Get the book here

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Most Underlined

Other than books of the Bible, there is no book I've read more often than Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God, by J. I. Packer.

I probably read it once yearly, and run out of ink every so many sentences are underlined.

If you've never worked through it, I really recommend you do. I don't care if you tiptoe through the tulips or if you are a Free Will Baptist or any other stripe; you'd benefit greatly from thinking through the book.

Read a few chapters on the plane is a sampling of what I underlined:

"Always and everywhere the servants of Christ are under orders to evangelize."
(first sentence of the introduction)

"...the recognition of God's sovereignty is the basis of your prayers."

"The prayer of a Christian is not an attempt to force God's hand, but a humble acknowledgement of helplessness and dependence."

"When you pray for unconverted people, you do so on the assumption that it is in God's power to bring them to faith."

"God's sovereignty and man's responsibility are taught to us side by side in the same Bible; sometimes, indeed, in the same text." (Luke 22.22 for example)

"The Creator has told us that He is both a sovereign Lord and a righteous judge...Why do we hesitate to take His word for it?"

"...the power that saves is not in the instrument: it is in the hand of the One who uses the instrument."

"It is right to recognize our responsibility to engage in aggressive evangelism...It is not right when we regard ourselves as responsible for securing converts."

"Unconcern and inaction with regard to evangelism are always, therefore, inexcusable."

Regarding the "arguments" between those who would at some level identify as "Calvinists" and others who would stress the Arminian view, I consider this one of the more insightful and important sentences in the book:

"On our feet we may have arguments about it,
on our knees we are all agreed."

The book was first published in 1961...and deserves the word "classic." But in reality I think it is one of those titles that many talk about, many refer to, many have read a few chapters...but not all that many have read the whole book.

Be in the

Friday, September 25, 2015

"Nah, couldn't be. He wouldn't do that."

Is our current president simply incompetent? 

Are there no active duty general staff officers willing to stand up to him?

How can the White House really not know how many native soldiers have been trained by our troops? Can the number really be as small as five? (which has been reported)

What in the world is going on?

Surely it couldn't be that Obama knew and knows that the furtherance of what he used to call "the junior varsity" ISIS activity - the beheadings, the burning alive, the other horrors - would result in thousands upon thousands of people fleeing that horror...and thus overwhelming borders with refugees?

Surely it couldn't be that he knew that eventually the good old USofA would throw open its doors and borders even more than they are already to allow large segments of these refugees to enter...

And thus create even a bigger Democrat voting base?


Couldn't be.

Could it?

Saturday, September 12, 2015


Was surprised recently when a response I posed to a question a friend asked generated a lot of the point of a pastor calling me a heretic because I posed a possibility he did not like.

I had expressed an "opinion" as opposed to "thus sayeth the Lord." This particular individual not only challenged me, but early on said that I was purposefully coloring my opinion so that it would benefit me. As a redeemed sinner I am fully capable of so doing, but it is the Spirit of God's job to reveal that; no one else knows the "thoughts and intentions" of my heart. Then, later, he set the stage to label my "opinion" heresy...which is the same thing as labeling me a heretic.

I was (and am, as some of it continues) surprised at the amount of slaps I took for this particular post.

And I'm such a thin-skinned dude!

But it did cause me to think about asking readers a question:

"What Are Your Non-negotiables?"

On what mountains are you willing to die? More vividly, on what mountains are you willing to let your family die? (I believe a preference is something you'll argue about; a conviction is something you'll die for; a Biblical conviction is something you'll let your family die for)

As I think and pray and observe, I may share my list later.

For now I'm looking for yours.

Care to contribute?

For example, I am non-negotiable on the virgin birth of Jesus Christ. I'm non-negotiable on the exclusivity of the gospel. Though I've no idea what it is, I'm non-negotiable on the reality of hell.

That's a sampling.

How about you?

Thursday, September 3, 2015

The Gospel Truth....

As people are exposed by an affair-set-up site, as failures seem to trump the victors; as we are prone to think we are above-all-that...not sure from whom I stole this, but...

If you knew everything about me, there is no way you would listen to me...

...but that's okay...

If I knew everything about you...

There's no way I'd want to talk to you.

Steven Curtis Chapman gets this:

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Important Reminder for Me..and For All Who Teach/Preach

Just started rereading Knowing God by J. I. Packer; one of the very few books I read again.

And again struck by a quote from C. S. Lewis that Packer included in his original preface (1972).

It is a sober and sobering reminder:

"Those like myself, whose imagination far exceeds their obedience are subject to a just penalty; we easily imagine conditions far higher than any we have really reached. If we describe what we have imagined we may make others, and make ourselves, believe that we have really been there." (The Four Loves

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Thankful for Local Newspaper Story

This appeared in today's St Joseph News Press. I am grateful to Jena for the story, and for her accurate reporting.

