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Beware the Undertow  

My wife and I have proudly joined the 2010s.  We now have Netflix on our TV.  Since all the cool kids went there a long time ago, I guess we're not so cool. But we are enjoying a lot of what we see.  From tours of English castles to hilarious movies to mind-expanding  (and downright entertaining) TV series, it’s been fun.

But as delightfully distracting as Netflix is for a season like Coronavirus, it flows into our homes with a deceptive undertow.

I shouldn't be surprised by the unrelenting push to watch more episodes of whatever we just watched.  But it does bug me that my helpful profile is that helpful. 

Netflix (and its media twin, Hulu) have given birth to the concept of binge-watching. Our culture not only accepts the idea—we celebrate it.

Not so fast.  Philippians 4:5 urges, "Let your moderation be known unto all men." Not your binge-watching.  Why?  The verse finishes, "The Lord is at hand."

I dislike that Netflix not only knows what I've seen but brings to my attention with annoying regularity those episodes I have not seen.   As if I am cheating myself for being a TV slacker.

Understand—I don’t wish to trash Netflix.  There is much good to celebrate in its offerings.  But the most uncomfortable part of our streaming relationship is the inescapable undertow of evil.  There is a relentless invitation—an urging, even— to watch things that are  NOT honorable, pure, lovely, and of good repute, the biblical grid laid out in Philippians 4:8.

None of this is a surprise for genuine Christ-followers. And we are surely not the first to struggle with our culture. In his best-loved hymn, Isaac Watts asks, “ Is this vile world a friend to grace, to help me on to God?”  His reply must be ours as well:

“Since I must fight if I would reign,

  Increase my courage, Lord!

I’ll bear the toil, endure the pain,

  Supported by Thy Word.”

 

Streaming television?  It’s great! 

Just beware of the undertow.

 
Big Red Suitcase  

My red American Tourister suitcase—the one with the nice spinner wheels—lived a rough life and died an early death.  Despite the widely held belief that duct tape can fix anything, Ol’ Red gave up the ghost.  Black residue from countless strips of adhesive oozed from a gash that ran most of the length of the top seam, and it didn’t take a doctor to know it was time for the final trip—out to the curb.

Yet, based on the rattle of  Ol' Red's innards, I figured I ought first to perform a sort of autopsy to see what might be hiding inside.  Here’s what I found in my “empty” suitcase:

  • Business card for “Kernel Poppers” in St. Augustine, FL
  • Map of Oslo, Norway
  • Train ticket from Oslo to Bergen
  • “Official Map of Bergen” (glad I didn’t sucker for a lesser unofficial version)
  • Brochure for the King David light show in Jerusalem
  • Western Wall brochure, Jerusalem
  • Antique pottery shard from Israel
  • Romanian cultural book
  • International transit receipt from Toronto Pearson airport
  • Name tag from Global Partners training event in Ghana, West Africa
  • Hand sewn fabric bag from Albania
  • Bus ticket to Las Vegas’ “Deuce” bus system
  • To do list written on “Glen Eyrie” Colorado stationary
  • Page of Sermon notes from Jacksonville’s Church of Eleven Twenty-Two
  • Four metal hangars (trust me—we need them where we travel)
  • 2 Thomas Kinkade Knick-knacks.
  • Dog-eared gospel tract titled, “The Amazing Life of Jesus Christ.”
  • Hampton Inn paper pad
  • Interview notes written on a Days Inn pad
  • Three blank lined 4x6 index cards
  • Funeral memorial card of a friend
  • Ziplock bag with two Vitamin C booster packets (will sell for $25 each or $45 for both)
  • Individually wrapped “Wet Ones” antibacterial wipe (now on eBay—starting bid is $250 for the one wipe).
  • Dental floss
  • Four rubber bands: three green, one blue
  • 3 Gift bags
  • Unopened gift bag tissue
  • Two plastic file folders
  • Canceled Wal-Mart check, plus receipt
  • Power strip with six plug-ins
  • Zippered airline-issued overnight kit featuring socks, toothbrush, and eye patch
  • One LED light switch
  • Assorted plastic bags
  • Earphone suitable for phone use.
  • Miniature scroll copy of the Ten Commandments
  • 56 cents in various coins
  • American Tourister Limited Ten Year Global Warranty card

Consider—all that junk was tucked away in those pockets, which I dragged from country to country. And get this—my eclectic global assortment weighed a total of four pounds. Almost 10% of the allowable airline weight was "spoken for" by junk!

Thanks to Covid-19, most are spending much more time at home.  And some of us are doing spring cleaning like I was. But why limit ourselves to just cleaning our stuff?  Why not a cleaning of the soul, as well?

