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The Hand of God Removed  

Last night I dreamed a horrible dream.  It has haunted me to the point where I can no longer delay sharing it.  Understand that I am not a prophet, nor do I claim to have the biblical gift of prophecy.  But…this is my dream.

I was in my own town.  Familiar streets and places.  Yet I was very far away.  It seemed like evening, but I couldn’t really tell. The sky was dark, but not black.  More of a strange gray greenish color.

As I walked around, I was surrounded by violence—and its evidence.  Broken things.  Broken relationships.  People using profanity to the point where printable language was merely the mortar between the bricks of their vulgar expressions.  

I heard people plotting vengeance…making violent plans.  My own life was threatened.  Though I hurried to leave, my shoes were mired in a landscape of brown ooze with a gripping power far greater than common mud.

When home at last, I shared the scene with my wife.  And one of us—I’m not sure who—quietly assessed, “This is the hand of God removed.” 

And then I woke up, deeply stirred by the dream.  I’m not suggesting that this is “a vision for all mankind.”  Yet it does seem like a reliable picture of what a society becomes with the hand of God removed.  Consider America:

  • The debauchery that increasingly defines our sexual norms—it’s the hand of God removed.
  • The ignorance and arrogance of our scientific community—worshipping the “natural” while deploring any worship of the God of the supernatural—it’s the hand of God removed.
  • The rise of corporate greed and treachery toward human beings—it’s the hand of God removed.
  • The move away from our historical support of Israel—it’s the hand of God removed.

Could it be those gray green skies I saw in my dream are something of a forecast for a nation unaware?   The hand of God removed….

 
The Problem with Prayer Meeting  

Let me just come right out and say it: I believe there’s a problem with prayer meeting. Not in all churches.  But in most churches I’ve been in.  And possibly in your church, as well.

The problem is this. 

We have allowed our prayer times to become disproportionately dominated by health concerns. 

We pray for sick people—as we ought—but to the point of minimizing other critical issues: revival, repentance, the salvation of lost people.  Some of these elements are present in some prayer meetings…but they get a comparatively small piece of the prayer pie.

I’m all for praying for the sick.  It’s biblical.  We’re commanded to do it.

But so is praying for those that have the rule over you.

So is praying for lost people.

So is praying for spiritual growth.

So is praying for persecuted brothers and sisters around the globe.

And if you were to pie chart most of the prayer meetings we’ve ever attended, I’m pretty sure  half or more of our prayer time —is devoted to our focus on health issues. 

Though He compassionately cared for the sick, this was not Jesus primary focus—nor should it be ours.   Jesus said He came to seek and to save the lost…

It’s human nature to be most concerned about those things that feel most pressing to us.  And when a child is running a high fever three days in a row, it FEELS like a much more compelling prayer request than asking God to deliver our nation from evil.

But it’s time to put more of a prayer emphasis on the things that Christ emphasized in prayer.  That doesn’t mean we stop praying for the sick.  But it DOES mean the issues on God’s heart must sit heavier on our hearts. For what else should they be beating?

 
In Defense of Pastors  

And now a few words in defense of Pastors.  Already I can see the raised eyebrows of my listeners.  "What do you mean--in defense of pastors?"  It's my careful observation--over a couple of decades now--that most pastors really COULD use a little defense.  So given the fact that October is Pastor Appreciation Month, I thought I'd try to get you to appreciate your pastor a bit more.  About the only way to do that is to address some common misconceptions people have about pastors. 

Misconception #1  Everybody fauns all over the pastor.  He gets all the affirmation in the world.   Not so.  In addition to "attaboy" pats on the back after typical Sunday services, pastors get tons of criticism, as well.  Discouraging emails, irate phone callers, unsigned letters shoved under their office doors. The truth: Everybody does NOT faun all over the pastor.  And as for all that praise... lots of it is kinda shallow, however well intentioned.

