Get the book here

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Not the Same As "Blab It Grab It"

Another gem from MARK BATTERSON

I had a major revelation this weekend as I preached on the Battle of Jericho. The Lord says in Joshua 6:2: "I have delivered Jericho into your hands."

Did you catch it? It's not future tense. The Lord doesn't say "I will deliver." He says "I have delivered." The battle has already been won in the spiritual realm. So the Lord proclaims the promise in the past tense. I think there are moments when you need to stop pleading for God to do something and start praising Him for what He has already done. Faith is believing that God has already delivered on the promise. There is a confirmation in your spirit. You sense a breakthrough in your spirit. It is faith that allows us to praise God BEFORE the miracle happens! Why? Because it believes it will happen as much as if it has already happened. It turns the future tense into the past tense.

GET THIS BOOK! (money back guarantee!)

I have just concluded one of the best books I've ever read.

I urge you to buy it. I ask you to buy it from Amazon by clicking on the link. As I subsist on missionary support if you ever start an Amazon purchase from this blog and buy anything I get a tiny percentage, and you get my gratitude!

But regarding this book...here is my personal money-back guarantee...if you buy it (off this link) and don't like it I commit to giving you your money back. If you can convince me that you genuinely can't afford it, I will buy it for you (email me at jack.hager@gmail.com and make your case)

I will be quoting from the book as time allows; but for now let me simply challenge you go get it, read it, apply it.

Here, then, is simply one brief snippet to whet your appetite:

"Success drives pragmatic evangelism. pragmatic evangelism never
asks the question, 'Who are we to be as an evangelist?'
Pragmatic evangelism only asks the question, 'What works?'
Pragmatic evangelism is 'doing' evangelism in a way that elevates
success and method over anything else. 
It becomes the business of evangelism...
...and sadly, because success sells, 
it's often unquestioned in the Christian community."

Here is the link:  UPDATE: apparently some can not see the Amazon link which should follow this; but the title of the book is Marks of the Messenger: Knowing, Living and Speaking the Gospel

They Were (unintentionally) Right!

Yes, pagan that I am (at least according to some...who despise the fact that I enjoy the Beatles and profess to follow Christ), those great theologians, the Beatles, unintentionally summarized an important truth in their song, "All You Need is Love."

Here is J. C. Ryle's comment on that which unites true believers (which is not the same thing as ecumenicism):

"Love to Christ is the common meeting-point of believers of every branch of Christ’s Church on earth.

Whether Episcopalian or Presbyterian, Baptist or Independent, Calvinist or Arminian, Methodist or Moravian, Lutheran or Reformed, Established or Free, here at least, they are agreed. About forms and ceremonies, about Church government and modes of worship, they often differ widely.

But on one point, at any rate, they are united. They have all one common feeling towards Him on whom they build their hope of salvation. They “love the Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity.” (Eph. 6:24)

Many of them, perhaps, are ignorant of systematic divinity and could argue but feebly in defense of their creed. But they all know what they feel toward Him who died for their sins. “I cannot speak much for Christ, sir,” said an old, uneducated Christian woman to Dr. Chalmers, “but if I cannot speak for Him, I could die for Him!”

The Disaster of (typical) Youth "Ministry"

The front page headline on yesterday's USA Today read, "Young Adults Less Devoted to Faith" with the subtitle, "Survey shows steady drift from church life." These statistics mirror countless surveys over the last couple years and should not come as a shock; but they diagnose the reality that something is drastically wrong with typical ministry (which can, at best, only produce typical "Christians")...

As a three-decade-plus veteran of youth ministry I say, "duh." Anyone with eyes to see and ears to hear is not shocked by this article, but yet it also is patent evidence that much of what the church and parachurch groups do is simply not working.

If insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results; maybe a lot of our programs and activities can be liked to insane asylum tactics?

Thom Rainer, president of Lifeway Christian Resources that conducted the survey, states that of those surveyed who called themselves Christians, "many are either mushy Christians or Christians in name only...most are just indifferent. The more precisely you try to measure their Christianity, the fewer you find committed to the faith."

Here's what we should find most disturbing in the study:

Even among those in the new survey who "believe they will go to heaven because they have accepted Jesus as savior":

  • 65% did not mention faith, religion, or spirituality when asked what was "really important in life"
  • 50% do not attend church at least weekly
  • 36% rarely or never read the Bible. Only 17% read it daily.
Only 40% of professing Christians feel it is their duty to share their faith.

SO WHAT IS THE MAIN PROBLEM? 

Why are we losing youth? 


  • In many (most?) cases because we never "had" them. They may have raised a hand, gone forward, prayed "the prayer" (that is not found anywhere in scripture), filled out a decision form...but the reality is Matthew 7.21-23
  • Most of those who have genuinely been captured by the Spirit of God have been programmed to apathy, had their "felt" needs met without doctrine, been living from big event to big event, but have not been mentored, nurtured, challenged to live out their faith 24/7 rather than anticipating the next concert, missions trip, or camp.
  • The Biblical illiteracy of the church as a whole is deepend (shallowed?) in them. (Amos 8.11)
  • We have not lost most of this generation because we challenged them too little. We've lost them because we've not challenged (yes, even demanded) more!
  • And we continue to produce baptized pagans because we wimp out and refuse to be fruit inspectors
WHAT IS THE SOLUTION?