Posted: Saturday, August 29, 2015 6:00 am
Several decades after being released from an Oregon prison, the Rev. Jack Hager continues to return to prison several times a week — this time, to minister to offenders as a volunteer prison chaplain.
The Rev. Hager has worked in prison ministry for several decades, spurred by his own experience with incarceration in the 1970s. Now, he focuses on fulfilling the needs of offenders at the Western Reception, Diagnostic and Correctional Center in St. Joseph and Crossroads Correctional Center in Cameron, Mo., several times a week for the last seven years.
“Basically, I think ministry is ministry,” the Rev. Hager says. “You love God and you love people, whether it is a teenager or a convicted murder or a sex offender. Other than the fact that they are confined, it’s really not any different than any other kind of ministry.”
Finding God
After serving in Vietnam, he eventually became a “stereotypical child of the ’60s,” the Rev. Hager says, experimenting with drugs and crime.
“I got busted in Texas on fugitive charges,” he says. “They threw me in a jail cell. A few days later, they found some drugs in the cell, which isn’t terribly unusual. They took everything out except the religious things.”
At 26 years old and “reasonably well educated,” he had never been to church except for weddings and funerals, the Rev. Hager says.
“I’d always believed in God or a higher power or something, but I had no clue what Jesus Christ claimed to be,” he says. “I got bored and read a book that introduced me to the Bible, then I read the Bible for a while. After that, the light went off and I trusted Christ.”
Unlike many people’s journeys to Christ, the Rev. Hager says, his was taken alone.
“It’s unique in the sense that there was no human being directly involved,” he says. “It was just the word of God.”
After he finished his four years in prison, he was released and eventually attended religious training in Kansas City. As an ordained minister, he has planted a church in New York, served as an interim pastor for several churches and works for various ministries including Midland Ministries in St. Joseph. He now also gives presentations about his experiences in prison, ministry and military service.
As a volunteer prison chaplain, he attends Bible studies and speaks at the prison chapel. He is also available for one-on-one meetings with offenders.
“There are some people who think ‘if I just come to Jesus, they will be OK,’” the Rev. Hager says. “But that’s not true. Some sins are legal. Some sins are illegal. If a guy’s got a heavy meth habit, although my goal is to introduce them to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, it’s not some simple way of saying ‘now you are going to be a good guy for the rest of your life.’ “
Taking personal responsibility for actions is key to being successful, the Rev. Hager says.
“With or without Christ, until a guy mans up and says ‘I blew it,’ he can’t change,” the Rev. Hager says. “I’m real big on personal responsibility. Coming to Jesus Christ doesn’t make everything all right for anybody. It does long term, but short term, you’ve still got to make your choices.”
His experience in the correctional system is a testament to the fact that it is possible to remain out of prison after being released, the Rev. Hager says.
“I think it helps in some sense,” he says. “It gives me credibility to guys. Whether or not they buy into my faith, I’ve been out since 1977 and I’m making it.”
The biggest challenge comes when offenders are released and can face more temptations, the Rev. Hager says.
“Some of these guys, they hit the gate and they aren’t supposed to associate with someone who’s got a record. But mom’s got a record. Dad’s got a record ... It’s really really tough,” he says. “I think anyone can make it on the street if they’ve got the want to, but it’s really really difficult.”
He encourages the men to get involved with a church, if possible, after their release, and encourages churches to be open and accepting.
“I tell churches not to patronize the guys,” he says. “They aren’t your token ex-convicts. They are just the guy who happened to be incarcerated for a while. Treat him just like a brother.”
He hopes that more people will be interested in working in prison ministry in the future, but acknowledges that it isn’t right for everyone.
“It’s not for everyone,” he says. “I don’t like going to nursing homes. Some people don’t like going to the prisons. And that’s OK. But I’d recommend they try it sometime.”
In the end, it is a rewarding volunteer role, the Rev. Hager says.
“It’s seeing a guy come to the faith, number one, that’s rewarding,” he says. “And it’s seeing a guy with that glimmer of hope that ‘yes, I can make it.’ “

It's Not All Relative...

While reading the August 31 issue of "Time" I came across an interview with Beverly Johnson.

I had no idea who she is; after skimming the article I guess she was/is a famous model.

Not much of interest, but her answer to the last question reminded me of the importance of "little" words.

She was asked, "When do you feel the most beautiful?

Her response?

"I feel the most beautiful when I'm really speaking my truth in my soul..."

Catch it?

"my truth"

It reminded me of the former governor of New Jersey who in August of 2004 resigned after the married man realized one of his male lovers was going public.

In his resignation speech he said, "At a point in every person's life, one has to look deeply into the mirror or one's soul and decide one's unique truth in the world, not as we may want to see it or hope to see it, but as it is. And so my truth is that I am a gay American..."

"Thy Word is truth." "I am the truth."

We who follow Christ and His Word need not be ashamed of truth.

Therein is the danger in saying things like, "What this verse says to me..."

It is not relative. It is truth. It says one primary thing (yes, there may be application etc, but it is not flexible like jello).


Stand on it. 

Rest in it.

Share it.

Friday, August 28, 2015

The Preacher's Reality

Stumbled across these two quotations this morning.

Resonate deeply with both.

After all these years, after all these sermons, these prove true in deepening measure:

“There is no good preacher who is not moved almost to the point of tears at the end of every sermon at how poor was the message he just delivered.” Spurgeon

"...any man who has had some glimpse of what it is to preach will inevitably feel that he has never preached.” Martin Lloyd-Jones

I have outlines etc for hundreds of sermons in my files. There are some messages I preach often; if you've ever camped with me more than two weeks you know that to be true.

But I work hard and plan hard to have new messages birthed out of my regular study and intake of the Word.

Another Spurgeon favorite: "He who has ceased to learn, has ceased to teach. He who no longer sows in the study will no more reap in the pulpit."

Teens and younger men often ask me if I'm still scared before I speak.

"Yeah," I say - often surprising them -, "If I'm not scared it means I'm relying on me instead of the Spirit of God...I treat seriously the Biblical warning - 'Let not many of us become teachers, for as such we shall incur the stricter judgment.'"

Thursday, August 20, 2015

It's All About the Heart

Ages-old truism, "Many people in North America will miss heaven by about 18.5 inches."

