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Friday, October 10, 2014

Ah Hah Moment

I've been long frustrated with younger Christians dancing...or worse...with the issue of homosexuality.

I have wondered, "Why?"

Is it "just" because they now know friends, relatives etc who are "out-of-the-closet"? Is it "just" because the issue is no longer academic, but personal?

That's certainly a contributing factor (and not only for younger Christians; for instance the seminary prof who used to label homosexual behavior a sin, until his son "came out"...and then the professor wrote a book stating he was "wrong" and that such activity was now okay).

But something happened today that gave me pause, and perhaps is an "ah hah!" moment...

In another discussion a 20-something Christian rebutted an article I posted that linked premarital sex with a "loss" of faith by saying out-of-wedlock-sexually-active young people are not abandoning their faith, but don't want to come to church to be "shamed."


Is it possible that, consciously or not, some Christians who have been involved in premarital sex are dancing with homosexuality because...golly gee, if homosexual behavior is okay than certainly premarital sex is okay? Not "just" in theory, but my premarital sexual activity?

I don't want to paint with a broad brush...but I think I'm on to something here.

And it's not good.

Because, among other reasons, if homosexuality...if premarital okay, than certainly extramarital sex must be okay also...

As far as "shame" is concerned; it should never be the goal of anyone to merely shame someone; but it is certainly okay to be ashamed...and if the Lord uses His Word to bring me to shame and repentance...thanks be to God.

As I told the young lady, if a preacher refuses to speak truth because it might make someone "ashamed" or "feel bad," he has become a motivational speaker; not a proclaimer of Go'ds truth.

Much of this brings to mind Jeremiah 6.15:

Were they ashamed when they committed abomination?
    No, they were not at all ashamed;
    they did not know how to blush.
Therefore they shall fall among those who fall;
    at the time that I punish them, they shall be overthrown,”
says the Lord

"Did not know how to blush" reads the e.s.v.; some translations read "They have forgotten how to blush..."

If conviction leads to shame alone, mores the pity; but if conviction leads to shame which births repentance...thank You, Holy Spirit...

Thursday, October 9, 2014

The Times They're Not a Changin'

This quote is from 1994....not much has changed in two decades:

"The fundamental problem in the evangelical world today is not inadequate technique, insufficient organization, or antiquated music and those who want to squander the church’s resources bandaging these scratches will do nothing to staunch the flow of blood that is spilling from its wounds. The fundamental problem in the evangelical world today is that God rests too inconsequentially upon the church. His truth is too distant, His grace too ordinary, His judgment too benign, His gospel too easy, and His Christ is too common."
David Wells
God in the Wasteland, Eerdmans, 1994, p. 30.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Rosie Cover Up?

Rosie O'Donnell made some pretty ridiculous comments (you should recall that she is one of the flakes who early and often theorized that Bush was involved in the 9/11 attacks) on the program she cohosts, "The View", yesterday. (Read more if you dare by CLICKING HERE.

In the midst of the stupidity she says this:

Here's my point as a mom: I think you can never do anything to kill an innocent child. That's what I think, a child that's alive. Adults do horrible things to each other, but once you drop a bomb and kill a baby, I'm sorry. It's over for me. I know what those people did in those planes were horrific. But I don't think by killing each other we're going to solve the world's problems. 

Did you catch it?

"I think you can never do anything to kill an innocent child."

Then it's like she realizes what she has said, so apparently tries to clean it up by continuing, 

"That's what I think, a child that's alive."


She says nothing should ever kill an innocent child...but then it seems to me she realizes she has just uttered a pro life phrase, so she sanitizes it (in her mind) by saying "a child that's alive."

Whether it's a bomb or a surgeon, the death of an innocent child in the womb is horrific.

If you consider that child to be alive.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Read It Before CHRISTmas...

I rarely read books more than once. (although at my age I may be so doing without knowing it)

Unbroken is an exception.

