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Consider the Cooks  

Is it just me or is America’s fascination with food—or at least food that’s prepared by chefs on TV—at an all-time high?

I suppose it began back with Julia Childs.  But her legacy is an army of Food Network television chefs: Emeril, Bobby Flay…Paula Dean.

More stars than Hollywood.

More shows than you could possibly stomach. 

Cooking is definitely on America’s front burner.

Yet I watch it all with a…tasteful mixture of intrigue and cynicism. 

On the one hand, the Food Network seems to thrive.  On the other hand, there’s an explosion in things like “lunchables” and other pre-packaged meals.

While cookbook sales seem to soar, grocery stores at unprecedented rates are:

  1. Selling less ingredients for real cooking.
  2. Selling more and more frozen and prepared foods

Never before have we been more content to watch someone else slice and dice—but been less inclined to do it ourselves.

Sure there are some who genuinely enjoy whipping up recipes for braised pork cutlets with pumpkin cherry sauce.  But frankly—the majority of us are much more satisfied to watch—or pay—for someone else to do our cooking.

Yet allow me for a moment to jump out of the frying pan and into the fire when I suggest Christians today face a similar dichotomy when it comes to worship. 

We love to talk about it, write about it, read about it—and above all—sing about it.  And just like the Food Network, our self-styled “Worship” network has its own stars: Jeremy Camp, Matt Redman, Darlene Zschech. Yet if you distill worship down to its most practical core component—obedience…well there most of us all fall quite short.

Just like cooking is work, there’s a work side to worship.  A lifestyle of consistent obedience knows little of whipped cream.  It is, in fact, sometimes tough.  And sometimes bitter.  But always required.

Why Young People Are Leaving the Church  

By now the shocking numbers are almost numbing.  Depending on whose statistics you believe, anywhere between 60 and 90% of young people currently attending an evangelical church will leave once they hit college.  Leave...and never come back. But why?

Some people say it's our secular environment—now almost hostile to Christianity.  Some say it's the lack of programs for kids at church...or the quality of the preaching. It is my contention that there are a whole lot fewer reasons than are currently being looked at.  In fact, I think the biggest factor is a whole lot closer to home.  It's parents.   Us.  

In too many homes church is a Sunday thing, but not a Monday thing. Like Maybelline make-up, you put it on Sunday morning but wash it off by nightfall.  Come Monday, parents who on Sunday were raising their hands in worship, are often clicking their mouses to porn sites.  Or watching garbage on TV.  Or playing fast and loose with the IRS. 

Though they claim to be just like Christ, too many moms and dads are just like the world—an observation not lost on our kids.  Rather than a spiritual legacy, we pass on a spiritual fallacy.  So they've simply decided to skip the pretense. 

Now the truth is, there are boat loads of parents who are really doing things right. God-fearing Moms and Dads who practice what they preach, pray on their knees, and are truly seeking the God of Israel.  But if there are boatloads of these, we must also acknowledge there are fleets full of Titanics captained by parents charting courses of self-fulfillment and ruderless Christianity.   

There's no need to wonder at the numbers. But we SHOULD wonder what will it take for followers of Jesus...to follow Jesus. 

Long Lines at Bethlehem  

Every heart is built differently.  I’m convinced of it.

God seems to have placed within me something of His own passion and compassion for lost people.  Wish I could say I’ve always been a good steward of that heart.  I haven’t.

But it happens once in awhile I’ll be in a big crowd and the thought suddenly sweeps over me, “Wonder how many of these people really know Jesus?  How many of them are headed for heaven?  How many marching toward Hell?”

I’ve thought that thought staring at SuperBowl crowds.

A month ago we were in Bethlehem…visiting the Church of the Holy Nativity—built over the cave where Jesus may well have been born.

I’d been there before when tourism had shriveled to nothing.  Not this time.  The place was mobbed.  There were lines snaking up and around and over.  Scads of tourists snapping pictures and standing…and waiting to visit the place where Messiah is said to have been born.

