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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Adios to the Zoo

Jacob was a bit disappointed that we didn't get to ride the carousel thing. But as we were leaving he decided to say adios to a representative of one of his favorite animals.

He was pooped...we walked/jogged/ran for five plus hours.

It was truly a blessing for this Dad to spend the day with him. I am so grateful for the blessings Abba drops down on us...

As we got to KC there was a bit of construction, so I asked Jacob to pray we'd not get stuck in a jam; we did not. We prayed we'd have a good time. We didn't. We had a FANTASTIC time.

As we left the zoo I decided to take him to see "How to Train a Dragon." We had no idea what the start time was, so we prayed we'd get there and not have to wait long to see the film. We arrived, parked the car, walked up to the window, and discovered it would start in five minutes! We got the obligatory snack, sat down, and watched the previews and the very delightful film.

Seize the moments to model prayer! "Cast ALL your cares on Him..."

God is wise; God is good, God is sovereign.

And I am abundantly blessed with the most wonderful wife and kids!
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Dad! Do I Have To?

I will be out of town on Jacob's 8th birthday (April 10), so after I got back from Washington late Monday night, Jacob and I spent the day Tuesday exploring the Kansas City zoo.

Alas for him, I took along a digital camera; only took a couple hundred pics; and on a couple occasions I "asked" him to pose for a shot.

This was one of them.

Jacob was a good sport!
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Earwax, Anyone?

A personal highlight of the trip Jacob and I took to the Kansas City zoo...in one of the aviaries this fellow perched on my shoulder and, ah, snacked on whatever may have been in my ear and/or hair. He stayed there for several minutes before flying away, and causing some other visitors to think I was staff.

With my wounded eye maybe this is confirmation that I should wear a patch, sail a ship, and join the world of pirates? Nah.
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An Atheist "preaches" the Gospel!

This is truly remarkable!
Christopher Hitchens (noted atheist and author of God is Not Great: Why Religion Poisons Everything) was interviewed in Portland, Or by Unitarian "minister" Marilyn Sewell.

Near the beginning of the interview Sewell remarks, "The religion you cite in your book is generally the fundamentalist faith of various kinds. I'm a liberal Christian, and I don't take the stories form the Scripture literally. I don't believe in the doctrine of atonement (that Jesus died for our sins, for example). Do you make any distinction between fundamentalist faith and liberal religion?"
 
How do you think Hitchens will reply? I've not read his book yet; but I think I shall to see what his train of thought is. I shall also pray that Spirit of God will draw him to the cross, because he "gets" the gospel. Here is his reply:
"I would say that if you don't believe that Jesus of Nazareth was the Christ and Messiah, and that He rose again from the dead and by His sacrifice our sins are forgiven, 
you're really not in any meaningful sense a Christian."

 Wow. Just Wow.
 

Relate to Custer?

Yup, "we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses," but as we attach ourselves to Jesus we are also surrounded by the world, the flesh, and the devil. We must guard ourselves. It is my experience, confirmed by so many others, that the most dangerous times in our spiritual lives are the few days after the Lord has done some work within and/or through us. So laugh with the cartoon, but laugh with understanding...
Wizard of Id

Glorifying graffiti!

Nitpicker that I am, I'd do wish he had stressed repentance, but this is rather cool:

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Can You Handle Success?


The Beatles broke up when they stopped having fun. They were no less talented. They were even more experienced. But they started picking at each other, even provoking each other. John brought Yoko into the recording sessions because he knew it would hack the other guys off.
When they were nothing, they were friends. Then they succeeded. And we do not steward success well. We don’t even know how to have fun with it.
“Where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder.” James 3:16
HT: Todd MacDonald

Hilarious wedding/Bible quizzing/Purity Mix

You may have seen this before, but since a merry heart does good like medicine, get healthy:



I had seen a snip of this, but only this weekend did I learn that the bride was a former Bible quizzers who participated in the Teens For Christ North West league.

And it gets better. The Lord used that hilarity to open doors to local and national television interviews for the couple. The following video should be viewed by every teen, as well as their parents (and, by the way, Mom and Dad, you pay the cost to be the boss!)

Jesus: "Good Shepherd" or "Consulant"?

"Jack, how do I know God's will?" is at least in the top-three in the "questions-I've-been-asked-the-most-often contest. The will of God is easy to preach/teach about; a tad more difficult to discern.

SCOTTY SMITH writes and shares insightful, comforting, yet challenging thoughts in this "prayer about God's will"
In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps. Proverbs 16:9
     Dear heavenly Father, the peace, humility and joy this promise brings to my heart is simply immeasurable. You are the God who is vitally engaged in determining and directing my very steps in life. You are the God who is working all things together after the counsel of your will. You are the God who works in all things for your glory and for our good. You are the God who opens doors no man can shut and who shuts doors no man can open. Indeed, you are no mere life coach, loving Father, you are the Lord of all things, including me.

     For way too many years I labored under the arrogance and anxiety of assuming that if I prayed hard enough and long enough… that if I was really filled with and “tuned” into the Holy Spirit, I could know the specifics of your will for my life well in advance of any decision that needed to be made. Of course, my assumption was that if I was in your will, life would be enjoyable, pleasant and hassle-free.

     If I bought the right car, it would never break down. If I bought the right house, the roof would never leak. If I married the right person, we would never disagree. If I went to the right college I’d get the rightall-right. If I sent my kids to the right school, they would never act out and would end up on the mission field. What a self-centered and wrong way to do life… kind of reminds me of idolatry… job and life would be

     Father, I will continue to seek to make good plans in my heart, according to the revelation of your Word, for I can be confident that you will never lead me contrary to the Scriptures. I will continue to seek out and heed the wise and prayerful counsel of godly friends, who care about your glory and kingdom.

     But I live with even more peace, humility and joy… confidant that Jesus is the Good Shepherd and not just a consulting partner… a very present Lord, not an absentee landlord… the reigning King, not in impotent bystander. Because of Jesus, I am confident that your will WILL be done on earth as it is in heaven. So very Amen, I pray, in his sovereign and to-be-savored name.