When I read it was being made into a movie I thought I should read it had been a couple years.

Then when I learned the subject of the book had died, I knew I had to reread it.

Took a while, but I finished it last night.

It is an amazing book (by the author of Seabiscuit) that describes the absolute horribleness of man while also portraying the heroic actions of desperate people.

The book describes the good, the bad, and the ugly about it's "hero."

It reveals God working through a young man named Billy Graham.

It illuminates both a heart consumed with a desire for revenge; and a heart changed into one offering forgiveness.

Have no idea how accurate the movie will be, but here is a trailer that includes the now-deceased hero:

And here is a more, well, dramatic trailer:

I know I won't see it CHRISTmas day...but if there is a late late show I might see it that evening...

As in all my book reviews, if you order it from amazon on the link below, I get a few cents:

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Not "Just" The Bible Gets Cut-and-Pasted

My favorite hymn is the Getty's "In Christ Alone."

Not some of the hymn, not most of the hymn, but the entire hymn...all the words.

But there are many who "cover" the song and cut out, eliminate, remove an entire verse.

And thus they remove propitiation...a vital part of the gospel.

Jesus did not "simply" die on the cross...He who knew no sin became sin...He offered Himself as a substitute, and the cup of God's wrath that should have been poured on me was poured out on the Son...the atoning sacrifice.

God's holy wrath against sin was satisfied.

And so reads the words of Getty's hymn.

But it is cut out by many...heard it done last night.

And here is an example of "I don't like that so I'm dropping it" in action, this one done at Passion 2013, a conference for teens and young adults...okay to add a lot of "oh oh oh oh ohs" but not okay to sing all the composers words?:

Owl City pulls the words also. The Newsboys sing the song in its entirety.

But no one sings it as well as the they are:

In case you don't have time or inclination to watch any of the videos, here are the words that are left out. I'm sure there will be some who shake their heads and mutter, "Oh, Jack, it's not that big of a deal."

Well, yeah, the atoning sacrifice of Jesus is a huge deal. The full and complete payment of sin is a huge deal.

These words are not merely poetry...they are doctrine, they are correct, they are essential. 

(and I don't know copyright law to know how kosher/legal/ it is to sort-of-cover a song...but it sure isn't ethical.

In Christ alone, who took on flesh
Fullness of God in helpless Babe
This gift of love and righteousness
Scorned by the ones He came to save

Til on that cross as Jesus died
The wrath of God was satisfied
For every sin on Him was laid
Here in the death of Christ I live, I live

Friday, September 26, 2014

Testimony in Death

I did not know this young (13 years old) man.

His Dad serves with "Behind the Walls," Bill Glass's ministry with which I've had the privilege of serving.

Ethan died earlier today of neuroblastoma.

I look forward to meeting him...

A few days ago, he wrote this:

"My biggest fear isn't dying. My biggest fear is that others will blame God for my death and not believe in Him. I don't want people angry at God or even blaming Him. I mean, there is much more than just this life. Just because He didn't heal me on earth doesn't mean He won't heal me in Heaven." 

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Lock Up Your Sacred Cows...

This is a mind-stretching, heart-flexing message.

Selective hearing as opposed to careful listening is dangerous. Careless listening may result in you thinking the speaker is viciously attacking your favorite speaker/author.

I urge you to carefully, focusedly, listen to this entire message (26 minutes or so)...summed in this sentence:

"Before we are called to something or somewhere we are called to Someone."

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

To Those Who "Love Jesus but Hate Church"

I concur with Chan.

And those who claim to "love Jesus" but "hate church" are basically adulterers.

They are having an affair with Jesus.

They want the warm fuzzies, the theological debates, the lets-sit-around-and-bash-the-church events,
the lets-laugh-about-all-the-stuff-we-used-to-believe-but-now-have-abandoned-now-that-we've-seen-the-(relative)-light-fests...and all the rest.

Usually these occasions are laced with blasts at the judgmental, the "legalists," those who try to integrate their faith with their world and national view, and others.