Lots of Jesus/gospel in head, no Jesus/gospel in heart.

Yeah, if you are a nitpicker you'll slam that, but I'll ignore you.

This is one of the most heart-wrenching yet heart-encouraging videos I've ever seen.

It is loaded with illustrations.

What's your takeaway? I'm really curious, so let me know in the comments...

Saturday, August 15, 2015

"The Battle Starts Now"

Pioneers for Christ (aka "korean kamp) camp ended this Saturday noon.

At least the six days together came to a halt...

But, as a camper facebooked me just a moment ago, "The battle starts now."

In prison we talk about inmates "leaving Jesus at the gate."

Too many campers also "leave Jesus at the driveway out."

This particular camper does not want to have the stereotypical "camp high."

Thankfully, many others also want to keep fighting the good fight.

We are saved by grace but grace works (because it is He who is at work within us both to desire to do and to do His good pleasure)

As I have at every camp this summer, I encouraged the young men and women to "S.T.A.N.D.":

Study (no way they can grow without a regular, systematic intake of the Word of God)

Talk (prayer is our declaration of dependence)

Assemble (be part of a local church, not a mere attender

Notice (be aware of what's going on in your life, your family, your neighborhood, your country, your              church, etc)

Do (It's not enough to know God's will, it must be done)

It was a great week. Exhausting, but exhilarating. A time to weep with those who weep, and rejoice with those who rejoice.

Jacob and I got some Chinese to go this evening. The fortune I found in my cookie reads, "One learns most from teaching others."

I'm still processing what I learned this week, but the premise is true. The hours of preparation and prayer (and the prayers of those who support Jane and I in prayer and finance), culminate in a 45-minute (or so) message, hours and hours of hanging with campers, and the ongoing relationship with many maintained by mail, email, facebook, phone, etc.

Why did God elect to use me this way? Beats me. But I sure am blessed to be able to do what I get to do...

Off to New Jersey in a couple days to "do" the final camp of the season.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Enough to Convict?

I've been in vocational youth ministry since 1977.

I served with Kansas City Youth For Christ for a number of years.

Back in the day we did "Russian meetings," in which we'd have off duty police or military men barge into the meeting, "arrest" us, take away our Bibles, with the intent of showing how our brothers and sisters lived in the former Soviet Union etc.

Usually such a meeting would end with the question, "If Christianity were suddenly declared illegal in our nation, would there be enough evidence to convict you?"

I think about that often as I look at the Facebook pages of friends who profess to be Christians.

If Christianity were declared illegal, would there be enough evidence in your social media to convict you?

Perhaps worth pondering, honestly.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Praying...for Safety...and for Cemeteries

I pretty much always pray for physical safety before driving anywhere. If with others I pray out loud (or, if with family, one of the family members prays).

A few weeks ago a deeply spiritual passenger didn't quite reprimand me, but said something like, "I don't find anyone praying for safety in the Bible."

I blew it off, though my first thought was "cast ALL your cares upon Him..."

Later I thought his premise was sort of like those who try to justify homosexuality by saying "Jesus never directly referred to it." The response to an idiotic statement like that is, of course, Jesus never referred to a lot of things that we know are wrong.

The "argument from silence" is not valid.

Re homosexuality, or re prayer.

In fact, yesterday Jane, Jacob, and I and Jacob's buddy Nick were coming home from a minivacation. We planned to stop at any antique/flea market thing we saw. I enjoy them, but I prayed, specifically that we would be led to a nice antique shop adjacent to a cemetery (I have a "thing" for old cemeteries).

As providence would have it (or, for the cynic, coincidence) the last place we stopped was...yeah, an antique store right across the street from the Ash Grove (Mo) cemetery.

So my aforementioned passenger can continue to pray, I suppose, only prayers he finds recorded in the Word; I'll just ask our loving Father to bless His undeserving child.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Paying the Piper

After typing the title, I realize I have no idea where that saying came from. Oh well.

After four consecutive weeks of teen camp speaking, in three states, I got home a week ago. 

It was obviously wondrous to be reunited with my wife and son Jacob. It's nice to sleep in my own bed in my own home.

But then I had to go to the office...accumulated snail mail, incoming books, emails pushed aside for answer "later"...those things and more clobbered the reality of paying the price for being gone for a month.

But what a joy to "pay" the price.

After all these years (since 1978) I'm still amazed I get to speak to teens around the country. A few years ago I reached the point where younger campers were...yikes...children of former teens who had camped with me! What is such a young guy like me doing in such an old body???

Like you, the "current events" are not encouraging. From the Bruce Jenner award for "courage," to the tragic death of four Marines, the Iran "deal" (good one for them!), and individual stories of people we know...concentrating on the "news" can be deadly.

So instead we "fix our eyes on Jesus." 

Some would say that's too simplistic.

Color me simple.

He is the only stability in my life. He is the only rock. He has blessed me with life,  a wonderful wife and family, precious friends, and allows me to serve Him as a home missionary.

He is good, all the time; and all the time, He is good.

And He sings to me a song by the Beatles...because, amazingly, He wants to hold my hand!

"For I, the LORD your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, “Fear not, I am the one who helps you.” Isaiah 41.13

Maybe I'm not the only one who needs that reminder?

Speaking of reminders, let's go back to 1964:

Saturday, July 11, 2015

You can't just say, "The Bible says..."

Don't you hate it when someone says, "You gotta read this!"


I'm doing it.

For over a decade I've said homosexuality will be THE issue that God uses to cleanse His church.

I'm not a prophet, nor a son of a prophet, but I just returned from speaking four weeks of teen camp in three states.

