignty, of any kind.  There’s no vexation, exasperation or consternation in you. This centers and settles us, Jesus, and makes us long for the Day when every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that you are Lord, indeed, to the glory of God the Father.

     Happy Birthday, indeed, Jesus. You are so easy to love and so worthy to be adored. Now, help us busy ourselves today with loving and serving the people you’ve placed in our lives. So very Amen, we pray, in your matchless and merciful name.

A Great Mystery of Life

I love Mark Lowry and his humor. He is nuts! Thus a great mystery of life is how he came up with the words to this marvelous song (music by Buddy Greene):

Friday, December 24, 2010

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Thursday Tozer Tidbit of Truth

“Many of us Christians have become extremely skillful in arranging our lives so as to admit the truth of Christianity without being embarrassed by its implications.  We arrange things so that we can get on well enough without divine aid, while at the same time ostensibly seeking it.  We boast in the Lord but watch carefully that we never get caught depending on Him.”
- A. W. Tozer, The Root of the Righteous

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Exchange = the Result of Accepting the Gift

“To be entitled to use another’s name, when my own name is worthless; to be allowed to wear another’s raiment, because my own is torn and filthy; to appear before God in another’s person,— the person of the Beloved Son,—this is the summit of all blessing.

"The sin-bearer and I have exchanged names, robes, and persons! I am now represented by Him, my own personality having disappeared; He now appears in the presence of God for me. All that makes Him precious and dear to the Father has been transferred to me.

"His excellency and glory are seen as if they were mine; and I receive the love, and the fellowship, and the glory, as if I had earned them all. So entirely one am I with the sin-bearer, that God treats me not merely as if I had not done the evil that I have done; but as if I had done all the good which I have not done, but which my substitute has done.

"In one sense I am still the poor sinner, once under wrath; in another I am altogether righteous, and shall be so for ever, because of the Perfect One, in whose perfection I appear before God. Nor is this a false pretense or a hollow fiction, which carries no results or blessings with it.

"It is an exchange which has been provided by the Judge, and sanctioned by law; an exchange of which any sinner upon earth may avail himself and be blest.”
–Horatius Bonar

Monday, December 20, 2010

Accepting the Gift Results in Transformed Attitude

SIGNIFICANT INSIGHT FROM JOHN PIPER:

When a person is born anew and experiences repentance, his attitude about Jesus changes. Jesus himself becomes the central focus and supreme value of life. Before the new birth happens and repentance occurs, a hundred other things seem more important and more attractive: health, family, job, friends, sports, music, food, sex, hobbies, retirement. But when God gives the radical change of new birth and repentance, Jesus himself becomes our supreme treasure.
Therefore, his demand that we come to him is not burdensome. It means coming to the one who has become everything to us. Jesus did not come into the world mainly to bring a new religion or a new law. He came to offer himself for our eternal enjoyment and to do whatever he had to do—including death—to remove every obstacle to this everlasting joy in him. “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full” (John 15:11) . . .
Make no mistake, there is a yoke and a burden when we come to Jesus (there would be no demands if this were not true), but the yoke is easy, and the burden is light.
 

Holy, Holy, Holy...

Saturday, December 18, 2010

A Fresh Rendition

It's almost CHRISTmas eve...and you are so familiar with the story...but this is worth five minutes...if you have kids let them watch also!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Rejoice in the Blessings...Regardless...

It's gotten a lot of air and net time; but perhaps you've not seen this video to a Matthew West song...Whatever we go through, we who know Christ and are known by Him travel not alone...most of us can't relate to the story contained in the song...need to focus on the good that surrounds us...

Thursday, December 16, 2010

A Leading Question

Just started reading the book The God Who is There by D. A. Carson. Reading it for two reasons..everything I've read by Carson stretches and edifies me; and virtually every blogger I subscribe to has recommended it as one of the best books of '10)...

Here is an early quote as he discusses the various Christian and non-Christian ideas regarding creation (read the whole paragraph to get the context of the concluding question):

"Even if your understanding of origins belongs to the dominant modern paradigm in which our entire known universe developed out of a big bang that took place something like fifteen billion years ago from an unimaginably condense mass and became our universe, there is an obvious question to ask. Whether or not you subscribe to the view that this big bang took place under the guidance of God, sooner or later you are forced to ask the question, 'Where did that highly condensed material come from?'"

Thursday Tozer Tidbit of Truth

“The meek man is not a human mouse afflicted with a sense of his own inferiority. He has accepted God’s estimate of his own life: In himself, nothing; In God, everything. He knows well that the world will never see him as God sees him and he has stopped caring.”
- A.W. Tozer, Man: The Dwelling Place of God

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Do Our Church Testimonies Empower Satan?