The word "affair" is apt.

They want the "good stuff" but not commitment.


And denial of "do not forsake the assembling together of yourselves."

An affair is easy; commitment is tough.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Love Christ? Love Teens? GET THIS BOOK!

Firing Jesus by Greg Stier will take you probably an hour tops to read...

If you love Jesus, the gospel, and teens you will probably reread it almost immediately...

If you have worked with teens as a youth worker - especially in a church setting - you will be nodding in agreement, laughing out loud, and probably weeping as you read.

This is a fictional account of an all too often real event...the virtual crucifixion of a youth worker who is actively trying to disciple rather than entertain teenagers.

The author, who founded and leads Dare2Share, knows of what he writes. The brief book provides glimpses into the lives of adult leaders, teen leaders, messed-up-teens, and, most important, a youth worker who wants to please God and not provide "body counts," "results," or other junk that clouds the issue of discipleship.

I can't recommend this book highly fact, I'll give it my Hager money back guarantee that I've only offered for a few books - if you buy it and don't think it is worth the money, let me know and I'll reimburse you.

Here's another recommendation:

Derwin Gray, lead pastor of one of America’s fastest growing churches, says: “You read a good book once. A great book a few times.  But a remarkable book becomes an annual pilgrimage that feeds your soul, strengthens your call and clarifies your focus. Greg Stier has written a remarkable little book. Pastors, elders, youth leaders, parents and students should bless themselves by reading Firing Jesus.”

And here is a link to buy it, in either paperbook or e-book: CLICK HERE

Monday, September 1, 2014

Amazing Amazon

I love Amazon. As a confirmed bookaholic it has served me well. I have never had an issue with Amazon.

So when I saw The Everything Store, subtitled "Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon," I grabbed it for my summer travels.

It is an incredibly interesting history of Bezos, Amazon, and the e-commerce industry overall. It reveals cutthroat tactics, an incredibly driven (and driving) Bezos, and scores of employees along for the ride.

As Steven Levy noted, "The Everything Store is a revelatory read for everyone - those selling and those sold to - who wants to understand the dynamics of the new digital economy. If you've ever one-clicked a purchase, you must read this book."

And I love this quote that preceeds the actual book  (from Bezos' commencement speech at Princeton in 2010):

"When you are eighty years old,
and in a quiet moment of reflection
narrating only for yourself the most personal version of your life story,
the telling that will be most compact and meaningful
will be the series of choices you have made.
In the end, we are our choices."

Reflections on Labor

On this Labor Day I reflect on "full-time, vocational ministry."

Since 1978 I have had the immense privilege, joy, and responsibility to serve as a home missionary. In 1982 God allowed me to marry Jane, and we've served together since as a team...Next to Jesus, she is my biggest blessing, my source of encouragement, and my (occasional) kicker-in-the-butt when I need it.

God has opened effectual doors of service in ways never anticipated. He has "blessed-beyond-belief" in so many ways, in so many places, in so many circumstances.

He has showed Himself strong in my weakness. He has strengthened me for the journey. He has blessed our efforts to "brag on Jesus."

And I continue to be amazed I get to do what I get to do.

I believe it was Indira Gandhi who said, "The secret to success is to find people who will pay you to do what you would pay to do if you had to."

If that is at least partially true, the Lord has allowed me to succeed, at least partially.

For all those years we've served as home missionaries; trusting God to provide our income through folks who partner with us in finance and prayer. With no other income (save the occasional honorarium), God has showed up in incredible ways over all these years.

And His people have stood with us.

It's long been my goal to be the oldest youth worker in America. I probably am getting close. There are probably not many people who have served as long "on support." I get to speak and teach and counsel in places as varied as maximum security prisons, junior high Bible studies, churches, public schools, youth rallies, civic organizations, and more.

Begging the question:

"What am I doing here?" God could use a donkey (yeah, there may be some similarities)

And yet in His sovereign will He has called me, equipped me, energized me, and blessed me.


