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At Auschwitz  

The gravel crackled underfoot, as we trudged to our next stop at Auschwitz.  Here, 1,300,000 people were imprisoned between 1940 and 1945—with only 200,000 surviving.   Among other displays, we stared at shoes.  Hundreds of pairs—all belonging to little children who were slaughtered—composed a portrait of agony crafted in leather. We winced at the piles of women’s hair the Nazis shaved off of their victims. There were confiscated combs and pots and pans and suitcases—almost all still bearing their owners’ names.

A sensation like emotional nausea clamped my stomach as I pondered the 1.1 million who were tortured, starved, shot, gassed (2,000 lives per hour, thanks to Zyklon B gas pellets) and burned.

We had just walked through the courtyard where thousands of prisoners were executed against a brick wall.  Next, we hiked down to a basement complex where so-called trouble makers were starved or poisoned to death. 

Two-inch round door windows revealed cement floors, hangman’s hooks, crude toilets and the potential for inhumanity without equal.  The spiritual darkness of such evil is palpable in this basement more than 75 years later.

Yet walking away from Auschwitz, I am left with a different kind of heaviness. On the ledger of history, Auschwitz is recorded as a German catastrophe, a German wickedness.  While it happened to be Germans who created this death factory, the truth is, Auschwitz is alive and well in the heart of every unredeemed human.  The point is not just that Auschwitz happened (horrible as it was)—but that it is now happening—and will always be in the process of happening.  The danger is our inability or unwillingness to see it.

Consider that between 1986 and 1989, 8% of the Kurdish population of Iraq was killed. In the 1994 Rwanda genocide, as many as one million were slaughtered. Today we have Darfur, Sudan and ISIS and on and on.

Jealousy, hatred, and pride all lead to the same place.  It’s the place where marginalizing and suffering and persecution become our daily bread, with torture and death our familiar drink.

When the Bible says “the heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked,” this is not a reference to Nazis.  It is a reference to all of unredeemed humanity. 

Apart from Christ, we are all mockers, haters and killers.  So apart from Christ and His capacity to heal all hatred, there will always be another Auschwitz. 

Let us be warned. Sharing the gospel is not just “nice.”  It is not merely “important”—it is imperative!

 
Forgiveness  

Two light squeezes on the trigger.

Two lead bullets from the barrel.

One dead brother on the ground.

 

Now, you stand before your brother’s killer in a courtroom that has just sentenced him to ten years in prison. Given the opportunity, what would you say to the murderer?

Eighteen-year-old Brant Jean experienced that moment as he locked eyes with Amber Guyger, the Dallas police officer who took the life of his older brother on September 6, 2018.  At the sentencing, Brant seized a moment to address his brother's killer.

What would you have said?  Angry words?  Raging words?  No one could blame you.

But looking straight at Amber Guyger, this is what Brant Jean told the killer in quiet, measured tones:

“I speak for myself.  I forgive you.  And I know if you go to God and ask, He will forgive you...I love you just like anyone else.  I'm not gonna say I hope you rot and die just like my brother. I personally want the best for you. I wasn’t gonna say this in front of my family or anyone.  But I don’t even want you to go to jail. I want the best for you. The best thing would be to give your life to Christ. I think giving your life to Christ, that would be the best thing that Botham would want. Again, I love you as a person.  And I don’t wish anything bad for you.”

Brant then made a request of Judge Tammy Kemp.  “I don't know if this even possible, but could I give her a hug, please?  Please?”

The judge gave her approval, and Brant Jean wrapped his arms around Amber Guyger, who wept.  Loudly.

Nor were her tears the only ones in that courtroom.

There are a whole lot of folks saying a whole lot of things about racial reconciliation these days. But what Brandt said with his hug and his forgiveness was more than profound.  It was like Jesus Himself.

“For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”

--Matthew 6:14,15

 

 

 

 

 
Evil  

I spent a rare evening watching TV the other night.  As networks do, they promoted the living daylights out of their fall lineup.  At the top of the heap: “Television’s number one new drama, ‘Evil.’”

So successful is their search engine optimization, that if you Google “Evil,” at the top of the list is this "American drama series." As if evil itself were a distinctly American value or cultural distinctive.  Or is that actually the truth?

93% of Google users like this new TV show and Rotten Tomatoes gives it a respectable rating of 81%.  One reviewer describes it as “Like ‘X-Files’ for spiritual and supernatural phenomena.”