Do what Jesus did! When trying to reach people of all ages with the gospel make it easier to say "no" than to say "yes." Can anyone really imagine Jesus turning to the crowd and saying "Every head bowed, every eye closed"? Why do we who want to see disciples rather than decisions all too often start them out in secret, "No one looking around..."
Please do not misunderstand or misquote me, I am not (totally) against the (very new to church history) invitation "system," nor am I questioning the hearts of any who are proponents, but any "witnessing", any "invitation" that does not stress lostness, repentance, surrender, and faith is not biblical and typically produce "decisions" that don't stand the test of time. (yes, God can still use these to His glory in spite of ourselves...but rarely)

And never should anyone be told...even hinted at...that "now you are a Christian." Or, in my mind, "based on what I heard you pray (or what you've said) you are now a child of God." That is the job of the Holy Spirit. The book of FIRST JOHN has a MISSION STATEMENT, but this mission statement is not that isolated verse, but "these things" are everything in First John that comes before...Let the Spirit of God, through  the written Word, give "assurance" of salvation in the living Word - The Lord Jesus Christ.

This is already too long...I invite you yell at me, agree with me, call me a works-righteousness dude, or whatever. But, for God's sake (literally) and for their sake, at least think about this ongoing disaster...

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Grace in Crisis

Brian and Sandi Kluth have been friends for almost thirty years. At one time Brian was on the Board of Headwaters Christian Youth where we served in Rhinelander, Wi. He has been active in politics, the pastorate, and now is focused full time on helping churches and individual believers manage the finances with which God has entrusted them.

Sandi has battled cancer for 7 1/2 years...and they were recently told that, medically, the battle has been lost, and she has only a few months to live.

What follows is a message from them that is a demonstration of "peace that passes all understanding." I urge you to watch it, and then come back and CLICK HERE to read more - the information they supply concerning how people can help is invaluable and worth filing away in case you ever ask the question in a similar situation, "How can I help?"

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Make The Time To Watch

When's the last time you or I really prayed about stopping the slaughter of the innocents? Dare we sing, much less pray, "God Bless America" while the extermination continues?

What brought those thoughts to my mind? This mixture of charm, grace, and gospel:

Is This Guy Human?

I do not follow basketball, but I enjoy seeing something like this:

Recognizing His Gift

Why is Jesus' Sinlessness so Important?

“We must see that the righteousness of Christ that is transferred to us is the righteousness He achieved by living under the Law for thirty-three years without once sinning. Jesus had to live a life of obedience before His death could mean anything. He had to acquire, if you will, merit at the bar of justice. Without His life of sinless obedience, Jesus’ atonement would have had no value at all. We need to see the crucial significance of this truth; we need to see that not only did Jesus die for us, He lived for us.”
- R. C. Sproul

Monday, April 26, 2010

Nationals Trip Pics

Yet another Nationals ended as our bus pulled in from Pittsburgh, PA late Sunday afternoon. Did a ton of quizmastering, to include the last "window" quiz and the first of three "championship" quizzes. Every time I get thru a day of quizmastering I wish we had a staff masseuse or however you spell it. One giant knot! But what an honor to try to be consistent and fair to these incredible students who have poured so much time into studying, memorizing, and (prayerfully) applying First & Second Corinthians and Titus. Next year's book? The book whose stated purpose is evangelism - the Gospel of John.

Here's a photo of the entire Midland crew:

And, yes, I do wish I knew how to play the guitar:

Finally, three, ah, experienced, men...Johnny Williams (who is also my pastor...was a teen roommate of mine back in 1979-1980 or so in KC), me, and Steve Sanders of St Louis.

Don't Slow Down!

Over thirty years ago I preached a sermon, for critique, at Christ Unlimited Bible Institute in Kansas City (a sadly now dead school that made it inexpensive to gain significant training into the Word of God, youth ministry, and more).

The content was applauded (although Dr. Al Metsker said my title, "I Can't Get No Satisfaction," was a double negative and thus poor english...Al was a wonderful teacher/mentor/example, but like too many he had little idea of the contemporary scene), but the most-often-voiced criticism was the speed at which I spoke.

Though I trust I've improved variety of speed etc since then, I am still a rapid-fire-talker.

I've always admired and learned from MARK BATTERSON yet this, from his latest blog, is a confirmation for me that I need to be who He designed me to be...

I'll be evaluating my communication habits till the day I die. Why? I want to be a more effective communicator! And part of that is self-evaluation. Honestly, I think the biggest key to better communicator is more anointing. I have a simple formula: more anointing from God = more energy for the speaker = more interest in the listener.

"So I'm reading today and I come across a fascinating little number. We talk at about 150-words-per minute, but listeners can process speech at about 600 words-per-minute. That is why your mind wanders while listening to some who speaks slow! I'm also noticed that the more excited I get the faster I talk. All of that to say, I wonder if I need to pick up my pace. I wonder if talking faster, because you're energized by what you're saying, is one key to keeping people's attention."