Monday, March 29, 2010

More from Russia

Russia Reflections From the Hange Family
With God's deep love for Russia  


Another Update on the Tragedy in Moscow
 
For those who have read the first email, you have the context for this prayer request.  I had hoped that we would finish the day without any bad news, but apparently the father of our computer technician at Hinkson Christian Academy (where Karen works) was caught in the blast.  He is in surgery right now and folks, we NEED your prayer.  His name is Slava (means praise). The young man's name is Yaroslav.
 
I want to also let you know, for those who are concerned, that my wife and children do NOT need to ride the metro as a rule. They take the local buses and trams to school, and these are much safer. 
 
On a lighter note we did find the hairbrush (this makes sense if you've seen the last email).  One of my friends asked for a picture of the brush, so I set it on the floor for a shot.  Guess who showed up...
cat 2
 
The kids say: Hi! Thanks for Praying, and we appreciate you!
The Kiddos
 
Thank You
... for taking the time to read this newsletter.  PLEASE contact us with any prayer needs you have, and please keep us in your prayers.  For the Kingdom, the Gospel, and the Fatherless....
 
Contact Info
Tim Hange:  thange@gmail.com  
 Karen Hange: k_hange@hotmail.com

Know the Condition of Your Herds

Stephen Prothero writes an intriguing column that is printed in today's USA Today "On Religion" page. His topic is "millennials" and how they are "simplyk resisting the tried-and-true brands of American religion..."

But the focal point for those of us who work with today's youth (and those who care about them!) comes when he writes, "When I asked my 16-year-old daughter about all this, she told me that her friends don't want to be 'branded.' Nobody her age wants to be seen as forcing religious or political views on friends, and declaring yourself a 'Christian,' 'atheist,' 'Democrat,' or 'Republican' seems, well, pushy."

Simply because we old(er) folks don't think it is "pushy" does not change the reality from most students' views. Certainly no true apprentice of the Lord Jesus desires to "force" the faith on anyone, or to even come across as "pushy."

It is pretty easy to thunder to students "you need to capture your school/neighborhood for Christ." In my mind and from my experience the toughest place to live for Christ in this country is school (by the way, whether that school is "public" or "Christian"...in many cases the latter is tougher). We who care about students need to encourage and equip, but we also need to know that the school of today isn't like it was when "we were kids," because the school of today isn't like it was a couple years ago.

Report from Russia

A dear friend and partner-in-ministry just sent the following...I urge and beg you to read it, and then to pray for the family:

Russia Reflections From the Hange Family
With God's deep love for Russia  


 Reflection and Update on the Tragedy in Moscow
 
I've already started to get emails.  For those concerned about the Moscow bombings, we are OK.  Were they close to us?  Yes.  If you want the full story, feel free to read below.  I'm writing this just after the incident, so it is a bit reflective and scattered.  Still, I promised you an honest window into our lives here, so here goes.

Last night before we went to bed, the cat was playing with the hairbrush.  Stupid cat.  I tried to stop him but he ran off with it.  Ugh... I'll find it later I thought.

I was running late this morning.  Karen is gone at an educational conference in Germany, and I have the privilege of watching my kids over their spring break.  I needed to work today, so a friend offered to watch our kids.  I rushed around to get everyone ready,  but among other things the hairbrush was missing.   We searched, but the cat had it well hidden and he wasn't talking.  I finally talk the girls into using a comb.  UGH.. 15 minutes late out the door.

I got onto the metro as usual, on the "red line" heading toward "Park Kulturi" and "Lyubyanka" when the train screeched to a halt.  It's not unusual to stop for a minute or two, but after about ten minutes we began to get restless.   I realized something was wrong when the phones started ringing, and then even more wrong when nobody seemed to be able to use their phones anymore.  I heard some Russian words I was unfamiliar with, and looked one of them up in my dictionary.  "Explosion".

Then I got the text message from our friend who was watching the children.... "Bombs just went off at Park Kulturi"  Are you OK?  I replied that I was, and hoped the message would get through.  The train suddenly lurched forward to the next stop, picked up a load of passengers waiting there, and announced that it was changing direction.  And it did!  I had no idea those things could suddenly move backward.  About this time my friend called and said that a second explosion just went off at "Lyubyanka". 
As we travelled along back to my stop I began to wonder how many bombs might be on this line?  Were they staged to go off in intervals?  Were these suicide bombers (turns out they were).  The guy with the big bag pacing up and down muttering to himself  was making me very nervous.   As I got out of metro Universitet, I stood for about ten minutes in a daze. It just seemed SO UNREAL.  These stories of bombs going off here and there around the world--those distant, unpleasant, impersonal news blips-well, one of them just happened right by me.  And I was worried, and still am worried, that one of my friends, co-workers, or students was on one of those trains.
I continued standing in a daze by the bus stop, several other emotions hitting me: 
First, there was absolute relief in knowing that I was just a short bus ride away from seeing my children.  Such a simple thing, but 40 people who left for work 15 minutes before me would not have this privilege.   
Next, I felt fear.  For the first time since we moved here, I realized:  You know, a guy could die here!  Panic gripped my heart:  "Tim!  What are you doing?  This is irresponsible! You've got four children!  What if you were hurt?  Who would take care of them?"   Suddenly I began to ask the question "IS THIS WORTH IT???" " Tim, if you had died today, would you say the impact you had here was worth your death?"  Really, is what you are doing THAT important?

My emotions then turned to anger.  WHO would do such a thing?  How could there be such evil in the world? 