As someone who came to salvation late in life, in jail enroute to prison, I resonate deeply with this important word from Russell Moore:


Personal testimonies, as part of Christian worship, are a good thing to do. And I think we need more of them. I wonder, though, if sometimes our testimonies might unintentionally empower Satan rather than combat him.

By a “testimony,” of course, I mean a believer’s sharing of the story of how he or she came to faith in Christ. Almost all evangelical churches have something along these lines. If not a verbal testimony from behind the pulpit, these stories still tend to show up. Sometimes they’re in a video shown during the offering or in an illustration in the pastor’s preaching. Sometimes they’re in our evangelical magazines or websites. And, of course, we perhaps most often find our testimonies in what we sing together (from “Amazing Grace” right on down).

"Dramatic Stories Only Please"

The problem is, though, that we often choose to highlight those testimonies that we deem to be “dramatic.” We feature the testimony of the ex-alcoholic who says “Since I met Jesus, I never drink” or the ex-gambling addict who notes that he never missed the poker table. Conversions like this happen sometimes and we ought to give praise to God when they do.

But these kinds of liberation are no more miraculous than the far more typical testimony of the repentant drunk who says, “Every time I hear a clink of ice in a glass I tremble with desire, but God is faithful in keeping me sober.”

A False Image of the Christian Life

Now, I know why we shy away from such seemingly tentative testimonies. After all, the whole point is to give hope to those who are struggling. We don’t want the drunk out there to see his future as, potentially, a lifelong grappling with the temptation to drink. Isn’t it far more freeing for him to hear the testimony of the one who says, with the old gospel song, “It was there by faith I received my sight, and now I am happy all the day”?

The Christ life never promises freedom from temptation. The Christ life promises freedom from slavery to sin, and from the condemnation that comes with it. This is presented in the gospel as a skirmish, from now until resurrection from the dead. If the Scriptures are this honest, we should be too.



Why Super-Testimonies Lead to Despair

Moreover, there are multiple people in our audiences, and we ought to protect them with the vision of the gospel we project. The repentant drunk who still wants to drink might conclude he’s not really received by Jesus; that his temptation is evidence that he’s predestined to alcoholism. That couple who have cut up all their credit cards, because they know they’ll spend every line of credit they have if they don’t, might conclude they’re not “spiritual” enough to follow Christ because they’re still at war with their appetites.

If Satan cannot draw people into sin, and thus into death, he’ll draw them into despair because their fight against temptation hasn’t dissipated. Don’t leave those people with a message of condemnation, when the gospel promises freedom.

Yes, celebrate those who have escaped the grip of sin. But don’t just pretend that this means an escape from temptation. Even the ex-drunk who doesn’t want alcohol anymore (and there aren’t many) just has his temptation moving to some other area. Let’s celebrate too the sinner who wants what he doesn’t want to want, but who dies to self, picks up his cross, and follows Christ.

The Lifelong Fight Against Sin

It might be that God frees someone instantly from the appetite for whatever he or she is drawn toward. But typically he instead enables one to fight it. This might go on for forty days, for forty years, or for an entire lifetime. That’s all right. In the meantime, we’re going to be there to bear burdens for one another.

Satan hates the gospel, and he hates the testimony of grace. Let’s make sure our people (and their demonic accusers) hear the whole message. Temptation isn’t instantly nullified by conversion. Even our sinless Lord Jesus was tempted. The grace of God leads us to Christ, and then joins us to him in the war zone.

That’s painful. Crucifixion always is. But it’s grace, and, however strong the fight, it’s amazing.

Monday, December 13, 2010

A Heroic Parable

Watch this brief video of a physical rescue...then parallel it with the Christian's mandate to share the gospel...the people on the platform are concerned, even frantic...but only one jumps into harms way to effect the rescue. Rather symbolic, huh?

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Never Lose Focus on Cross

“There is nothing more important in Christian theology than our theology of the cross. We must speak clearly that the heart of the gospel is the good news of divine self-satisfaction through self-substitution. Never compromise on the cross. Never dilute the message of the cross.
And never stop glorying in the cross where Christ accepted the penalties that should belong to us so that we can claim the blessings that would otherwise belong only to Him.”
–Kevin DeYoung

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Just a Cool Picture

Last week the Hagers and the Johnny Williams family joined up to enjoy a trip to the Federal Reserve Bank in Kansas City, the World War I museum, and the (obligatory) CHRISTmas lights around Kansas City. During the trip the following photo of daughter Janelle and good friend Sarah Williams was taken at the top of the Liberty Memorial tower:

Techy Talent yuleTide Tunes

Whatever Works?