I don't know if Mark need to "pick up his pace," and I need to continually evaluate my delivery (AFTER I prayerfully deliberate the content), but I'm okay with the speed of my delivery!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

More Valley Stuff

Andy Stanley: 

"All of us have wondered at times why God doesn't do more to fix our problems. But our human eyes often fail to see that God isn't rushing to change our circumstances because he is concerned with a much more serious problem - our character. While you struggle with the woes of this world, God's main occupation is preparing you for the world to come. The focus of what God is doing in your life takes place in you, not around you."

Saturday, April 24, 2010

In A Valley?

Going through a struggle? "Are there trials and temptations..." Not having "your best life now"?

Let an author not read by enough people minister to you:

"Those of us who are going through trial that seems overwhelming need to realize that, and He can enable us to say, "Lord, if this is for Thy glory, heap on the load! If this is to accomplish something that will make me more usable for Thee, then pile on the burden! If this is something Thy hand seeks to do in order to make me like Thy lovely self, then, Lord, I will take everything because, even though I am crushed under it, I am going to trust Thee for strength every day. My weakness shall glorify Thy power."

Alan Redpath

Friday, April 23, 2010

Ever Get Criticized?

At the Bible Quiz Fellowship National Championship Tournament; after two days of round-robin quizzes 42 teams got their "placements" for the actual championship tournament which begins Saturday at 8.30AM.

I just did the devotional for Midland's top team, "The Messengers." I reminded them that, at the end of the day, they may receive some, ah, criticism from well-meaning friends, and perhaps relatives, about how they could have studied more, jumped better, answered more carefully etc etc etc...

Then I shared that 100 years ago today Teddy Roosevelt delivered a stellar speech, which contained the following lines. They are useful to all who attempt anything, especially, in context, anything for the Lord. As Reggie Jackson observed, "The loudest boos come from those in the free seats."

Here is a part of Roosevelt's speech:

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

A Comical (but sad) Summary

Can you guess what best-selling allegedly "Christian" book came to my mind as I read this cartoon? If so, put it in the comments; if not, here's a hint...think one-time NBA basketball arena:
Peanuts

Thursday, April 22, 2010

I'm Not Sure If I'm a Realist or a Cynic?

This from Peanuts causes me to think about "theological arguments" about secondary matters, and discussions some church-goers have over non-important things; usually blissfully aware that whatever they are "pointing out" about the other viewpoint exposes their own, ah, stuff:
Peanuts

Found at the Cross

Reading a great, great book. I remember years ago there was a book with the title (I think by J. I. Packer), "Lord, I Want to be a Christian." Great book, but got you some strange looks as other Christians saw you reading a book with that title.

I may get some similar looks if people notice me reading "What is the Gospel?" At the same time, it is tragic that many Christians of all ages cease learning, aren't willing to admit that some of their most cherished opinions may, in fact, be wrong, and aren't willing to stretch their minds.

Here is a quote from the book:

“How can God have mercy on sinners without destroying justice? What can it mean that God forgives iniquity and transgression and sin, yet by no means clears the guilty (Ex. 34:7)? How can a righteous and holy God justify the ungodly (Rom. 4:5)?

The answer to all these questions is found at the cross of Calvary, in Jesus’ substitutionary death for his people. A righteous and holy God can justify the ungodly because in Jesus’ death, mercy and justice were perfectly reconciled. The curse was rightly executed, and we were mercifully saved.”

Don't Pray Wimpy Prayers!

There are a million reasons why I can't wait to get to heaven, and "up there" on the list is to be able to meet A. W. Tozer and thank him for his insights which have helped and are helping mold me. Here's one:

But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. --James 1:6

When entering the prayer chamber, we must come filled with faith and armed with courage. Nowhere else in the whole field of religious thought and activity is courage so necessary as in prayer. The successful prayer must be one without condition. We must believe that God is love and that, being love, He cannot harm us but must ever do us good. Then we must throw ourselves before Him and pray with boldness for whatever we know our good and His glory require, and the cost is no object! Whatever He in His love and wisdom would assess against us, we will accept with delight because it pleased Him. Prayers like that cannot go unanswered. The character and reputation of God guarantee their fulfillment.

We should always keep in mind the infinite loving kindness of God. No one need fear to put his life in His hands. His yoke is easy; His burden is light.
We Travel an Appointed Way, p.48

"Increase my faith; increase my courage. Amen."

And, if I may, you have robbed yourself if you've not read "The Pursuit of God":

Deut 29.29

Deuteronomy 29.29 is, in fact, one of my most-cited verses, since I am convinced half of being so-called "smart" is knowing what you are dumb at...and there is a ton of stuff of which I am dumb (yes, I can hear choruses of "amens" by friends, family, fellow workers...)


But, Scripturally, it is fine to not have all the answers. I get nervous around people, regardless of how many initials they have after their names, who seem to have it all, or even most, figured out.


That's why I resonate with this:


"It is a great blessing from God that some parts of the Scriptures are clear while others are not. By means of the first we acquire faith and ardour and do not fall into disbelief and laziness because of our utter inability to grasp what is said. By means of the second we are roused to enquiry and effort, thus both strengthening our understanding and learning humility from the fact that everything is not intelligible to us."

