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Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem  


Psalm 122:6 says, "Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: May they prosper who love you." That verse pops up in 3-D as we travel throughout Israel. 

But how can there be peace in the Middle East when Lebanon, Syria, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen do not recognize Israel as a state? Nor does Afghanistan, Bangladesh, or Pakistan. 

Indeed, the Palestinian Authority, Hezbollah, Hamas, and most of the Muslim world make no secret of their desire to wipe Israel off the map. This is not to say that Israel is perfect. No country is. 

Though ultimate peace in the Middle East (or the world, for that matter) will not last until the Prince of Peace returns, it is hardly a pointless exercise to pray for the peace of Jerusalem. A story proves the point. 

As our tour bus approached the outskirts of Jerusalem, our guide, Dr. Charlie Dyer, played The Holy City, a classic song that soars with the refrain:

Jerusalem, Jerusalem—
Lift up your gates and sing,
Hosanna, in the highest,
Hosanna to your King!

With the music reverberating throughout the bus, I heard our Israeli guide, a Messianic believer, singing with gusto. No surprise there. But she was nearly drowned out by the voice of our bus driver, a born-again Arab! 

On paper, they are supposed to be at war. 
But in Christ, they are at peace. 

The world cannot make sense of this. And no wonder. Jesus promised a peace entirely different than the cheaper brand the world is selling. Odd—the simple act of just getting along might well be the best commercial for Christianity. 

But why not raise a few eyebrows yourself? I dare you—baffle the unbelieving world around you today by showing kindness, respect, and love to someone you're "not supposed" to like.  

Maybe—just maybe—your selflessness will make someone wonder about Jesus—our Prince of Peace!



Is VBS Still Viable?  

Is VBS still viable?


In a digital world, the idea of vacation Bible school feels—let's admit it—analog.


Now that it’s June, vacation Bible school can’t be far behind. But when churches today strategize outreach, they typically tout sleek digital products, YouTube content, and Zoom services. Yet the grand old tradition of kids inviting other kids to a church-based VBS program is still alive and well.


Joslynn is living proof. At the age of six, she attended a neighborhood VBS program. Though a lot of her memories of that week have grown fuzzy, Joslynn distinctly recalls watching an engaging puppet sketch. 


"One puppet was trying to buy something at McDonald's with fake money. They made the obvious point that using counterfeit money gets you in trouble with police officers." And the spiritual parallel? Joslynn remembers it: "When you sin, you're in trouble with God. But through Jesus, you can be forgiven."


Joslynn doesn't recall her teacher's name, only that "she had curly hair." But she does remember feeling convicted that she needed to be saved. So she and her teacher prayed together in the church's boiler room. That's where Joslynn received Christ. 


Now fourteen, I asked Joslynn bluntly if she thinks VBS is still a good idea. Without hesitation, she affirmed, "It's still a good idea because it can speak to children who might not get to church otherwise. It can lead them to Christ."


Summer is here. VBS is coming to a church near you—maybe yours. 

I urge you—to show up and volunteer. 

I urge you—to take your kids, your grandkids. 


God is at work. 

Souls are at stake. 

And maybe—just maybe—VBS will be the tool God uses to save your loved one!


Looking Forward to Heaven  

What excites you about heaven?


I long to hear Jesus’ voice—His actual voice.

Is it possible we might kiss the feet of Jesus?

Might I also touch the hem of His robe?


What excites you about heaven?

• I want to TASTE the water of the river of life.

• I want to HEAR the voices of Cherubim and Seraphim.

• I want to TOUCH the gems of the gates of heaven and feel the press of gold pavers under my feet.

• I want to SEE what angels really look like—plus those six-winged creatures we read about.


I’m looking forward to…

• No more making apologies—we’ll never offend.

• No more guilt feelings—we’ll never be tempted.

• No more broken relationships—we’ll never be at odds.


I’m looking forward to…

• No more impure thoughts.

• No more selfish impulses.

• No more foolish choices.


What excites you about heaven?


I’m looking forward to…

• No more stress or distress.

• No more upset stomachs, sleepless nights, fevers, or chills.

• No more hospital visits—or doctor’s appointments.

• No more disappointments or delays, or disasters.

• No more funerals (aren’t you weary of standing around caskets?).


