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Thursday, September 30, 2010

Never Forget!

“Be sure you see this most wonderful and astonishing of all truths: God took the record of all your sins that made you a debtor to wrath . . ., and instead of holding them up in front of your face and using them as the warrant to send you to hell, God put them in the palm of his Son’s hand and drove a spike through them into the cross. It is a bold and graphic statement: He canceled the record of our debt . . . nailing it to the cross (Col. 2:14).”
- John Piper

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Scotty Smith on Dryness

Shortly after the previous post, I came across this from Scotty Smith...more than a bit applicable:

     For when we came into Macedonia, this body of ours had no rest, but we were harassed at every turn—conflicts on the outside, fears within. But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus. 2 Corinthians 7:5-6
     Gracious Father, the incidental pictures in the Scriptures are often as profound the intentional promises. This story of a conflicted Paul being comforted by a good friend comes with Swiss timing today. I begin today feeling a little on the blahs-and-blues side of things. Nothing critical, but enough so to bring my weariness before you.

     Thank you, Father, for reminding me even your most faithful servants… those who know you the best… those who grasp the gospel is a zillion times better than me… even these men and women experience restlessness, fear and weariness.

     At times I still labor under the myth of an Omni-competence. If I just prayed enough… believed enough… or was filled with the Spirit enough I would never get discouraged or downcast. What a groundless lie. What a horrible burden. What a humorless joke.

     Thank you for comforting us when we’re downcast. You don’t deride us, chide us, or hide from us… you comfort us. You’re “the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort”  (2 Cor. 1:3). And thank you for the comforters you send us. Though you’re quite capable of sending ravens and rainbows, and manna and miracles, more often than not, you send a Titus to a Paul, or a Phoebe to a Paul (Rom. 16:1). You love to show your kindness and concern for your people through your people.

     Father, on this gorgeous September morning, I’ll wait for your grace as I bring you my weighted heart. Help me stay honest about my weariness… expectant of your comfort… and thankful for whoever you send.

     And make me sensitive to the needs of others around me. In this state of mild funk I may be more helpful to them than when I feel “together” and “on top of my game.”  By the Holy Spirit, point me towards other weary travelers who need a gentle word of comfort, perspective and hope. So very Amen I pray, in Jesus’ compassionate name.

Dryness

I know a lot of people in vocational ministry who are going through what I am calling a "dry" period...not a period of unconfessed sin, not a period of physical illness, not a period of spiritual deadness, not even a period of controversy/competition/crisis..."just" a period of dryness.

It is a funk that is not fun. I usually have a period of this when I come off the last summer trip of each season. The excitement, energy, and near-exhaustion of camp ministry propels adrenaline. The spiritual victories are invigorating, and watching students turn away from the gospel is ever-painful, but also energizing as it propels prayer. The transition from summer schedule to what passes for "normal" is always tough...but tougher this year.

Why the seeming epidemic of, only term of which I can think, dryness?

Don't know. Testing? Spiritual attack? Just a physical thing (I got thru most of the summer without suffering allergies, but the last few weeks have been tough)?

Again, don't know.

But it's not fun.

Staying in the Word and communicating through prayer. Trying to get adequate rest (maybe too much?). Asking Spirit of God to search my heart and see if there is anything unclean within that hasn't been addressed.

And fully aware that "this too shall pass" and though I go through a dry valley, I go not alone...My ever-present Source of joy/comfort/power etc is with me...as is my family...and friends...

How Often Do I Forget to Ask His Help?

“If we are not instructed, how can we instruct? If we have not thought, how shall we lead others to think?
It is in our study-work, in that blessed labour when we are alone with the Book before us, that we need the help of the Holy Spirit. He holds the key of the heavenly treasury, and can enrich us beyond conception.
He has the clue of the most labyrinthine doctrine, and can lead us in the way of truth. He can break in pieces the gates of brass, and cut in sunder the bars of iron, and give to us the treasures of darkness, and hidden riches of secret places.
If you study the original, consult the commentaries, and meditate deeply, yet if you neglect to cry mightily unto the Spirit of God, your study will not profit you.”

–Charles H. Spurgeon

Monday, September 27, 2010

You Never Know...

What You May Find Jumping in the Fields Near the Hager Home (but it is my daughter, Janelle!)

Substitution

"The Cross of Christ" by John R. W. Stott is not light reading, but it is fantastic reading. It is one of my all-time favorites; one of the few books that I've reread several times. 