From Missouri to Wisconsin to Colorado, I tell you..obviously fueled by the "supreme" court decision; teens and others are baffled, confused, and struggling.

Often they struggle because they have a close friend or relative who is "out." They struggle because some big name "christians" are waffling on the issue. They struggle because their parents are saying, "hey, times change." Some struggle because they struggle with homosexuality themselves.

When and if they ask, "What does the Bible say?" We need to answer authoritatively, bathed in love.

This book will help you do that. Yes, I'll make a penny or so off it if you buy it on the link; and it comes with the Hager guarantee..if you buy it and don't like it, I'll purchase it back from you.

For me it is the best resource out there, and a lot of "big guns" say the same thing.

Buy it. Buy one for your pastor, youth pastor, friend.

It's that good, and it is definitely that important. And it is not going away.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

It Ain't Just Obama and Hillary

The individual who occupies the house of whiteness in DC and the woman who wishes to be the next resident have this in common: both are on tape stating they are against homosexual "marriage". Ah, but the times they changed, the wind blew a different way, and they were enlightened and changed their minds...

They ain't the only ones: From Tony Campolo to the Wheaton professor who wrote a book stating the Bible clearly teaches that homosexual behavior is sinful...and then disavowed it and rewrote it when his son "came out".

And many of my friends.

Why? I'm sure some of them have made a conscious decision that they were wrong, and using whatever "logic" come to the conclusion that homosexual activity is okay. Others are along for the politically correct ride. Some just don't want to make waves.

But from conversations and observations, the main reason is simple:

It's easy to be "against" homosexual behavior....when you don't know (or know that you know) any homosexuals.

But when it is your brother, best friend, cousin etc...well, then. Time to get the syrup, because far too many waffle.

So I dedicate this to should love the singer; and I love the lyrics...they make me think of folks like you...

Monday, June 29, 2015

Frustrated by the so-called "supreme" courts activist decision Friday? Perplexed by your professing Christian friends who love Jesus but say homosexual activity is cool?
This is, by far, the best resource of which I am aware.
I can't recommend it too highly; and, yes, if you buy it off this link I make a penny or two...but if you buy it and don't like it I'll buy it back from you...I'm that confident.
Go ahead...get it on the fact maybe get a couple to give away..perhaps one to your pastor?

My Personal Boycott (maybe)

I was thinking about the probability of more and more lawsuits against people of faith by homosexual activists with the so-called "supreme" courts hijacking Friday.

And I had a thought.

Perhaps I should (I'm not suggesting this for everyone; I have a hard enough time doing my time; I can't and won't do yours) boycott any business that employs homosexuals? Obviously I have to buy my utilities, etc from the existing companies. And there are some things that are simply too convenient and too necessary to my work/ministry/life to give up; as in Amazon.

But I pay taxes that abort babies, so I do not feel there is a firm line in the sand.

But I don't have to go to a local restaurant if it employs homosexuals. How do I find out? I ask. At least then it would force them to lie.

If a kid comes to my home and wants to mow my lawn, I'll ask him if his parents are "gay." If affirmative, I'll move him down the road.

Every girl who knocks on my door (they are all still girls, aren't they?) selling Girl Scout Cookies will also be interrogated. The service station that has homosexual employees is on the "no buy" list.

Movie theater employ "gays"? Redbox or Netflix it is. Or a good book, if I can find a bookstore that employs heterosexuals only.


I suppose.

But no more idiotic than a person of faith who bakes cakes being shut down because their conscience won't allow them to make a cake for a "gay" wedding.

Bob was, and is, right....

Sunday, June 28, 2015

An Open Letter to Homosexuals and Their Christian Allies

If you are a homosexual, please know I don't hate you, look down on you, or judge you on a personal level.

As an undeserving follower of Christ who holds to His Word, I know that your active homosexual lifestyle is is any heterosexual activity outside of marriage.

All sexual sin, according to the Bible (1 Corinthians 6) carries a different connotation than other sin; but all sin...lying, gossip, stealing...carries the same sentence.

No, I do not hate you.

And I don't particularly care that the so-called "supreme" court gave you want you want. Frankly, I think Christians and other religious organizations wasted millions of dollars and millions of hours of irreplaceable time trying to stop the legalization of homosexual marriage. That money could have been used to feed the hungry, enable missionaries, and countless other worthy projects.

But...sadly...believers continue to prove that it is far easier to be "against" something than actively "for" something.

No, I don't hate you.

You and your significant other, however, will never be allowed to spend the night in my home; any more than I'd let one of my unmarried children spend the night in my home with their "significant other" to who they were not married. I'll not consciously enable sin.

If you and your husband/wife/whatever come to a gathering at my home and begin to demonstrate, in my mind, inappropriate conduct you will be told to leave, as I would do to a hetero couple that was "making out" in an inappropriate manner. "What's inappropriate?" you ask? Whatever I say it is MY home.

No, I don't hate you. 

And, if I know you, I pray for you as I do for any one I know who is involved in active sin.

I don't hate you, and I won't fight you...until you tell me I, as an ordained minister, must officiate your wedding. I won't fight you...until you begin to hypocritically insist you have your rights while trying to take away my rights.

No, I don't hate homosexuals. But don't expect me to put some rainbow junk on my facebook page. I won't take "pride" in sin as so many of my professing Christian "friends" have.

