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Spared  

The Waldo Canyone Fire.  By the time it was finally put out last July more than 300 Colorado homes were destroyed.  One person was killed, with nearly half a billion dollars in damages.
 

Like any disaster, it's one thing to see it on the web...or watch it on your flat screen TV.  Quite another to be there.

On a recent trip out west, my wife and I decided to visit the ruins.  The scent of burning is still in the air, months after the last of the flames were silenced.

What we saw was beyond sobering.  Block after block of burned down homes, many concrete foundations entirely cleared of even a hint of blackened sawdust.  The sense of nothingness was oddly gripping, inducing an almost sacred sadness.

 Yet oddly, we saw random homes that were somehow spared the fury of the fire.  You drove down the street and a list of the houses went like this: Destroyed, destroyed, destroyed...spared.  

How?  What could possibly have prevented these places from lighting up like torches as the monster fire gobbled up entire neighborhoods like prawns on a platter?

Then...it hit me: this is exactly what judgment day will some day be like.  The majority of people whose names you've known and whose lives you've touched--their souls: destroyed.  Destroyed, destroyed, destroyed.  And then—miracle of miracles...this one spared.  Destroyed, destroyed, destroyed.  And then wonderfully, gloriously...that one...spared. Spared the fire and destruction of hell, an agony that will not cease.

And the questions again: How?  Why?

There can be only one answer: Grace.

There can be only one response: Go.  Go and share what Christ has done...and what Hell will do unless one is rejected and the other recieved. 

 
Repairing the Cracks on the Narrow Road  

Recently we did a major home remodel and in the midst of the dust, discovered that our house's foundation had cracks in two places.  Damaging water was slowly leaking in.  We did not enjoy paying the price to have the foundations fixed.  But I'm so glad we did! 

How wish it were that easy to repair the cracks in the foundation of our Christian culture.  We see those "cracks" when we read study after study showing followers of Jesus divorce nearly as much as followers of the world.  We see them when we read that Christians visit pornography sites with disturbing frequency.  We see the cracks when we read scientific evidence that followers of Jesus are increasingly comfortable claiming to believe one way...but behave another.

My concern is two-fold.  One, we seem to lack a consensus that the cracks are truly severe.  And two, the few solutions out there appear to be rather surfacy: read this book...attend that webinar... download this resource.

I'm reminded of the street they recently resurfaced in our neighborhood.  A concrete barber of sorts shaved off the top three inches of concrete pavement.  I was intrigued that most of the cracks I had seen at the surface were still quite visible three inches down.  Supposedly, a fresh coating of asphalt will smooth over those cracks.

But there is no easy way to pave over the cracks Christians have allow to develop on the narrow road Jesus spoke of.

And if Christ followers are going to stand out from our culture--in a good sense--we will need to dig much deeper than surface level cracks.  We'll have to go down to the very foundations for vital repairs.

It's not pretty. It's not fun.  But it must be done.

For followers of Jesus, the time for band aid solutions is long past.   The course before us may be expensive.  But pay the price we must.  The cracks must be fixed. 

Lest "the narrow road" opened up by Jesus, become perilous for the very folks we invite to travel alongside us.

 
The Hand of God Removed  

Last night I dreamed a horrible dream.  It has haunted me to the point where I can no longer delay sharing it.  Understand that I am not a prophet, nor do I claim to have the biblical gift of prophecy.  But…this is my dream.

I was in my own town.  Familiar streets and places.  Yet I was very far away.  It seemed like evening, but I couldn’t really tell. The sky was dark, but not black.  More of a strange gray greenish color.

As I walked around, I was surrounded by violence—and its evidence.  Broken things.  Broken relationships.  People using profanity to the point where printable language was merely the mortar between the bricks of their vulgar expressions.  

I heard people plotting vengeance…making violent plans.  My own life was threatened.  Though I hurried to leave, my shoes were mired in a landscape of brown ooze with a gripping power far greater than common mud.