Then came shame:  I have been a little too busy lately, my master's paper has been consuming time otherwise reserved for sleep.  I've been a bit grouchy, self-focused, and not as at peace with God and with those around me as I'd like to be.  What if I had to stand before my creator in such a state?
The bus came, I got on, and I prayed for a calm spirit to hear the voice of God.  The voice of truth began to speak into my mind.  I want to write it down while it's fresh, before it fades from my memory, but it was a beautiful thing.  It went something like this:
"Tim, this evil you encountered today is precisely what you have been called to work against.  Teaching young people and frustrated orphans to experience the love of God and invest in others is the part of my work of bringing people into a whole relationship with me.  Are the results worth it?  Are you making a significant difference?  Tim, leave that to me.  I need you to continue to obey.  Is there risk?  Is it worth your life? Well, my own Son got put to death, and countless thousands of my followers throughout history have suffered loss and grief.  Don't forget Tim, that your time on earth is short.  Have I called you to die?  Yes-every day I have called you to die to yourself.  And one day, sooner or later, your physical body will die.  Number your days and gain a heart of wisdom.    I will make all things new.  I will set all things right, even though now there is such evil in the world.  Still, even now I am working in people's hearts and lives and renewing their inner beings.   I have called you to be a part of that work, no matter how small your part may seem, no matter how inadequate you may feel to the task, I am changing others and changing you.   Follow me, and know that I am in control of everything.  Even your cat. "
 

My friends, can you pray with me?  Pray that God gives US the courage to love Him and follow Him and to be part of his healing work no matter what may come our way.   Then take a moment, breathe deeply and be thankful for this wonderful gift of life, and the beautiful gift of your eternal soul that God has given you and those around you.  What a wonderful Creator.   He makes all things new.

 
Thank You
... for taking the time to read this newsletter.  PLEASE contact us with any prayer needs you have, and please keep us in your prayers.  For the Kingdom, the Gospel, and the Fatherless....
 
Contact Info
Tim Hange:  thange@gmail.com  
 Karen Hange: k_hange@hotmail.com

The Danger of Christian "Retreats," "Camps" etc...

As I read the following cartoon this morning I thought of the students/adults with whom I spent this last incredible weekend at the NWTFC Bible Quiz Tournament.Then I again prayed that this first morning back in the "real world" that those who had made commitments to would follow through with them rather than cave to the pressure of the world, the flesh, and the devil.
Peanuts
Whether a four-day event, a week of camp, or even a missions trip; the reality is Spirit of God can seize those days away from peers, negative garbage, etc to cause people to truly hear from God. But then it's back to the war zone...

Much like when I served in Vietnam and "R & R" (Rest and Recreation) came up. One moment I'm riding on the Armored Cavalry Assault Vehicle (ACAV), the next I'm on my way to Sydney, Australia for seven days. Once arriving there I spend all the time focused on partying (long before I got converted!), but in the back of my mind...five days, three days, 36 hours, 7 hours...and the dreadful knowledge that I would soon be back in the Nam.

Thus the burden is on the speaker, staff, counselors etc at such spiritual events to NEVER make it "easy" to make a "decision" for Jesus....to NEVER get into body-counting "decisions" as a way of determining whether the event was "good," and to tell the attendees that the camp or whatever is NOT real life...it is rather a taste of heaven, and that the most dangerous time of our spiritual lives is the first several days after what is often referred to as a "spiritual high."

And the burden of the person who MADE a genuine commitment to Christ to deepen their relationship and obedience is to focus on the gospel, and on walking in faith and trust that this time it will work...even as Spirit of God works within us...IF we get out of the way and, duh, ask Him to!

The life of a disciple (which is what the great commission tells us to make, rather than "converts" and/or "decisions") is, at its root, one HUGE decision to repent and trust the gospel; followed by a gazillion moment-by-moment decisions to obey.

And, when those inevitable stumblings come, we run to my most-needed verse...First John 1.9. Reminds me of an early DC Talk song...Watch the following video and remind yourself that "If we confess ("agree with God") that we have sinned, He is faithful and just to FORGIVE us our sin, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."

Sunday, March 28, 2010

The Lord was the Guest of Honor!


I rarely read the KJV; but I like "the wind bloweth where it listeth." It just sounds cool...the message being Holy Spirit shows up on His schedule, not ours...But we can invite Him...

Many must have been praying for the Teens For Christ North West Regional Tournament that began Thursday and concluded this (Sunday) afternoon. I had the distinct privilege of being invited to speak a few times as well as quizmaster. I'm grateful that Midland Ministries released me to attend.

I have waited a few hours to write, rode an exercise bike for 45 minutes, relaxed in the hotel hot tub (I fly home tomorrow) and reflected on the weekend.

After contemplating, I remain convinced of what I shared with the quizzers, staff, and onlookers earlier in the day. This event is the best quizzing I've ever seen (and we are talking about three decades of being involved in Bible quizzing either as a table official or, for about twenty years, directing the Family Life Network quiz leagues in New York and Pennsylvania).

For those readers who have no idea what Bible Quiz Fellowship quizzing is like, you may stop reading as you won't understand fully.

When I write "best" I don't mean these were the most proficient quizzers I've ever seen. There were several students who did exceptionally well in the competitive aspect. I mean "best" because every quizzer, coach, and "fan" displayed "sanctified sportsmanship" and tremendous attitudes. There was never a conflict, never a huffy sissy-fit, or anything else that occasionally mars such an event.

I can not put into words the sense of His presence we experienced particularly Saturday night. Several of the teams entertained us (by the way, it is okay for CHRISTians to laugh) with hilarious skits, and then a few graduating seniors shared what quizzing has meant to them. A few other students spoke of how the Lord has used this tool of Bible quizzing to shape and mold them. Many were transparent with their overemphasis on competition at times.

I wrapped up the time by tossing my sermon and talking about our adoption of Janelle and Jacob, and the guilt I once felt because it seemed I loved them more than my "natural" children Josiah and Joel. I went on to say that as I thought about and prayed about that "guilt" I the Lord allowed me to understand...

Though I do love Josiah and Joel like crazy; I sort of had to love them; after all, they were mine (and Jane's!)
We didn't have to love Janelle and Jacob; we chose to love them, and jumped through a lot of hoops to "get" them.

And then I reminded us that the Father did not "have" to love us; He chose to love us, and the "hoop" He jumped through was to send His Son to pay the penalty for our sins and to incur the wrath of a holy God as "He who knew no sin became sin."

And He loves us with an "everlasting love." He does not love us if we quiz well, or demonstrate good manners, or look good, or perform good. He loves us....period.