Why do so many people who say they are Christ-followers actively support "gay" marriage and, indeed, "gay" lifestyle? I recently posted this on my facebook:

Why, you ask, are so many professing Christians applauding today's ruling? Mostly twenty/thirty somethings? It is, I'm convinced, because many of them are on their second or third marriage (which is not unforgiveable), or are still single and having regular sex...and thus if they okay what they used to believe is perversion and sin, they get the focus off themselves (they think)...The more I observe/talk/think the more I am convinced I am correct in this assessment.
But even if I am not correct, or perhaps painting with too wide a brush...if by approving the so called supreme courts decision they are approving homosexual activity, they are ignoring the clear Word of God. If they are approving it simply on legal grounds etc, I can live with that. I personally have no problem with homosexual "marriage" since the majority of heterosexual "marriages" are between pagans, or one pagan and one professing Christian, the government license means little, if anything. I have no problem with them having "equal rights," until and unless they tell me I MUST hire, marry, approve...then its high ho, high ho, its back to jail I go..

So...whether you are homosexual or, for lack of a better term, homosexual-friendly, I don't hate you. If you profess to be a Christian and at the same time feel homosexual activity is okay, I pity you and wish you'd be man or woman enough to throw out the whole bible rather than cut and paste it ala Rob Bell etc. If you are a non-Christian I don't expect you to, nor do I want to legislate you into, living like a follower of Christ.

But I do pray. And I will pray.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Timely Quotation

"Do not heed the jar of man's warring opinions. Let God be true and every man a liar. The Bible is the Bible still. If any man lack wisdom, let him ask of God."  Horatius Bonar

(not a very cheerful looking guy; but then again that's the way they did it back then...)

Friday, June 26, 2015

The Death of a Mom

The family in which I grew older (I didn't grow up until much later) was dysfunctional before it was trendy. You can't miss what you never had; and I never had a relationship with my parents. I envy those who do; and am furious at those who have a healthy family dynamic yet do not appreciate it.

My dear friend Lavonne Ponstein "lost" her mother recently; and wrote about it. (you can't lose someone when you know where they are)I knew her Mom; a dear lady, a saint, a servant.

Lavonne's writing is so good, so touching, so instructive, that I share it here:

Walking Mom to Heaven
It’s quiet in the house now.  No more is Mom in the kitchen preparing a meal.  No more is mom greeting everyone who walks in the house with the words, “What can I get you to eat?”  No more is Mom protesting, “You have a million and one things to do at TFC, you leave that to me, and I will take care of it.” Yes, it is quiet in the house.  Now, the only sounds are the bell on her walker telling me she is trying to sit up on her bed.  Now the only sounds are K-love playing quietly in the background and the sound of my fingers on the keyboard of my computer. 
The other day I sat in her room and as I watched her sleep, I was hit with the thought, “my mom’s serving days were over.”  All my life I have watched my mom serve.  Serving was her life. She served my dad as she walked beside him as a farmer’s wife, she served him as she walked him to heaven,  she served her children, she served her grandchildren, she served her neighbors, she served her church and it was all because she served her God. That realization flooded my eyes with tears – floods my eyes with tears. Every meal, every piece of cake, every cold drink my mom served me was love spoken over me.  Her serving wrapped me in this assurance – you are loved, you are valued, you are treasured! She created a bottomless treasure chest of serving.  But now as I face the reality that her serving days are over I find myself wanting one more moment of her serving me and silently saying with no words, “You, my daughter, are loved, you are valued, and you are treasured!”
My mind wanders back to the memory of the sound of the rocking chair, the feel of my head on her shoulder as she held me all night so I could breathe, and the assurance that tomorrow I would feel better because I was safe in her care.  I see her cleaning off the pond so we could play “Ponstein Hockey”, I see her going to do chores so we could play one more game of basketball with dad, I see her waxing the floor and laughing as we slid across it in our socks.  I smell the cinnamon rolls on Saturday afternoon, the turkey on Thanksgiving morning and I see the table full of food at Christmas. I can see her making beds and preparing spots for everyone to sleep when the family came home to visit.
And with every memory, I see now, more clearly than ever, it was in her serving that my mom was walking me to heaven. She was walking me into understanding Jesus. She was walking me into a deeper faith. She was walking me into the security of knowing I was loved, accepted and pleasing to Jesus. She was walking me into the freedom of serving Christ in the way He had called me to serve Him. Her serving taught me to “see the need, meet the need and do it gladly.  Her serving prepared me for this walk with her.
Now it is my turn, my siblings turn, to walk her into a fresh understanding of Jesus.  A deeper unspeakable faith as she see Jesus face to face. We are walking her into the security of knowing that she is forever loved, accepted and pleasing to her Father.  We are walking her to heaven where she will be able to serve her Lord and Savior. He will hold her close to his heart and whisper into her ear, “You served me well!  You, my daughter, are loved, you are valued, and you are treasured.” 
It is quiet in this house now. But in the quietness and the silent tears, all is well, because we are walking mom to heaven.

