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Shrinking Self  

In Richard Matheson’s novel, The Shrinking Man, the lead character Scott Carey is exposed to a radioactive cloud causing him to begin shrinking. In just months, he loses three inches in height and continues to get smaller—to the point a Black Widow spider pursues him in his own basement.

John the Baptist’s life exemplifies a different kind of shrinking. When comparing himself to Jesus Christ, John declares, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30).  Could seven words possibly pack more punch?

Ours is an age of shallow slogans and empty talking points. But when John the Baptist made this famous declaration, he wasn’t trying to be glib.  He was doing what he always did—speaking truth boldly.

This business of an increasing Jesus and a decreasing self is not for the faint of heart (it cost John his head, remember?). So how do we go about it—making Jesus large and ourselves small?

F.B. Meyer writes, “The only hope of a decreasing self is an increasing Christ. There is too much of the self-life in us all….But how can we be rid of this accursed self-consciousness and pride? Ah! We must turn our back on our shadow and our face towards Christ. We must look at all things from his standpoint, trying to realize always how they affect Him."

Unlike the fictional Shrinking Man, who lost a seventh of an inch every day—without trying, our struggle will be lifelong. But it’s a battle we must face—and win.

"If anyone wants to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all.”    —Jesus (Mark 9:35)

 
The Spiders Have Perfect Attendance  

Outside my third-floor office is a hallway about 125 feet long.  On many days, glorious sunshine filters through its twelve cathedral-height windows.  But sun or not, I've noticed that the outside of these windows all seem to feature a high level of arachnid activity—spiders.

Plying their wind-resistant webs, these eight-legged critters spin, sprint, and snack hour after hour.  In all twelve windows. And this, in broad daylight!  Here, I thought spiders were supposed to be nocturnal. (Perhaps the flies they’re catching all drink Red Bull?). Phone snapshots below. 

Having searched the web for—well—web facts, I was still curious. Are these insect-eating arthropods exceedingly exuberant, or is this standard spider stuff? My spidey sense was confused. After all, not a single morning passes that I do not find them energized, engaged, and in motion. In all twelve windows.  Perfect attendance—every day.

I learned that spiders do not (as I previously thought) croak at the first frost. Many of them enter a form of hibernation. I think they should call it “Spidernation”—but they don’t.

The arachnid activity I'm observing may simply be a display of spiders preparing for winter. Their Creator programmed them to know that tough times are ahead. Spinning, bundling, and equipping, they're getting ready with commendable diligence. And those spiders have perfect attendance—every day.

In a long stare at a laced web, the question came to mind—are we as smart? As believers, we read that tough times are ahead. Godlessness, hedonism, the rumblings of persecution—winter is coming.

Are we, like those humble spiders, equipping ourselves?  Are we daily with our King? Daily in His Word? If we are to thrive, not just survive, we’ve got some prep work to do.

The spiders have perfect attendance.

And us?

 
Soul Not for Sale  

As the passenger from the Houston plane stepped off the jetway, I couldn’t help but notice the bold white letters on his black tee-shirt: Soul Not for Sale.

But really, who sells their soul?  That’s only the stuff of movies and legends, right? Some lady sells her soul to the devil to guarantee she becomes a millionaire.  Some guy sells his soul so he can get the beautiful girl to fall in love with him. That’s them.  But not us, right?

“Of course not,” many of us would say, “because I’m a follower of Jesus.” But sell our souls we do—every day. And the price is surprisingly cheap. Consider:

  • We sell our souls—in excessive work hours—all for a fleeting nod from the boss or a sense of brief significance.
  • We sell our souls when we are more religious about our weekend sports teams than Sunday morning church.
  • We sell our souls when we trade irreplaceable time with our families for the passing fancy of hobbies or other selfish pursuits.
  • We sell our souls when Netflix is a priority, but knee-flex (as in prayer) isn’t.  
  • We sell our souls every time we indulge ourselves in lustful online images.
  • We sell our souls to likes, Twitters, and Instagram posts.
  • We sell our souls to stocks and 401k's, Coronavirus fears—even busyness at church.…

And all the while, we proclaim, "Soul not for sale.”

Does Jesus own your soul? All of it? Or do you and I just carve Him a thin slice every Sunday?

Jesus asked, “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world—but lose his own soul?” (Mark 8:36)

Soul not for sale. Anyone can wear the shirt. But not many can wear it honestly.

Lord, help us!

 
Heaven on Her Mind  

How much do you think about heaven?

As much as a four-year-old?

Sadie—middle name, Virginia—is named for her great grandmother, Virginia.  Though Great Grandma passed away a couple of years ago, Sadie still remembers her. Nor is this four-year-old content to let those memories fade. On a recent walk with her mom, Lynnette, Sadie asked some pointed questions:

SADIE: Mom, I saw in a book once there will be beautiful water fountains in heaven. Is it true?

MOM:    Not sure, Sadie. But the Bible tells us it will be beautiful, so I wouldn’t be surprised.

SADIE: Are we gonna have houses there?

MOM:    Yes. For sure. The Bible tells us Jesus is getting our house ready.

SADIE   So… it's like a campground? We all have a place, but we are also all together?

MOM:    Sounds pretty close.

SADIE: I know what I’m checking out first.

MOM:    Oh yeah? What?

Sadie:    Great-grandma Virginia's. She is going to have cookies, and the Virginias will finally get to be together!

 

Finally. When it comes to heaven, that’s a pretty great word. I Thessalonians 4:17 promises, “so we will always be with the Lord”—in other words, finally. Meanwhile, we wait. No cookies—yet.

For now, your Savior and your loved ones—your Virginias—aren’t together. But they will be—someday. 

Soon. 

Looking forward to heaven?

 
Kindness Lasts Forever  

In the third grade, Mrs. Virginia Patterson dared to invite her entire Sunday School class to her home for hot dogs and hamburgers. We played games, had a great time—and I’ve never forgotten that kindness.

Struggling to complete my Awana Scripture memory books, I was blessed with a leader named Leroy Arrasmith. He came over almost every week for a year to help me get those verses memorized. How could you forget that kindness?

Just before computers became popular, I’d developed a passion for writing. When my friend, Ron Taylor, found out, he gave me his electric typewriter—a beautiful and expensive machine. Unthinkable!

When our little girl, Lynnette, wanted to visit me at work (in an era when this was frowned upon), she scrawled a note in her best handwriting to my boss, the Vice President of Moody Radio. Bob Neff immediately took little Lynnette’s note and printed his reply: “Yes, Lynnette. Please come and visit!” How kind.

But there’s a timeless dimension to kindness that it is easy to overlook: kindness lasts forever. In Matthew 10:42, Jesus tells the crowd, “And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward.”

A reward that cannot be lost—for merely giving a cup of cold water? That's what Jesus says. Makes you wonder why we're often so stingy with our kindness.

I can think of a thousand kindnesses shown me by my wife, Diana. And even if life hasn’t turned out quite the way you’d hoped, I bet you’re the recipient of more kindness than you know, too.

But if kindness has a dark side, it's this: it's a limited-time deal. You and I have only what the Bible calls a "mere handbreadth" of space to give it away. In Psalms 39:4, David prays, “O LORD, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am!”

I’m neither a psychologist nor a sociologist. But it sure seems to me our country could use a little kindness. Kindness in our politics.  Kindness in our COVID conversations. Kindness in our churches!

We are drowning in the bile of our bitter arguments—Christians, too! But imagine the statement you could make—we could make—if we showed kindness.

It lasts forever, you know. But our time to share it doesn’t.

 

 

 

Photo by Ron Lach from Pexels
 
 
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Jon GaugerJon Gauger

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