When's the last time you reminded yourself of that fact? I fear too many claim to be "growing deep in the things of God" but their quest becomes a quicksand of apathy as they focus on "stuff" instead of resting in His amazing grace and never ending love. Please don't misunderstand, spiritual growth should and must be pursued by the redeemed, but we must work to never lose sight of the love of God.Or, heaven help us, we slide into somehow thinking we deserve His love.

If this provokes you, or makes you a tad uncomfortable; first of all, pray that your heart might be softend; reflect on that which is of FIRST importance ("Christ died for us" 1 Corin 15) and, may I suggest, order a copy of "Loving God" by Chuck Colson (us ex-cons gotta stick together!)

The Gospel is Mirrored in Prayer

"Prayer mirrors the gospel. In the gospel, the Father takes us as we are because of Jesus and gives us his gift of salvation. In prayer, the Father receives us as we are because of Jesus and gives us his gift of help. We look at the inadequacy of our praying and give up, thinking something is wrong with us. God looks at the adequacy of his Son and delights in our sloppy, meandering prayers."



- Paul Miller

Pray for John Piper

I am a fan of John Piper...his writing challenges me, makes me think, and though I don't concur fully with all his stuff; he is a valued brother in Christ.

As you read the following that he posted on his blog today, be grateful for his transparency, and pray for this man of God, his family, and the church he shepherds.

JOHN PIPER:
As you may have already heard in the sermon from March 27-28, the elders graciously approved on March 22 a leave of absence that will take me away from Bethlehem from May 1 through December 31, 2010. We thought it might be helpful to put an explanation in a letter to go along with the sermon.




I asked the elders to consider this leave because of a growing sense that my soul, my marriage, my family, and my ministry-pattern need a reality check from the Holy Spirit. On the one hand, I love my Lord, my wife, my five children and their families first and foremost; and I love my work of preaching and writing and leading Bethlehem. I hope the Lord gives me at least five more years as the pastor for preaching and vision at Bethlehem.



But on the other hand, I see several species of pride in my soul that, while they may not rise to the level of disqualifying me for ministry, grieve me, and have taken a toll on my relationship with Noël and others who are dear to me. How do I apologize to you, not for a specific deed, but for ongoing character flaws, and their effects on everybody? I’ll say it now, and no doubt will say it again, I’m sorry. Since I don’t have just one deed to point to, I simply ask for a spirit of forgiveness; and I give you as much assurance as I can that I am not making peace, but war, with my own sins.



Noël and I are rock solid in our commitment to each other, and there is no whiff of unfaithfulness on either side. But, as I told the elders, “rock solid” is not always an emotionally satisfying metaphor, especially to a woman. A rock is not the best image of a woman’s tender companion. In other words, the precious garden of my home needs tending. I want to say to Noël that she is precious to me in a way that, at this point in our 41-year pilgrimage, can be said best by stepping back for a season from virtually all public commitments.



No marriage is an island. For us this is true in two senses. One is that Noël and I are known inside-out by a few friends at Bethlehem—most closely by our long-time colleagues and friends David and Karin Livingston, and then by a cluster of trusted women with Noël and men with me. We are accountable, known, counseled, and prayed for. I am deeply thankful for a gracious culture of transparency and trust among the leadership at Bethlehem.



The other way that our marriage is not an island is that its strengths and defects have consequences for others. No one in the orbit of our family and friends remains unaffected by our flaws. My prayer is that this leave will prove to be healing from the inside of my soul, through Noël’s heart, and out to our children and their families, and beyond to anyone who may have been hurt by my failures.



The difference between this leave and the sabbatical I took four years ago is that I wrote a book on that sabbatical (What Jesus Demands from the World). In 30 years, I have never let go of the passion for public productivity. In this leave, I intend to let go of all of it. No book-writing. No sermon preparation or preaching. No blogging. No Twitter. No articles. No reports. No papers. And no speaking engagements. There is one stateside exception—the weekend devoted to the Desiring God National Conference combined with the inaugural convocation of Bethlehem College and Seminary in October. Noël thought I should keep three international commitments. Our reasoning is that if she could go along, and if we plan it right, these could be very special times of refreshment together.



The elders have appointed a group to stay in touch and keep me accountable for this leave. They are David Mathis, Jon Bloom, Tom Steller, Sam Crabtree, Jon Grano, Tim Held, Tony Campagna, and Kurt Elting-Ballard. Five of these have walked with Noël and me over the last two months, helping us discern the wisdom, scope, and nature of this leave. They brought the final recommendation to the elders on March 22.



I asked the elders not to pay me for this leave. I don’t feel it is owed to me. I know I am causing more work for others, and I apologize to the staff for that. Not only that, others could use similar time away. Most working men and women do not have the freedom to step back like this. The elders did not agree with my request. Noël and I are profoundly grateful for this kind of affection. We will seek the Lord for how much of your financial support to give back to the church, to perhaps bear some of the load.



Personally, I view these months as a kind of relaunch of what I hope will be the most humble, happy, fruitful five years of our 35 years at Bethlehem and 46 years of marriage. Would you pray with me to that end? And would you stand by your church with all your might? May God make these eight months the best Bethlehem has ever known. It would be just like God to do the greatest things when I am not there. “Neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth” (1 Corinthians 3:7).



I love you and promise to pray for you every day.



Pastor John

Missed this last year: The 2nd American Revolution

Invest six minutes in watching this guy portray what the "ghost" of Thomas Payne might say. Disclaimer: I don't agree with all of this, but it is, well, mostly common sense:

Put the Right People in the Right Spot!

Man, I hope some of you love these as much as I do! Doesn't matter whether the Lord has made you a neck, or a right toe, or an ankle...etc...just pray and ensure that you are in His choice of position for you in the Body of Christ:

Peanuts

Saturday, March 27, 2010

CLASH DAY

Every year for twenty years it has been my honor to have, as one of my teen camp speaking events, the privilege of speaking at Camp Men-O-Lan near Quakertown, Pa for "Pioneers for Christ,"  a Korean/American youth ministry.

One of the "traditions" is "Clash Day"...and, being the teen-in-old-man's-body that I am, I participate.