Here are a couple paragraphs to whet your appetite:

We strongly reject, therefore, every explanation of the death of Christ that does not have at its center the principle of “satisfaction through substitution,” indeed divine self-satisfaction through divine self-substitution. The cross was not a commercial bargain with the devil, let alone one that tricked and trapped him: nor an exact equivalent, a quid pro quo to satisfy a code of honor or technical point of law; nor a compulsory submission by God to some moral authority above him from which he could not otherwise escape; nor a punishment of a meek Christ by a harsh and punitive Father; nor a procurement of salvation by a loving Christ from a mean and reluctant Father; nor an action of the Father which bypassed Christ as Mediator. Instead, the righteous, loving Father humbled himself to become in and through his only Son flesh, sin and a curse for us, in order to redeem us without compromising his own character. The theological words satisfaction and substitution need to be carefully defined and safeguarded, but they cannot in any circumstance be given up. The biblical gospel of atonement is of God satisfying himself by substituting himself for us.

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


Sunday, September 26, 2010

Legalistic versus Gospel Repentance

“Legalistic remorse says, ‘I broke God’s rules,’ while real repentance says, ‘I broke God’s heart.’ Legalistic repentance takes sin to Mt. Sinai, gospel repentance to Mt. Calvary. Legalistic repentance is convicted by punishment, gospel repentance becomes convicted by mercy.”
- Timothy Keller

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Tough to Read...Hard to Argue

This was written decades ago; truer now:

"People seem to think that the masses are outside the Christian church because our evangelistic methods are not what they ought to be. That is not the answer. People are outside the church because looking at us they say, "What is the point of being Christians? - look at them!" They are judging Christ by you and me. And you cannot stop them and you cannot blame them."

Martyn Lloyd-Jones

Friday, September 24, 2010

Cut Down To Size

Every time we look at the cross Christ seems to say to us, ‘I am here because of you.  It is your sin I am bearing, your curse I am suffering, your debt I am paying, your death I am dying.’  Nothing in history or in the universe cuts us down to size like the cross.  All of us have inflated views of ourselves, especially in self-righteousness, until we have visited a place called Calvary.  It is there, at the foot of the cross, that we shrink to our true size.”
—John Stott

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Introducing Lucille

Finished four days of meetings in the Whitesville (Mo) Baptist Church last night.

I first preached in this church probably in 1980...maybe even 1979...so it is one of the first churches I ever had the privilege of speaking in...and they still asked me back!

It was neat to see several folks who were there way-back-when...particularly Lucille.

Lucille will soon be 95. She told the congregation a couple nights ago, "I was here when Jack first came, and he hasn't lost the fire!"

Lucille has had a lot of tough bumps in her life...but she is glued to Jesus. She is (usually) confined to a wheelchair. I type "usually" because when the song leader led us in "Standing on the Promises" Lucille struggled, but rose to her feet for all four stanzas.

When the pastor asked for prayer requests one evening, Lucillee spoke up and asked us to pray that she would be an effective witness to the folks in the nursing home where she lives who don't know Jesus.

What a lady! So very grateful for her ongoing testimony of faithfulness through the struggles of life. Grateful that she came to every meeting...and spoke to me of her prayers and her love each time.

She is a tremendous encouragement, and an example of a believer who is "finishing well."

What's the Difference?

Some clarity on differences between knowledge/intelligence/wisdom:

"If knowledge is the accumulation of facts, intelligence the development of reason, wisdom is heavenly discernment. It is insight into the heart of things. Wisdom involves knowing God and the subtleties of the human heart. More than knowledge, it is the right application of knowledge in moral and spiritual matters, in handling dilemmas, in negotiating complex relationships."

Oswald Sanders
Spiritual Leadership

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Taught By A Typo

Got an email from a friend a couple days ago that I can't stop thinking about...

The content was not all that important, but in signing off there was a bit of a typographical error...

Instead of "God bless" she types "Go bless."

And the more I think about it the more it maketh sense to me...what a great closing admonition: "Go bless!"

Excuse me, I think I will....

Monday, September 20, 2010

Spiritual Epoxy

“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus!” Hebrews 12:2
For every look at self—take ten looks at Christ! Live near to Jesus—and all things will appear little to you in comparison with eternal realities.
How many millions of dazzling pearls and gems are at this moment hidden in the deep recesses of the ocean caves. Likewise, unfathomable oceans of grace are in Christ for you. Dive and dive again—you will never come to the bottom of these depths!
–Robert Murray McCheyne (1813-1843)

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Falling Asleep at Church

If an annoying ad comes on first, endure it..especially if you need a laugh:

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Sometimes Best to Zip It

As this indicates, there may be times that the most effective, compassionate "witness" is to keep one's lips stuck together...and talk to the Father rather than the person?
Peanuts

Friday, September 17, 2010

Monday, September 13, 2010

Things to Come?

