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What's in Your Mouth?  

It’s a verse I wish wasn’t in the Bible. Do you relate?

I’m referring to Psalms 34:1, a harmless—if not pleasant-sounding—verse.  David said, “I will bless the Lord at all times.  His praise shall CONTINUALLY be in my mouth” (emphasis added).

The ad campaign humorously asks, “What’s in your wallet?” This Psalm asks, “What’s in your mouth?”

I wish David hadn’t used that word in Psalms 34:1, continually.   Because a lot of the time, you’ll hear complaining coming out of my mouth.  Or criticism.  Or worse.  What’s in your mouth?

The more I study, the more convinced I am that when it comes down to it, praise really is a choice.  It’s not about a spiritual mist that wafts over you.  It’s a decision to give God credit or thanks or glory—regardless of our circumstances.

Problem is, praise is not natural!  Not for sinners like us. In fact, praise is sometimes the grittiest, gutsiest thing you could possibly do.

Last week, I flew to Jacksonville, Florida to shoot some video and photos for Moody Radio.  Upon landing, I attempted to connect with my car rental company.  But nobody answered the phone.  On top of that, a rainstorm unleashed on us.  There I stood, sulking—and soaking—wondering if I would be forever stranded at the airport. 

I confess this Psalm popped into my head at that very moment.   Talk about an inconvenient truth!  Honestly, I struggled to “praise the Lord at all times.”  I was angry. 

But consider this thought from Joni Tada.  You’ll recall that at the age of 17, she dove into the Chesapeake Bay, injured her neck and has now spent  50 years in a wheelchair as a quadriplegic.  Joni writes:

Half a century of paralysis has also shown me how high the cosmic stakes really are. Whenever I fidget in my confinement, I can almost hear Satan taunt God—as he did with Job—“Look at her, see? She doesn’t really trust you. Test her with more pain and you’ll see her true colors!” When the Devil insists God’s people only serve him when life is easy, I have the high honor of proving him wrong. To be on the battlefield where the mightiest forces in the universe converge in warfare? By God’s grace, I’m all in.

Guess my little airport hiccup wasn’t worth the rant.

Maybe your problem isn’t, either.

Hey—what’s in your mouth?

 
No Other Gods  

What do seven-year-olds read?  Simple books. Funny little stories.  Maybe a pint-sized graphic novel. 

Not Caleb.  He’s into, well, biblical archaeology. Seriously.  So, when his parents took him and his siblings to a museum exhibit focused on Egyptian Iconoclasm, Caleb was engaged to the max.

Upon learning that the museum docent had taken part in a dig in Cairo, Caleb peppered her with questions.  He then steered the conversation toward the biblical account of Moses leading the Hebrews out of Egypt.  Caleb highlighted new research supported by biblical evidence, suggesting that the timeline in many history books may be wrong—and perhaps requires revision.

I can’t imagine what was going on in this lady’s head as Caleb interviewed her about her experiences.  At the end of their conversation, she suggested Caleb might want to choose a gift store artifact for his bedroom (Caleb’s room looks like the set of an Indiana Jones movie).

The docent recommended a box containing replicas of small statues.  But Caleb, who knew all about those statutes and what they represented, blurted, "No, thank you.  No other gods in my room!”  And he chose something else instead.

All this from a seven-year-old?  Yup.  Kinda messes with your mind a little, doesn't it?  But I find that it's my heart that needs to be "messed with." 

Truthfully, I can’t believe the number of times God has had to point His holy finger at something in my heart and call it an idol.  It has happened within the last 24 hours!  Idol after idol.  My heart wreaks of them.  

John Calvin graphically stated, “The human heart is an idol factory.”  To which I would add, “that idol factory runs 24/7, 365 days a year on an inexhaustible supply of raw materials.”

Lord, strike down the idols of my heart. 

Grant me the courage of Caleb to say no to the next one.  And the next.  And the next.  

I will have no other gods before you!

 

P.S.  If you found yourself connecting with this story, you'll enjoy Kids Say the Wisest Things.  Real conversations with real kids that help you see Jesus more clearly and love Him more boldly.  Get it on Amazon, or at Moody Publishers: https://www.moodypublishers.com/books/evangelism-and-discipleship/kids-say-the-wisest-things/.  Also available at Christian Book.com: https://www.christianbook.com/wisest-things-lessons-children-could-teach/jon-gauger/9780802418944/pd/418943?event=ESRCG

 

 

 

 

 
Full Screen Living  

I am jostling back and forth, riding the rails of an afternoon express out of Chicago.  Not trying to snoop, but you really can't miss the reflection in the window on my right.  It mirrors the computer screen of the passenger in front of me. 

Though the window image is blurry (dirty glass), I can't help noticing he is watching a video.  But rather than enjoy that video full-size on his 17-inch laptop screen, he has it—no pun intended—in a small window.  He's okay seeing his content at less than full-size — way less.

