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Make America Great  

I have a plan for making America great!

It has nothing to do with Donald Trump or the Republican party or the Democratic party either.

It has everything to do with the simple biblical premise of Psalms 33:12, “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord.”  Now, follow my logic.

The only way any nation can rightly be described as one “whose God is the Lord” is if the dominant voice and view of that nation is God-honoring.   The only way that will happen is if the majority of us seek to please God by making others aware of His offer of salvation and a redeemed way of living.

Solution lies with us!

What I’m saying is, the solution is not in the impossible mists “out there somewhere.”   The solution lies—in large part—with us.  The way to make America great is to make Christ magnified! This happens as you and I share Christ with our neighbors through godly lives, uncommon kindness and words of witness. 

It is not enough to merely “live the life” or “walk the walk.”  Jesus did not merely do good deeds.  He spoke the gospel message.  And so must we. 

  • We are saddened by the unraveling of morality in America…but do we share Christ?
  • We are shocked by the violence in our cities and neighborhoods…but do we share Christ?
  • We are depressed by the greed and gouging that describes not just corporate America…but most of America…yet do we share Christ?
  • We are fearful of a segment of immigrants we think might bring destruction…but do we share Christ?

One more time...

When we choose to share Christ, we will surely be much closer to “that nation whose God is the Lord.”  Look for less crime.  Less greed.  Less immorality.  Less poverty. Just a few benefits of living in a nation whose God is the Lord! 

We must share Christ.  Not to make America great…but to magnify our God!

Carl Henry said, “The gospel is only good news if it gets there in time.” 

Isn’t it time we made time…to share Christ in America?

 
Do Less  

The idea was doomed from the start. In a well-intentioned attempt at physical fitness, I agreed to play racquetball with my son, Tim, Five weeks afterward, my throbbing back still reminded me I shouldn’t have even attempted playing “just a game or two.”  Ouch! It’s one thing to overdo it in sports, but what about the rest of life?

In the book, “If I Could Do It All Over Again,” I asked 28 Christian leaders what would they do less of, given a second chance. Check out these responses.

Less News

Joni Tada admitted, “I would look at a lot less news on the television. I have to confess I’m a news junkie. That’s not a bad thing. It’s just that sometimes it becomes a fixation. It can depress my spirits.”

Ravi Zacharias commented, “I wouldn’t worry as much. God is completely in control.”

Tim Keller says, “I would do less surfing of the Internet, without a doubt. I think the Internet is a friend of information but an enemy of thought. It’s great at snippets of information, but it doesn’t help you think or reason.”

Fewer Movies

George Verwer told me, “I would watch fewer movies. I think some of the films I watched were definitely a waste of time. But the main thing I would like to do less of is sin!”

Tony Evans shared, “I love sports: watching sports and keeping up with sports. But I would probably spend a little less time on sports if I could do it all over again. Plus, I would have traveled a little less.”

Less Critical

Bob Moeller confessed,” I would be less critical of other people. The older I get, the more I realize I haven’t lived other people’s lives. I haven’t been through what they have been through.”

In a culture that practically screams, “Do more!” the notion of doing less is tough to embrace. We are driven––and proud of it. Yet, ironically, for most of us, the only way to be more for Christ is to do less.  Let’s take for our personal vision statement the humble words of John the Baptist, who said of Jesus, “He must increase, but I must decrease” ( John 3:30).

 
Uncomfortable Questions  

Went to a funeral this week.    A lady my wife had known growing up.  Let's call her Natalie (not her real name).

By the way, have you noticed the way technology has invaded funeral homes?  Gone are the days of the old organ parked in the corner.  Respectable funeral homes now have electronic keyboards.  Forget that old fashioned paper registry book you used to sign to let the grieving family know of your visit.  More often than not these days you’ll sign an iPad.

Instead of mere poster boards sporting yellowed photo collections, most funeral homes today will scan those photos and make them into a DVD that plays at the visitation or memorial service.

Predictable and nostalgic

Such was the case at the funeral home where we found ourselves in Bureau County, Illinois.  The slide show was everything you'd expect.  We saw pictures of Natalie as a young girl growing up in very rural Wyoming, Natalie with her siblings, then Natalie getting married. Next it was snapshots of Natalie's own children...family vacations...various churches where she and her husband ministered over the years.

