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Smile!  

Scowls are in.

Smiles are out.

Have you noticed?

Take a look at most any current Christian artist album cover or website with a photo. Chances are he or she isn’t smiling.

As we have in so many other ways, the Christian subculture has mimicked secular culture. 

Not many bother to ask why do the recording artists on secular albums scowl?  Sure, there’s a certain “coolness” factor.  It’s hip to look unhappy—go figure.  But there are other reasons as well.  Secular artists scowl because they have little to smile about.  It’s a culture of hopelessness and materialism that never satisfies.  That--and a growing gruesome preoccupation with death.

So again I ask, why must popular Christian artists—brothers and sisters who are following Christ—follow the world in their facial expressions?

I’m not suggesting every Christian needs to run around with a goofy grin 24 hours a day.  But shouldn’t the presence of the indwelling Holy Spirit affect even the look on our face?

Proverbs 15:13 A glad heart makes a cheerful face. 

Consider that objective research has shown again and again that people think better of you—are more open to your message—if you smile.  Think of it!  They’d be more likely to be more interested in the gospel if we share that gospel wear a smile—or at least a pleasant look. 

So us average every-day Christian folks—we need to relearn to smile.  As for all you recording artists and wannabees out there: Leave the business of “glum” to the world.  Go ahead.  Crack a smile.

Again, I’m not advocating a shallow silliness or plastic pleasantry.  But would it really kill album or online sales if artists just looked into the camera and smiled?

As someone much bolder than I once said, “If you have Jesus in your heart…kindly notify your face.”

 
  

Time out for a confession.  I think iPads are incredibly cool.  So cool that I really want one.  Probably want one a little too much for Christ-like comfort. 

But so far, I haven't bought one.  And I wish I could tell you it was for deeply spiritual reasons.   However, that would be a lie.

I think iPads are incredibly functional—truly practical—graphically gorgeous.  But I don't own one.  And the high price tag isn't the real reason. 

The truth is, though I'm definitely a techno fan, I haven't yet bought an iPad because I'm weary.  I'm weary of reaching out and grabbing the latest techno tool that will finally usher in the—quote—ultimate solution...only to find out that it's been replaced with something faster and shinier.

Seems like just yesterday I bought my netbook—and it was going to be the “ultimate solution.”   I'm weary of the feeling that I'm—quote--behind the times because I don't have a front-facing camera on a tablet device.   I'm weary of the incredibly brief span that will define my purchase as current and useful...before marketing gurus tempt me to covet the new.

But most of all, I'm weary of owning still one more “item.”    Having one more charger to keep track of.  One more gadget to plug into the wall at night. One more cord to keep untangled, one more thing that will demand to be updated...  only to be outdated—the weariest whammy of them all.   

I would not for a moment pretend to pass judgment on those that are right now enjoying their iPads...and those that plan to.  Maybe I'll break down myself and take the plunge someday.

Yet the words of Jesus ought at some point to frame our thinking: “A man's life does not consist in the abundance of things.”   And Christ's desire to place the “least of these” in the care of you and me ought to somehow temper our appetite for techno. 

Weary of the abundance of things...I'm Jon Gauger, and those are my thoughts.

 
Get The Memo!  

For several years now, I've wondered about them—those bumpy little pads or tiles that cities across America have installed at nearly every intersection. . 

Doesn't take a genius to figure that those bumpy tiles—usually a pinkish clay color--are being installed to help the visually impaired.  And it makes sense.  Walking more than three miles a day, my experience is that cars sometimes come dangerously close to sidewalk intersections. So I welcome this assistance for the visually impaired.

Yet...the cynic in me asks, “Why all of a sudden have municipalities taken up this task?  Why the feverish pace?  Did city fathers across America suddenly wake up to this urgent concern? 

Pardon my cynicism, but I submit this is more about cash than kindness.  Somewhere, somebody issued a memo that said UNLESS you install those little bumpy pads, you will no longer get government grants of any kind.  Or...”Unless you put ‘em in, we'll sue the britches off you!”