I don't totally buy into the "treatment" Lucy promotes; but I do know that it is better to focus on other things and other people rather than dwell on our own discomforts...We do need to "examine ourselves" but introspection in and of itself can become a self-dug hole into condemnation rather than Spirit-conviction...
Peanuts

Thursday Tozer Tidbit of Truth

“Do you realize that most men play at religion as they play at games? Religion itself being of all games the one most universally played. The Church has its “fields” and its “rules” and its equipment for playing the game of pious words. It has its devotees, both laymen and professionals, who support the game with their money and encourage it with their presence, but who are no different in life or character from many who take no interest in religion at all. As an athlete uses a ball so do many of us use words: words spoken and words sung, words written and words uttered in prayer. We throw them swiftly across the field; we learn to handle them with dexterity and grace-and gain as our reward the applause of those who have enjoyed the game. In the games men play there are no moral roots. It is a pleasant activity which changes nothing and settles nothing, at last. Sadly, in the religious game of pious words, after the pleasant meeting no one is basically any different from what he had been before!”

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

What a Great Mixture of Great Movies!

Perhaps some on both sides ("Princess Bride"/"Star Wars") will consider this close to blaspheme, but I rather like it a lot:

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Profound Sobering Sentence

When I die, I shall then have my greatest grief and my greatest joy; my greatest grief, that I have done so little for Jesus, and my greatest joy, that Jesus has done so much for me. —William Grimshaw

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Can You Relate?

It's only been a while since the holiday we call Thanksgiving...prayerfully Snoopy's situation isn't common to us:
Peanuts

Friday, December 3, 2010

Because of the Resurrection:

“If Jesus had not been raised, none of the following things, listed  in order of their appearance in Acts, would have been possible:
In summary, because of  his life, death, and resurrection, Jesus has brought God close to us.”
— Adrian Warnock

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Thursday Tozer Tidbit of Truth

Just a small bite of Tozer provides plenty to chew on:


"In the Church of God two opposite dangers are to be recognized and avoided; they are a cold heart and a hot head."

A. W. Tozer

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Got Charlie Brownitus?

Charlie's dilemna in romance is too often our problem in reaching out to others for Jesus and the gospel - plain old fear. How to get over it? Nike. Just do it.
Peanuts

When Walking through "Stuff"

Most know I'm not at all a fan of the unbiblical concept of Your Best Life Now in its various disguises. (By the way, have you considered the only people who can say they are having their best life now are the people enroute to hell???).

Jesus said following Him would involved persecution, hatred, struggle. Perhaps best to take Him at His Word?

Here's some tremendous and comforting counsel from C. H. Spurgeon:

"The lesson of wisdom is, be not dismayed by soul-trouble.

"Count it no strange thing, but a part of ordinary ministerial experience. 

"Should the power of depression be more than ordinary, think not that all is over with your usefulness. Cast not away your confidence, for it hath great recompense of reward. Even if the enemy’s foot be on your neck, expect to rise and overthrow him. Cast the burden of the present, along with the sin of the past and the fear of the future, upon the Lord, who forsaketh not his saints.

"Live by the day—ay, by the hour. Put no trust in frames and feelings. Care more for a grain of faith than a ton of excitement. Trust in God alone, and lean not on the reeds of human help. Be not surprised when friends fail you: it is a failing world. Never count upon immutability in man: inconstancy you may reckon upon without fear of disappointment. The disciples of Jesus forsook him; be not amazed if your adherents wander away to other teachers: as they were not your all when with you, all is not gone from you with their departure. 

"Serve God with all your might while the candle is burning, and then when it goes out for a season, you will have the less to regret. Be content to be nothing, for that is what you are. When your own emptiness is painfully forced upon your consciousness, chide yourself that you ever dreamed of being full, except in the Lord. 

"Set small store by present rewards; be grateful for earnests by the way, but look for the recompensing joy hereafter. Continue, with double earnestness to serve your Lord when no visible result is before you. 

"Any simpleton can follow the narrow path in the light: faith’s rare wisdom enables us to march on in the dark with infallible accuracy, since she places her hand in that of her Great Guide. 

"Between this and heaven there may be rougher weather yet, but it is all provided for by our covenant Head. In nothing let us be turned aside from the path which the divine call has urged us to pursue. Come fair or come foul, the pulpit is our watch-tower, and the ministry our warfare; be it ours, when we cannot see the face of our God, to trust under THE SHADOW OF HIS WINGS."

Monday, November 29, 2010

What is the Purpose of the Bible?