Reflections on the walk with mom

In the last week, I have had several people ask me how I’m doing – if I need to have a break and step away from taking care of mom for a bit and I always say “No.” This time has been hard and difficult but also precious and beautiful. I read a book recently, written by a woman who was dying of cancer. She shared how she and her family chose to walk into the experience rather than run from it. She talked about how often, in our society, we run from the hard places of life because -- They Are Hard! But she shared, how instead, we should embrace them, because it is in them, God does his most beautiful work in us. We should walk willingly on the path of dying with those we love, because it is on that path we will see God more clearly. He will do amazing things in us. He will take off of us the stuff that keeps people from seeing Him in us. With each step, with each act of service – my love for my mom grows and it reminds me of Jesus kneeling in front of his disciples and washing their feet. With his actions he was saying, “You have so much worth and value to me – I will serve you because I love you.” I’m understanding, in deeper ways, acts of humble serving deepens love -- makes the love in your heart burst to overflowing. Jesus' love for me was exploding for me as he served me on the cross. This morning my niece and I were helping my mom – and she said, “Girls, I’m so sorry you have to do this.” And my niece tenderly said, “Granny, I love you, I am honored to help you.” To which my mom said, “You still love me?” And my niece wrapped her in a hug and said, “I love you so very much!” It was a beautiful moment!
I am grateful I read that book only a few weeks before all this started happening with mom. Now I just want to run into it – even when I’m weary, sad, grieving – because it is here that Christ will be able to do his best work in me. It is here that I am going to get the best look at heaven – at his glory – at his face. This will be the moment I will get a peek into heaven! Why should I run from this? – I’m walking my mom to the most exciting, glorious, beautiful time of her life. The moment of death – will be her fullest moment of joy! Why should I run from that – why should I hate the signs that her earthly body is giving up – because it is one more step toward her full and wonderful eternal life in the presence of Jesus! With each step I take with her – God is teaching me to cling to this life less and to him more - That is a very good thing. I’m walking my mom into the presence of Jesus – is there anything bigger joy than that? I can’t think of a single one! But I still cry. And Jesus understands.
Reflections on standing at the door of heaven.
There was darkness, there was a fierce battle, and then heaven’s door opened and Jesus carried mom home. No more is there a wall between her Savior and her.  No more can satan attack.  No More!  In her Savior – she wins! The battle is over!  The party has begun!
Over and over in the past couple of weeks Mom has said, “Vonnie, what can we do for a party? Where can we go for a party?”  And over and over I have said, my siblings have said, “Oh mom, your party is coming! We can do nothing compared to what will happen when you walk into heaven.”
This morning I watched the sunrise – the birds were singing – the sky was breaking forth in shouts of glorious color – and for a bit, I heard the distance faint sounds of the party! My mom is experiencing the most exciting, glorious, beautiful party of her life.  She is living the life she was created for – she has life to the full! She is wrapped in the presence of her Savior. She is seeing her Savior face to face.  And in His face, she sees clearly, fully, completely, finally; she is fearfully and wonderfully made! Oh what a glorious day this is!

Mom enjoy the party!

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Deleting His Wrath

As part of my message last night I referred to the Getty's "In Christ Alone," and told the campers that this would be one song sung at my funeral. (along with "Hello My Name Is" by Matthew West).

I also pointed out my fury at those Christian artists and "worship leaders" who use the song...sort of.

These people, who I won't name at this point, delete one passage from the incredible song...

"til on the cross, where Jesus died; the wrath of God was satisfied..."

Tsk Tsk. These men and women apparently don't believe in substitutionery atonement. Some of their spokesmen say things like, "If that were true, God would be guilty of child abuse."

Gaggeth a self respecting maggot.

"Jesus was obedient unto death, even death on a cross."

If they want to play the child abuse card, let them...but in the case of the Gospel the Child was willing. Though He prayed "let this cup (of God's wrath) be taken from me" He was obedient...and went to the Cross willingly...amazingly.

Lots of people talk about the "full gospel". Of course the gospel is the can't cafeteria the gospel anymore than you can cafeteria the Lord Jesus (as in, "I'll take a big helping of Jesus Savior, but I'll pass on the Lord part")

I do not believe one has to believe in substitutionary atonement in order to become a follower of Christ...but I wonder...once you read the many Bible verses that describe sacrificial atonement and propitiation...and if you reject that...hmm....

Enjoy the song:

Friday, June 19, 2015

Jesus Is Not A Cafeteria Offering

Sloppy presentations of "the gospel" coupled with (intentional or not) manipulative slam-bam-thank-you-ma'am "invitations" result in lost sinners reciting a prayer (found no where in Scripture) and saying "amen" while still being lost sinners...and all too often being told afterward that they are "in".

Or...maybe...once in a while the Spirit of the Lord honors even a shoddy presentation and draws someone to the family of God, but they are somehow under the impression they have their "fire escape" and can now do whatever they wish.

Sort of like proceeding down a buffet or cafeteria line - taking a big helping of "Jesus Savior" while passing on "Jesus Lord."

But I concur with Charles Spurgeon, who wrote:

"I cannot conceive it possible for anyone truly to receive Christ as Savior and yet not to receive him as Lord. A man who is really saved by grace does not need to be told that he is under solemn obligations to serve Christ. The new life within him tells him that. Instead of regarding it as a burden, he gladly surrenders himself – body, soul, and spirit- to the Lord who has redeemed him, reckoning this to be his reasonable service."
C.H. Spurgeon

Every Day is (The) Father's Day

Sure, these dads are heroes in the following clip.

But as I watched I thought of scores of incidents in which Abba showed up big time to prevent me from doing something dumb or being injured or...

"I will uphold you"..."I will hold you by the hand"..."prevent from falling"...

Lots of verses/portions of verses come to mind.

Resulting in the only appropriate response:  Thank You, Lord.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Half A Century???

How can this be?


That's like half-a-century!

Fifty years ago the average income in the United States was $6,450.00.

The average cost of a new home was $13,600.00.

Gas was thirty-one cents a gallon.

A loaf of bread cost twenty-one cents.

This was the number one song in June of 1965:

And on June 17, 1965 the stylin' guy on the right graduated from William S. Hart Union High School in Newhall, California.