I want to listen to Nehemiah’s secret for standing up to all the opposition he faced rebuilding Jerusalem’s walls.


I’m looking forward to hearing David sing his Psalms in their original language—preferably accompanied by his harp. Imagine “Psalms by Request!”


I want to meet the thief on the cross and ask him what the turning point was when he realized that Christ could and would save his pathetic soul.


I long to embrace people I never thought stood a shot at getting inside the gates. People we prayed for and agonized over. Souls we felt were surely lost.


Imagine meeting someone who responded to a gospel tract you shared or bumping into a saint who—back on earth—appeared to reject your witness.


Will any of that that ever get old? Never!


Several years ago, I asked Tim Keller about heaven, and he shared this: "Think about the moments in your life—the two or three moments where you felt the most loved, the most delighted, the most blissful, and the most over-the-top. Then multiply that by three billion. This must be what heaven is like."


Now that Tim Keller is with Jesus, he knows!


What excites you about heaven?











Our Deafening Silence  

Lynnette and Josh had been looking forward to this dinner with their friends for months. Picture an evening with two couples at a swanky restaurant. Swanky enough, it required a reservation three months in advance. 

With babysitters watching the kids, this had all the markings of a splendid evening for both couples. Then the guy sitting at a table across the room quietly keeled over.

No one seemed alarmed. Which—to Josh and Lynnette—was very alarming.

Eventually, a lady walked from table to table, asking if someone was a doctor. But she spoke softly, hardly above a whisper. It was as if she did not want to cause a scene or interrupt, even though a man seemed to be in trouble.

Servers attempted the Heimlich maneuver. But the guy was large enough that there were not enough men to hold him in place. 

As Josh pulled out his phone to call 9-1-1, someone mentioned an ambulance was on the way. Eventually, someone started doing chest compressions until the medics arrived.  

For the entire duration of this drama, no one spoke above a whisper. Not the family. Not the diners. Not the staff.

Lynnette recalls, "You could see panic in people's eyes, but nobody yelled. Nobody demanded help. Nobody spoke out. A man was choking—and maybe dying! It was the most horrific scene ever."


Does that sound familiar? It should. 


The truth is, you and I are reliving that drama every time we pass by lost people—people who need Jesus—but say nothing about Christ. Their lives are in peril, but we are either too distracted or too embarrassed to say or do anything more than whisper.

How is it we can verbally spar over politics, shout at football games, but remain silent when others are literally walking toward hell? Our silence is deafening! 









What COVID taught us about the Church  

COVID is gone—but its scars are not. 


As I talk with believers across the country, I’m hearing two universal observations. Call them “False Lessons.” I say false, because though they aren’t true, our conduct suggests we believe they are. 


Lesson 1:Church attendance is (apparently) optional. 

Judging by the number of folks who used to attend services but no longer do, one would think that the Bible has little or nothing to say about church attendance. But that’s hardly the case. 


We don’t go to church to merely “get” a sermon. Biblically, we go to church to GIVE. We give our voices in worship. We give our listening ear to people who are hurting. We share in prayer with those sitting next to us who need comforting. You can’t do that at home in your pajamas while watching a sermon. 


In retrospect, COVID appears to have been just the excuse some people needed to drop church attendance from their “To do” list. While some transitioned to other assemblies, almost every congregation I know is still down a little—or a lot—in attendance. Apparently, church attendance is optional. That’s (false) lesson number one.


Lesson 2: We don’t need to abide by the weaker brother principle.

During COVID, most churches wrestled with two polarized positions regarding masks. Group A was appalled that some in the church would “cave in” to mask mandates. Group B was appalled that some in the church would “endanger others” by not wearing a mask.


What was shockingly absent was any conversation about the weaker brother principle. Namely, “If my wearing a mask makes you more comfortable, I will happily do that for the sake of our unity in Christ.” And vice versa. 


That biblical mandate somehow didn’t apply. Instead, many churches split. But how did we jettison the clear teaching of Romans 14:3?  We’re commanded, “The strong believer should not look down on the weaker believer.” Or what about Romans 12:18? We’re told, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” On what biblical authority did we go around that?


How I wish we could go back and do the COVID thing with a more godly humility. If we are this easily divided over a relatively small issue, what will we do when something truly consequential comes along?


Heaven help the Church!

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Jon GaugerJon Gauger

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