No idea.

But thrilled beyond words to be able to "labor" in His Name.

Tiring? Yeah. Frustrating? Duh. Heartbreaking? All too often.

But...exhilarating? energizing? encouraging? Very often.

And as God gives us courage and conviction to stick to the gospel, the Word, and the essentials; increasingly lonely.

As the "difficult times" of 2 Timothy 3 get more difficult, as more and more professing Christians waffle on the exclusivity of the gospel, the reality of sexual sin (to include homosexuality), the fact of hell, and the authority of will get more lonely.

But as we cling to the Lord, fix our eyes on Jesus, and trust Him we will move ahead...continually stunned that He uses us for His glory, and recognizing that:

And, yes, we'd appreciate your prayers as we move ahead...(if you'd like to receive updates on our ministry, email me at 

Friday, August 29, 2014

Spiritual Cancer Defined

Legalism kills/destroys/crushes.

But what is legalism?

Here's Mike Farris' definition:

"Legalism occurs when someone elevates his personal view about wise conduct to a level where it is claimed that this person's own opinions are Gods universal commands."

Thursday, August 21, 2014

TWENTY YEARS AGO???? DC Talk/Larry Norman/Smitty

Was having a facebook "discussion" about end times stuff, and this song rolled through my gray matter...looked it up and was stunned...STUNNED I realize it occurred in my count that is two decades did this happen?

Of course Larry is gone now; and DC Talk evolved into three fairly successful individual careers (and now back in separate groups in two cases)...Smitty is still out there doing his props to these men for hanging in and continuing to make music that always entertains and often edifies...

I keep hearing rumors of a tour next year featuring the (new) Newsboys, the "how many farewell tours can you do" Audio Adrenaline, and a certain soloist...a tour that will also feature together again DC Talk stuff...hope its true and that its near me and that I can somehow afford it...

Anyway, for those of you of a certain age this may make you feel a tad older; for those of you who are current fans of Smitty or any of the DC Talk guys, this may cause a grin or two...(sorry for the Spanish subtitles, but it's the only one I could find on a quick search)

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Musical Interlude,..

Wow. Some heated discussion regarding some of my posts and reposts concerning suicide the late, lamented Robin Williams in particular...

I've had private conversations with some, ignored others, and am close to defriending one (who private messaged me saying she hoped one of my kids or wife would commit suicide so I'd "change my tune")...

So I thought I'd take a break and just post some music before I go preach for the next-to-last time to this particular group of teen campers...

If we who claim to be Christians would learn who we are in Christ, our identity in Christ, how precious we are to the Father etc a lot of problems would take care of themselves (note I said "a lot", not "all")

Here's some musical thoughts for your consideration:

And from those great philosophers and theologians, "The Eagles":

And let's never grow too theological, too sophisticated, too "used-to-being-saved" that we forget this:

Observation of the Robin Williams Conversation

I am saddened by much of the "conversation" concerning Robin Williams, depression, and suicide...both here and on other pages etc. I am NOT yelling at anyone, but observing with sadness many, many professing Christians speaking of their own experiences, the experiences of friends, the feelings of themselves and others, the harshness of some writers, the opinions of psychiatrists etc...but NO scriptural reference or point of view. Is Scripture sufficient or is it not?

Has really "no temptation overtaken you except that which is common to man"? Will God really "provide an avenue of escape" for ANY include suicide?

"Oh, but Jack, you don't understand."

Correct. As mentioned, though I've had a rather eclectic background, I've NEVER chewed tobacco or considered suicide. That does not make me "better," it is simply a fact. Drugs, Vietnam, prison, and more did not push me, drag me, pull me to the "slough of despond."

Especially since captured by Christ, I find life to be a challenging ride, but not a ride so bumpy that I'd consider checking least to this point.

So I don't understand fully because I've not been there...but if I want to read first hand accounts of depression...I can read many of the Psalms.