But if cities all across America could unite behind such a massive effort all because of a memo about physical blindness....what about the dangers of spiritual blindness?

Why aren't Christians just as vocal on every street corner… warning of spiritual danger? Of rejecting Christ?  (We’re strangely quiet, you know).  Do we lack the information?  Or do we lack conviction?  We need to “Get the memo!”  Jesus is still the only way to God.  The flames of Hell are still forever.  

It's time to get bold in our warning.  We need to get the memo!  Spiritual danger is REAL danger.  So why are we followers of Jesus so silent about that danger?  Why aren’t we just as committed to warning the spiritually blind as we are the physically blind?

 
Was it Worth It?  

For the past few months, my wife and I have made regular visits to an old man who is slowly dying.  He has a brilliant mind, has ministered to countless people.  Yet his deterioration is rapid and irreversible. 

Some would say, “That’s to be expected.”  But the idealist in me asks, “Why?”  Why did it have to be this way?  And of course, the answer takes me back to the Garden of Eden. In my sanctified imagination, I envision a conversation with Adam and Eve.

I see Adam, once a chiseled, muscular outdoorsman with big hands and barrel chest—now shriveled up in a pile on a straw mat.  His saggy skin looks brittle stretched over his toothpick arms.  He is in too much pain even to sit.

Not far away, leaning against a rock, is the once elegant Eve—the girl whose mere appearance sucked the breath out of Adam.  Her back is decidedly humped, her eyes sunken and nearly sightless.  Leather knees poke out from under her worn fur.

One question is all I ask the first couple.  “Was it worth it?”  Was it really worth it, back so many years ago in Eden, to listen to the voice of the deceiver?  Was it worth it?  Look at all you traded away…for this?”

Just then a mist completely enshrouds the ancient pair and when it lifts, I am no longer in the presence of Adam and Eve…but their Maker instead.

And Jesus, with hands yet wounded, extends a scarred palm in my direction and barely whispers just one question: “And you….was it worth it?”

Instinctively, I cover my face, and bow low to the ground.  The sin I’ve cradled in my hands and coddled in my heart.  It hasn’t been worth it.  None of it.

To interrogate Adam and Eve…is to ask myself the most awful of questions.

Still….looking at my old friend dying a slow death, I wonder.

 
Why Can't Heaven Be A Buzzword?  

I see it all the time on the web. Usually off to the right hand side of the page is a list of stories labeled something like “Trending Now or “Most viewed.” It's usually a story about somebody in Hollywood I'm supposed to be interested in...but am not.

Now here’s my question: Why can't heaven “go viral”?  Why can't it be an internet craze?  That's right, heaven. In a Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings world so intrigued with wonder...why does heaven get so little press?

The easy answer is, “Well, we live in a post-Christian culture.

But I'm not buying that.

I say the reason the world has little interest in heaven is because Christians have very little interest in heaven. But what would account for our disinterest in the city whose streets are paved with gold?

Let me throw out a few answers.

One.  We have too much gold here to long for heaven.  Too much stuff. Too many conveniences.  Too many options for fun-fun-fun....that heaven seems a tad bit boring, quite frankly.

Reason number two.  We don't sing about it.  It's an established fact that whatever passions dominate a culture dominate their music.  In America, that means sex, beauty, fame and money.  As for Christian music, there's very little about heaven—one more proof it doesn't dominate our thinking. 

There's a third reason why heaven is not a buzz word in our culture.  That's because we don't really preach about it. When was the last time you heard a sermon series on the wonder of heaven?

So if Christians aren't pondering heaven....and their spiritual leaders aren't pondering heaven...and very little of the Christian movement's music ponders heaven, it's no wonder that the culture at large gives any thought to heaven.

But the whole thing strikes me as odd.   Those who claim they are going there...often have very little interest in heaven.   Those who have the most to gain....are largely complacent.

It's time to rethink heaven.  Or maybe just....THINK heaven.

 
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Jon GaugerJon Gauger

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