Peter of Damaskos

Wanna Get Messed With?

Thanks to PETE WILSON for this...may be a bit painful to read, and harder to heed; but I am trying; and suggest you do also:

I used the following  A.W. Tozer quote from The Pursuit of God in Plan B but hadn’t read it in quite some time until last week. It’s been messing with me ever since.
There is within the human heart a tough fibrous root of fallen life whose nature is to possess, always possess. It covets “things” with a deep and fierce passion. The pronouns “my” and “mine” look innocent enough in print, but their constant and universal use is significant…
They are verbal symptoms of our deep disease. The roots of our hearts have grown down into things, and we dare not pull up one root lest we die. Things have become necessary to us, a development never originally intended. God’s gifts now take the place of God, and the whole course of nature  is upset by the monstrous substitution.
I’m saddened by how often I fall for the monstrous substitution allowing God’s gifts to take the place of God.
The pitiful reality is…

My worship.
My prayer.
My crying out.
It’s often not about God at all. It’s about what I want Him to give me.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

God's Will is Not to Contemplate

Great stuff from Shel Silverstein...Seek God's will in order to do it; not to consider it:


All the woulda-coulda-shouldas
Layin' in the sun,
Talkin' 'bout the things
They woulda-coulda-shoulda done...
But all those woulda-coulda-shouldas
All ran away and hid 
From one little did.

By Shel Silverstein

Urgent Word!

For me, the most terrifying of all Scripture is Matthew 7.21-23.

This three minute video featuring John Piper is worth watching...and sharing:

I've Been a Good Boy, So God's Gonna Answer My Prayer! NOT!

Tozer nails it:

So I said: "Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts." --Isaiah 6:5

Why does God answer prayer? Let's not imagine that it's because somebody was good. We Protestants think we don't believe in saints, but we do. We canonize them: we have Saint George Mueller, Saint C.H. Spurgeon, Saint D.L. Moody and Saint A.B. Simpson. We get the idea that God answered prayer for them because they were really good.


They would deny that fervently if they were here.

Nobody ever got anything from God on the grounds that he deserved it. Having fallen, man deserves only punishment and death.


So if God answers prayer it's because God is good. From His goodness, His lovingkindness, His good-natured benevolence, God does it! That's the source of everything.
The Attributes of God, pp.46-47

"Thank You, God, that You are indeed good, You are faithful, You are gracious, You are full of lovingkindness and benevolence. Thank You that You do in fact answer prayer! Amen."

The Lord IS Beautiful

As I woke way too early and couldn't get back to sleep, I was walking outside and watched the sun rise in Pittsburgh. Just before that I startled, and was startled by, another blessing from the Lord as two deer walked out of a small patch of trees in the midst of a huge office complex.

As I pondered the deer and marveled at the sunrise, I began whistling a Keith Green tune...and now I youtubed it and share it with you. If you know Keith and the song, enjoy again; if this is an introduction, thank me later:

Can YOU Define It? MUST READ

"Hi, my name's Jack and I'm a bookaholic."

Yeah, that's true. I've always been a reader, and since conversion the Lord has fed my hunger for reading with good stuff; and for several years I reviewed books for "The Family Life Journal" and interviewed authors on "my" talk show back in the day. I continue to recommend (and NOT recommend, in fact blast some "Christian" stuff) books and authors both electronically and during my preaching assignments.


I try to limit enthusiastic "you gotta read this book"-itus; but I have a book about which I say, "YOU GOTTA READ THIS!"

In a day where the essentials of the gospel are debated, ignored, railed against and more by everything from ultra-emergent folks to fighting fundies (who, for the most part, ignore repentance) it is essential for individual believers to define "that which is of first importance," the gospel.

And author Greg Gilbert helps us do just that in "What is the Gospel?"


Mark Dever says, "This little book on the gospel is one of the clearest and most important books I've read in recent years." Joshua Harris adds, "This book will help you better understand, treasure, and share the gospel of Jesus Christ."


I urge/beg/exhort/challenge you to buy and read this small-sized, 124 page book. And, as always, if you order it off the link, you help this home missionary. More important, you will help yourself and thus make yourself more of a help to others.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

If you are praying, Keep it up! (please)

I have never understood the phrase, “I felt your prayers.” I am not negating the feeling, but I have never identified with that concept.

But may I say I have been molded and changed by prayers. These last several weeks have been a drenching of God’s blessings after an arid time of waiting, being frustrated, and, well, being in a valley.

The move from New York to Missouri was not without trouble, as most of you know. Once here it was a transition from a huge ministry to a relatively small one. After two decades in New York and its inherent radio exposure, I was turning down more meetings than I was accepting. In Missouri I am an unknown, and there were periods of second-guessing…

But by His grace I tried to redeem the time, focus on what I could do rather than what I couldn’t do; and (mostly) trusted Him to work things out in His timing, and in His way.

I shared these trials with many, and I am convinced they prayed…and God has answered.

