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Thanksgiving--the Stepchild Holiday  

If holidays had families, Thanksgiving would be the unwanted stepchild.  Thanksgiving lacks the Hallmark beauty of Christmas and the Dick Clark fun of New Year's.  With stern-faced buckle shoed pilgrims as the holiday's heroes, nobody decorates their home with Mayflower lights.  Nor do we take part in Puritan parties.  Thanksgiving doesn't lend itself to much of that, so we don't lend much of ourselves to it.   Thanksgiving really is the overlooked stepchild.

Consider the way Thanksgiving is treated at national retail stores: hardly at all. Outnumbered by mountains of Halloween candy and masks, Thanksgiving is lucky to get a small display of any kind.  And because this stepchild holiday has the misfortune of falling so close to Christmas, it must be picked up, packed up and swept up…to leave room for Christmas.

But the real problem with Thanksgiving isn't the way it's treated in our stores.  It's how it’s treated in ourselves.   Gratitude—the core message of Thanksgiving--is neither fun nor easy for most of us.

  • Gratitude demands intentionality.
  • Gratitude demands humility.
  • Gratitude runs against the grain of our prideful self-sufficient selves.

Who likes a holiday that requires effort?

What fun is there in self-discipline and intentionality?

How can we get “unbooked” from the annual guilt trip we face, knowing we’re honestly not that thankful—at Thanksgiving or ANY time of year?

But I think we're asking the wrong questions.

What we SHOULD be asking is “What is it that really made the pilgrims tick?”  “Where could WE get a supply of their indomitable courage—the stuff that lead them to leave everything behind to follow Christ?”

Experienced in that light, Thanksgiving—the unwanted holiday stepchild—might just be one of the grandest of them all.

 
My Lack of Tears  

A  tuna sandwich and a Coke.  Such an ordinary lunch after such an extraordinary morning.  As I sit at a cafe overlooking Jerusalem, I am pondering an earlier walk down what is known to millions as the Via Dolorosa.  “The way of suffering” is the route Jesus walked through Jerusalem carrying his cross.

The thing of it is, the Via Dolorosa today is the way of shopping and dickering and shouting.  The most common form of suffering is sore feet and aching backs.  It's tough to imagine the real Jesus dragging a real cross up and down the hilly path these people call a street.

Ultimately that path leads to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.  If you've yet to visit, the church is a darksome foreboding structure, its cavernous blackness as eager to swallow all light as it is all hope.  Despair perfumes the air as your eyes adjust to the shadows.

Up a steep winding staircase, a barely controlled mob is cued up to pray or genuflect or ponder at the “exact spot” (so they say) where Christ's cross was hoisted.

As I walked through the church's massive doors back out into the sunlight, I encountered a woman who was weeping.  Tears dribbled down her cheeks as the weight of her experience squeezed hard on her emotions.

And suddenly, I was ashamed.  How could I—a follower of Jesus Christ—walk through this church and be so little moved?  When—if ever—have I truly wept over the agony Christ took upon Himself for me?

Of course, no one should be guilted into feeling an emotion.  But perhaps my lack of tears   is evidence I have thought too little of Him for whom no thanks is too much.

For Moody Radio, those are my thoughts, and I'm Jon Gauger.

 

 

 
Lessons from the Banana  

Behold: the banana! High in potassium, bananas are great for preserving your eyesight and accelerating bone growth—not to mention warding off kidney cancer.

I like bananas…but this humble fruit has always amazed me. If you put any other food item remotely close to a banana… it ends up tasting like…banana!

Put a banana in your lunch box next to a ham sandwich…and the ham tastes like banana. So do your potato chips—and your Oreo cookies.

Recently, my wife put a left over slice of cinnamon coffee cake next to some bananas for just a few hours. Guess what it tasted like. You got it—banana coffee cake. Mind you, by the time I ate the coffee cake, it had been two days since it had been anywhere near a banana! Yet the effects of that banana contact were still evident in the fragrance and taste of the coffee cake.