Here is a shot of the camp director (Donny Cho....whose wedding I attended in Philly in February) and me:

My Tummy Hurts!

I love Tim Hawkins...and what follows is not exactly deep in spiritual thought and insights, but, oh my, my stomach hurts from laughing so much...my teenage friends, my 20/30 something friends, may not laugh as hard...but if you a tad older, don't wet your pants:

Need A Second Touch?

The following is from MARK BATTERSON'S BLOG. If you are following my posts you recognize that I am a huge fan of Mark and his writings. I recommend him to any follower of Jesus. He will often challenge, sometimes comfort, and always give clear Biblical insights. 

His books are fantastic.

Here are his thoughts on Jesus' second touch:



Remember when Jesus heals the blind man but it takes two attempts? For some strange reason, that is blessing me big time. Even Jesus needed two attempts. I find tremendous encouragement in that. And I think there are a few lessons to be learned.

I think many of us give up after our first attempt so we forfeit the miracle. Keep praying for the miracle. Give God a chance! I also think some of us are satisfied with a partial miracle. Don't settle for half a miracle. Keep believing God for the whole thing! Finally, some miracles happen in stages. It doesn't happen all the way right away.

Mark 8:25 says: "Then Jesus laid hands on his eyes again." The operative word is "again." Is there something you need to pray for again?

Friday, March 26, 2010

Scandalous!

I'm reading a great book, and the following is taken from that book (which, by the way, can be ordered from Amazon by clicking on the link...and by so doing a tiny percentage goes to help this home missionary!):

“Everything that we know and appreciate and praise God for in all Christian experience both in this life and in the life to come springs from this bloody cross.

Do we have the gift of the Spirit? Secured by Christ on the cross.

Do we enjoy the fellowship of saints? Secured by Christ on the cross.

Does he give us comfort in life and death? Secured by Christ on the cross.

Does he watch over us faithfully, providentially, graciously, and covenantally? Secured by Christ on the cross.
Do we have hope of a heaven to come? Secured by Christ on the cross.

Do we anticipate resurrection bodies on the last day? Secured by Christ on the cross.

Is there a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness? Secured by Christ on the cross.

Do we now enjoy new identities, so that we are no longer to see ourselves as nothing but failures, moral pariahs, disappointments to our parents—but deeply loved, blood-bought, human beings, redeemed by Christ, declared just by God himself, owing to the fact that God himself presented his Son Jesus as the propitiation for our sins? All this is secured by Christ on the cross and granted to those who have faith in him.”
—D.A. Carson

Decorate the Foyer While the Ship Sinks?

Again, as I laugh at this 1963 comic, it is mixed with a sigh as I think of pastors and other church leaders who are so beset by "gardening committees" that they struggle to find time and energy to focus on the Biblical mandates for the church.

"Oh, yes, pastor; let's make everything look pretty so our visitors (who we will never invite) are impressed! We'll buy the plants, and dig the holes, and we'll form a watering committee...what? Excuse me? No, I don't have time to attend a Bible study/prayer meeting/ or to take a meal to a shut-in."

Peanuts

Thursday, March 25, 2010

God is Still God; and God is Still Good

I do not know this man; but I look forward to meeting him some day. It seems there are so many that I know, either personally or "electronically," who are battling what by all human vision is end-of-life scenarios.

But, as Zac testifies, "God is still God; and God is still good."
The Story of Zac Smith from NewSpring Media on Vimeo.

Final Sayings of (ex) children's/youth pastors

Greetings from Seattle, where I have the privilege of ministering thru this weekend. Saw this on a BLOG

wanted to share with you:

TOP TEN SAYINGS VOICED BY CHILDREN/YOUTH PASTOR"S JUST BEFORE GETTING CANNED:

10. We don’t have to preview this video; one of the deacons told me it was clean.
9. Just go ahead. It’s easier to beg forgiveness than to obtain permission.
8. The board won’t care.
7. We’ll set a record for this!
6. What does this switch on the soundboard do?
5. I’ve seen this done on TV.
4. I’m sure it’s strong enough to hold both of us.
3. Let’s go ahead and order it, the church will pay for it.
2. I decided we’re not having VBS this year.
1. I don’t care if he is the pastor’s kid

How Many Times?

I am not a "numbers" guy; in fact you can easily build a case that I don't like "numbers" at all. I don't keep track of speaking assignments..not "right" or "wrong," just the way it is.

Yet last Saturday, March 20, as I drove back from speaking at a youth rally in Concordia, Ks I was overwhelmed with gratitude for over thirty years of being able to do such activities. Preaching in a church, to a small Bible club, to large events, for a week of special meetings in a church, in over 1400 high schools, graduations, civic organizations, weeks of camp....all of it is such an incredible privilege.

And it all started because God drew me to Himself in a jail cell in Texas; following release from prison a few years later a couple took me in; later Dr. Al and Vidy Metsker took a chance and allowed me to come to Bible school...where Dean Potratz and so many others poured wisdom and experience into me...and because a host of people pray and invest as I and my family continue to serve as home missionaries; with no income other that missionary support and honorariums.

I am a blessed man who continues, by His grace, to try to preach truth, with a healthy dose of "fear and trembling" as I understand "let not many of us become teachers...for as such we shall incur the stricter judgment."

The photos are from that Saturday rally, me preaching and "Cloverton" singing and leading worship.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

For Preachers and Hearers and Leaders of All Stripes

Those in the pews and those behind the "pulpits" will benefit from chewing on this from Michael Hyatt

The Leadership Strategy of Jesus

So much of the activity I see among leaders today is focused on reaching the masses. “Successful leaders” speak at big conferences, host popular television or radio shows, publish bestselling books, or write successful blogs. Their goal is breadth. They want to extend their influence to as many people as possible.