Not only has the Lord opened doors, but, more importantly, He has been refining me. Instead of being frustrated with others, I find myself more often being frustrated with myself. Instead of trying to influence people to follow my pattern of ministry, I’m “doing my own time” and trying to let others do the same. I am striving to be a better husband and daddy…and my eyes tear as I recognize, at least in part, what Spirit of God is doing in and through me.

Of course there are difficulties. Misunderstandings, my own bullheadedness, and, in fact, times when I’ve had to stand up for truth in the face of opposition…there have been plenty of situations to “consider it all joy when you encounter various trials” and to “rejoice in tribulation” and to truly believe that “all things work together for good for those who love God and are the called according to His purpose.”

And that is what I desire most – His purpose. I wake up and the first thing I think is, “Rats, we are still here.” The second is “Thanks, Lord, that I’m not what I used to be. Sure, I’m not what I should be, or will be; but bless God I’m not what I was.” Third, I simply pray, “Lord, I don’t know what You are up to today, but can I be a part of it?”

What may His purposes entail? Beats me. Could be drastic, could be routine, but whatever it is, I want to cooperate rather than thwart His plans for my life.

So, if you are one of the faithful who genuinely pray, thanks so very, very much. And…please…don’t stop!

I Know This Is a Joke, but, Alas, It Would Sell!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Welcome Home!

As I watch this I think first, "thanks, troops," and, second, I know all this pales compared to the "Welcome Home" we who have turned from sin and turned to Christ will receive one day:

Proud Parents Post

Jane and I are thrilled to be parents, blessed to be part of a Bible-believing, Gospel-centered church...and proud of our daughter Janelle and friends for performing this dramatic presentation at our church, as well as neighboring churches...It's a tad over eight minutes:

The Only Thing I Do At Which I Can't Lose

Bible quizzing. Sounds boring, ey? Brings forth images of "sword drills" if you are old enough to remember those...But Bible quizzing, Bible Quiz Fellowship style, is exciting, intense, and, more importantly, the only thing in which I am involved in which I can't lose.

I can preach and blow it (yes, I hear the amens...thankfully I try to please the Audience of One (and fail all too often) so, candidly, don't give-a-flying-rip of "critiques"); I can counsel and blow it; I can just have conversations and blow it...but for over thirty years I've been encouraging, directing, and assisting students get into the Word, and thus the Word into students.

And tonight at 10pm I board a bus and journey to Pittsburgh, Pa for yet another Nationals tournament.

And will see hundreds of teens from across America...many of whom I see annually, my good friends from Family Life, my new good friends from Washington state, and a ton of other people that I've served with for a loooong time.

Most of us work in what are called "parachurch" (how I hate that term) ministries. We are centered on the gospel, but there can be disagreements on secondary issues. Some of us are probably too competitive, some adults probably try to relive their own quizzing careers through students (similar to sports)...but the focus is usually on Christ and His kids...trying to nurture spiritual growth even in the arena of competition...or especially in the arena of competition?

So pray with us that 2010 Nationals will be a time of salvation for those who are religious but lost; a time of recommittment for those who have wandered, and an effective witness for all of us on the hotel staff and others with whom (or who?) we interact.

And help me...help us all...to be able to walk and work hand-in-hand even if we don't see eye-to-eye on relatively mickey-mouse issues. May we all focus on "that which is of first importance," the gospel! (1 Corin 15)

"Gospel-Centered" - What Does It Mean?

Beatles - Sgt Pepper
“. . . a friend of tax collectors and sinners!”  Luke 7:34

What does it mean for a church to be gospel-centered?  That’s a popular concept these days.  Good.  What if we were scrambling to be law-centered?  But the difference is not so easy in real terms.

A gospel-centered church holds together two things.  One, a gospel-centered church preaches a bold message of grace — so bold that it becomes the end of the law for all who believe.  Not our performance but Christ’s performance for us.  Not our sacrifices but his sacrifice for us.  Not our superiority but only his worth and prestige.  The good news of substitution.  The good news that our okayness is not in us but exterior to us in Christ alone.  Climbing down from the high moral ground, because only Christ belongs up there.  That message, that awareness, that clarity.  Every Sunday.

Two, a gospel-centered church translates that theology into its sociology.  The good news of God’s grace beautifies how we treat one another.  In fact, the horizontal reveals the vertical.  How we treat one another reveals what we really believe as opposed to what we think we believe.  It is possible to say, “We are a gospel-centered church,” and sincerely mean it, while we make our church into a law-centered social environment.  We see God above lowering his gun, and we breathe a sigh of relief.  But if we are trigger-happy toward one another, we don’t really get it yet.

A gospel-centered church looks something like this album cover — my all-time favorite.  A gospel-centered church is a variegated collection of sinners.  They come together and stick together because they have nothing to fear from their message or their culture.  The theology creates the sociology, and the sociology incarnates the theology.

The one deal-breaker in a gospel-centered church: anyone for any reason turning it into a culture of legal demandingness and negative scrutiny.  Few would do that in the theology, of course.  But still, a church with a message of grace can stop being gospel-centered in real terms.

A major part of pastoral ministry is preaching the doctrines of grace and managing an environment of grace.
 
