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Come Back  

They asked me to shoot pictures at the birthday party.  And shoot pictures I did: posed groups, informal shots, family groupings, silly moments—some 462 photos in all. The heat and humidity were so smothering, it's a wonder the lens didn't fog over. Or melt shut. 

Between shutter clicks, I recognized one of the relatives. We’ll call her Sarah.  Years ago, reliable sources told us Sarah and her husband had taken their kids to a Bible-believing church where they got involved in Awana.  But the kids were now in high school.  So was the family still actively attending?

I took her picture and struck up a conversation, eventually asking, “Do you guys have a church home?” 

“We used to,” she said.  Was that a wistful tone in her voice?  “But not any more.” 

"Well, you know," I offered with a smile, “Ya could go back.”  Pause.

“We could.”

“Yep. You could go back.”

She smiled. After that, it was just small talk.  Part of me was sad to learn of their drifting.  Part of me was glad to be able to offer her a welcome back.

Maybe you—or someone you love—has drifted.  Hear me carefully.  Whether you've drifted a little or a lot, God has a word for you: "Come back!"  Come back.  You are still loved, still valued, still precious in His sight.  So—come back.


This is how the LORD responds: “If you return to me, I will restore you so you can continue to serve me.” 

—Jeremiah 15:19




Wanted--An Encourager  

Do you have the gift of discouragement?

A surprising amount of people do! 

They’re the ones who text or post things like:

  • I don’t have the energy to pretend I like you today.
  • Your call will be ignored in the order it was received.
  • I don’t understand your specific kind of crazy, but I DO admire your total commitment to it.

The gift of discouragement is everywhere, which is odd. Because most people already have enough of that:

  • It's a relationship that burns as sandpaper rubbed across the back of your sunburned hand.
  • It’s a job that eats at your soul like battery acid.
  • It’s a prodigal who—despite your prayers—seems farther from God than ever.
  • It’s the bill you can’t pay. The hurt you can’t share. The sin that won’t quit.

Discouragement is everywhere.  Meaning everybody could use some encouragement.  Yet surprisingly few excel at this.

As followers of Jesus, we're called to a lifestyle of encouraging others. 1 Thessalonians 5:14 commands, “We urge you, brethren, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone.”

And why aren’t we better at this business of encouragement?  Calvin Miller observes, “Because we don't want to get involved.  Because most people are so bent on appearing self-sufficient, they all but make it impossible for us to see their hurt.  Only when we train ourselves to see with the eyes of Christ will be able to penetrate people's affable armor and see that in spite of their grinning facade, they are bleeding."

WANTED: An Encourager.  A man or woman committed to building up others more than self.  Must be willing to listen without lecture.  Our ideal candidate is presently enrolled in—or recently graduated from--the School of Hard Knocks. Those who have their act together need not apply. Those too self-absorbed in their hurts—need not apply. BUT...for those willing to walk in the sandals of the Savior…those who themselves are bruised yet committed more to refreshment than judgment, to comfort more than criticism, there's a place for you--on every street in every town. So grab a cup of cold water.  Thirsty folks are everywhere.  Thirsty for encouragement.

Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing.  --1 Thessalonians 5:11




Gone to Heaven!  

Charlie Daniels—dead?  It can't be true!  Talk about a guy who was larger than life.  If you ever saw his iconic beard or watched him play the fiddle or heard him sing (country, rock, or Christian—he did it all), you never forgot him.

A few years ago, Diana and I met Charlie Daniels as part of an interview for Moody Radio.  Like most truly great people, he was as humble and homespun as his blue jeans.  Jeans accompanied by a large brass belt buckle that read, "Jesus is Lord."

Most of us know CD’s music—but not as many know that he used his platform to support the military, underprivileged children and others in need.  Or that he closed every one of his famous “Soap Box” blogs (last one posted July 3) with “Pray for our troops, and for the peace of Jerusalem.”

Charlie toured Israel in 2008, and he never got over it. During our 15-minute interview, he bubbled about the wonder of all that God has done in and through Israel.  And boy—could he quote the Bible!  It was amazing to hear so much memorized Scripture rolling off his tongue.

Given backstage passes, we marveled as this 80-year-old hopped up the stairs when the lights came on.  And when Charlie reached the edge of the stage, he jumped high and landed with a stomp that kicked the whole concert into high gear that never backed down.

Not that Charlie Daniels backed down from much of anything. From his faith to his firearms, Charlie was bold.  May we be the same for Christ.

The devil may have gone down to Georgia--but Charlie Daniels has gone to heaven!

The Stench of Anger  

It’s one in the morning.  We are jolted awake by the sound of an alarm—our LP gas sensor.  What to do?  I remove the tanks from our camper and set them out in the yard. But the camper now wreaks of gas. 

Is it safe to breathe?  Should we even be in the camper?  Are we an inch away from a Hollywood explosion?

Ultimately, we spent most of the night in our minivan. Not exactly restful—but at least breathable. And safe.

What was maddening was that over the weeks that followed, we continued to notice a sort of rotten egg smell in our camper, even with those gas tanks removed! 

At 6:00 am last Sunday, my wife rolled out of bed, unable to sleep--again--because of the smell.  Diana determined that we were going to find the source of the problem.  

Know what it was?  Our battery.   It was running hot, leaking fumes, and threatening to explode.  Literally. So we swapped it out for a replacement.  The tech guy pointed out that even the sides of our old battery were swollen and bulging. 

To my way of thinking, this is a fitting metaphor for unresolved anger.  Anger makes us hot, makes us fume and—left unchecked—-can cause us to explode.  Even when it doesn't, unresolved anger leaves us bulging with bitterness, a noxious cloud all around us, endangering anyone that comes near.

No wonder we’re told in Ephesians 4:31, “Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior.”

I'm hoping this weekend we'll breathe easier and sleep better out at our camper.  More than that, I'm hoping this unpleasant experience will lodge in my brain, sufficient to jolt me (and maybe you?) away from anger--the next time I start to heat up!

Take off the Mask  

To my way of thinking, it’s the worst part of Coronavirus: wearing a face mask.  No matter how it’s made—and despite claims to the contrary—a face mask is hot, confining and uncomfortable. It’s also one more thing you have to remember to take with you the second you leave home.  


I’m intrigued by the creativity, though, that people have injected into this new tradition. You see all kinds of face masks—have you noticed? Some feature the logo of a favorite sports team.  Or a sticker.  Or the colors of a favorite university.  


I’ve noticed that if you want to be trendy—way cooler than the crowd—you simply wear a bandanna, preferably hanging around your neck, as opposed to covering your face (go figure).  Perhaps I’m the product of too many westerns, but all I can think of is how much these folks look like bandits and bank robbers of old. 


At the airport this week, I was asked by a TSA security agent, “Please remove your mask.  I need to see your face.”  I happily obliged, gulping cool fresh air. 


Know what? I wonder if Jesus is ever tempted to say the same thing to me, but for different reasons.  “Please remove your mask, Jon.  I heard those selfish (unconfessed!) words coming out of your mouth on the way to church. You think you’re fooling me with your plastic piety?  Let’s make things right.”


I wonder if Jesus wants to say that a hundred times a day to you and me.  Actually, He does.  In fact, there’s a standing invitation in Isaiah 1:18, “Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool.”


Time to get clean.

Time to take the mask off!

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Jon GaugerJon Gauger

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