Once again begging the question, "What is such a young guy like me doing in such an old body???"

I Hate to Preach - this message...sort of....

I love preaching forgiveness; I love preaching of the beauty of Christ and the gospel, I love preaching God's standards for a variety of things; I hate preaching to teens about sex...but that's what I'm about to do...

"hate" is not really the word, dislike because of the age and relative innocence of some of the campers; anger because in any crowd I am sadly confident there will be victims of abuse who think they need forgiveness; aware that in any crowd (of any age) there will be those who profess Christ and at the very same time think it is okay to engage in pre/extra/homosexual sex...

My hope is built in nothing less than Jesus' blood and righteousness; and a sanctified awareness that He has called me to this; I've studied and prepared as best I can, and begged His Spirit to control my mouth and grant me grace to speak as He gives the campers...and staff...the grace to hear. 

I'll be speaking in less than an hour; prayers longed for and appreciated

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Our Times Are In His Hands - Prayers Requested TODAY

Megan Robie was a camper at Penn York Bible Camp last summer. Corning (NY) Area Bible Club has hosted two weeks of camp there for decades. I was the camp speaker that week (as I have been every other year or so for many years)

Megan's Mom was, as I remember, the camp nurse. I definitely remember she always had GREAT coffee early in the morning, causing many early visits by me.

Megan died last week. From what I know at this point...which is very little...she died from complications from a "routine" surgery.

Shocking. Sad. Heartbreaking.

But not a shock to God.

He is either sovereign in the affairs of man, or He is not.

And if He is not sovereign He is not much of a God. 

Obviously I don't "get" it.

But I do "get" that I can pray.

And I have been and am praying especially today as her funeral will take place at 7:00 eastern this evening.

Would you pray with me? Pray comfort for the family and friends who are believers; pray for those attending the funeral who are outside the family of God. I know the pastor who is officiating; I am confident the gospel will be proclaimed.

I am speaking at Midland Ministries SuperC Camp in Polo, Missouri this week. Last night we, as a group, prayed for Megan's family etc; and I've asked the teens to continue praying throughout today, and we will pray as a group at tonights rally.
Pray with us that God would open hearts and minds tonight...that the Spirit would honor the proclaimed Word and draw teens and adults out of darkness into His marvelous light.

The prison mantra is simply: God is good; all the time; and all the time, God is good.

All the time.


And I am thrilled that in our grief we can confidently look forward to seeing her again.

Friday, June 12, 2015

The Problem is NOT External

Ray Ortland says that what follows is "the most important thing, outside the Bible, that I have ever read."

The statement declares, simply, that the enemy is in the camp.

And, sadly, that remains the case.

“The central problem of our age is not liberalism or modernism, nor the old Roman Catholicism or the new Roman Catholicism, nor the threat of communism, nor even the threat of rationalism and the monolithic consensus which surrounds us [nor, I would add today, postmodernism or materialistic consumerism or visceral sensualism or whatever].  All these are dangerous but not the primary threat.  The real problem is this: the church of the Lord Jesus Christ, individually or corporately, tending to do the Lord’s work in the power of the flesh rather than of the Spirit.  The central problem is always in the midst of the people of God, not in the circumstances surrounding them.”
Francis A. Schaeffer, No Little People (Wheaton, 2003), page 66.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

In Him...Alone!

Not in my church...

Not in my doctrine...

Not in the fact that I don't use or sell drugs anymore...

Not in the fact I had my devos this morning...

Not in the fact I try to share the gospel at every opportunity...

Not in the fact that I am prolife...

Not in my anything (or Anyone)...

Not in my experience...

Not in any list of do's and don'ts...

Not in Arminianism....

Not in Calvinism...

Not in my views of pretrib, midtrib, posttrib, don't give a trib...

Not in my voting record...

Not in anything, any 'ism,' not in anyone...

But "In Christ ALONE"

The Worst and the Best

This very short clip may well be the worst thing I've ever seen on video followed by the very best.

I'd type more comments but I'm still throwing up (missed this last year; it's that old)

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

HALLELUJAH! Hallelujah! hallelujah!

I know the song has some real shaky lyrics. I know they aren't singing in English. I know it is probable not everyone in the group follow Jesus.

But this is, well, heavenly...

Crank the speakers and enjoy!

Slip Sliding Away (from the authority of Scripture)

Wise words:

Three Observations about Tony Campolo’s acceptance of committed gay relationships