David knew some stuff about being depressed...

And if I claim to be a follower of Christ and a believer that His Word of true; I can't and shouldn't argue "just" from experience/feelings./opinions of learned non Christians...Scripture is sufficient.

That does NOT mean simplistic "God will make it okay" "answers" are sufficient, by the way...

Just another indication of the biblical illiteracy rampant in the church I suppose.

Now that's sort of depressing...

Friday, August 8, 2014

What Am I Doing Here?

Writing this from Indianapolis; where Jane, Jacob and I overnighted enroute to the last two teen camps at which I'll be speaking this summer...Penn York in Ulysses, Pa (for Corning Area Bible Club); and Victory Valley in Zionsville, PA (for Pioneers for Christ; a Korean/American ministry; my 26th or 27th consecutive year)

After four weeks of camp speaking already (three teen and one family) it is still hard to fathom summer is ending...

And it is still hard to fathom...what am I doing here? 

Why has God chosen me to do this type of ministry for 36 plus years? Why has He raised up a team of financial and prayer supporters who allow me to go anywhere at anytime to brag on Jesus? Whether it is a camp; a civic organization, a college, a prison, a jail, a one-on-one...whatever the venue, the underlying question: "What are you doing here, Jack?"

My only answer...He is fulfilling His purpose for me. I thank God obviously for salvation at the age of 26; the few years of growth while incarcerated; the Bible school I was privileged to attend, the mentors and others from whom I learned and am learning so much, and the rich history of the church and its leaders who have allowed me to "grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ."

I often tell younger men that I am still "scared" before I preach/teach/speak...if I wasn't it would mean I was relying on myself, my "education," my "experience," etc instead of relying on the Lord.

I continue to be amazed that I get to do what I get to do; and I've a hunch that is why I get to continue doing it.

My chief desire at this point is to finish well, to finish strong, and to be somehow a help to younger men and women in ministry.

The fields are indeed white unto harvest, and the laborers are not only few, but seem to be getting "fewer," especially those who are willing to trust God to provide for their needs through missionary support; who are willing to see ministry is NOT a 40 hour a week "job," and are willing to pour their lives into teens seeking impact, not "decisions."

So  I continue to wonder, "What am I doing here?" while at the same time being incredibly grateful that I get to "brag on Jesus" as a calling.

I do not know anything of Kris's spiritual state...but this song frequently pops into my grey (gray?) matter, and the lyrics put well my question in a different form...

Monday, August 4, 2014

Jesus Junior

Our local deity is not Jesus. He goes by the name Jesus. But in reality, our local deity is Jesus Jr. Our little Jesus is popular because he is useful. He makes us feel better while conveniently fitting into the margins of our busy lives. But he is not terrifying or compelling or thrilling. When we hear the gospel of Jesus Jr., our casual response is “Yeah, that’s what I believe.” Jesus Jr. does not confront us, surprise us, stun us. He looks down on us with a benign, all-approving grin. He tells us how wonderful we really are, how entitled we really are, how wounded we really are, and it feels good. Jesus Jr. appeals to the flesh. He does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him. He is not able to understand them, much less impart them, because Jesus Jr. is the magnification of Self, the idealization of Self, the absolutization of Self turning around and validating Self, flattering Self, reinforcing Self. Jesus Jr. does not change us, because he is a projection of us.
Ray Ortlund
Blog Post: Jesus Jr. July 7, 2009

Friday, August 1, 2014

Weekend Observation...