Jesus had a much different leadership strategy. His goal was not “reach” or popularity. In fact, as strange as it sounds today, he actively discouraged publicity. On more than one occasion, after performing a jaw-dropping miracle, he told those who witnessed it, “Tell no one what you have seen” (see e.g., Matthew 8:4; 16:20; 17:9; Mark 7:36; 8:30; 9:9; Luke 5:14; and 8:56). He was a publicist’s nightmare.
Instead, Jesus focused on true depth and long-term impact. To achieve this, he had a four-pronged leadership strategy:
  1. He taught the multitudes. Yes, Jesus had a public ministry. He occasionally spoke to thousands. However, he didn’t pander to these groups or “tickle their ears.” He confronted the status quo, jarred his listeners’ sensibilities, and often taught in parables. He didn’t feel the need to clarify everything. He often left his audience confused and wondering what he meant. His goal was apparently to shift their paradigm and get them to think.
  2. He mobilized the seventy. Jesus had a smaller, more intimate group to whom he gave specific assignments. He sent them out two-by-two. He asked for a BIG commitment. He gave them virtually no resources. Yet he demanded that they perform miracles. He told them to expect opposition (see Luke 10:1–12) and promised no earthly reward (see Luke 10:18–20).
  3. He trained the twelve. He chose the twelve disciples to be “with him” (see Mark 3:14a) He taught them and also gave them assignments (see Mark 3:14b–19). However, he also shared with them his daily life. Like the Apostle Paul would do years later, he poured into them his very life (see 1 Thessalonians 2:8). Because of this, he entrusted them with power to do the work he himself had done. In fact, he promised them that they would actually do greater works (see John 14:12–14).
  4. He confided in the three. Jesus had an inner circle comprised of Peter, James, and John. He took them on special outings (see Matthew 17:1). He allowed them to witness his greatest glory (see Mark 9:2–3) and his deepest temptation (see Mark 14:33–34). He prayed with them (see Luke 9:28f). He taught them things He did not teach the others (see Matthew 17:2; Mark 5:37–43). He even introduced them to His heavenly family (see Matthew 17:3). They were his closest friends and confidants.
Jesus’ leadership strategy evidently worked well. Within a generation, His followers turned the world upside down (see Acts 17:6). Within seven generations (318 A.D.), the emperor Constantine accepted his message and made Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire. And here I am, almost two millennia later, writing about it.
After interacting with leaders at every level for more than three decades, my observation is that most leaders only focus on the first two strategies. They have a public teaching ministry, and they are good at mobilizing groups for specific assignments. However, very few intentionally train a small group of disciples. Even fewer build deep relationships with a handful of confidants. As a result, they do not have the kind of lasting impact they could have.
The older I get, the more value I see in going deeper with a few. Leading the masses may feed my ego, but it won’t guarantee an impact that will outlive me.

The View From the Pew?

Ah, picture Charlie Brown as Pastor Brown encouraging people to, for instance, read the Word more often; brag on Jesus to their friends, or (horrors) showing their love for Jesus by investing in His work:
Peanuts

Grace = A Proper Noun

“Grace is not a ‘thing’. It is not a substance that can be measured or a commodity to be distributed. It is the ‘grace of the Lord Jesus Christ’ (2 Cor. 13:14). In essence, it is Jesus Himself.”


- Sinclair Ferguson

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Plead Your Adoption!

“You will find it a stronghold in the day of trial to plead your adoption. You have no rights as a subject, you have forfeited them by your treason; but nothing can forfeit a child’s right to a father’s protection. Be not afraid to say, My Father, hear my cry.
- Charles Spurgeon

Monday, March 22, 2010

Many a Truth Said in Jest Department:

Make Charlie Brown a pastor or other Christian leader prodding the team to do something they've not done before...
Peanuts

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Jagger and the Rolling Stones Got the Title Right!

"Our times are in His hands." Therefore "Time, time, time, it's on my side, yes it is!" But we are tasked to redeem this incredible and unreplaceable gift. My good friend DAVID NELSON, who pastors in Perry, NY posted this, and it is well-worth sharing, and well-worth heeding:

In his helpful book on Jonathan Edwards, Pursuing Holiness in the LORD, T. M. Moore (editor) draws our attention to one of Edwards' "timely" sermons entitled, "The Preciousness of Time." Ephesians 5:16 says, "Redeeming the time, because the days are evil." It's a most engaging sermon to read and can be found HERE. But shy of that, here is a brief outline showing his most salient points:

WHY IS TIME PRECIOUS?
Eternity depends on it. A happy or miserable eternity depends on the good or ill improvement of it.

Time is very short. Since time is short, it is therefore to be considered precious.

Time is uncertain. None of us knows how much time remains, whether a month or a year, or perhaps, only a day!

Time cannot be recovered when it is past. There's no regaining time when once it has been used up. There's no going back.

WHO ARE TO BE REPROVED FOR NOT IMPROVING TIME?
"How little is the preciousness of time considered, and how little sense of it do the greater part of mankind seem to have! And to how little good purpose do many spend their time! There is nothing more precious, and yet nothing of which men are more prodigal." Which sort of persons should be reproved for their misuse of time? 

Those who are idle. These spend much time doing "nothing of any account, either for the good of their souls or their bodies; nothing either for their own benefit, or for the benefit of their neighbor, either of the family or of the body politic to which they belong."

Those who are wicked. These are worse than the above in that they not only do not use their time to good purpose, but actually abuse it by spending their time in wicked pursuits. "Such do not only lose their time, but they do worse; with it they hurt themselves and others."

Those who indulge only in worldly pursuits. These spend their time only in worldly pursuits, neglecting their souls. Such men lose their time, let them be ever so diligent in their worldly business, and thought they may be careful not to let any of it pass so, but that it shall some way or other to worldly profit. They that improve time only for their benefit in time, lose it; because time was not given for itself, but for that everlasting duration which succeeds it."

Therefore, "Redeem the time!"

Saturday, March 20, 2010

We are His Kids!