Who knows what kind of spiritual junk you and I are needlessly carrying around inside us? Stuff that drags us down and wears us out in our witness for Christ. Time to do some soul cleaning!

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.

—Hebrews 12:1

 

 

 

 
Jack and the Wheelchair Guy  

“I just dunno if I did the right thing or not."  Jack shifted back and forth from one leg to the other.  My friend was upset, so naturally, I urged Jack to spill his story.

“It was midafternoon in downtown Chicago,” he recalled.  “I walked past a truck being unloaded outside a CVS store. Then I saw him.”

“Saw who, Jack?”

"This guy in a wheelchair was coming toward me.  As I got closer, he somehow managed to flip his wheelchair over on its back.  Made me suspicious, so my antennae were up."

“Did you help him up, Jack?”

“Well...no.  Part of me wanted to.  Part of me was afraid that this was a setup.  I wondered if the moment I stooped down, some accomplice would appear from nowhere with a knife to my back."

“What’d the guy do?”

“He slowly twisted around, trying to get himself upright.  I felt more guilty than ever when I saw he had no feet.  Just rolled up cuffs—plenty dirty, too. Truthfully, every inch of him was filthy. I asked him if he was okay, and did he need any help."

“Response?”

“He said he was fine—didn’t need help.  But I sure felt conflicted watching him crawling on the pavement.”

Jack shook his head, shifted his weight back and forth again, and continued. "I'm thinking....This guy is filthy.  This guy may be part of a setup.   This guy may have Coronavirus. So—I eventually left, as he seemed to be making progress. And now, I wonder if I just played a starring role in a 21st century edition of Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan. Was I wrong?”

Here’s my answer: it’s never wrong to stop and care. It’s always right to ask if someone needs help. But we cannot force our help, our gospel, or our Savior. We can—and must—offer all three!

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.   

--2 Cor. 1:3,4

 
Weary of Coronavirus  

I am weary of Coronavirus.

I am weary of the apocalyptic level of coverage found on every news channel or website.

I am weary of watching health experts and reporters and news anchors each vying to outdo each other in a bid for higher ratings.

I am weary of trying to sort through what is hype and what is truth.

Weary of wondering whether we'll get to go on an upcoming trip.

Weary of wondering if I've made a fatal error because I haven't bought 900 rolls of toilet paper. 

Weary of the dizzying stock market maelstrom (can our retirement savings possibly recover?).

And of course, I’m weary of the compulsion to wash or reach for hand sanitizer every single time I happen to touch a door or counter or....even think about doing so!

I’m weary.  Maybe you are, too.

But Jesus has a special invitation to folks like you and me, people who are weary at the level of the soul.  He says, "Come to me, all you who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest."

That’s not a suggestion to stick our heads in the sand.  Or pretend all is well and sing Kum Bah Yah. The invitation is to come to Him—and let Him be our rest.  That rest is found in His Word, His kingdom, and His righteousness.

As for the Coronavirus,  I don't have any answers.  And—despite their many degrees and dour faces--neither do the experts on TV.  

But I don't have to have answers to have rest.  All I have to do is come to Jesus.  Right about now, that sounds mighty appealing to me.

Covid-19 or Matthew 11:28.  Where’s your focus?

 

 
Lost ID  

It controls nearly every aspect of my work life. With it, I can freely access buildings, elevators, studios, and locked doors. Without it, I am stuck on the outside. I’m referring to my Moody Radio security ID, of course.  The one I misplaced.

For about a week, I borrowed a Lost ID card from our Public Safety team but delayed replacing my own.  What held me back, you ask?  Vanity.

Like most employee IDs, ours feature a prominent photo of your face. Having been treated by a dermatologist (who burned off several areas of facial skin), it didn't seem like the best time to take a photo. So I delayed and delayed.

At last, the scabs healed over, so I finally went in to get my replacement card.  The kicker? They didn't bother to take a new photo!  They merely used the image they had on file.  If only I'd known.

My walk down Vanity Lane is a likely metaphor for the attitude that many of us have toward God.  He hungers for our intimate companionship.  But a twisted sense of guilt screams at us that we are dirty and unworthy—that we need to clean ourselves up somehow. 

And make no mistake—sin is an insult to God.  It is a cancer of the soul, a stench of the most wretched imaginable.  But having received Christ's forgiveness, the ugly scabs of our sin are gone.  Not even a scar is left.

When God thinks of you, the image He has on file is of someone who has been washed thoroughly, forgiven entirely, and is loved unconditionally.  All of this because of Christ. 

Perfectly righteous.  Perfectly forgiven.  Perfectly lovable. That’s you—in Christ!

God longs for your company.  So what’s holding you back?

 

 
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Jon GaugerJon Gauger

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