Happened to read a story of a man being sentenced to fifteen years in prison for distributing pornographic photos of men and boys on the internet.

The article, in the Minneapolis Star Tribune (Sep 8, 2010) also said:

"Linngren's sentence was decried by the defendant's attorney in a court filing Friday that outlined his client's years of sexual repression while growing up in a conservative Missouri Synod Lutheran church in Columbia Heights that believed "homosexuality was wrong."
"Matthew lived in conflict with his sexuality," defense attorney Doug Olson wrote. "His religion was intolerant..."

Struck me that this is indicative of things to come..."he shouldn't be considered guilty because his church said what he was doing is wrong."

As many have pointed out, viewing homosexuality as sin may soon be, and in some cases already is, the definitive stereotype of "intolerance" and those who stand on Biblical grounds may well be finding themselves in serious conflict with the law.

Interesting times...

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Angel Flight

Listen to the "why" of the song, then listen to the song...and remember:

Friday, September 10, 2010

Ever Really Cry Out for His Mercy?

My standard line is "I hate money, and I hate music...no matter what you do, you're wrong."

But I will risk getting some mad by posting this...it's loud, it's "rocky", but combined with the visuals the song reveals, well, the cry of my heart...yours, too?

When Ball Becomes Baal

Here is some great stuff that may buggeth you regarding sports. If it does bug you, perhaps there is a holy reason for that?

by Jim Elliff

It's rare to see kids playing sports in the neighborhood anymore. We're now organized and "professionalized"—including uniforms, state-of-the-art facilities, endless trips to the field, competitive coaches, equally competitive parents, and the after-season tournaments designed to give parents "bleacher bottom." In addition, you've got to pay to play—and when you've paid that much, you'll be sure to play.

It is also fun, and it can be instructive. I love to watch my kids play sports. In fact, they need to play—some. But, it's not so easy as handing over seventy bucks and saying, "Sign up Johnny and Susie this year." Making that decision means that you may be out four to five times each week during the season. Soon sports becomes all about calendarization and control of your life—especially if you have more than one kid. Perhaps nothing outside of a change in your job has so much potential to turn the family schedule upside down.


"This man understands," you say.

Now comes the part you won't like: "Behold, I say unto you, you have made sports the household god." Too strong? OK, not all of you. But the deification of sports is happening to many.

How does ball become Baal? Answer: When it controls you, and you give it devoted worship. It is around your god that you order your life—and you can almost never say "no" to it.

Like "athlete's foot" on the hygienically-challenged teenager, sports has taken over more and more of the life of believers. Almost overnight we have awakened to the sad fact that, in many communities, sports has even usurped the hours believers meet on the Lord's Day. All too often members are saying to church leaders, "We'll be gone next Sunday because of the soccer tournament." In turn, leaders are supposed to acquiesce humbly. After all, we can't afford to appear "legalistic;" everyone knows that the greatest crime a church can commit is to demand something of someone.

You'll hear, "But the team needs all the players. We can't let the team down." It never occurs to them that the church Body is being deprived of a necessary body part, or that God is marginalized and disobeyed. We are not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together, states God in Hebrews 10:25.

Devotion is the operative word. When the team says, "We need you," we sacrifice to do it. But when it crosses the time allotted to spiritual edification and worship, the Ruler of the universe is often sent to the bench. In the process, we teach our children that devotion to sports is more important than both devotion to God and loyalty to our spiritual family. Have you considered that you may be teaching your kids to worship sports?


Here are some ways to put sports in the proper place:

First, decide beforehand that there will be no contest between the church's essential activities designed for your family's spiritual growth and what the team plans for your lives. If you will talk this over ahead of time with your child and then the coach, there will be no confusion. Through the years I've found that many coaches respect that decision. But, it must be a prior decision, not one made on a case by case basis. When sports conflicts with Sunday worship or youth camp or a special spiritual activity, the decision has already been made.

Secondly, determine that your children cannot play every sport. There is a sanctity to the home life that must be protected. You need quiet evenings at home. You need meals together. Just let your children know that you are excited about sports, but there are limits. You then determine what those limits are. For us, we attempt to have only one sport per year for each child.

Finally, think about some creative choices. One of my sons played basketball, but the season was interminably long. I was also traveling. So, I would be gone speaking over the weekend, then, when I was home, I was out two or more nights sitting on the sidelines watching my son practice. It was not really "time together." This wasn't going to work.

The solution came to me after prayer. I asked him if he would be willing to learn golf in the place of basketball. We could play together, along with his brother, and we could do it whenever we wanted. We could enjoy this for the rest of our lives. I've paid some extra money, but I've bought back some time with my sons and some good exercise for me also. It's a bargain.