But the thought occurs to me…how many were there merely for a photo…or a passport stamp…rather than to worship the Savior of the World?  To my earlier point, how many of these travelers would someday travel to heaven?

It’s sad, in a way.  People who would spend so much money, exert so much effort, stand in such long lines…and maybe only know Jesus as a souvenir, not a Savior. 

Regardless of whether or not your heart is built like mine, we are all called to share Christ---with our lives and with our words. 

Going and telling the Good News is as close to the heart of  Christmas as anything on your to-do list. 

So who are you going to tell this Christmas?  About Jesus!

A sister?  A friend?  A mom or dad?   The neighbor next door and the one two doors down?  I remind you…apart from Christ, they are at this moment marching directly for Hell.  Do you care?  Enough to speak up?

A Weed in Drought  

The summer of the drought. That’s where we’ve been. Hot.  Dry.  Hostile to life.

Yet a curious thing caught my eye the other day as I wheeled the mower down our driveway to cut the front lawn.

Right there in the middle of the asphalt…pushing up through tar and stone…a weed.  Sturdy, green.  If not alone.

How did it get there?  What force gave it the guts to push through a gravel base and up through a layer of asphalt?  How could it thrive when my lawn is patchy and thin?

Life is not supposed to thrive in drought conditions.  Yet there it was, defying the odds, defying the circumstances and doing its thing. (:45)

It struck me then as a living metaphor of Christ followers at this season of our lives.

Spiritually speaking, there’s no question that America is in something of a drought. 

Most churches are losing members.

Christians are no longer merely marginalized—they’re being dehumanized.

A superheated blast of angry atheism is swirling across the nation. 

Thoughts of revival are whispered today on only a few parched lips.

But as surely as that weed I observed pushed through unlikely odds, followers of Jesus must now do the same.  Right now.  In the middle of our spiritual drought.

It’s time to push on through at prayer meeting.

It’s time to push on through sharing Jesus with—quote, unquote—unlikely friends.

It’s time to push on through with the love of Jesus in the face of hatred.

Droughts, you see, don’t last forever. But God’s Kingdom does.

“Growing like a weed.”  It’s an old expression.  Never gave it much thought.  Until now. Until this drought.

So let me ask you: How’s it growing?

Your faith…

Your prayers…

Your witness…

How’s it growing?

The weed got through.  So must you and I. 

Cooling off Hell  

They're trying to cool off the flames of hell.  Have you noticed?

I have no scientific proof--just my own observations.  But it feels to me like whatever Christian circle I visit, the concept of Hell is increasingly described WITHOUT fire.   It's being replaced by the phrase "eternal separation from God." 

The trade out bothers me.  It bothers me because the Bible makes no such allowance. 

Hell is a literal place.  The lake of fire is a biblical destination. Revelation 20:15 says "Whoever's name was not written in the Lamb's book of life was cast into the lake of fire."

Mark 9:43 speaks of the 'lake of fire which shall never be quenched."

So what's behind the move away from Hell?   I have three hunches.

First, avoiding the language of Hell is consistent for a culture that way overemphasizes God's love, while neglecting His role as judge.

Second, avoiding the language of Hell makes Christianity a whole lot more tolerable for a religiously intolerant society.  Besides--the lake of fire is so extreme as to conjure up images of Crusaders of old--or more modern Ku Klux Clansmen.

My final hunch is that the enemy of our souls--himself destined for the lake of fire--has a vested interest in blinding us to the horrors of hell.

But I'm not buying it.  And neither should you.

When Jude 1:23 urges us to "snatch others from the fire” the verse isn't talking about a campfire or a house fire.  It's Hell.  

So the next time you hear somebody trying to edit out--or redefine--Hell, give 'em the Book.  The B-I-B-L-E...which speaks ever so plainly and ever so sadly about Hell: the lake of fire which burns forever.

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Jon GaugerJon Gauger

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