“The Christian life is the life of sons and daughters; it is not the life of slaves. It is freedom, not bondage. Of course, we are slaves of God, of Christ, and of one another. We belong to God, to Christ, to one another, and we love to serve those to whom we belong. But this kind of service is freedom. What the Christian life is not, is a bondage to the law, as if our salvation hung in the balance and depended on our meticulous and slavish obedience to the letter of the law. As it is, our salvation rests upon the finished work of Christ, on His sin-bearing, curse-bearing death, embraced by faith.”
- John Stott

Friday, March 19, 2010

We Need the Gospel Every Moment

What follows is a prayer posted by SCOTTY SMITH

He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again. He spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But when Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, he rebuked Peter. “Get behind me, Satan!” he said. “You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.” Mark 8:31-33
     Dear Lord Jesus, one of the many things I cherish about the Bible is its unfiltered, no-hype, non-spin honesty. Who but God would write a book documenting the foibles and failures of his beloved sons and daughters? Who but God would chronicle the ways his chosen leaders limp along, and prove themselves to be in constant need of mercy and grace? This gives me great encouragement and hope. It also gives me freedom to acknowledge that I need the gospel today just as much as the first day I believed it.

     This will be just as true tomorrow, and the next day and the next. Please keep me convinced of this, Lord Jesus… because I’m so much like Peter. It’s one thing for me to stress, stew and stamp about the ways this generation is decrying and denying the theology of your cross. But it’s quite another to see the subtle and not-so-subtle ways I try to keep you from the cross. As you dealt with Peter, so deal with me. Give me all the life-giving rebukes I need to keep me living in gospel-sanity.

     When I mute my heart to the insult of grace, I deny your cross. When I think, even for one moment, that my obedience merits anything, I deny your cross. When I put others under the microscope and measure of performance-based living, I deny your cross. When I wallow in self-contempt and do more navel-gazing than repenting, I deny your cross. Though I hate the bumper-sticker, when I actually live like you’re my co-pilot, I deny the cross.

     Continue to free me, and my friends, from our “man-ish” thinking and living, Lord Jesus. Help us to mind the things of God as your cross gets bigger and bigger and bigger in our lives. So very Amen, I pray, in your patient and persistent name.

The Burden of Having Potential

Not saying we shouldn't tell children and teens (and adults, for that matter) about their great potential, but whether athletes, Bible quizzers, whatever, Linus' cry may be echoed by those who are always told of their "potential":

Peanuts

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Because It's St Patrick's Day

I saw these guys (Clancy Bros & Tommy Makem) in Hollywood when I was a sophomore or junior in high school...they were great...oh, yeah, there was a guy filling in between their sets, a very young Bill Cosby...probably the only "Bible" I got until I got converted at age 26 was Cosby's Noah routine...

Keep Your Word!

Great post from Michael Hyatt

Several months ago, a former executive at our company made a commitment to a third-party via email. It is obvious that he didn’t research the cost of his promise, nor did he get anyone else’s approval. I was not aware of the obligation until the other party brought it to our attention. When I learned that the commitment was north of six figures, I gasped.

Several rationalizations immediately popped into my head:
  • The executive is no longer at the company.
  • He obviously didn’t count the cost.
  • He wasn’t authorized to make this commitment.
  • This project is already under water.
  • This amount is not in our budget.
  • I wasn’t even aware of the commitment.
  • Our CFO wasn’t aware of the commitment.
However, after a few moments, I remembered that our first core value at Thomas Nelson is “Honoring God.” We amplify this by saying that “We honor God in everything we do.” We then go on to describe the behaviors that express this value. The fourth item on the list is this:
We honor our commitments, even when it is difficult, expensive, or inconvenient.”
That brought everything into clear focus. This was initially motivated by Psalm 115:1,4:
LORD, who may abide in Your tabernacle? Who may dwell in Your holy hill? … He who swears to his own hurt and does not change.
Simply put, this means that our word is sacred. I don’t think it is claiming too much to say that this premise is the foundation of Western society. Without it, our society begins to fall apart.

When I was growing up a promise and a hand-shake was all you needed. Contracts were largely foreign and unnecessary. In fact, to insist on one would have been an insult. Why? Because a man’s word was his bond. No one was willing to risk their social capital or relational equity by breaking their word.

My, how times have changed.

Twice in the last month I have had people blatantly dishonor their own word. Both were under contract. Their obligations were explicit. There was no ambiguity.

This is tragic—especially for them.

Keeping your word is the essence of integrity. As Stephen Covey points out, “honesty is making your words conform to reality. Integrity is making reality conform to your words.” It is essential to leadership. Without it, you cannot be an effective leader.

Why?
  1. Integrity is required for trust. If people can’t trust your word, they won’t trust you.
  2. Trust is necessary for influence. People chose those they let influence them, and this is based largely on trust.
  3. Influence is essential for impact. You can’t make the impact you want to make unless you can influence others and shift their behavior.
Yes, keeping your word is sometimes difficult, expensive, and inconvenient. But the cost of not doing so is even more expensive. It will ultimately cost you your leadership.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Benefit of Being Sick

"Sickness helps to remind men of death. Most live as if they were never going to die. They follow business, or pleasure, or politics, or science, as if earth was their eternal home. They plan and scheme for the future, like the rich fool in the parable, as if they had a long lease of life, and were not, tenants at will. A heavy illness sometimes goes far to dispel these delusions. It awakens men from their day-dreams, and reminds them they have to die as well as to live. Now this I say emphatically is a mighty good."
~ J.C. Ryle

Monday, March 15, 2010

The New Testament in 3 Words

A great quote from J. I. Packer from his great book, "Knowing God":

“Were I asked to focus the New Testament message in three words, my proposal would be adoption through propitiation, and I do not expect ever to meet a richer or more pregnant summary of the gospel than that.

Responsibility? Personal? Surely Not!

Peanuts

Friday, March 12, 2010

Don't Say I'm Too Young

Yeah, I know; nobody would ever accuse me of being too young...but I do love this from MARK BATTERSON

Jeremiah 1:7 is such a powerful truth: "Don't say I am only a youth."

I love that on lots of levels. First of all, we have to challenge our kids to do great things for God. When it comes to doing something for God, you're never too old and you're never too young! Age is never an excuse. It wasn't an excuse for King Josiah at age 8. It wasn't an excuse for Caleb at age 85.

