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Pop Tart Christianity  

As my fingers tap the keyboard creating this blog, my mouth is munching the last of a blueberry Pop Tart. I’m no addict, but I confess to enjoying the lard-laden lusciousness of a Pop Tart. Blueberry is my flavor of choice. 

But as I hold the toaster-hot pastry in my hand, a new twist on an old favorite has caused me to do a bit of critical thinking.  When Pop Tarts first came out, they were touted as being filled with real fruit.  We were far less critical of sugar back then.  Hydrogenated oil was a familiar friend and who had even heard of Trans fats?.    So while no one would have suggested the Pop Tart was highly nutritious, it was generally deemed a worthy snack.  

Now with Sprinkles!

After a few years, Kellogg’s decided to add frosting.  Ka-BAM!  That created serious snack waves, and to this day, Pop Tarts remain Kellogg’s’ most successful brand in the United States!  Yet I couldn’t help but notice munching on mine a moment ago, that the frosting is different.  It now also features sprinkles!  Plain ol’ frosting is just WAY too boring.  Gotta kick things up a notch.   Who would possibly want a Pop Tart adorned with regular frosting?

I sometimes wonder if we’re not that way in our Christian walk—specifically our daily quiet time with God. 

Fast, Fun and Frosted

We unwrap our one-minute-with-God devotional, pop it into our souls and move on with our day.  We are unnourished, unaffected, and unconcerned. When it comes to our time with God, we like it fast, fun and frosted. 

Is it any wonder that we are largely unmoved by sin?  That we are so much like the world?  That we fail to tithe?  That we avoid sharing our faith?    That we watch R-rated films and TV shows and sense no filth?  That we are unable to make a case for biblical sexuality or the sanctity of life?

Tozer says, “God can be known satisfactorily only as we devote time to Him.”

Here’s to reaching for more than a mere Pop Tart Christianity. 

 
Glass, Not Plastic  

Yes, Virginia, there really is an Ohio—in Illinois.  The little town boasts no more than 550.  But heading south on Route 26, Ohio is merely a navigation marker, not a destination. We’re in search of an even smaller berg known as Kasbeer (pronounced with a Long “A”).

As the town and its sign are easily missed, look for its two largest landmarks.  To the east towers the Kasbeer grain elevator, and much closer to the highway is the white steeple tower of the Kasbeer Community Church.   Its stain glass history is filled with generations of my wife’s family.

The white steeple tower

Like all old buildings, Kasbeer Community Church has its own set of unique smells reminding you you're home.  Sunday morning hymnal selections are posted on two antique wooden boards on either side of the auditorium.  On the back wall, the ancient gears of a circular Seth Thomas electric clock grind a sort of white noise.  A four-paddled ceiling fan twirls slowly from on high with doubtful effectiveness.   The blue and green basket weave carpet looks the same as it did the day Diana and I got married.   

As for the service itself, Pastor Eric did a capable job preaching from Luke 4 in a sermon he titled, “The Authority of Jesus.”   Then followed communion and I couldn’t help but notice the cups were made of glass, not plastic.

Dare not ever forget

In an age where so many churches are immersed in lighting rigs, fog machines and video walls, the lack of technology was actually therapeutic (this from an admitted techno geek).  Imagine church without a bass guitar.  Or one single drum.  Some may doubt it’s even possible.  Not only is it possible, it was actually refreshing.  Like glass, rather than plastic.

Nothing wrong with technology.  Were Jesus to minister today, He would likely use a wireless mic—and maybe even PowerPoint. But power has never been in our technology.  And the point ought always to be Jesus and His gospel. We dare not ever forget that. 

 
Make America Great  

I have a plan for making America great!

It has nothing to do with Donald Trump or the Republican party or the Democratic party either.

It has everything to do with the simple biblical premise of Psalms 33:12, “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord.”  Now, follow my logic.

The only way any nation can rightly be described as one “whose God is the Lord” is if the dominant voice and view of that nation is God-honoring.   The only way that will happen is if the majority of us seek to please God by making others aware of His offer of salvation and a redeemed way of living.

Solution lies with us!

What I’m saying is, the solution is not in the impossible mists “out there somewhere.”   The solution lies—in large part—with us.  The way to make America great is to make Christ magnified! This happens as you and I share Christ with our neighbors through godly lives, uncommon kindness and words of witness. 