The latter is harder to accomplish than the former.  It is more intuitive.  It requires more humility and self-awareness.

May the Friend of sinners grant beautiful gospel-centricity in all our churches.

RAY ORTLUND

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Why Atonement?

As usual, R. C. Sproul writes with succinct clarity:
“The necessity for the atonement of Christ finds its genesis, in the first instance, in the character of God. Because He is holy and righteous, He cannot excuse sin. Rather, He must pass judgment on it. The Judge of all the earth must do right. Therefore, He must punish sinners — or provide a way to atone for their sin.”

Friday, April 16, 2010

Annie

Clobbered by this from Mother Teresa that I received in an e-mail early this morning:

"The biggest disease today is not leprosy or tuberculosis, but rather the feeling of being unwanted." 

As I meditated on that, an old (early eighties?) Petra song came floated in my head. (along with the question, what did all the preachers who railed against Petra back-in-the-day use for fodder after that spurt died out?). It was pertinent then, and remains evermoreso now. 

Teens and children today, regardless of home situation, regardless of income, and, alas, regardless of church situation all too often feel helpless, hopeless, and friendless.
 
If you've never heard the song, listen; if it's an oldie to you...reflect on how tragically up-to-date it is in content: (and, if you're not familiar with Petra, READ THIS)


Thudded by Tozer


A. W. Tozer nailed me this early morning...why should I be the only one???


"To pray successfully is the first lesson the preacher must learn if he is to preach fruitfully; yet prayer is the hardest thing he will ever be called upon to do and, being human, it is the one act he will be tempted to do less frequently than any other." pg 69
God Tells the Man Who Cares

Thursday, April 15, 2010

We've Got Company!

Now I'll never watch anything without looking for this line:

Can't BEAT Summer!

Two of my favorite things...the warmth of almost-summer; and the music of my youth (back when musicians were musicians, and not computer programmers...) Here's a great rendition of probably my all-time favorite Beatles tune:


And, in case you're wondering what to get me for my upcoming birthday:

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Country Gospel and a Witch Hunt

Why do I do this? I know some who read will wonder if the singer is a Christian, and some will be offended that it is not an overtly Christian song...but truth is truth, regardless of from where it comes. I do hope this man is a child of God rather than "just" a creation of God...but I do enjoy it...give it a listen and a watch:


And as I thought sadly since the weekend (when a young lady loudly proclaimed that she had forsaken her senior prom in order to come to a youth rally; and blasted a peer who instead attended the prom) about the ever-vigilant-list-keepers my mind recalled a song I've not thought of for years...the old Petra song "witch hunt"...can't even recall how old this is...but, sadly, yet so contemporary:

Same Creator

Yeah, the same creator made my son, Jacob; as made the gorillas represented by these statues at Omaha Zoo. They praise God "naturally," we need to work at it.
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Not 3 blind mice? But What?


Okay, who can come up with a good caption for this picture of Joel, Janelle, and Jacob? Leave it in the comments on the blog:
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My girls - Like Mom Like Daughter

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Family at Omaha Zoo


 
Joel, Jane, and Janelle a bit tired midway through our glorious day at the Omaha zoo...Jacob chomping at the bit!

Obama the Tax Man

No commentary necessary:


And, for another, ah, "many a truth said in jest" factor:

An Open Letter to My Friends Who Drink

As an alcoholic (dry for over three decades) I hate alcohol perhaps only as an alcoholic can. I would love to see drunk drivers executed on the first offense (and that is not hyperbole). "Drugs and alcohol" is redundant.


I wish with all my heart the Bible condemned drinking. It does not. Jesus did not turn water into freshly-squeezed grape juice. (and those of you who argue the Bible explicitly forbids alcohol, I urge you to again read without your preconceived prejudices)


The Bible does, of course, condemn drunkenness. And I believe one can build a "weaker brother" case for abstaining from drinking.


But I'll not argue that. I will ask/beg/plead with those who follow Christ who think they have the freedom to drink in moderation would consider the benefits of doing so in private, and not broadcasting to the watching hordes over facebook, blogs, twitter, etc their activity?


The admonition to esteem others more than yourselves comes into play as, again, does the weaker brother argument.


Please consider this prayerfully. For those of you who have not had problems in drink, Proverbs 23 describes perfectly my life before liberation from drugs (to include beverage alcohol)...but even in my pre-salvation days as a thief, drug dealer, and user...alcohol remains the only drug to which I am physically addicted.


Here is the Proverbs 23 passage:


 29 Who has woe? Who has sorrow?
       Who has strife? Who has complaints?
       Who has needless bruises? Who has bloodshot eyes?

 30 Those who linger over wine,
       who go to sample bowls of mixed wine.

 31 Do not gaze at wine when it is red,
       when it sparkles in the cup,
       when it goes down smoothly!

 32 In the end it bites like a snake
       and poisons like a viper.

 33 Your eyes will see strange sights
       and your mind imagine confusing things.

 34 You will be like one sleeping on the high seas,
       lying on top of the rigging.

 35 "They hit me," you will say, "but I'm not hurt!
       They beat me, but I don't feel it!
       When will I wake up
       so I can find another drink?"