“The Bible’s purpose is not so much to show you how to live a good life. The Bible’s purpose is to show you how God’s grace breaks into your life against your will and saves you from the sin and brokenness otherwise you would never be able to overcome… religion is ‘if you obey, then you will be accepted’. But the Gospel is, ‘if you are absolutely accepted, and sure you’re accepted, only then will you ever begin to obey’. Those are two utterly different things. Every page of the Bible shows the difference.”
- Timothy Keller

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Don't Forget ALL of Salt's Attributes

"Salt seasons, purifies, preserves. But somebody ought to remind us that salt also irritates. Real living Christianity rubs this world the wrong way."
Vance Havner

Saturday, November 27, 2010

My Second Greatest Gift

On this date in 1982 a pastor said, "wilt thou?" and I wilted.

Hard to fathom it has been 28 years since Jane and I became one. Next to salvation alone, she is my greatest gift...a wondrous wife, a marvelous mom, a faithful friend, a willing worker, a persistent pray-er, a kapable-kicker-in-the-butt when I need it, and so much more.

What a ride it has been...living in Phillipsburg, Ks; Rhinelander, Wi; Bath, NY; Shakopee, Mn; back to Bath, NY; and now Missouri.

Four wonderful kids...two the old-fashioned way, two adopted at birth.

Struggles, victories, trials, testings, unspeakable joy, inexpressible anguish...all the stuff that is part of real life (as opposed to 'your best life now')

Putting up with me, my schedule, my stuff of life...Jane should get a medal...yet I know she will be rewarded greatly at the Judgment Seat of Christ. I know it's normal to say a wife is a Proverbs 31 woman...but...she is.

Every husband who has a brain knows that his wife is the greatest wife of all time.

I'm glad our anniversary is around (and every 7 years, on) Thanksgiving...

Because I am so very, very thankful that the Lord brought Jane into my life, as well as my heart.

Friday, November 26, 2010

All This for Twenty-Five Bucks?

Yeah the Zona Rosa shopping center opened at midnight Friday...and three Hagers joined the Williams' and other God's Mountain people to score $25.00 gift cards for the first 1000 in line...Jacob and I warmly enjoyed fellowship at home...he hacked and coughed for a seventh day, great spirits, but took him to clinic today, treatment and mucho medications...

              Here's Janelle and Jane bundled up:

                                 Josiah (2nd from right) and others enjoying the wait:

Thankful for His Death?

Gotta get the basics right...and if we are "growing deep in the things of God" and forget the basics, we are deceived and deceiving:


“Redeeming love and retributive justice joined hands, so to speak, at Calvary, for there God showed Himself to be ‘just, and the justifer of him who hath faith in Jesus’.
Do you understand this? If you do, you are now seeing to the very heart of the Christian gospel. No version of that message goes deeper than that which declares man’s root problem before God to be his sin, which evokes wrath, and God’s basic provision for man to be propitiation, which out of wrath brings peace.”
- J.I. Packer

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thursday Tozer Tidbit of Truth

“It is one of the devil’s oldest tricks to discourage Christian believers by causing them to look back at what they once were. It is indeed the enemy of our souls who makes us forget that we are never at the end of God’s love. No one will make progress with God until the eyes are lifted to the faithfulness of God and we stop looking at ourselves! Our instructions in the New Testament all add up to the necessity of looking forward in faith-and not spending our time looking back or just looking within.”
- A.W. Tozer, The Divine Conquest

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Are You "Someone"? Am I?

Peanuts

I recall several verses as I read Snoopy's sigh...

And I ask myself...am I watching for people in my sphere of influence who need a word of encouragement, twenty bucks, a prayer, whatever?

Too many have "no one."

Consider:

Deu 28.29: "...day after day you will be oppressed and robbed, with no one to rescue you."

2 Sam 22.42:  "They cried for help, but there was no one to save them..."

2 Ki 14.26: "The Lord had seen how bitterly everyone in Israel, whether slave or free, was suffering; there was no one to help them."

Ps 22.11: "Do not be far from me, for trouble is near, and there is no one to help."

Ps 142.4: "Look to my right and see; no one is concerned for me. I have no refuge; no one cares for my life."

Here's a challenge: Is there anyone in your sphere of influence who appears to have no one? Will you be one?

On the other hand, at this time of Thanksgiving, does God bring to your mind someone who came alongside you when you felt there was no one? Maybe it's time to remind them how much you appreciated their help?

Thanking When It is Tough to Do

A great prayer from SCOTTY SMITH

    Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
 
     Lord Jesus, how I praise you that we don’t have to fake, stuff, or spin anything. The gospel puts an end to many things, including posing and pretending. That’s why the call to perpetual joy, prayer and thankfulness doesn’t mock our sensibilities and stoke our incredulity.