Lots of phone users do the same thing when they watch video clips or photos on Facebook and other apps.  Instead of flipping their phones horizontally—so the clips fill the screen—they opt for the "convenience" of holding them vertically.  But in so doing, they fail to enjoy the images full-screen, content to watch a tiny window.

We're not talking about a slight difference here, either. A horizontal image on my iPhone at full screen is almost four times larger than one seen in vertical mode (yup, I measured)!  So why do we settle for small?  It makes no sense. 

Now, some videos don't auto-rotate when you turn your phone horizontal—I get that.  But most do.   And the mobile phone industry has gone to great lengths to bring us bigger, brighter, and sharper screens.  Yet many of us are satisfied with a video the size of a glorified postage stamp.   And mind you, these same people insist on having a 48-inch or larger TV at home because...because I don't know why.

Phone screens are small enough —even when watching horizontally.  So why NOT make an effort to see everything in full screen?

The same question is fair for Christ-followers. The Bible calls us to "full-screen living."  Scripture calls us to be "more than conquerors through Christ Jesus." Our clear instructions read, "do whatever you do all to the glory of God."   Yet so many of us are satisfied with less.  Much less. 

A quick word of prayer in the morning—maybe.  A quick dose of Scripture reading—perhaps.  And on we go with our small-scale lives played out against the backdrop of a shrunken faith.  But shouldn't we want more?

Jesus said, "I came that they may have life and have it abundantly" (John 10:10).  All-out, sold-out life with Jesus and for Jesus.  That's "full screen" living. Is that what you want?

 
Remembering Auschwitz--Because We Dare Not Forget  

Auschwitz. 

By now, you may feel like you’ve heard enough about this Nazi death camp on the 75th anniversary of its liberation. But indulge me just 90 seconds more.

In a recent survey, two-thirds of American Millennials and 44% of the general population could not identify Auschwitz.  An article in The American Citizen asserts that “11% of adults and 22% of Millennials haven’t heard or were not sure if they’ve heard of the Holocaust. A shocking 41% of Millennials and 31% of adults thought that fewer than two million had been killed. About half of both groups could not identify a concentration camp or a ghetto.”

Like me, you're wondering how this could be so.  I did some poking around.

Turns out, only 11 states across the country currently have laws mandating Holocaust education.  Meaning it's possibly no big deal to nearly 80% of our states.

Back in 2017, Newsweek reported that a revision to South Carolina's state Social Studies guide left out any mention of the Holocaust, stunning parents.  Supposedly, this was changed. But the fact that it even surfaced is unthinkable.

In 2018, Florida High School Principal William Lawton stated, “I can’t say the Holocaust is a factual, historical event because I am not in a position to do so as a district employee.”  Really?! 

I have been there—Auschwitz.  Diana and I have trudged through its streets and locked eyes with photographed victims on the walls.  We heard the whisper of our voices bounce off the walls of gas chambers that killed millions.

We cannot be silent while others claim it never happened. Not me. Not you.  Not any of us.

Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.

--Proverbs 31:8,9

 

 
Grand Entrances  

Is it okay with you if I gripe briefly about the hotel industry?

Diana and I just returned from a 10-day Florida trip where we stayed in three different hotels.  I noticed a common theme in all three of them: they work hard to impress you with their lobby—but not nearly as hard on the condition of your room. 

In the lobbies of all three hotels, we encountered vaulted ceilings, iridescent artwork, and hammered glass dispensers offering cucumber-infused water at the turn of a spigot. So far, so good.

All three of our hotels were name brand places.  All three had great reviews from multiple sources (I do my best to vet them). But all three had a range of significant problems in the guest rooms.

We found caulk that was cracked, yellowed, or missing.  Carpeting was often stained or worn past the obvious need to replace.  There was a toilet that protested every flush.  And one of the bathtubs—had it been in your own home—would have embarrassed you so much, you would refuse to allow guests to use it!

Keep in mind, we stayed at decent places!  Reputable chains—not sketchy one-offs.  It made me wonder, how often DO the managers perform an actual check on the condition of the product they are selling—rooms?

But lest we chastise the hotel industry too roughly, let us take a similar inventory of our hearts.  Is it not equally true of most of us that we often try to make an excessively good impression on people?

Like the hotel rooms that invariably don’t live up to their lobbies, don’t we often portray a  grand and growing spirituality as people enter the sparkling lobbies of our lives?  But inside, we are yellowed and worn—and in great need of renovation.  At least, I am.

It’s time to let the Holy Spirit do a “room check” on every chamber in our heart. It’s time for a renovation.  As 1 Samuel 16:7 reminds, “Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

O God, would you renovate my heart this day?  This week?  This year?  Conform me to the image of Jesus.  Show me all that needs renewal or replacement. Let the inside of me match the outside of me—and none of it like me at all!  Only Jesus!

 
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Jon GaugerJon Gauger

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