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Unanswered Prayers  

Do you ever secretly suspect God might not be interested in your prayers?  You've prayed and prayed, but "nothing happens."

I know this feeling.

Diana and I pray regularly for our neighborhood.  We do not pray for their prosperity or health, or jobs.  We pray for one thing only: their salvation. 

We’ve prayed for years—in many cases, by name—for our neighbors.  Truthfully, we’ve gone for long stretches when there appears to be no discernible spiritual pulse at all up and down our street. Nothing seems to be happening.

Then came the week between Christmas and New Year’s.

That’s when the neighbors across the street invited us over for dinner.  Before the night was out, they mentioned they were just beginning to read the Bible.  Diana and I shared how much the Bible has shaped our lives. 

The neighbors happen to be Catholic and presumed I was a Catholic priest.  But they learned otherwise—and we had a blast sharing about Jesus together. What a fantastic time!

Just a few days later, my footsteps crunched on the icy slush of a winter storm when a familiar pickup truck drove by.  The guy honked, and I recognized him as a neighbor down the street. We don't really know each other—he lives many houses away.  But we’ve been waving hello for months now. 

Long story short: this truck pulled into the parking lot, and the guy rolls down his window, asking if I'd like a ride home.  For a moment, I babbled something about getting in my 10,000 steps.  But then an inner voice seemed to say, “Yo!  Wake up, Jon!” 

So I climbed into his cab and met Shane, a construction worker. At last—a name for the truck guy who waves in the morning.

After being dropped off, Diana and I got an idea.  Why not go to Shane's house and give him a small thank you gift for the ride (any excuse to build a bridge, right!).  So we knocked on his door bearing a box of chocolates, which brought big smiles from Shayne and his family. We chatted a moment, and I left my cell phone number on the gift-tag before saying goodbye.

On the surface, none of this appears earth-shattering. Yet as I ponder the crunch of my steps on the frozen slush that day, I wonder if I might also have heard the echo of the footsteps of God walking through my icy neighborhood. 

Keep praying. Don’t quit.

And listen for the footsteps of God.

 

 
Misconceptions  

Misconceptions. They’re all around us.

My dad recently sent me an article highlighting just a few of the things we believe—wrongly.

Misconception: People use only 10 percent of their brains.

The Truth:  PET scans and MRI scans show activity in all parts of the brain, though perhaps not simultaneously.  So it's certainly not accurate to say we utilize only 10% of our brains.

 

Misconception: The Great Wall of China is the only man-made object visible from the moon. 

The Truth:  Standing on the moon, astronauts cannot observe one single man-made object.  In fact, astronauts testify that the Great Wall of China disappears from view earlier than much larger man-made structures such as cities, highways, and even large ships.

 

Misconception: If you cross your eyes, they may get stuck.

The Truth:  Crossing your eyes is a (weird) choice you might make.  But eventually, even if they appear to become crossed, your eyes' muscles will get tired and return to their normal state.

 

You and I believe misconceptions about lots of things—including God.  May I suggest a couple of spiritual misconceptions to which you might be clinging?

 

Misconception: God is tired of hearing me confess the same sin.  There’s no point to it.

The Truth: There are no limitations of any kind on the good news of 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

 

Misconception: I should be further along in my spiritual journey.  So God must be angry or at least frustrated with me.

The Truth: “The LORD is gracious and merciful; slow to anger and great in lovingkindness” (Psalm 145:8). 

 

Misconception: If I were a decent Christian, I wouldn't struggle so much with my habit/sin/thought life.

The Truth:  “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm” (Ephesians 6:12-14).

 

Misconceptions may be all around us.

But there’s no need for them to be in us. 

 

“But speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, that is, Christ.”       -Ephesians 4:15

 

(Thanks for the article, Dad!)

 
How Many Santas?  

Before you pack away the last of the lights and ornaments…

Question: How many lawn decorations does it take to celebrate Christmas?

A few blocks away lives a family that graduated from the more-is-better school of Christmas decor.  With the kind assistance of my wife, we tallied the plethora of plastic persons adorning their lawn.  We counted:

  • 13 Frosty the Snowman characters
  • 17 carolers
  • 40 candy canes
  • 39 toy Soldiers
  • 11 giant lollipops
  • 3 giant candles
  • 7 angels
  • 3 camels
  • 5 sheep

These were all large-scale plastic pieces.  Wonder where they store them all.

