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Silent Night, Holy Night  

Quick question for you.   What Christmas Carol is placed as the concluding song on more albums than any other? 

Answer: Silent Night.

Okay, I don’t have statistical proof.  But I have looked at dozens and dozens of Christmas recordings.  With few exceptions, they end with Silent Night.

But it’s the second phrase of that beloved Carol I want to look at today.  Silent Night…HOLY night. 

The word, holy, of course means set apart.   That’s what you and I are supposed to be as followers of Christ: set apart.  But ARE we?  George Barna statistics would suggest otherwise.  We divorce like the world…look at porn sites like the world.

Today as I rode in on the very crowded train, I was working on memorizing I John chapter 2.  It’s tight quarters on a rush hour train bound for Chicago.  So as I slightly turned my head, I could not avoid the screen of the smartphone next to me.  Some guy had an inappropriate photo of a girl he was staring at.

Now at that very moment, I was faced with a choice.  Do I cave in to my natural urges—my sinful passions?  Or do I call to mind the fact that I’ve been set apart—made holy…and forcefully look away, resolved not to look back?

By the grace of God, I looked away.  Now I’d be lying if I told you I never stumbled in situations like that. But those practical fleshly arenas are the very places where our commitment to Christ is either verified or falsified.   And the choices come a thousand times a day.

Will I respond to that perceived insult…or will I return a blessing?

Will I feed my insatiable ego…or will I look on “the things of others”?

You and I cannot bask in the power of Jesus, the protection of Jesus, and not live life set apart for Jesus.

Silent night.

Holy night.

EVERY night.

That’s my prayer.

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.

Slighting Christ  

Recently, I stumbled on to the writings of the Puritans.  One of my first  books: Richard Baxter's work titled, “The Causes and Danger of Slighting Christ and His Gospel.” 

Born in 1615, Baxter  was a a church leader, theologian and prolific writer.    For 25 years, he endured persecution and imprisonment for his stand on the gospel.  

I figure a guy who endured all that he did for Christ deserves my attention when he cautions that you and I who claim to know Christ just might be guilty of slighting Him—and His gospel.

Here's one example of what Richard Baxter means when he says we slight Christ.  It reads a bit like King James English—but you'll get the gist. Baxter writes....

It is a making light of Christ and Salvation when Men will profess their willingness to have Christ upon His own terms, and to forsake all for him.  But they nevertheless cleave to the world, and to their sinful courses...  This is the sin of making light of Christ and salvation. 

Ouch.  Baxter does not waste words. He goes on to say...

Men have houses and lands to look after, wife and children, and body and outward estate, and therefore they forget that they have  a God, a Redeemer, a Soul to mind.   These worldly things are near at hand, and therefore work naturally and forcibly .  But the other are thought to be a great way off, and therefore, too distant to work on their affections.

To read Baxter is to be convicted.  But you and I ought not to stop there.  How do we move closer to the biblical ideal of being in the world but not of it?  Baxter tells us...

Set a higher value on the Word of God....You cannot esteem Christ without esteeming His word.  Will you daily read it?  Will you resolve to obey it whatever it may cost you?

Those are questions each of us must answer for ourselves.  And let there be no mistake—someday we will have to give an answer.

A View from the Waiting Room  

They want you to feel relaxed.

They want you to feel like you're in a friend's living room.

But you're not.  

You are in a surgical waiting room.  You and fifty others, doing everything to avoid thinking about the surgery your loved one is undergoing.

On a sofa-like chair, one woman knits what appears to be a soft baby blanket.  An older gentleman is playing Sudoku, while his wife is engaged in a computer laptop version of Solitaire.

Off to the side, a woman sips coffee, staring pensively into the cavernous room.  Another lady scribbles crayons in a kids' coloring book.  (She does a nice job staying inside the lines). Still another snoozes.

In the back corner around a table sit three women--the high tech trio.  Between them are two laptops and an i Pad.  But they appear to be processing more dialogue than data.

All these people share one thing in common: they are waiting. Everyone of them holds a pager—and a slender strand of hope.

Any other day, this might be an inordinate wait time for a favorite restaurant.  But the only thing being served today is life-changing news: “We were able to get the tumor entirely”....or....”We're sorry, but the cancer has spread.”  The veneer of chatty good naturedness in the room is as thin as a sandwich bag.

Me?  I'm one of the fifty—waiting.  But I have something many of these people lack—a ring of prayerful brothers and sisters, from several area churches who have been with me all day long.  From morning until evening they stay...because their love for Christ extends their love to me and my wife—now in surgery.

Seeing the body of Christ in action—loving and serving quietly for no glory but the glory of God--is a humbling, heartwarming thing.  The faithful presence of this loving platoon—who come from an army of praying soldiers--makes sharing the surgeon's good news really great news.

Funny thing how knowing Jesus even changes the view from a waiting room.

Serving our Service People  

Hi, my name is Jon and I have a new strategy for world evangelization--let me explain.

I believe we could reach a sizeable percentage of the world for Christ...if Christians started acting like Christ around service people.

What do I mean by “service people.”?

It's the guy that fixes your car. It's the lady with the accent that gives you your coffee at Dunkin' Donuts.  Service people.  I'm thinking about the waitress at your favorite restaurant hang-out.  The busboy that fills your water glass repeatedly—because you're so thirsty.

Give it a moment's thought, and you'll think of a bunch of these people.

Notice that I called them, “people.” 

Because all too, often, we don't think of them that way.  We treat them like mere servants.  After all, we're paying good money for that meal, so the waitress had BETTER get it right.....right?   Wrong. 

My brother once worked as a waiter for a successful Italian restaurant chain.  He told me that some of the worst tippers in the world...are born again Christians.

The leader of a major Christian organization once told me that he cringes at the knowledge that evangelical folks attending his national conference have the reputation for being the most demanding and least gracious of all the groups that show up at the hotel. And the list goes on and on—with my poor behavior...and yours.

But what if... instead of a reputation for being demanding or being cheapskates...we Christians were known by our love (um....the thing Jesus said we were SUPPOSED to be known by). 

What if we looked the busboy in the eye---and genuinely thanked him for filing our water glass? If Christians were known by the service industry for our “Please” and “thank you very much”  instead of our griping, it would open up a whole new platform for sharing Christ.

Think of it: The wrong food order comes to your table and instead of whining, you say, “Hey, no problem.  I'm in no danger of starving...”  Wow! 

But you know who are starving?  The service people around us.  They are starving for human affirmation....starving for the kindness that comes from being with Jesus.

Let's  you and I give them a taste of the Jesus life.

We can be sure they'll be hungry for more of Him.

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Jon GaugerJon Gauger

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