Clearly there is some sort of chemical reaction going on here with incredibly powerful results—in favor of the banana. 1:00

Could I suggest the banana is a great model for the effect that Christians ought to have on non-believers. II Corinthians 2:15 “For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing.” 1:15

When someone spends just a few hours with us, they ought to leave having the aroma of Christ all over them…just from being with us!

Now think of what this means for our unsaved friends. Just by being with us—we who know and love Christ—leave something of a spiritual fragrance on their souls.

There are two cautions here in this wonderful scenario.
Number one—the fragrance that people are left with better be the fragrance of Christ…other than stink of self.

Number two…even if we are living a godly life, unless we get up close to…involved with people who don’t know Jesus, how can His fragrance wear off on them?

Let’s be involved with friends, family and coworkers who don’t know Christ.

And let’s start living with the expectance that His fragrance really will rub off on them!

 
Jesus is ALWAYS the Issue  

So I had a conversation today with a new friend from East Africa.  Happened to be Somalian.  As is my habit, I immediately asked him (nicely, mind you) if he was a follower of Mohammed.  When he answered yes, I smiled back saying (boldly, mind you) “Well I am a follower of Jesus.”

Very predictably, the conversation turned quickly to the person of Jesus.  He affirmed what every other Muslim I've talked to about Christ affirms—that he was a notable prophet. My friend went to great lengths to be polite—but even greater lengths to assure me that Islam and Christianity BOTH share a respect for Jesus.

Because our time was short—and Muslims have no problem being up front about their faith—I quickly assured my new friend that Jesus was MORE than a prophet.  I quoted Christ's own words, “I and my Father are one.”  And... “He who has seen me has seen the Father.”

Naturally, there was no agreement with my biblical claims.  But the conversation reminded me again how quickly we come to the “sticking point” for so many conversations related to faith.  People from most any stripe of belief are happy to talk about “God.”  They are more than comfortable discussing “beliefs.”  They are not the least bit threatened should you claim to be a “person of faith.”   Even talking about Jesus is acceptable—as far as it goes.

Yet take one teeny weeny step toward declaring that Jesus is God and BOOM!  Your ideological match has just ignited the kerosene of another's convictions.   Jesus is always the issue.
 

While I believe strongly we need to build bridges in friendly conversation with Muslims—and other friends, I have zero appetite for conversations that subject Jesus to a role any less than Almighty God.     

Please understand, I'm not advocating belligerence or harshness.   But there's a line in the sand over which we must be ever be vigilant.  And when someone—anyone--suggests that Jesus is less than God, it's time to lovingly and respectfully—but unapologetically--state the truth:   Jesus....is....God.

 
Church Cliques  

Have you ever had a natural gas leak in your home or office?

Gas leaks can be deadly, you know.  They are invisible, they are poisonous, and left untreated, they can kill with deadly force.

It's the same with church cliques. They are invisible, they are poisonous, and left untreated, they can kill with deadly force. The problem is, lots of people claim they can identify a clique at their church...but almost NOBODY would ever admit to being a part of one.

So let me offer this three-part exam to help you assess yourself.

Number 1: If you have ever secretly regretted someone else being a part of a church project or ministry that you're working on, you might be part of a clique.

Number 2: If you honestly (but quietly) resent it when new people come join your circle of friends at church, you might well be a part of a clique.

Number 3: If you cannot recall inviting someone newer to your church over for dinner...or to a social function of any kind...you might just  be part of a clique.

Cliques, by the way, are rarely the product of intentional design.  They are, rather, the byproduct of an unchallenged—even sanctified—selfishness.  Nor are they new. 

Church cliques go all the way back to the first church.  Paul took a look around and observed rather bluntly that “Some were of Apollos.  Some were of Cephas.  Some were of Paul.”  But Paul made it quite clear that such cliques were unacceptable.

So how could we possibly be so unaware of them creeping into our churches?  And how could we possibly allow them to flourish...through our own participation?

Any time... any thought... any word or any action excludes any one...it's a clique.  Meaning a clique could be made up of just two.    So let me ask you—honestly.  Are you part of a clique?  Or are you moving away from a clique?    Only one of those two statements can be true about you.

There will be no cliques in heaven.

There ought not to be cliques on earth.

 
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Jon GaugerJon Gauger

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