     In fact these very words—this trio of commands were written by a man who had every right in the world to question your goodness… doubt your promises…  and struggle with your providences (2 Corinthians 11:16-33). So who’s better positioned—who can be more trusted than Paul to deliver such a difficult calling?

     Jesus, our prayer today is for our friends and family members for whom life is a crucible of body and heart aches. The call to giving thanks is more difficult than usual. I pray for the chronic sufferers I know and love—those for whom life feels like a never-ending saga—a bottomless pit of  physical, emotional or mental pain. Their weariness is palpable. I understand the mounting frustrations and their intensified cry, “How long, O Lord?”

     Jesus, may your joy be their strength, for they have very little. May your prayer life be their encouragement, for theirs is nearly non-existent. May your thankfulness before the Father be mediated to their hearts… when it would be easier for them to curse than to praise… to disbelieve than hope…  to run away rather than run to you.

     Jesus, I also pray for those for whom the greatest pain is relational. Marriages and families which are in meltdown and breakdown… those for whom Thanksgiving will be spent at a table set for one… friendships broken by sin, strained by disagreement, weakened by neglect.

     Jesus, come in power and kindness, with your redeeming and transforming love. How might we be a part of your answer this very prayer? Extend your tear wiping hand through us to our family and friends this Thanksgiving week. So very Amen, we pray, in your merciful and mighty name.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Too Convicting!

"Surely what a man does when he is taken off his guard is the best evidence for what sort of man he is. If there are rats in a cellar, you are most likely to see them if you go in very suddenly. But the suddenness does not create the rats; it only prevents them from hiding. In the same way, the suddenness of the provocation does not make me ill-tempered; it only shows me what an ill-tempered man I am."

(Clive Staples) C. S. Lewis

Sunday, November 21, 2010

History Applied

"At Waterloo, the English troops obeying orders fell on their faces for a time and let the hot fire of the French artillery pass over them. Then they sprang to their feet and rushed to the thickest of the fight and beat back their foes. The Lord wants His people flat on their faces, before they attempt to meet the great crises of life."

Arthur Tappan (A. T.) Pierso
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Saturday, November 20, 2010

A Still-Timely Question

Keith Green died a bit over 28 years ago...not sure when he wrote the following, but surely still applies as a probing question for 2010:


"It seems to me that there are but few who really live with a passion for God, especially a passion just to be with Him. Today there is such a noise coming up before the throne of the Most High-the clamor of so-called praise, singing, and joyful shouting. But I wonder if the same people who love to sing and shout, loudly exclaiming the the praises of God, really have such an intense glory in their secret life with the Lord. When the meeting's over and there's no one there to listen except the only One who matters, do you still have that same passionate joy in your spirit, just to be alone with the Living God?"

Keith Green

Friday, November 19, 2010

Remember the Greatness of the Gift of the Gospel

“God requires two things of us: punishment for our sins and perfection in our lives. 

Our sins must be punished, and our lives must be righteous. 

But we cannot bear our own punishment, and we cannot provide our own righteousness. 

Therefore, God, out of His immeasurable love for us, provided his own Son to do both. 

Christ bears our punishment, and Christ performs our righteousness. 
And When we receive Christ, all of his punishment and all of his righteousness is counted as ours.”

- John Piper

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Thursday Tozer Tidbit of Truth

"The best thing is neither to seek nor avoid troubles but to follow Christ and take the bitter with the sweet as it may come. Whether we are happy or unhappy at any given time is not important. That we be in the will of God is all that matters. We may safely leave with him the incident of heartache or happiness. He will know how much we need of either or both." - A.W. Tozer, We Travel an Appointed Way, page 80.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Last Two Percent

A challenging post from PETE WILSON

I’m convinced that the majority of us live about 98% accountable. The problem with being  98% accountable is that it’s about as useless as not being accountable at all.

It might even be more dangerous.

You see, you go to your small group.

You meet with your accountability partner.


You even intentionally confess just enough to seem open and honest.


But you guard and conceal the 2% that is slowly gaining momentum in the dark.

Provers 28:13  says,
People who conceal their sins will not prosper, but if they confess and turn from them, they will receive mercy.
Confess?

Even the 2%?

Especially the 2%.

Today I’m praying you have at least one relationship where you can be fully known and fully loved for it’s in that moment you find yourself coming fully alive.

How are you doing with the final 2%?

Lewis on Dropping Our Stuff on Others

A still-contemporary commentary from Mere Christianity (and if you've not read it...or read the book in a while...you should):

"One of the marks of a certain type of bad man is that he cannot give up a thing himself without wanting every one else to give it up.

