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We Want the Wrong Country  

Do you long for the America that used to be? I remember the day when no one questioned a prayer at graduation. Or considered a mention of hell as hate speech.

Not that America was ever totally Christian, but one could argue there was a day when this nation had more of a collective conscience concerning the Almighty.

Statistics show many more of us used to attend church. Or read the Bible. Or pray.

And most folks, born again or not, affirmed some notion of a coming judgment day.

Back before America welcomed Buddha, Allah, Krishna, Zen, and the force, we mostly had God. And He was enough.

Our ship has sailed far from that holy harbor, to the point that many of us long exceedingly for the old country. And that can be a problem. While we are called to be salt and light, to affirm what is good, and to stand against evil, we must not forget that our real citizenship is in heaven.

There is nothing wrong with wanting to live in a nation that demonstrates a healthy respect for God. And engaging in the task of forging godly national values is noble. But when we care more about the country we’re leaving than our heavenly country, our hearts are in the wrong place.

I’m guilty here, for sure. I dislike the growing disrespect for anything remotely Christian. I bristle at the welcome accommodation of other faiths (or no faith) while believers face marginalization. It ticks me off when even a polite explanation of biblical beliefs leads to the charge of our being hateful or even domestic terrorists.

Yet how can we read the Bible or history itself and not realize this is how it has always been? We are hated by the most hateful of enemies.

In the famous "Faith Hall of Fame" in Hebrews 11, it says of the great saints, "All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen and welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth…And indeed, if they had been thinking of that country which they left, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one.”

For now, we Christians have dual citizenship of sorts. But we cannot expect the smile of our Savior if we've set our affections on this country—rather than His.

 
Spiritual Flat Tire  

Nothing says Chicago like a flat tire in January. In the snow. When it’s twelve degrees outside.

Our daughter and her four kids experienced that "joy" a few weeks ago, just a mile from our home. But I was excited to use the new jack our kids had given me for Christmas, so we pumped up that car, loosened the lug nuts, and…nothing. The wheel did not—would not—budge. That's when I found my hammer. Then a bigger hammer. Eventually, the wheel came loose, and boy, did it look funny.

Was it the cold or the fact that it had been resting flat for more than an hour? Either way, that tire was so misshaped it looked comical. In my ignorance, I presumed the flat spot would smooth out by itself, given a bit of time. Nothin' doin'.

That tire is a metaphor for our view of God’s holiness: misshaped. When most of us think of God’s holiness, we think of His sinless purity, His perfect creation, and His Son—the spotless Lamb of God.

Unquestionably, these all help “round out” a definition of God’s holiness, but there’s more. There is also a terrifying, humbling, plant-your-face-in-the-ground aspect to His holiness. 

Kneeling or falling or weeping is what humans have always done when they truly encounter the One who calls Himself “a consuming fire” (Heb. 12:29). The scrapbook of Scripture brims with photos of people like Abraham, Moses, Aaron, Gideon, Ezekiel, the Magi, Paul, and even the angels in heaven—all falling before the holiness of God.

But ironically, that’s the part we tend to ignore. Thus, we are left with a spiritual flat tire. We don’t truly fear God (a notion we’ve reduced to the more user-friendly concept of “respect”). We don't tremble in His presence. Yet God says, "Work out your salvation with fear and trembling" (Phil. 2:12).

So accustomed are we to thoughts of Jesus being our friend and brother (which He is!) we fail to comprehend He is also the lion of Judah, the One who “dwells in unapproachable light” (1 Tim. 6:16).

If our spiritual flat tire is going to be fixed, we must learn what it means to tremble.

 

Forgive us, Lord, for seeing only one side of you.

Teach us what it means to tremble at your holiness.

Amen!

 

 

 
Root Beer Float Theology  

When we go camping, the Saturday night root beer float is a tradition that approaches the sacred. There's something of heaven in the marriage of ice cream and root beer. And no one comprehends that more than a child. We had four of them that weekend (kids, not root beer floats!).

Throughout our time, we enjoyed ice cream at Culver's, ice cream at McDonald's, and ice cream at the canteen. But the fact that we didn’t have the Saturday night root beer float at the campground was not lost on the grandkids.

Upon reviewing the weekend, their mother asked them how it all went. “Pretty good. But we didn't have root beer floats!" As if we'd ripped them off.