Shut Up and Listen!

Now the Lord came and stood and called as at other times, "Samuel! Samuel!" And Samuel answered, "Speak, for Your servant hears." --1 Samuel 3:10

"Lord, teach me to listen. The times are noisy and my ears are weary with the thousand raucous sounds which continuously assault them. Give me the spirit of the boy Samuel when he said to Thee, "Speak, for thy servant heareth." Let me hear Thee speaking in my heart. Let me get used to the sound of Thy voice, that its tones may be familiar when the sounds of earth die away and the only sound will be the music of Thy speaking voice. Amen."

A. W. Tozer The Pursuit of God, pp. 82-83

Monday, April 12, 2010

On the Road...Again

Janelle and I are about to leave Phillipsburg, Ks and travel HOME! Yay! When this song came out I heard it for the first time traveling to Rhode Island to preach...something got in the air and my eyes watered...still hammers me...I am so grateful the Lord opens doors for itinerant ministry...but is sure is good to be going HOME:


And, of course, being the rebel that I am (my legalist friends will grumble at this, some may even have the courage to confront me), I still think of this song everytime I start the engine for a trip:
 

My New Favorite Song!

WOW! I absolutely LOVE this song (and up to this point Mercy Me didn't do a whole lot for me):

Sure, God is Love...But...

 “God is loving, but a major part of what He loves is His own perfect character, with a major aspect being the importance of maintaining justice and righteousness. Though God pardons sinners and makes provision for expressing His mercy, He will never negotiate His justice. If we fail to understand that, the cross of Christ will be utterly meaningless to us.”
- R. C. Sproul,

Yes, He Does!

WOW. Need a shot of spiritual adrenaline? Invest four minutes in this. Crank your speakers!

I suppose some legalist (by the way, been thinking a lot lately which group I'd rather see disappear, legalists or prosperity "preachers," I can't decide which is doing more harm to the Body) will mumble, "Yes, but are all the orchestra and singers Christians?" Thanks to CHRIS BRAUNS for bringing this to my attention. I admit without shame that I wept as I listened this early Monday morning:

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Why We Don't First John One Nine More Quickly

No comment other than the title, above:
Peanuts

Die on the Right Mountain(s)


Am I saved, or a "good Christian," based on how I think the world is going to end? Do I have to hold to a "pretribulation rapture" (by the way, were I a North Korean believer, for example, might I not think the tribulation had already started?) to be able to preach in your church/ministry? In these days when there is a "famine of hearing the words of the Lord" and people are arguing the very essentials of the gospel, do we dare refuse to work with, pray for, and love those who disagree about the "security of the believer," the present-day ministry of the Holy Spirit, the mode of baptism?

Perhaps you do...I don't.
And these words from Bryan Chappel do a fantastic job of reiterating bounderies:

"We are called out of our separateness not to do as we please, but to direct our faith and practice toward the truths given to us by the testimony of Scripture. This calling also causes us to honor brothers and sisters of other churches and denominations who unite their thoughts and actions to Scripture. In doing so we must affirm that there are differences that are honorable but not vital; there are believers with whom we differ on matters important, but not essential; and even as were are correcting ourselves by Scripture, we are called to seek ways to come together with those who are with us in their testimony of one Lord, one faith, and one baptism. What we are not permitted to do is unite ourselves with those who have abandoned these truths affirmed in Scripture."

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Cathedral, Car and, ah, Elf?

Janelle and I took time Friday to stop at the Cathedral of the Plains, an amazing edifice in the middle of nowhere, Kansas. Also saw a car I'd accept if someone wanted to give it to me; and the side of a Christian book store had a painting apparently done by someone who had a passion for elves:



Thrilled This Does Not Apply!

My wife is such a support to the ministry to which the Lord has called us! I try not to be on-the-road more than a week a month during the school year; but sometimes things happen and this month is beyond crazy.

But though I love what the Lord allows me to do, and we are willing to invest the price to follow His lead...when I'm on the road I can't wait to be home (my ringtone for Jane's calls is I'M ALREADY THERE and, unlike poor Snoopy, when I pull in the driveway my best friend is there, along with whatever children happen to be home. I am a blessed man!

Peanuts

Life is To Be Lived

When's the last time you prayed against abortion?

Friday, April 9, 2010

Seven Miles

Great stuff featuring part of a sermon preached by Matt Chandler:

Have You Forgotten?

It's a week since Good Friday 2010. Have you contemplated the Cross lately? Read and heed:


"What was a crucifixion? Let us try to realize it, and understand its misery. 

The person crucified was laid on his back on a piece of timber, with a cross-piece nailed to it near one end – or on the trunk of a tree with branching arms, which answered the same purpose.  

His hands were spread out on the cross-piece, and nails driven through each of them, fastening them to the wood.  

His feet in like manner were nailed to the upright part of the cross. 

And then, the body having been securely fastened, the cross was raised up, and fixed firmly in the ground. 

And there hung the unhappy sufferer until pain and exhaustion brought him to his end – not dying suddenly, for no vital part of him was injured – but enduring the most excruciating agony from his hands and feet, and unable to move.