"That is not the Christian way. An individual Christian may see fit to give up all sorts of things for special reasons—marriage, or meat, or beer, or the cinema; but the moment he starts saying the things are bad in themselves, or looking down his nose at other people who do use them, he has taken the wrong turning."  C. S. Lewis

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Pharmacologial Hand Grenade

Here's an interesting perspective on beverage alcohol:

"Substances such as cocaine and LSD work like pharmacological scalpels, altering the functioning of only one or a handful of brain circuits. Alcohol is more like a pharmacological hand grenade. It affects practically everything around it."
Stephen Braun in Buzz: The Science and Lore of Alcohol and Caffeine

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Establish Me (us?) in the Background

I know some have some rather strong opinions about the style known as "rap,"...and those would be advised not to click on what follows...but this, to me, is a great prayer/song/testimony:

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Thanks, Active Duty and Vets (and their families!)

As another Veteran's Day slides into history:

Randomness on Vet's Day

I served four years in the Army. Enlisted right out of high school. Long before Jesus captured me.

Did a couple years in Korea...discovered kimchi! Was in Korea when the "Pueblo"  was snatched by the North Koreans. Never thought we'd sell those guys out. We did. Most reading this never heard of the incident...

From Korea to Germany. Was there when the Russians invaded Czechlosvakia. Sent my unit out to the Czech border several days before it happened. Did we have a hunch? Duh.

Then went to Vietnam (with the 11th Armored Cavalry) for the remainder of my enlistment.

Army was a lot like prison. Learned a lot there; don't wanna go back.

But the dumb decisions I made after the military were not Vietnams fault...or the Armys fault...or even the devils fault.

The decisions were influenced by all those things, and more; but the decisions were not dictated by those things.

I made my choices, my choices made me. It's called personal responsibility.

The most disgusting phrase in English? "It's not my fault." Well, yeah, it is.

We may have a lot of "excuses," but to paraphrase a military saying, "Excuses are like elbows; everyone has a couple."

And our God did not send His Son to die for excuses, but for sins. "There is a way that seems right to a man..."

I'm thankful the Lord sent His Spirit to invade my life in a Texas jail cell in 1974...and that His mercies are new every morning.

Thursday Tozer Tidbit of Truth

“The shine and glamour accompanying popular religious movements is as false as the sheen on the wings of the angel of darkness when he for a moment transforms himself into an angel of light.”
- A.W. Tozer

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Any Old Bush Will Do

"Our hearts beat excitedly over stories of people like Abraham and Moses, yet we fail to recognize that they were as frail and nervous as we are. We stand in awe of Moses at the burning bush: Now there is a bush that burns, we say. I would like to be a bush like that, but I'm just a heap of ashes. And that's as far as we get. We discuss the phenomenon of what God can do in a life, tell amazing stories about it, praise it - but then resign ourselves to being nothing more than what we think we are, a mere bystander, resigned to sitting in the balcony among the spectators. But it is not the bush that sustains the flame. It is God in the bush, and so, any old bush will do!"

Tim Hansel

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Not What My Hands Have Done

Not what my hands have done
Can save my guilty soul
Not what my toiling flesh has borne
Can make my spirit whole
Not what I feel or do
Can give me peace with God
Not all my prayers and sighs and tears
Can bear my awful load
These guilty hands are raised
Filthy rags are all I bring
But I have come to hide beneath Your wings
These holy hands are raised
Washed in the fountain of Your grace
And now I wear Your righteousness
- Horatious Bonar

Monday, November 8, 2010

TO God or FOR God?

As usual, great thought-provoking, repentance-leading, prayer-fueling stuff from MARK BATTERSON

"I read a verse that stopped me in my tracks this morning. The Holy Spirit arrested me. If I were completely honest, I'd have to admit that most of "my ministry" has been for God not to God. I don't think that is just semantics. It's a whole different paradigm. So many of us are so busy ministering for God that we rarely minister to God.

Ezekiel 44:16 wrecked me today: "They shall enter my sanctuary, and they shall approach my table, to minister to me, and they shall keep my charge." Makes me think of the original commission in Matthew 10. Before Jesus "sent them out" he called them "to him." I think one of the greatest dangers leaders face is this: we get focused on what God wants to do THROUGH us instead of what God wants to do IN us.

Are you ministering for God or to God?

I think it's both/and, but you better prioritize ministry to God."