Before I share a quote that, frankly, is rather convicting to me...just a heads up...I am in the process of changing this blog to (for a variety of reasons)...that won't happen until I get off the summer road (I am wrapping up my fourth week of camp ministry in northern Wisconsin where I'm speaking at a family camp...will go home for three days before heading to NY and PA for two weeks of camp and two churches)...but did want to share this, to me, slap:

The very concept of “the weekend” is unbiblical. It turns Sunday into a second Saturday. Home Depot may gain, but we lose. It turns Sundayinto the day we catch up on the stuff we were too lazy or disorganized to do on Saturday. It also turns Sundayinto a day to ramp up for work or school on Monday. It hollows out not only Sunday but our whole week, because it marginalizes God and church and sermons and all the other vital things that happen in our lives only when we make the vital things also the central things. If we accept the world’s concept of “the weekend,” we inevitably end up “fitting God in” rather than centering the practical reality of our every week around Him. We trivialize Him, even as we allow secondary things to hijack the sacred place of centrality, we live soul-exhausted lives, and then we wonder why God isn’t more real to us, why church isn’t “working” for us, why we’re grumpy, and so forth.
Ray Ortlund

Monday, June 30, 2014

"no gospel at all"

To many of you, this may seem duh-obvious. But, guaranteed, there are many who rarely...if ever...think about the cross...therefore they think not of the gospel...or, worse, they think the gospel is how they get saved; then put it on a shelf. These are important words:

"Surely Paul could have made the gospel more palatable – and less dangerous – by saying it was about something else.

Something cleaner and less ridiculous than the cross.

Something more glorious.

Less disgusting. 

He didn’t do that, though. “I decided,” Paul said, “to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2). 

In the face of the worst cultural prejudice imaginable, he fixed the entire gospel squarely and immovably on the fact that Jesus was tacked to a stauros and left to die. 

If he had been trying to find a surefire way to turn first-century people off from his “good news,” he couldn’t have done better than that! 

So why did he do it? 

It’s simple. 

He did it because he knew that leaving the cross out, or running past it with a glance, or making it peripheral to the gospel, or allowing anything else to displace it at the center of the gospel would make it, finally, no gospel at all."
Greg Gilbert

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Clayton's Story...and a follow up

Somehow I missed this five years ago...and it's probably been floating around since but I'd not seen it until my son Joel recently sent it to me...powerful it, then watch the follow up that appears below the first video:

Clayton's Story from Jacob Lewis on Vimeo.

Here's the Directors follow up:

The Rest of Clayton's Story from Jacob Lewis on Vimeo.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

No Short Cuts to Anywhere Worth Going

Although Robertson seems to be competing with the apostle Paul as far as longest sentence goes, this is worth reading a couple times...and heeding more often...

"It is not the number of books you read, nor the variety of sermons you hear, nor the amount of religious conversation in which you mix, but it is the frequency and earnestness with which you meditate on these things until the truth in them becomes your own and part of your being, that ensures your growth."
F.W. Robertson

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Hollow Eyes

As I was leaving prison this afternoon I was delayed as a group of 20 or so "new guys" came through one of the locked doors. Dressed in orange jumpsuits they ranged in age from probably 17 or 18 to 50+.

I tried to look each one in the eye (yes, most prison officials and the majority of inmates will tell you not to do this; but I try to make even a moment's human contact whenever has never caused a problem) and silently voice a quick prayer for them.

Some of the eyes reflected terror.

Too many reflected nothing.

The former had probably never been locked up before in a prison (certainly they had done at least some jail time before sentencing).

The latter are probably doing "life-on-the-installment-plan."

As I observed the hardened eyes an oldy moldy Petra song came to mind.

"Hollow Eyes."

The Petra song dealt with starving people.

But the "Hollow Eyes", at least in my mind, applies to the guys who see prison as a revolving door part of their life.

And that is sad.

And it is one reason why I go in whenever I can to try to share the good news of Christ.

Here's the song:

Thursday, February 13, 2014


"For You 
have exalted 
above all things 
Your Name 
Your Word." 

Psalm 138.2b

Monday, January 13, 2014

Regardless of what (most) television "preachers" say...

"Faith for my deliverance is not faith in God. Faith means, whether I am visibly delivered or not, I will stick to my belief that God is love. There are some things only learned in a fiery furnace."

Oswald Chambers