When home at last, I shared the scene with my wife.  And one of us—I’m not sure who—quietly assessed, “This is the hand of God removed.” 

And then I woke up, deeply stirred by the dream.  I’m not suggesting that this is “a vision for all mankind.”  Yet it does seem like a reliable picture of what a society becomes with the hand of God removed.  Consider America:

  • The debauchery that increasingly defines our sexual norms—it’s the hand of God removed.
  • The ignorance and arrogance of our scientific community—worshipping the “natural” while deploring any worship of the God of the supernatural—it’s the hand of God removed.
  • The rise of corporate greed and treachery toward human beings—it’s the hand of God removed.
  • The move away from our historical support of Israel—it’s the hand of God removed.

Could it be those gray green skies I saw in my dream are something of a forecast for a nation unaware?   The hand of God removed….

 
The Problem with Prayer Meeting  

Let me just come right out and say it: I believe there’s a problem with prayer meeting. Not in all churches.  But in most churches I’ve been in.  And possibly in your church, as well.

The problem is this. 

We have allowed our prayer times to become disproportionately dominated by health concerns. 

We pray for sick people—as we ought—but to the point of minimizing other critical issues: revival, repentance, the salvation of lost people.  Some of these elements are present in some prayer meetings…but they get a comparatively small piece of the prayer pie.

I’m all for praying for the sick.  It’s biblical.  We’re commanded to do it.

But so is praying for those that have the rule over you.

So is praying for lost people.

So is praying for spiritual growth.

So is praying for persecuted brothers and sisters around the globe.

And if you were to pie chart most of the prayer meetings we’ve ever attended, I’m pretty sure  half or more of our prayer time —is devoted to our focus on health issues. 

Though He compassionately cared for the sick, this was not Jesus primary focus—nor should it be ours.   Jesus said He came to seek and to save the lost…

It’s human nature to be most concerned about those things that feel most pressing to us.  And when a child is running a high fever three days in a row, it FEELS like a much more compelling prayer request than asking God to deliver our nation from evil.

But it’s time to put more of a prayer emphasis on the things that Christ emphasized in prayer.  That doesn’t mean we stop praying for the sick.  But it DOES mean the issues on God’s heart must sit heavier on our hearts. For what else should they be beating?

 
In Defense of Pastors  

And now a few words in defense of Pastors.  Already I can see the raised eyebrows of my listeners.  "What do you mean--in defense of pastors?"  It's my careful observation--over a couple of decades now--that most pastors really COULD use a little defense.  So given the fact that October is Pastor Appreciation Month, I thought I'd try to get you to appreciate your pastor a bit more.  About the only way to do that is to address some common misconceptions people have about pastors. 

Misconception #1  Everybody fauns all over the pastor.  He gets all the affirmation in the world.   Not so.  In addition to "attaboy" pats on the back after typical Sunday services, pastors get tons of criticism, as well.  Discouraging emails, irate phone callers, unsigned letters shoved under their office doors. The truth: Everybody does NOT faun all over the pastor.  And as for all that praise... lots of it is kinda shallow, however well intentioned.

Misconception #2  Pastor's got a pretty easy gig.  After all, in a typical week he shows up for a few meetings, researches the sermon and visits a few sick people.  How hard can it be?  The truth?  Your pastor is on call 24 hours a day.  He spends LOTS of late nights intervening in crises and counseling people. He knows terrible secrets he wishes he did not. You probably have very little idea just how much weight he carries on his shoulders at any given moment.

Misconception #3  He's surrounded by people every Sunday, so he must have tons of friends.  The truth: very few pastors have even one close friend.  Not wanting to play favorites, they live a lonely life.

Be a friend to your pastor.  Cut him some slack. Give him your loyalty.  Pray for him daily!  Heaven knows he needs this!

 
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Jon GaugerJon Gauger

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Jon Gauger Media 2016