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Vital words from Michael Horton to read...and reread...slowly and often regarding the gospel and the fact that it is not "only" how we get converted, it is how we are to live:

Scripture is of no use to us if we read it merely as a handbook for daily living without recognizing that its principle purpose is to reveal Jesus Christ and his gospel for the salvation of sinners.

All Scripture coalesces in Christ, anticipated in the OT and appearing in the flesh in the NT. In Scripture, God issues commands and threatens judgment for transgressors as well as direction for the lives of his people.

Yet the greatest treasure buried in the Scriptures is the good news of the promised Messiah.

Everything in the Bible that tells us what to do is “law”, and everything in the Bible that tells us what God has done in Christ to save us is “gospel.”

Much like medieval piety, the emphasis in much Christian teaching today is on what we are to do without adequate grounding in the good news of what God has done for us in Christ.

“What would Jesus do?” becomes more important than “What has Jesus done?”

The gospel, however, is not just something we needed at conversion so we can spend the rest of our Christian life obsessed with performance; it is something we need every day–the only source of our sanctification as well as our justification.

The law guides, but only the gospel gives. We are declared righteous–justified–not by anything that happens within us or done by us, but solely by God’s act of crediting us with Christ’s perfect righteousness through faith alone."

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Chew on This Re: Judging

"Why do we usurp God's right to judge?...It is for God alone to judge, to
justify or to condemn. He knows the state of each one of us and our
capacities, our deviations, and our gifts, our constitution, and our
preparedness...according to the knowledge that He alone has...And how do
you know what tears he has shed about it before God? You may well know
about the sin, but you do not know about the repentance."

Dorotheos of Gaza

Friday, November 5, 2010

Janelle's 16th

Dad took Janelle, Jacob, and Janelle's great friend Sarah Williams to Krug Park for walk/photo shoot...chilly and breezy, but a fun way to celebrate part of Janelle's sixteenth birthday...

The Heavens - and more - Declare the Glory of God!

TimeScapes: Rapture from Tom Lowe @ Timescapes on Vimeo.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Thursday Tozer Tidbit of Truth

“For myself, I fear any kind of religious stir among Christians that does not lead to repentance and result in a sharp separation of the believer from the world. 

I am suspicious of any organized revival effort that is forced to play down the hard terms of the Kingdom. 

No matter how attractive the movement may appear, if it is not founded in righteousness and nurtured in humility it is not of God. If it exploits the flesh it is a religious fraud and should not have the support of any God-fearing Christian. Only that is of God which honors the Spirit and prospers at the expense of the human ego. “That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.”
- A.W. Tozer, The Divine Conquest

SIXTEEN? Already? How Can This Be???

Almost 17 years ago we were contacted by a young girl we had met at a camp at which I preached a week. She had been in touch with us often since camp ended, but this call was a life changer...

She was 13...and pregnant.
                                          Janelle and Jacob being themselves on a long road trip:
She had heard me say some narrow-minded things about abortion.

As we conversed it seemed apparent Jane and I needed to pursue adoption.

We flew to her home, met with her and her parents, and began the process. It was not easy. Because she was a minor in a different state, because there was no contact with the biological "father," there were many legal hoops through which we had to jump.

There were painful times when it seemed it wasn't going to happen.

But God...

On November 4, 1994 Janelle Elisabeth Hager was born. Jane and Joel were in Wisconsin at the time of birth, and a couple weeks later were permitted by the state to bring her home. Several months later the adoption was finalized.

And today she is sixteen! How can this be? She has brought us so much joy, so much life, so much enthusiasm. Perfect? Of course not...otherwise she wouldn't fit in!

But she is loved, and loves. And...yes...she is alive. She could have been what some would call a "statistic." Instead she was given life, given a home to call her own, and God was honored.

It was horrifically expensive to pay for the adoption. As mentioned, the hoops were difficult to jump through.

Soon I felt guilty...because I sort-of-kind-of loved her "more" than I did our two older children, Josiah and Joel. At first I thought, "well, it's just because she's a girl...never had a little girl before."

I remember a quote from Max Lucado...

"From the first time a father reaches to take his daughter's infant hand, she reaches up and takes his heart. She never returns it. He is her protector, her provider. Her knight. Her hero. In turn she is his lamb. His angel on loan. His beauty of beauties."

                           Janelle "costumed" at our staff party Oct 30 Amen, Max (and your way with words should be illegal)

Eight years later the Lord dropped another child into our laps...and we adopted Jacob at birth.

Again...guilt feelings because I loved him "more" than the older sons...
                                

But as I struggled through, I recognized something that may make the more theological among us irritated, but it works for me...

I sort of "had" to love Josiah and Joel...after all, they are bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh. Jane and I chose to love Janelle and Jacob. We didn't have to..we didn't have to pay that price...