Punctured my balloon of tranquility

All of this was entirely predictable and nostalgic.  Then I saw something on the screen that punctured my balloon of tranquility--a photo of Natalie volunteering in a home for children who happen to have Down syndrome.   Natalie was seated at a table, surrounded by a bunch of mentally challenged guys.  The slide on the screen showed arrows and names pointing to two of these boys.  One arrow pointed to "Chucky" and the other identified "Peter."  Both were smiling. Both were having a grand time.   And both were the special object of Natalie's focus--for years.

Uncomfortable Questions

As the funeral service continued, I wondered: When my turn comes, will there be even one face on the screen we could draw an arrow toward as someone I've invested in?   Exactly how much of my time and attention is shared with "the least of these?"

Funerals have a way of asking uncomfortable questions of the living.

 

 
Two Kinds of People  

Recently, I emceed an event for Awana Clubs at Northside Gospel Center in Chicago.  Awana—the Bible program—co-founded by Art Rorheim who is 98 years old, soon to be 99.  He stood with great strength and composure, speaking to the crowd who gave him a standing ovation.

What does a 98-year-old man say at an event like this?

  • A man who has launched a Bible club attended by more than 2.3 million kids in 102 countries…every week?
  • A man who traces his spiritual roots to Paul Rader and the Chicago Gospel Tabernacle.
  • A man who has met at least two U.S. Presidents.
  • A man who may well never have so public an opportunity to speak again.

I was curious.

It didn’t take him long to get to the point.  Art looked out at the crowd after sharing a few lighter thoughts and said—quote—“There are two kinds of people in this world: those who are going to heaven, and those who are going to hell.”   He then told how many years ago he was given an unexpected glimpse of hell.

A neighboring farm was abruptly engulfed in flames.  From where he stood, Art could easily see the farmer’s entire harvest going up in smoke. 

The man’s cattle were trapped in their pasture by a ring of flames.  Art noted with painful detail that the tongues of these cows dangled from their mouths as the flames drew ever closer. They were beyond rescue.

The farmer, out of pity for the animals, took out his rifle and shot them, one by one.

Forgive me for such a graphic picture.

But maybe…just maybe…you needed to hear that. Hell is still burning.  And every lost soul you meet is headed there.  The cows Art told about were beyond rescue.  But your neighbor is not. Shall we then be shy and self-conscious about offering a word of warning?  I think not!

There are two kinds of people in this world: those who are going to heaven, and those who are going to hell.  

 
Kids in Church  

How welcome are children in your church?

The question is not rhetorical.  I am asking you to think carefully. Why shouldn’t we?  We bemoan the sense of disconnect today’s emerging generation feels toward the church, and the many ways they are unplugging.   Yet I wonder if in some ways we haven’t invited them to leave.

"You don't belong!"

“Preposterous!” you say.  “We have many wonderful programs for kids at our church—and they are well attended!”  Maybe you do have a lot of well attended classes and events.  Yet if young kids rarely or never take part in the main event—your Sunday morning worship service—is it possible we are telling them “You kids belong in your special little area…but you really don’t have much to contribute to us adults”? 

Draw a pie chart of last Sunday’s church service, if you dare.  How big a piece of the pie did children get in the actual church service?  Did even one of them play a music solo?  Did an artistic junior high girl read the Scripture passage?   Was the high schooler boy who loves to do stage plays asked to interpret a gospel parable that was mentioned in the sermon?  Why do we seem to hear from the littlest children only at Christmas?    What’s up with that?

Why not?

I ask…

  • Why shouldn’t a sixth grader read Scripture from the stage?
  • Why shouldn’t a junior high kid play a piano solo as people are being seated…or during the offering time?
  • Why shouldn’t the high school youth group—with appropriate guidance—lead the entire morning worship for a given Sunday—music, announcements, sermon and all?!

The answer is….there is no answer. There’s no reason why these things should not be, other than the fact that we have not created church cultures that embrace this kind of thing. 

Too "Professional?"

I’m not talking about tokenism here.   I’m talking about real kids filling real functions in a real service…week after week.

Are we so committed to “professionalism” or a sense of control that we cannot or will not be led by a child? 

Children belong in church.  Not just in their seats—but up on the stage. Leading us!

 
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Jon GaugerJon Gauger

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