Misconception #2  Pastor's got a pretty easy gig.  After all, in a typical week he shows up for a few meetings, researches the sermon and visits a few sick people.  How hard can it be?  The truth?  Your pastor is on call 24 hours a day.  He spends LOTS of late nights intervening in crises and counseling people. He knows terrible secrets he wishes he did not. You probably have very little idea just how much weight he carries on his shoulders at any given moment.

Misconception #3  He's surrounded by people every Sunday, so he must have tons of friends.  The truth: very few pastors have even one close friend.  Not wanting to play favorites, they live a lonely life.

Be a friend to your pastor.  Cut him some slack. Give him your loyalty.  Pray for him daily!  Heaven knows he needs this!

 
Holes in our Music  

Funny thing about getting a hole in your blue jeans.  You rarely notice the start of the thing.  A small frayed area becomes a little hole.  The little hole becomes a big hole.  And then the jeans are not terribly useful.

In my opinion, that’s a metaphor for the state of today’s Christian music. I stumbled on to the problem when trying to find songs that would match a series of devotionals I was doing.  You can find tons of songs that “Wanna praise the Lord.  Wanna praise the Lord.  Yeah.  Yeah. Yuh-yeah…Wanna praise the Lord.”

But the moment you step away from what we typically call “Praise and Worship”…good luck finding anything.  Doubt me?  Okay…

Where are the songs that speak of embracing sufering?  Where is the musical cry for fasting?   And where are the songs that talk about loving my gay neighbor across the street?  How many songs have you heard that instruct you to forgive a sister or brother…even when you don’t feel like it?  Where are all the songs that compel us to share Jesus verbally?  Come to think of it, the last time I heard a serious song about the rapture was “I Wish We’d All Been Ready.”  And that came out back in 1973. 

There’s a hole in our music.  It’s kind of crept up on us—like that hole in your favorite blue jeans.  We’ve allowed the feel-good music to fray the very fabric of our song content.

There’s a hole in our music.  But the good news, we can fix it—if we choose to.   (1:25)

First, we need to hit the pause button on songs that “makes us feel good.”  Got enough of those in the works already.  Second, we need to intentionally platform songs that call us to a deeper, fuller more biblical Christian expression.  Finally, we need to craft fresh new music that speaks to all of the Christian life. 

As I finger the hole in our music, those are my thoughts. 

 
Good and Perfect Gifts  

As I write this, directly behind me in my office is a small round table.  On it is a sheet of white paper—the visible evidence of a visit from three year old Joslynn Jaeger.  The paper is festooned with an arc of seven bright orange stickers. Also on that sheet of paper, tiny crumbs of dried out play dough.  She and her “Grandma Di-Di” made two cats—one yellow, one black. They are, alas, both disassembled and back in their respective plastic cans. 

Yet the evidence of Joslynn’s visit is still present.  Underneath the first paper is another, bearing a partial outline of her hand.  You know—you flatten your palm on the paper and draw around it with a pen. 

How do you take something like that—with a memory as happy as it represents---and throw it in the garbage?  I cannot. I think I now understand Pablo Picasso’s observation, “It takes a long time to become young.”

The problem when we’re physically younger is that we often don’t value things as we ought. I’m reminded of James 1:17, “Every good and perfect is from above—and comes down from the Father of heavenly lights.”

Our problem as followers of Jesus, is that we often don’t recognize the gifts we’ve been given. So we value them less.  Hang on to them too loosely…and let them slip through our fingers. 

In the younger stages of life, we look for gifts that glitter: shiny cars, new houses, salaries that sparkle.

But with the passing of just a few years, you finally learn to appreciate the scent of a pine tree, the call of a dove…or the stickered sheet of paper left by your granddaughter.  The one with the play dough crumbs. 

As for Joslynn…she really is that good gift from above.  With so much sparkle in her personality, she has to be a gift from “the Father of Heavenly lights.”

There’s no need for any of us to grow old before we choose to learn to appreciate EVERY good and perfect gift.

 
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Jon GaugerJon Gauger

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