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Totaled!  

How to ruin a perfectly sunny morning:

STEP 1: Find yourself snarled in stop-and-go traffic.

STEP 2: Come to a complete stop and wait until...

STEP 3: Another car bumps into yours.

That was us.  In God's kindness, the collision claimed no casualties. The airbags didn't go off, and when we surveyed the damage, it seemed apparent this was a rather minor accident. Thankfully, the other driver was insured, and the fender-bender left our car drivable. No drama, mama.

One month later, we were reminded that things are not always as they appear.  The voice on the other end of the line explained that the insurance company was going to total our nicely maintained minivan.

“No way!” we gasped. 

It turns out the car that hit us was just small enough that upon impact, it slid under our bumper and bent the frame.  The lay-flat seats in the back were not quite flat—because of the bend in the frame.  And the list of problems went on.

The thing is, if all you saw were the mashed tailgate and bumper, you would never believe the vehicle was that bad off. Did I mention it ruined a perfectly sunny morning?

Pondering the prospect of hunting for another car (used cars are now priced at a premium, and dealers have few new ones in stock), a new thought came to me about personal hurt and loss.

What we see in someone else's life as a mere fender bender may well be for them a devastating—even life-defining—moment. Things are not always as they appear. And pain is a mysterious—if not personal—thing.

Upon seeing the (apparent) fender bender a friend has gone through, it's human nature to suggest we genuinely know the pain they feel because—after all—who hasn't been through a fender bender? 

But maybe—just maybe—there’s more to it than meets the eye. Things, after all, are not always as they appear.

Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.

—Colossians 3:12

 
Mutts Gone Nuts  

Mutts Gone Nuts.

That's how they billed the evening.  Five dogs—all rescued from animal shelters and trained by Scott and Joan Houston and Sam Valle—delighted the audience with their antics and agility. 

We smiled as the dogs scampered on rotating barrels.

We chuckled as these furry friends danced on two legs. 

Then trainer Samantha Valle—who has appeared on Kelly and Ryan—introduced us to the greyhound that holds the record for the highest jump of any dog in the world.

But the thing that blew my mind was watching one of the dogs jump rope and then do Double Dutch jump roping!  I can't imagine how long that training took.  Amazing to think that these dogs have gone from shelter to show biz. 

Remarkable as the performance was, I couldn’t help but notice the immediate rewards doled out to each dog after every trick.  Tasty snacks of some kind. I'm sure the dogs are plenty good-natured (and certainly hard working). But, they did not do what they did out of a sense of animal altruism. They did it for the treats.

As those mutts finished their performance, I felt a gnawing in my soul (and no, it wasn’t a dog!).  Exactly how much like those dogs are you and I? I’m not speaking of our agility—I’ve never been good at jump rope!  I’m asking—do we do what we do for God only because of the “treats” we expect Him to give us?

Do we spin and jump through hoops only for the hope of an immediate reward, a spiritual buzz of some sort?  Or worse, do we secretly do what we do merely to keep up appearances?  Are we trying to impress fellow Christians (in a “golly-it-wasn’t-much”) fake humility?

There is nothing wrong with the hope of eternal rewards. We should be thinking about them, even motivated by them.

But there is everything wrong with a soul that demands instant pay-outs, instant affirmation, instant treats.  God forbid we try to hammer grace into gratification on the anvil of our need.

 

Lord, help me do what I do because I love you.

Not so that you’ll give me something more.

Amen!

 

 
The Remarkable Manish  

You probably never met Manish Sukhadev.  He recently succumbed to the Coronavirus wave sweeping over India. But before he died, Manish lived.  Really lived.

He was an Awana missionary in central India, and that’s where I met him back in 2011.  Born a Dalit—India’s lowest caste—he was a short guy with a big smile and an impish laugh.

Manish was one of those guys who was “on” 24 hours a day.  He was never not a missionary. Flipping through our India photos, one of my favorites is a shot of Manish parked on the cement floor with someone he had just met—and was trying to witness to. Because this guy sat on the floor, Manish sat on the floor.  Anything to show kindness and the love of his Jesus.

