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