God Himself uses sports language in the New Testament. He's not against it, unless it steals the devotion belonging to Him. All other gods have to go!

Copyright © 2004 Jim Elliff
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Thursday, September 9, 2010

Lessons Learned - Part 3

The percentage "game" continues to be a huge part of the problem of discipleship. It is certainly not unique to teenagers, though playing the percentage game as a Christian teen significantly impacts the continuance of the problem as an adult.

Colossians 3.4 reads, "When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory." (emphasis obviously added)

So the question I pose to myself often (but not often enough), and present to both teens and adults, is simple yet telling...is Christ part of your life, or is He your life?

I wish Midland or any other youth ministry had the opportunity and direction to hold a week of youth camp "by invitation only." Coordinating with youth pastors a list of students who seem to be intent and intentional on serving the Lord would be put together, invitations sent, and a week of genuine "feeding of the sheep" rather than trying to "entertain the goats" would transpire.

In most camps there is a "fun" event after the evening chapel...thus students and staff are torn between responding to God's challenge and recognizing that "hey, I might miss the fun" or "what if our schedule gets off track"?

In over thirty summers of speaking at 5-8 youth camps each year I can recall only twice when the evening "event" was cancelled...and both of those incidents (one in Maryland, the other in Missouri) were as close to Biblical revival as I've seen.

Lord, do it again...and help us to get out of the way, out of "the way we do it," out of our bondage to schedules.

COMPLETE!

“You are complete in Him. What words are these, from the same man who says, ‘In me dwells no good thing?’ May we learn to rejoice in Christ Jesus, while we learn, also, to have no confidence in the flesh.
It was so with the apostle. He felt that anything was too hard, the simplest thing too difficult, without Christ; the work before him only became possible—easy—when the promise was fulfilled—’My grace is sufficient for you; and my strength is made perfect in weakness.’ Then he could confidently say, ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.’

Yes, Christian, although in your daily course you seem to struggle in your duty, and though nothing seems to go on satisfactorily, be assured of this, so long as you are really looking to Christ and relying upon Him—so long is He working in you by His Spirit—however difficult may be your tasks, you will make progress. You perhaps may never perceive it—you may not appear to make a step in advance—but, be not discouraged. Remember, ‘All the promises of God in Christ are yes, and in him Amen, unto the glory of God;’ and these promises are yours.”
—John MacDuff,

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Not quite like the Airline Steward..but

Remember the guy who grabbed beers and opened the emergency slide on the jet? This baseball manager gets second place in my view:

Monday, September 6, 2010

Lessons Learned - Part Two

Sex.

It's been a problem for Christians throughout history. But the advent of electronic media, the lessening of parental involvement, and the acceptance by society as a whole of things unheard of a few years ago makes it an even larger negative influence on teenagers today.

It's not "just" sleeping around...it's homosexuality and bisexuality...and it is just as evident in the Bible belt as it is in the inner city.

Parents...get involved when your kids are four and five years old...youth pastors...risk getting fired, talk about the subject often!

Anyone over twenty or so...it is a different world.

One of the things that infuriates me is too many Christians let the world make our standards...re movie ratings. And it disgusts me that parents boast they never let their children see "R" rated movies; but allow them to see all the PG 13 filth there is...if you know anything of the "plots" and the scenes, you'd probably let your kids watch 100 "R" movies rather than 1 "pg 13".

So how can a teen (or an adult single) in the 2010's maintain a commitment to purity...one way only...never be alone with another single. Never. Never. Never.

Don't "oh, but Jack" me. It is the only way to be certain you don't cave into flesh fed by our decadent culture.

Yeah, It's a Little Sick...

Sunday, September 5, 2010

An Important Question

Ah, Labor Day closing-of-the-season picnics and meals together...corn-on-the-cob? Look for an opportunity to echo this question:

Been There, Done That...

Read the following,, and think of times you, or others, have applied the same "logic" to church, prayer meetings, even reading the Word:
Peanuts

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Lessons Learned - Part One

After operations in Vietnam, our track commanders would gather together for "lessons learned," what had we seen, smelled, observed, not seen etc during that operation?

After this summer, I will be penning some "lessons learned" from several weeks of teen camp ministry in several states.

Alas, the chief observation is the continued growth of Biblical illiteracy.

I don't expect teens to be scholars, but I'd hope they could find the gospel of John...many can not...and these are not unsaved students or from "liberal" churches...but from "Bible-believing, Christ-exalting, evangelical" churches.