It is not enough to merely “live the life” or “walk the walk.”  Jesus did not merely do good deeds.  He spoke the gospel message.  And so must we. 

  • We are saddened by the unraveling of morality in America…but do we share Christ?
  • We are shocked by the violence in our cities and neighborhoods…but do we share Christ?
  • We are depressed by the greed and gouging that describes not just corporate America…but most of America…yet do we share Christ?
  • We are fearful of a segment of immigrants we think might bring destruction…but do we share Christ?

One more time...

When we choose to share Christ, we will surely be much closer to “that nation whose God is the Lord.”  Look for less crime.  Less greed.  Less immorality.  Less poverty. Just a few benefits of living in a nation whose God is the Lord! 

We must share Christ.  Not to make America great…but to magnify our God!

Carl Henry said, “The gospel is only good news if it gets there in time.” 

Isn’t it time we made time…to share Christ in America?

 
Do Less  

The idea was doomed from the start. In a well-intentioned attempt at physical fitness, I agreed to play racquetball with my son, Tim, Five weeks afterward, my throbbing back still reminded me I shouldn’t have even attempted playing “just a game or two.”  Ouch! It’s one thing to overdo it in sports, but what about the rest of life?

In the book, “If I Could Do It All Over Again,” I asked 28 Christian leaders what would they do less of, given a second chance. Check out these responses.

Less News

Joni Tada admitted, “I would look at a lot less news on the television. I have to confess I’m a news junkie. That’s not a bad thing. It’s just that sometimes it becomes a fixation. It can depress my spirits.”

Ravi Zacharias commented, “I wouldn’t worry as much. God is completely in control.”

Tim Keller says, “I would do less surfing of the Internet, without a doubt. I think the Internet is a friend of information but an enemy of thought. It’s great at snippets of information, but it doesn’t help you think or reason.”

Fewer Movies

George Verwer told me, “I would watch fewer movies. I think some of the films I watched were definitely a waste of time. But the main thing I would like to do less of is sin!”

Tony Evans shared, “I love sports: watching sports and keeping up with sports. But I would probably spend a little less time on sports if I could do it all over again. Plus, I would have traveled a little less.”

Less Critical

Bob Moeller confessed,” I would be less critical of other people. The older I get, the more I realize I haven’t lived other people’s lives. I haven’t been through what they have been through.”

In a culture that practically screams, “Do more!” the notion of doing less is tough to embrace. We are driven––and proud of it. Yet, ironically, for most of us, the only way to be more for Christ is to do less.  Let’s take for our personal vision statement the humble words of John the Baptist, who said of Jesus, “He must increase, but I must decrease” ( John 3:30).

 
Uncomfortable Questions  

Went to a funeral this week.    A lady my wife had known growing up.  Let's call her Natalie (not her real name).

By the way, have you noticed the way technology has invaded funeral homes?  Gone are the days of the old organ parked in the corner.  Respectable funeral homes now have electronic keyboards.  Forget that old fashioned paper registry book you used to sign to let the grieving family know of your visit.  More often than not these days you’ll sign an iPad.

Instead of mere poster boards sporting yellowed photo collections, most funeral homes today will scan those photos and make them into a DVD that plays at the visitation or memorial service.

Predictable and nostalgic

Such was the case at the funeral home where we found ourselves in Bureau County, Illinois.  The slide show was everything you'd expect.  We saw pictures of Natalie as a young girl growing up in very rural Wyoming, Natalie with her siblings, then Natalie getting married. Next it was snapshots of Natalie's own children...family vacations...various churches where she and her husband ministered over the years.

Punctured my balloon of tranquility

All of this was entirely predictable and nostalgic.  Then I saw something on the screen that punctured my balloon of tranquility--a photo of Natalie volunteering in a home for children who happen to have Down syndrome.   Natalie was seated at a table, surrounded by a bunch of mentally challenged guys.  The slide on the screen showed arrows and names pointing to two of these boys.  One arrow pointed to "Chucky" and the other identified "Peter."  Both were smiling. Both were having a grand time.   And both were the special object of Natalie's focus--for years.

Uncomfortable Questions

As the funeral service continued, I wondered: When my turn comes, will there be even one face on the screen we could draw an arrow toward as someone I've invested in?   Exactly how much of my time and attention is shared with "the least of these?"

Funerals have a way of asking uncomfortable questions of the living.

 

 
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Jon GaugerJon Gauger

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