Tony Campolo has released a statement today calling for “full acceptance of Christian gay couples into the Church.” Campolo has long been a stalwart of the theological left, so this announcement is no surprise. Still, it is significant as another prominent leader moves away from the faith once for all delivered to the saints. He is not the first to have done this, and he will not be the last. American Christianity will be in a period of winnowing for the foreseeable future, and there will be more to come.
A few observations about Campolo’s announcement:
1. Like many others before him, Campolo’s conscience seems to have been moved not by scripture but by relationships he’s had with gay friends. He writes:
One reason I am changing my position on this issue is that, through Peggy, I have come to know so many gay Christian couples whose relationships work in much the same way as our own. Our friendships with these couples have helped me understand how important it is for the exclusion and disapproval of their unions by the Christian community to end. 
The winnowing process that we are witnessing right now is going to reveal whose consciences are bound by the authority of scripture and whose aren’t. I am grieved when professing believers allow scripture to be eclipsed by other considerations, but I welcome the clarification (1 Cor. 11:19).
2. Campolo says that the church’s teaching on homosexuality is wrong just as it has been wrong on the women’s issue and on slavery. He writes:
I am old enough to remember when we in the Church made strong biblical cases for keeping women out of teaching roles in the Church, and when divorced and remarried people often were excluded from fellowship altogether on the basis of scripture. Not long before that, some Christians even made biblical cases supporting slavery. Many of those people were sincere believers, but most of us now agree that they were wrong. I am afraid we are making the same kind of mistake again, which is why I am speaking out.
This portion is particularly disappointing not merely because it is a poor argument, but also because it effectively makes traditional marriage supporters into the moral equivalent of misogynists and racists. This statement–though polite in tone–puts him on the side of some of Christianity’s fiercest critics. It gives credibility to the arguments that the enemies of the faith are using against us in their culture war–that we hold our position not from good faith but from animus and hatred.
3. If I am reading Campolo correctly, his new position is not a call for accepting gay couples who are “married,” but for accepting gay couples who are committed to one another–which would include couples who are in same-sex marriages and those who are not. If he is now supporting unmarried gay couples as full members, does he also believe that churches should accept unmarried heterosexual couples as well? In other words, does this statement imply not merely an acceptance of homosexual immorality but of heterosexual immorality as well? Perhaps he will clarify this point.
Here is Campolo's statement (I have "bolded" some of what causes me to grimace):
June 8, 2015; Tony releases a new statement urging the church to be more welcoming.
As a young man I surrendered my life to Jesus and trusted in Him for my salvation, and I have been a staunch (?) evangelical ever since. I rely on the doctrines of the Apostles Creed. I believe the Bible to have been written by men inspired and guided by the Holy Spirit. I place my highest priority on the words of Jesus (making him a 'red-letter' guy), emphasizing the 25th chapter of Matthew, where Jesus makes clear that on Judgment Day the defining question will be how each of us responded to those he calls “the least of these”.
From this foundation I have done my best to preach the Gospel, care for the poor and oppressed, and earnestly motivate others to do the same. Because of my open concern for social justice, in recent years I have been asked the same question over and over again: Are you ready to fully accept into the Church those gay Christian couples who have made a lifetime commitment to one another?
While I have always tried to communicate grace and understanding to people on both sides of the issue, my answer to that question has always been somewhat ambiguous. One reason for that ambiguity was that I felt I could do more good for my gay and lesbian brothers and sisters by serving as a bridge person, encouraging the rest of the Church to reach out in love and truly get to know them. The other reason was that, like so many other Christians, I was deeply uncertain about what was right.
It has taken countless hours of prayer, study, conversation and emotional turmoil to bring me to the place where I am finally ready to call for the full acceptance of Christian gay couples into the Church.
For me, the most important part of that process was answering a more fundamental question: What is the point of marriage in the first place? For some Christians, in a tradition that traces back to St. Augustine, the sole purpose of marriage is procreation, which obviously negates the legitimacy of same-sex unions. Others of us, however, recognize a more spiritual dimension of marriage, which is of supreme importance. We believe that God intends married partners to help actualize in each other the “fruits of the spirit,” which are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control, often citing the Apostle Paul’s comparison of marriage to Christ’s sanctifying relationship with the Church. This doesn’t mean that unmarried people cannot achieve the highest levels of spiritual actualization – our Savior himself was single, after all – but only that the institution of marriage should always be primarily about spiritual growth.
In my own life, my wife Peggy has been easily the greatest encourager of my relationship with Jesus. She has been my prayer partner and, more than anyone else, she has discerned my shortcomings and helped me try to overcome them. Her loving example, constant support, and wise counsel have enabled me to accomplish Kingdom work that I would have not even attempted without her, and I trust she would say the same about my role in her life. Each of us has been God’s gift to the other and our marriage has been a mutually edifying relationship.
One reason I am changing my position on this issue is that, through Peggy, I have come to know so many gay Christian couples whose relationships work in much the same way as our own. Our friendships with these couples have helped me understand how important it is for the exclusion and disapproval of their unions by the Christian community to end. We in the Church should actively support such families. Furthermore, we should be doing all we can to reach, comfort and include all those precious children of God who have been wrongly led to believe that they are mistakes (which seems to indicate Tony believes they are 'born that way') or just not good enough for God, simply because they are not straight.
As a social scientist, I have concluded that sexual orientation is almost never a choice and I have seen how damaging it can be to try to “cure” someone from being gay. As a Christian, my responsibility is not to condemn or reject gay people, but rather to love and embrace them, and to endeavor to draw them into the fellowship of the Church. When we sing the old invitation hymn, “Just As I Am”, I want us to mean it, and I want my gay and lesbian brothers and sisters to know it is true for them too.
Rest assured that I have already heard – and in some cases made – every kind of biblical argument against gay marriage, including those of Dr. Ronald Sider, my esteemed friend and colleague at Eastern University. Obviously, people of good will can and do read the scriptures very differently when it comes to controversial issues, and I am painfully aware that there are ways I could be wrong about this one. (I will take him at his word, and pray Spirit convicts and convinces him)
However, I am old enough to remember when we in the Church made strong biblical cases for keeping women out of teaching roles in the Church, and when divorced and remarried people often were excluded from fellowship altogether on the basis of scripture. Not long before that, some Christians even made biblical cases supporting slavery. Many of those people were sincere believers, but most of us now agree that they were wrong. I am afraid we are making the same kind of mistake again, which is why I am speaking out.
I hope what I have written here will help my fellow Christians to lovingly welcome all of our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters into the Church.
The most important sentence in all that preceeds this is: 
"The winnowing process that we are witnessing right now is going to reveal whose consciences are bound by the authority of scripture and whose aren’t."