I also love the fact that God says: "don't say it." When we verbalize negative things I think they become self-fulfilling prophecies. Obviously, there are some things we need to verbalize rather than internalize. It's healthy to talk about frustrations and doubts. It helps us process them. But I think we need the discernment to know when to say: "don't say it." I'm afraid we often solidify negativity by verbalizing it.

May the Lord give us the wisdom to know what not to say!

It's Okay to Say "I Dont Know..."

A great six minutes from C. J. Mahaney regarding "mystery":

Many a Truth Said in Jest...

Wizard of Id

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Praying?


"I suspect that if we saw the difference even the tiniest of our prayers
make, and all the people those little prayers were destined to affect,
and all the consequences of those prayers down the through the
centuries, we would be so paralyzed with awe at the power of prayer that we would be unable to get of our knees for the rest of our lives."

Peter Kreeft

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Do I Love Jesus or Stuff About Jesus?

This resonated with me (and served as a warning) as I read this morning:

"Do you know the Christ of the Gospels? Or have you fallen into the trap to which Christains (especially, perhaps, Reformed Christians) who love doctrine and systematic theology are sometimes susceptible (unlike John Calvin, it should be said): fascination with dogmatic formula at the expense of love for the Savior's person?"
Sinclair Ferguson THIS IS A GREAT BOOK!

What Happens to Infants Who Die?

John Piper with his perspective on what is, to many, a perplexing question:

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

"Slow Down, You're Moving Too Fast..."

It's not just a line from an ancient (I'm so old I don't listen to "oldies," but to "ancients," back in the day when musicians were musicians and not computer programmers...) song, but it is good advice from Peter Marshall: 
 
"In the name of Jesus Christ, who was never in a hurry, we pray, O God, that You will slow us down, for we know that we live too fast. With all of eternity before us, make us take time to live - time to get acquainted with You, time to enjoy Your blessings, and time for each other."

Monday, March 8, 2010

Five Distorted "Gospels"

This is important stuff from James MacDonald:
 
My oldest son, Luke, sent me a link the other day that quoted A.W. Tozer and James Kennedy (both wonderful Christian leaders in their day). Both men believed that many, if not most, professing believers they encountered around the country were not actually saved. They were deeply troubled by the distortions of the gospel that were the result of trying to get the gospel to more people. Well intentioned yes, but eternally dangerous for the souls of men and woman who had not heard the whole message. The article prompted me to look back in my file for something I remembered writing a while back. Here it is . . . What gospel have you heard and believed?



Five Distortions of the Gospel in Our Day

1) The Cake Mix Gospel: if we leave out key ingredients our souls will never “rise” to God. We don’t need the message reduced to some irreducible elements, we need the whole gospel. You don’t expect your car to run without all the parts. You don’t expect your body to function without all the organs working properly. You don’t expect a cake to taste right if it’s rushed and readied without the right ingredients. The gospel without repentance is not the gospel. Acts 18:26, “And he [Apollos] began to speak out boldly in the synagogue. But when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately.”

2) The Cultural Gospel: Skip the postmodern sales job and go for the heart where human need never changes. Understanding the ‘culture’ is much less important than knowing what the Bible says about every human heart separated from God. We don’t need slick sales people giving out the gospel. We need bold, Spirit-filled messengers with a deep heart of compassion for lost people. The gospel without authoritative/binding truth is not the gospel. Acts 17:30, “In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent.”

3) The Cool Gospel: Jesus transcends fashion trends. Marketing Jesus is cheap and powerless. We don’t need to ’spin’ the message we need to say it. We need to stop shaping Jesus in some misguided effort to make Him appealing. Jesus doesn’t need to be like us; we need to be like Him. The gospel wrapped in stylistic packaging is not the gospel. Revelation 3:17 “Because you say, ‘I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing,’ and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked.”

4) The Carnal Gospel: What Jesus can do for me: health, wealth, always happy, never hurting? Jesus solves those issues, but not the way we may think. He’ll change what you want a lot more than what you have. The selfish gospel that promises things Jesus doesn’t promise is a lie and is sentencing the lost who listen to a shocking surprise in eternity. The gospel of “me before Jesus” is not the gospel. Mark 8:35 “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it.”

5) The Careful Gospel: Let’s not upset anybody, just keep ‘em comfortable and coming back, There’s lots of time for folks to figure it out. The gospel of “get them to church, and in time everything will come together as long as we don’t offend them” is a dangerous gospel. Well intentioned is not enough. The gospel without urgency is not the gospel. 2 Corinthians 6:2, “Behold, now is “THE ACCEPTABLE TIME,” behold, now is “THE DAY OF SALVATION.”

Do you understand the implications of a distorted gospel? What horror to imagine many people thinking they are ready to meet God only to find out they never were because they believed a distorted gospel. Matthew 7 predicts just a scene of shocking surprise. Matthew 7:22-23, “Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.’ Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine, and acts upon them, may be compared to a wise man, who built his house upon the rock.”

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Revival - What Does It Look Like?

Here is how J. I. Packer answers that question in his essay, “The Glory of God and the Reviving of Religion” in "A God-Entranced Vision of all Things":
Revival is God touching minds and hearts in an arresting, devastating, exalting way, to draw them to himself through working from the inside out rather than from the outside in.
It is God accelerating, intensifying, and extending the work of grace that goes on in every Christian’s life, but is sometimes overshadowed and somewhat smothered by the impact of other forces.
It is the near presence of God giving new power to the gospel of sin and grace.
It is the Holy Spirit sensitizing souls to divine realities and so generating deep-level responses to God in the form of faith and repentance, praise and prayer, love and joy, works of benevolence and service and initiatives of outreach and sharing.
What is the pattern of genuine revival? Packer suggests the following ten elements:
  1. God comes down.
  2. God’s Word pierces.
  3. Man’s sin is seen.
  4. Christ’s cross is valued.
  5. Change goes deep.
  6. Love breaks out.
  7. Joy fills hearts.
  8. Each church becomes itself—becomes, that is, the people of the divine presence in an experiential, as distinct from merely notional, sense.
  9. The lost are found.
  10. Satan keeps pace.