I often ask a group of teens what the greatest commandment is...to virtually no answer. Yes, I recognize that many won't participate for fear of saying the wrong thing, but the blank looks can't be faked.

It is frightening. I am convinced that I could be the guest speaker in any local congregation, and, after being introduced, could say something like, "Good morning, it's a pleasure to be with you, let's turn to Second Hezekiah chapter 5" and (assuming there were any Bibles present) pages would start to turn.

My paramount observation of camp ministry 2010 is that the disease of illiteracy, Biblical illiteracy, is rampant, growing, and a major, major concern.

Which, of course, is the chief reason I continue to be a proponent of Bible quizzing...not for the competition, certainly not for the stupid trophies and medals that end up in Salvation Army bins...not for the nationals trips; but for the fact that day-by-day teens are memorizing chunks of God's Word in context.

It is not a "cure" in and of itself, but I gladly prescribe it to all!

Don't Try To Reason With Me!

Ever encountered a Lucy while sharing things with someone...whether the gospel or "just" some advice and/or opinions? Ever been a Lucy when the Lord...or one of His messengers...is trying to tell you something?
Peanuts

Friday, September 3, 2010

The Continued Adventures of Jacob and Dad

A few more shots from the delightful, blessed week I got to spend with Jacob in the Northwoods of Wisconsin whilst promoting Bible quizzing etc:

This was the view from our kitchen table at the cabin:


Jacob was blessed to be tall enough to drive a Kart by himself:

Jacob rode with me a few times, as well as a few other people, to include Tim...the Northwoods Campus Outreach director-in-waiting (I am helping him with deputation etc)


Outside a Chinese restaurant; often what we felt mosquitoes were doing to us:

A house we passed along one of the many roads we traveled...also saw the tractor alongside a road...not sure how anyone could have survived

OK, I missed His Head, but Shows Enthusiasm at Demo Quiz!

O

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Would You Want To Live On This Road (Hayward, Wi)?

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Praying for Missionaries

Great stuff from SCOTTY SMITH
concerning how to pray for missionaries...regardless of where/whom they serve. Perhaps passonable to your missions' committee?

Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly as I should. Colossians 4:2-4
 
     Most loving Jesus, I stand convicted about how sporadic my prayer life has been, of late, on behalf of servants of the gospel. Unfortunately, it’s often the case of “out of sight, out of mind”… and therefore, off the radar screen of prayer. That’s not an excuse, but a lament and confession of sin.

     My great consolation is in knowing that no one is more watchful and devoted to prayer than you, Jesus. You’re always praying us… indeed, you never stop. Because you pray, we can pray with great boldness, joy and confidence. I’m so grateful for your steadfast, vigilant intercession, Jesus, especially in light of my own context and circumstances. Sometimes our weakness and needs become the best motivation and fuel for praying for others. Here’s who I’m thinking about today, in particular…

     Jesus, for missionaries seeking to bring the gospel to unreached people groups or in situations long resistant to the good news of who you are, open doors no one can shut. You’ve bought a Bride from every nation, so we pray with anticipation, not with doubt. Give your servants patience, provision and enough fruit to keep them encouraged. May the gospel not only be clear through them, but to them. Keep their hearts alive to your great affection and mercies. Shower their marriages and friendships with the gift of your real presence and gospel-nourishment.

     Jesus, for your servants seeking to bring the liberating power of the gospel to places of systemic brokenness and evil… grant them protection and success. I’m thinking about the women and men who labor in arenas like human trafficking, AIDS, hunger and poverty, and other places of  cruel injustice. When your servants feel most weary in well doing, give them fresh manna of gospel encouragement. Grant them favor with local authorities. Grant them good working relationships with other agencies and missions organizations. Let them know, for certain, a harvest of righteousness and peace is coming.

     Indeed, we praise you, Jesus, that our labors in you are never in vain… for we don’t minister for you but with you. You’re the one who is making all things right and new. Your kingdom of justice and mercy will prevail. The government of the world is already on your shoulders, and there will be no end to the increase of your redeeming reign and your healing peace. So very Amen, we pray, in your name, with hope and encouragement.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

God Help Me to be the Best Husband & Dad I Can Be

Had not heard this song until driving in Wisconsin the other day...can't get it out of my head...praying it leaves a lasting impact, and that the Lord will allow me to regularly pray:
1. Lord, I'm a man in desperate need of help
2. Send help
3. Make me humble enough to accept help

I love and cherish my wife and children so very, very much...life/ministry is demanding...but all is for nothing if they don't know I love and cherish them...

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Chief Sin

I believe it was C S Lewis who declared that "Pride is the chief sin."

Lucy depicts too many:
Peanuts