At first, I thought, Those little stinkers! But then I realized…I am one of those stinkers. Maybe you are, too.

We have enjoyed the kindness of Jesus in saving us from our sins. We have experienced the miraculous intervention of God in countless personal crises from which there appeared to be no escape. We have tasted the generosity of our Savior again and again and again. And yet, there’s this “root beer float,” this ONE thing that eludes us.

It's the job we always wanted but didn't get. It's the house we always wanted but never had. It's the girlfriend, the boyfriend, or the—what is it for you?

Too busy counting the little we don’t have, we’ve forgotten the much that we do have: God's favor, forgiveness, and forever love.

Here’s what I’m learning—and I apologize that I’m just a beginner:

I must have Jesus and His smile. And if I have that, I will have everything worth having.

(Read that last sentence again).

(And have a nice day!)

 

They shall eagerly utter the memory of your abundant goodness and will shout joyfully of your righteousness.

-Psalms 145:7

 
What Will We Do in Heaven?  

What will we do in heaven? Some say we’ll be playing harps or singing praises—maybe flying about with wings. But very little is told us in Scripture.

In Revelation, we get snapshots of some worshipping and singing. Then there are the 24 elders who fall down before God and cast their crowns at His feet (Rev. 4:10). But what about us? When Thessalonians assures us “so we shall ever be with the Lord,” many of us are looking for the “rest” of the sentence. We shall be with the Lord doing…what?

Some have suggested we will be doing in heaven the very things we’ve been doing on earth for Christ. Artists will paint. Singers will sing. Dancers will dance. Maybe.

But lawyers will—what? No guilty folks in heaven to represent. Doctors will…what—marvel that no one is ever sick?

I mean no disrespect, but I think the question, “What will we do in heaven?” might be wide of the mark. It presumes that activity is the only way to be fulfilled.

No question that there is value in work and godly activity (we find these in the Garden of Eden!). And I can’t imagine that God won’t have something for us to do in heaven. Imagine having all eternity to explore His grand recreation!

But locking eyes with the Savior, tracing His wounds with our fingers, and hearing Him speak to us—personally—will render any need for any other activities inconsequential. Being with Jesus—simply being with Him—will be overwhelmingly enough.

The reason we don’t find this idea sufficiently attractive is that we are insufficiently attracted to Jesus. We vastly underestimate—perhaps to the point of sinning—how lovely and awesome and overwhelming He is and will be to us forever.

When Diana and I are in sync and connected emotionally, the sense of just being together is all-encompassing. Same thing when you’re with a close friend. You don’t care much where you’re going or what you’ll be doing so long as you are with them. I’m convinced that’s a partial, though imperfect, preview of what heaven will be like.

The takeaway for us? Let’s fall in love with Jesus now, so we can love the idea of loving Him forever. Does that sound like such an awful assignment? (I didn’t think so).

 

“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.”

-1 Corinthians 2:9

 
Perfect Peace  

Why do I seem to lack peace? (Or am I the only one feeling this way?).

Sure, the growing sense of uncertainty—even insanity—in our world is a factor:

  • I don't feel peaceful when I look at how inflation is chomping away at our grocery budget.
  • I don’t feel peaceful when I look at Russia poised to invade Ukraine.
  • I don’t feel peaceful when I look at the political venom spewed across the media.
  • I don’t feel peaceful when I look at the parade of paganism our country celebrates.

All of this is a massive part of my problem: where I’m looking—my focus.

By contrast, Isaiah 26:3 promises,

You will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you because he trusts in you.

Catch those two prerequisites? Our minds are to stay (continually) on God, with our trust fully invested in Him. We’re never offered any peace in any other way.

In the end, peace is a choice. And peace is a Person.

Peace is a choice: “whose mind is stayed on you.” Despite our excuses, we absolutely, hourly, daily choose where we anchor our minds.

Peace is a Person: “He trusts in you”—as in God Almighty.

Not our culture.

Not our country.

Not our savings accounts.

Not our hopes.

Not our dreams.

You will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you because he trusts in you.

A parting thought. In the middle of writing this blog, the Lord pointed out a sinful attitude I needed to address. In an unhurried way, I took time to confess that sin. The sense of peace that followed was remarkable.

Try it!

 
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Jon GaugerJon Gauger

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