Not having seen an episode, I’ll not comment on the content.  My issue is with the title.  CBS deliberately chose this wording entirely confident that "Evil" would be intriguing—even favorable—-to a vast swathe of Americans. And apparently, it is.

That, folks, is a problem.

It is one thing for evil to be present in society—what society could ever claim to have ever been free of its claws?  It is quite another to celebrate it.  Which is what television is doing.

Jesus prayed, "Deliver us from evil." But increasingly, our culture is drawn to it.  Far from the maxim, to "hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil," we embrace it, engage it, and enjoy it.

As Francis Schaefer asked so many years ago, "How should we then live?" Philippians 4:8 cuts right to the chase:

“Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.”

God help America when evil is “an American Drama.”

 
Have to Make a Decision  

When a five-year-old gets saved, does she turn from a life of sin and embrace radical change?  Lucy has.

At this summer's Vacation Bible School, Lucy received Christ as her Savior.  She understood the definition of sin—and her guilt.  She understood that only by receiving Christ's offer of forgiveness purchased by His death on the cross could she become a child of God.

Lucy’s mother says there is now a marked difference in Lucy’s conduct. So much so, there is no way to account for such a radical turn-for-the-best other than this little child’s decision to receive Jesus. 

The other day, Lucy’s three-year-old sister, Sadie, happened to be nearby when an evangelistic surge came over her born again older sister. The conversation, recorded by her mother, went like this. 

Lucy was hanging up some of Sadie’s clothes, belting out the Awana theme song. Then she abruptly stopped her singing and said, “Sadie, you need to make a decision. I am telling you—sinners do NOT make it into heaven! Don’t you want to see Jesus?”

Sadie sat there pondering such biblical bombast and meekly replied, “Well, I want to see Great-Grandma “Fergeenia’” (who passed away last September).

No one was going to sidetrack Lucy.  "Sadie, it is a fact that she is there and waiting for you. But you must make a choice!"

Lucy is right, of course.  You have to make a choice. Have you?  Have you absolutely positively asked Christ to be the Leader of your life and the Forgiver of your sins?  If not, why not do so right now? 

If you have given your life to Christ, what difference is He making?  Shouldn’t there be change?  Lots of change?  And shouldn’t it be constant—ongoing—daily?

When I grow up, I want to be like Lucy: radically changed by Jesus, and radically unashamed of His gospel!

 
Most Important Thing About You  

It’s not every day you get asked to shoot photos of an NFL star.  But it happened this week when former running back Matt Forte visited Moody Radio’s studios for an interview.

At age 32, Matt is still tall, still buff, and—frankly—an intimidating presence.  Chicago fans easily remember watching him blasting through tacklers, spinning past brute defenders, and carrying the Bears’ offense—game after game (9,796 career yards). 

No matter how you look at him, Matt Forte is impressive.  While most running backs last less than three seasons, Matt played ten.  And two of those seasons, he was elected to the Pro Bowl. 

The guy could run and catch, being one of only three players in the NFL’s “1,000-yard-rushing, 100-catch-season club.”  Imagine having a career average of 4.2 yards per carry, 54 career rushing touchdowns, and 21 receiving touchdowns.

So what’s the most important thing you should know about Matt Forte?  It’s this: Matt is a real-deal follower of Jesus Christ.  Snapping pictures as he spoke, I was impressed with his command of Bible passages and stories.  That’s something you wouldn’t encounter on Monday Night Football or ESPN.  Nor would you see something like that in a Sports Illustrated story about his career.

Matt spoke about the importance of not just having a Bible, but really reading that Bible—digging in for yourself and bulking up on biblical truth. All of which leads me to ask a simple question.

What’s the most important thing about you?  Is it the workplace “touchdowns” you’ve scored?  Is it the social status you’ve reached?  The money you’ve made?  The car you drive? What do others observe as the driving force in your life?  Is it your stuff—or your Savior?

It’s easy to claim we put God first—but our friends and family know the truth.  They know what we rush to the second we finish dinner, or when we have a free Saturday.

I’m learning it’s disturbingly easy to let my priorities get out of whack.  Easy to go after the wrong things with the most zest. Best heed the familiar advice of Jesus who urged us…

See first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. 

—Matthew 6:33

 

 

 

 

 
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Jon GaugerJon Gauger

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Jon Gauger Media 2016