Question: How many Santas does it take to celebrate Christmas?

On Main Street, two towns away is a yard committed to Saint Nick—in a big way.  Imagine a lawn lit up by large plastic Santas—the old school kind--many of them four-feet tall.  Not the blowup models of today that shrink down into a tiny storage space.  These are the big guys popular in the 60s and 70s. 

Now imagine having 86 of those large Santas glowing. Yep, 86.  We confirmed it with the homeowner, who confirmed she had more that were not set up. 

If lights are your thing—how many do you really need? I read about a family in LaGrangeville, New York, that set up more than 600,000 lights on their lawn.  More than half a million!

Question: How many Saviors does it take to celebrate Christmas?

One.

That’s Jesus.

Is He your Savior?  He can be. 

What better way to start the new year!

 

And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.

 —Acts 4:12

 
Who is Jesus?  

The baby.

The one in the manger.

Just who was He?

When He was born, opinions ranged from “the son of a nobody from a nothing town” to “the Son of God come from heaven.”  After a three-and-a-half-year public ministry that included feeding the 5000, giving sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, and raising the dead back to life—opinions changed little.  To many, Jesus was still nothing more than the son of a nobody from a nothing town.

Two thousand years later, it’s still the same. We just can’t seem to agree on who Jesus is. 

Recently, some friends posted on Facebook their adventures with a pair of smart speakers.  One speaker sits on a kitchen counter, while the other resides in their home office. 

Alexa in the kitchen was asked, “Who is God?”

Alexa sidestepped the issue by saying, "Everyone has different views on religion.” 

Then Alexa was asked the question, "Who is Jesus?"  The kitchen speaker replied, "Many people have different views on religion."  But the office speaker answered by playing the hymn "O Victory in Jesus."  Apparently, even smart speakers made by the same company don’t quite agree about Jesus, either!

I couldn't resist joining the digital discussion, so I asked my smartphone, "Siri, Is Jesus God?"

Siri made no audible reply but listed links to three different articles.  Two of the articles clearly support the idea that Jesus is God.  The third link was a transcription of a National Public Radio interview titled, “If Jesus never called himself God, how did he become one?”

That got my tinsel in a tangle.  Jesus did, indeed, claim to be God!  He did not “become” God.  Isaiah 9:6 boldly states of Jesus, “Unto us a child is born.  Unto us a son is given...His name shall be called wonderful counselor, mighty God, everlasting Father, the prince of peace.”

Notice that the child—the baby Jesus, whose birth is foretold—is called "mighty God" and "everlasting father."

THAT is who Jesus is. 

 
Star Wars Mission  

Star Wars. 

Whether you love the iconic movie series or never saw a single film, stay with me.  See, there’s a life lesson or two in a Star Wars video game that has captured the attention of eight-year-old Caleb. I saw him playing the game with his dad. 

On the planet Tatooine, his dangerous mission was to destroy an elite enemy platoon. Using his controller, Caleb could maneuver wherever he wanted.  But wander too far, and the screen flashed, "Return to Objective."

As I watched Caleb exploring underground tunnels, one of his virtual commanding officers cried out, "We need you in the battle!"  But there was one other screen warning that gave me pause: "Firing a weapon makes you show up on enemy scanners."  Makes sense.

Watching lightsabers clash and flash and listening to the rumble of thermal detonators, reminded me that Christians certainly are in a spiritual battle.  But since "we wrestle not with flesh and blood," it's easy to get distracted.  Maybe, like me, you need the reminder, “Return to objective.”  But just what is our objective?

Jesus gave it to us in Matthew 28, "Go and make disciples."  Making disciples begins with lost people. So sharing Jesus with people who don't know Him—that is our objective.

But let’s not be pollyannish. We can and should expect a fight. Like the game warned, “Firing a weapon makes you show up on enemy scanners.”  But don’t let that stop you. 

There are rescues that must be made.

Are you on mission?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
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Jon GaugerJon Gauger

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