Again, apologies (sort of) to theologians who might go ballistic on this...but a Sovereign God did not have to love us. He did not have to pay the price of His Son's sacrifice.

But He chose to...because of His love for us.


So I thank the Lord for my daughter...not only for all she is...but for what she has, and continues, to teach me about my heavenly Father's love.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Needed: Hymns/Choruses that are Solidly Biblical

J. C. Ryle lived from 1816 to 1900...I do not know precisely when he wrote the following, but it remains pertinent in 2010...more so with the abundance of cotton-candy-at-best "praise and worship" and "contemporary" music and a huge lack of solidly Biblical songs - whether "hymns" or other.

This is not a plea for a return to "let's stand together and sing the first, second, and last choruses of hymn number 283"; but Ryle's words resonate when I hear in far too many churches songs that are all about us, lacking in depth, and of all-too-little lasting help.

Here are Ryle's words (I am still chewing particularly on the last paragraph):

"Good hymns are an immense blessing to the Church of Christ. I believe the last day alone will show the world the real amount of good they have done. They suit all, both rich and poor. There is an elevating, stirring, soothing, spiritualizing, effect about a thoroughly good hymn, which nothing else can produce. It sticks in men's memories when texts are forgotten. It trains men for heaven, where praise is one of the principal occupations.

Preaching and praying shall one day cease for ever; but praise shall never die. The makers of good ballads are said to sway national opinion. The writers of good hymns, in like manner, are those who leave the deepest marks on the face of the Church.


But really good hymns are exceedingly rare. There are only a few men in any age who can write them. You may name hundreds of first-rate preachers for one first-rate writer of hymns.

Hundreds of so-called hymns fill up our collections of congregational psalmody, which are really not hymns at all. They are very sound, very scriptural, very proper, very correct, very tolerably rhymed; but they are not real, live, genuine hymns. There is no life about them. At best they are tame, pointless, weak, and milk-and-watery."
~ J.C. Ryle

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Not Quite as Funny 47 Years Later

This cartoon was first printed on October 20, 1963...probably generated nothing but a few chuckles...now there is more sadness than laughter in reflection...
Peanuts

Monday, November 1, 2010

A Long-Time Favorite

From At the Corner of Mundane and Grace, (Waterbrook Press) by Chris Fabry

A PRAYER FOR EVERY DAY

     Lord, lift my eyes today from the stuff of earth. Help me see the sun, and if there are clouds, help me see them, too.
     Take away my unending desire to know exactly what your will is for my entire life, and give me an unquenchable thirst to know only You today.
     When I'm in an argument with friend or foe, deliver me from the need to always be right. Give me instead a desire to love.
     Deliver me from the need of things to make me happy.
     Except for that new printer.
     Okay, deliver me from the printer, too.
     When I'm looking for my keys or a parking place today, Lord, I pray you will give me patience instead.
     And then I pray You will reward my patience with a really close parking space.
     Make me a servant. Deepen my understanding of your love and let my service respond sincerely, not from a sense of duty.
     Give me willingness to at least attempt being content with my circumstances.
     Lord, deliver me from the need to keep score.
     Show me someone who needs a smile today. Help me give it without reserve.
     When someone cuts me off in traffic, give me the grace to remember when I did the same, stupid thing.
     Open my eyes to see what You see.
     Open my ears to hear what You hear.
     Deliver me from the island of me.
     You who spoke the universe into being, who set the stars in their courses, who formed my DNA, don't just give me a spiritual bypass. Create in me a new heart, a clean heart, a willing heart.
     Open my nasal passages and help me smell the newly cut grass and the fresh, clean scent of my little girl's hair.
     You, who touched the tongue of the dumb, loosen my tongue to speak Your praises.
     Give me a heart of thanks for fallen leaves, flat tires, wet sneezes, phlegm, and tooth decay, for these things make me long for heaven.
     Show me souls today, not just faces.
     Show me hurts today, not just anger.
     Give tears for dry eyes.
     Change the drudgery into work fit for a King's son.
     Strip me of pride, sloth, and envy.
     Clothe me with humility and vigor, and help me find a good antonym for "envy."
     Lord, I look at my child opening a bag of candy. I see the anticipation and expectancy and want this same spirit when I think about You.
     Give me a renewed desire for your Word.
     If a storm should come, give peace.
     If doubt should come, give hope.
     If a couple of Jehovah's Witnesses should come, help me not to hide inside the house until they leave. Help me show them a kindness and love they have never experienced.
     Most of all, Lord, in every moment of this day, help me see Jesus.     Amen.

Can't recommend this book higher...just good stuff: