>Indicators?

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It sure seems like people are getting crazier day by day. A guy throws his kids off a bridge. A mother tries to drown her twins, kills one, one on life support. A marine (apparently) kills and burns his ladyfriend and unborn child.

The tragedy of these tragedies is that they are so common. Maybe so common that we grow calloused to their horribleness. For instance, when is the last time I thought seriously of the horror of legal abortion in America? Or prayed against it?

Second Timothy 3 sounds like a summary of the front page on a newspaper, the opening minutes of a newscast, or the first paragraph of an emailed news update:

But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power.

What an indictment! And perhaps the most vital “charge” are the latter two – lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God and having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power.

That is a Spirit-inspired charge against professing followers of Christ, not the world. Loving stuff more than the Savior; saying, singing, and writing supposed stuff of godliness, but scrapping its power to transform us rather than entertain us.

The horrific news should cause us to weep, but should not surprise. This horribleness will not be solved by the upcoming elections, or by big and flashy church events. It can only be fought by genuine followers of Christ doing the “hard” things – presenting ourselves repeatedly as living sacrifices, loving not the world nor the things in the world, and by fixing our eyes on Jesus.

Easy to type, hard to do.

Easier to quote Ephesians 2.8,9…but Ephesians 2.10 declares “our” part…”For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Ready for the application? Here’s one of my regular prayers, usually uttered before my feet hit the floor in the morning, “Lord, whatever You are up to today, help me be alert to the good works You have prepared for me this day so I can be a part of it.”

Lord knows – as do those who know me – that I have no where near “arrived.” But, with His enabling, I want to press on, no matter how dark this world becomes.

>Dealing with Criticism in Light of the Cross

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“In light of God’s judgment and justification of the sinner in the cross of Christ, we can begin to discover how to deal with any and all criticism. By agreeing with God’s criticism of me in Christ’s cross, I can face any criticism man may lay against me. In other words, no one can criticize me more than the cross has. If you thus know yourself as having been crucified with Christ, then you can respond to any criticism, even mistaken or hostile criticism, without bitterness, defensiveness, or blame shifting. Such responses typically exacerbate and intensify conflict, and lead to the rupture of relationships. You can learn to hear criticism as constructive and not condemnatory because God has justified you.”

– Alfred J. Poirier, “The Cross and Criticism” from The Journal of Biblical Counseling, Vol. 17, No. 3, Spring 1999, p. 17.

>By way of introduction…and a comment about "fear and joy"

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Most who come by here probably are referred by my old xanga www.xanga.com/famlifejack
and thus are familiar with the Hagers. But….some may stumble here from another path, and thus I introduce my blessings. The above photo, taken last summer, is the gang: Jack and wife Jane; Joel (21), Jacob (5), Janelle (13), and Josiah (23).

Janelle and Jacob are extra blessings. We adopted them both at birth from birth moms who made mistakes; but not the tragic mistake of abortion.

Adoption has, of course, changed our lives dramatically and in a precious way; and taught us much about the “theology” of adoption. We did not “have” to adopt; we chose to adopt. God did not “have” to adopt us, but chose to adopt us, and to pay the incredible price of His Son in order to redeem, forgive, and declare us righteous in His sight.

Jane and I met in Kansas City while I was on staff of Youth For Christ and she was attending Bible school. We wed in 1982. After serving in Phillipsburg, Ks and Rhinelander, Wi we moved to Bath, NY and Family Life Ministries in 1987. And now the Lord has called us to Midland Ministries in Saint Joseph, Mo; where we plan to move in May of 2008. I am finalizing the Bible quiz season here at Family Life (and therein is a major prayer request – for the Lord to direct someone to oversee the quiz program when I leave).

Serving God means many things…and we can make our plans and set our goals, but God is bigger than them, and our responsibility is to learn what it means to “delight in the Lord” trusting that He will shape our hearts and thus be able to grant us “the desires of our hearts” (Psalm 34). All disciples of the Lord Jesus need to continue to learn to “trust in Him with all,” to “not lean on our own understanding,” to “in all our ways acknowledge Him,” and thereby trust Him to “direct our path.” (Prov 3.5,6)

And there are surprises on that path! Certainly not surprising to a sovereign God, but often surprising to us. Sort of like when innocent me took a walk into our backyard and was attacked by Jacob with a watergun strapped to his wrist:

Speaking of surprises, in my reading this morning I was in Matthew 28 where the Word speaks of the two Marys coming to the tomb. Instead of finding a body, they are startled by an angel who tells them to chill and that Jesus has risen. Then comes verse 8, “So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy to tell His disciples.” (ESV)

“Fear and great joy.” A rather odd combination! Or is it? Of all things lost in what passes for Christianity in America, fear may be the most vital ingredient. After all, “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.”

God is too often a heavenly buddy, a genie in a bottle whose purpose is to give us our “best life now”. But is that the God of the Bible?

Serving the Lord…as a forgiven, adopted, child of His…is laced with inconvenience, sacrifice, and great joy. And overshadowing it all is a healthy, “fearful reverence” for the One who is, and was, and ever more shall be.

>An End and A Start

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So…it has come to this…I’ve (finally) decided to leave xanga-land. It was a good ride, but the number of riders lessened significantly over the past several months…and, now that I’ve also been converted to facebook, and now that a major change looms…the time is right to join the blogger community.

Herein I hope to continue the variety of things I posted to xanga – quotations I come across in my reading; recommended books; news items I deem significant; probably some preaching from time to time; and prayer concerns as well as needs.

We shall see what unfolds.

For two decades I have served with Family Life Ministries/Network in New York; and recently the Lord prompted me to resign and to join the staff of Midland Ministries in Saint Joseph, Mo. In a sense this is a go-home-trip; as my wife and I met in Kansas City when I was on staff with Kansas City Youth For Christ and Jane was a Bible school student.

The plan is to make the move in early May as I conclude my responsibilities as Bible Quiz director here culminating in the Bible Quiz Fellowship National tournament in Minneapolis, Minnesota in late April.

That’s the plan. But we serve a God who has big sleeves…and occasionally has a trick or two up them! Oh, the photo is ofthe two women in my life – my wife Jane (who flew to Kansas City today to look over Saint Joseph and for houses – please PRAY we sell our New York home FAST) and our daughter Janelle.