Such was the death of the cross. Such was the death that Jesus died for us! For six long hours He hung there before a gazing crowd, naked, and bleeding from head to foot – His head pierced with thorns – His back lacerated with scourging – His hands and feet torn with nails – and mocked and reviled by His cruel enemies to the very last.

Let us meditate frequently on these things. Let us often read over the story of Christ’s cross and passion. Let us remember, not least, that all these horrible sufferings were born without a murmur. No word of impatience crossed our Lord’s lips. In His death, no less than in His life, He was perfect. To the very last, Satan found nothing in Him. (John 14:30.)"
~ J.C. Ryle

Thursday, April 8, 2010

More Washington Pics

I wrote recently about the wondrous way the Lord showed up while I was in Washington a couple weeks ago (if you missed it, CLICK HERE

As I type I'm in Western Kansas for the second day of a six-day speaking trip, but just got these photos from the Washington blessing.
                             Ah, Pondering Deep Thoughts as Quizmaster:

                     Chatting with students away from the "pulpit"...where ministry typically genuinely happens! The guy on the left is a former Bible quizzer (Nationals Championship Team 1998!) of mine from New York who now works for the governor of Washington. Chris Stanley carved time out to come visit me!

                  Hail, Hail, the Gangs on here...who is that old dude in the back row left?

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Never Forget

A few days after Easter...have we stuck Him back in the grave? Have we ho-hummed into life as usual. Are thoughts of Jesus and the gospel ebbing?

"As you have received Christ Jesus as Lord, so walk/live in Him."

"I make know to you that which is of FIRST IMPORTANCE...Christ died for our sins..."




May we apply Spirit-empowered "super glue" to our eyes so that we will "Fix our eyes on Jesus, the author, perfector, pioneer of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame..."

And perhaps this song will help you, as it helps me, keep things in proper focus:

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Hilarity in Bible Quizzing?

If you've not been involved in Bible Quiz Fellowship Bible quizzing, this may not make a whole lot of sense...but all quizzers/coaches/table officials/quiz parents will chuckle loudly! This was part of the 2010 Regional Quiz tournament hosted by Teens For Christ North West outside Seattle, Wa that I had the privilege of speaking at a couple weeks ago:

Lunacy of Legalism

Great re-post from ED STETZER


Today, The Resurgence blog provides a clear path to legalism:
How to Become a Legalist:
1. Make rules outside the Bible.
2. Push yourself to try and keep your rules.
3. Castigate yourself when you don't keep your rules.
4. Become proud when you do keep your rules.
5. Appoint yourself as judge over other people.
6. Get angry with people who break your rules or have different rules.
7. "Beat" the losers.
In interview with Howard Hendricks, Chuck Swindoll defined the legalism problem as:
...when we get into areas that are not set forth in Scripture, either in precept or even in principle. These may be such things as length of hair, tattoos and other body piercings, skirts or pants for women, makeup or no makeup. Those are not scriptural issues. Sometimes these issues are cultural, and you do have to address them when you are in that particular culture. But I think legalism begins when you do or refrain from doing what I want you to do or not do because it's on my list and it's something that I am uncomfortable with.

Then, Chuck gives his blunt advice:

The problem with legalists is that not enough people have confronted them and told them to get lost. Those are strong words, but I don't mess with legalism anymore. I'm 72 years old; what have I got to lose? Seriously, I used to kowtow to legalists, but they're dangerous. They are grace-killers. They'll drive off every new Christian you bring to church. They are enemies of the faith. Other than that, I don't have any opinion!
So, if I am trying to force my personal list of no-no's on you and make you feel guilty if you don't join me, then I'm out of line and I need to be told that.
Download that interview here.

Resurrection Day Baptism

I really can't express the joy Jane and I experienced as our pastor, Johnny Williams, baptized our son Jacob on Resurrection Sunday. I've known Johnny since 1978; Jane has known him since 1981...and he is a precious brother-in-Christ. 

I think back to when Johnny and I and several others were room-mates during the Kansas City Youth For Christ days and grin...who woulda thunk? Oh, yeah, God woulda thunk...and I'm grateful for this man of God being my shepherd as well as my buddy.

And the stories I could tell you...(photo by Faith Williams; Johnny and Pam's daughter)

LAST Time Piper/Warren

My to-do list is too long to remain caught up in the Piper/Warren stuff. (If you've missed my posts on this, or have no idea to what I refer, CLICK HERE and then CLICK HERE.


As someone who was converted at age 26 shortly after being confronted with the claims of Christ through reading a book that I later realized had a lot of whacky stuff in it; as one who reads widely and recognizes that no doctrinal system, no preacher/teacher, no "school of thought" is infallible, though much can be gained through the filter of the Spirit of God and His Word...I end my attention, at least in print, to this matter with the following passage (and, to be clear, not "accusing" either Piper or Warren of fitting into this passage; but the point of the passage clarifies, for me, the issue):


"Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, bu tothers from good will. The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former proclaim Christ out of rivalry, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice. Yes, and I will rejoice" (Philippians 1.15-28)


Excuse me, I'm going to hop on my exercise bike, read more of The Trellis and the Vine and rejoice!