Manish was as tireless as he was fearless.  He thought nothing of riding crowded trains for hours or days to “sketchy” locations to teach or preach or lead Awana meetings. And he was bold to ask for prayer. Here are a couple of reports he shared on Messenger:

  • This week we had an amazing time ministering to Children in two different churches of Indore.  During VBS, God gave us an opportunity to lead ten children and seven youths to Jesus. What a joy in heaven when we see those souls follow you!
  • This week our ministry is in an orphanage with children affected by leprosy.
  • Had the privilege of meeting a servant of God who was put in jail for the cause of the Gospel. In a couple of hours, our family will be traveling to Neemuch to minister to girls rescued from prostitution. May I request you to keep us in prayer? Thanks.
  • Had an amazing meeting with first-generation Christians who are also church planters.  They have never been to Sunday School. When they heard about it, they got so excited about it. They have a plan to do Awana and Sunday School teachers training in the next couple of months.

Given a chance to sum up his life, I think he might use the exact words he shared in a report to his prayer partners:

  • Was a joy to share the Gospel which changes the life of many.

Don’t you want to grow up to be like Manish?

I do!

 
When Hymns are on TV  

Did you watch the American Country Music Awards last weekend?

Despite having fewer viewers than last year, the ACM awards show still drew a larger audience than its network competitors combined.

Though I like a lot of modern country music, award shows are not my thing.  But I’m so glad Diana was watching. I was working on a sermon in my office when the sounds of Amazing Grace echoed down the hall.

Sauntering into the family room, I watched Carrie Underwood proclaiming, "was blind, but now I see!" Then gospel music legend CeCe Winans joined her for a stunning rendition of Great is Thy Faithfulness. As the hymn medley continued, a choir joined in on The Old Rugged Cross, which transitioned into a spectacular performance of How Great Thou Art.

Was this really happening?  A playlist of choice hymns sung on the CBS network—not some Christian cable channel?  It was hard to believe. 

Against the powerful current of a culture that (to my ear) seems to be shouting its rejection of Christianity, here was this island moment of worshipful hymns.

It’s easy to grumble about the direction in which our country is headed.  Easy to be a pessimist.

There is much which ought to alarm us about our culture. Still…still…for five minutes, the nation watched (more than six million of us) and listened to a message that stands timeless against all the hate and violence of our day.

Yes, America is broken.

Yes, we’re on a dark path.

But somehow, we ought not to let things like this pass us by.

Let’s not forget to celebrate the good things.

This good thing.

Me?  I stand with Carrie Understood and sing to our God, “How great thou art!”

 
Routine Maintenance  

Do you enjoy routine maintenance?
 
I don’t, for two reasons: “routine” and “maintenance.” There is nothing fun about either one.
 
In my experience—and perhaps yours as well— routine maintenance is rarely routine. Drive your car in for a "routine" oil change, and they invariably present you with an $850 list of "critical" issues you "absolutely must address!" Stroll into the dentist's office for a "routine" check-up, and you walk out with a $1,500 quote for a crown.
 
Last weekend, we decided we'd be good homeowners and clean out our dryer vent—routine maintenance recommended at least annually. But the cleaning brush never made it out to the vent, no matter what I did. Creeping across our cobweb-covered crawlspace, my worst suspicions were confirmed. The dryer duct lay on the cement—connected to absolutely nothing. Was it ever fastened to the outside vent?  Maybe. But shoddy workmanship had created a new headache.
 
Two hours—and one trip to Home Depot—later, the dryer duct disaster was finally over. Routine maintenance—yeah, right.
 
I suppose that same avoidance attitude might well hamper me when it comes to spiritual maintenance. For those of us who went to the school of If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It, the Bible has instructions otherwise. What if we emulated David's schedule for heart maintenance? In Psalms 139:23-24, he prayed, "Search me, God, and know my heart; put me to the test and know my anxious thoughts; and see if there is any hurtful way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way.”
 
That doesn’t sound like a five-minute task, does it? Inviting God to do His routine maintenance—to search my heart—could get very messy very quickly. I'm smart enough to know there's stuff there that shouldn't be there, but not smart enough to know the full extent to which I'm offending the Almighty.
 
Like I say, routine maintenance is rarely routine. But what’s the alternative, spiritually speaking?

  • A heart of stone.
  • A soul adrift.
  • A wasted life.

 
Routine spiritual maintenance may not be fun. But neither was Calvary.
 
Got any spiritual maintenance scheduled?

 
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Jon GaugerJon Gauger

Recent Posts

Thursday, May 13, 2021
Totaled!
Thursday, May 06, 2021
Mutts Gone Nuts
Thursday, April 29, 2021
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Jon Gauger Media 2016