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Come Boldly  

Are you bold when you pray?

I'd not given the question much thought until recently. We were out at the camper—Saturday morning. It's breakfast time, which means six-year-old Ava is on one of my knees, and four-year-old Emma is on the other (our standard practice).

I say a prayer of thanks for the meal that goes something like this:

Dear Lord,

Thank you for our food.

You are so good to us.

Thank you for letting us be together out here at the camper.

It’s like a giant present.

Before I can say Amen, Ava blurts out loudly, “And please help us to have a sleepover—tonight!"  The last word is not spoken but sung in operatic style—complete with massive vibrato. As in "to-niiiiiiight!"

(You’ve heard of photo-bombing—but I think we experienced a prayer-bombing!)

In my estimation, that qualifies as bold praying. Ava really wanted a sleepover—that night—at our camper. And she wasn’t the least bit shy about asking God. Of course, asking in our hearing might have greased the skids just a bit in her favor. And, of course, we did have a sleepover.

But the more you read Scripture, the less bombastic Ava's prayer seems. In fact, the Bible commends her style. We’re invited—no, commanded—to approach God with boldness. Do you?

Don’t hold back. Don’t be wimpy. Next time, pray boldly.

Like Ava.

 

So, let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There, we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most. 

-Hebrews 4:16

 
Who--me? Repent?  

Like many workplaces, Moody has a wellness program that encourages employees to pursue a healthier lifestyle. You watch educational videos, do fitness exercises, and take a healthy eating lifestyle class—that sort of thing.

For every course you take, you get points. When you earn enough points, you earn the reward: $20/month off the cost of your insurance.

But here’s the thing. This is really about repentance!

  • They want me to repent from my five-layered Taco Bell burrito.
  • They want me to turn away from lounging on the couch while binge-watching TV.
  • They want me to repent from my daily can of soda.

Can I be brutally honest with you? (Don't tell anyone, but) I just want the points—the discount! So, I do the bare minimum. And—sad to say—none of the courses have substantially changed my lifestyle.

I watch the videos—the “sermons” on wellness—but none of it changes me. Because all I want is the prize. Which takes me to a brutal question.

Do we follow Jesus only for the prize—the payoff? Do we love Him primarily because of the gifts and bonuses He offers? Or do we love Him because we love Him? Just because He is worthy.

Here’s the litmus test: Are you repenting—turning away from sin?

Little repentance equals little love.

Much repentance equals much love.

Romans 2:4

Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?

 

 
First Reactions  

I saw a strange sight.

While waiting for the train, a shabby-looking man fiddled with the parking meter behind me. His bunched-up pants were way too big for his skinny waist.

I was confused by how his fingers mashed the parking meter panel with such intensity. As if he'd somehow been cheated out of change (or was hoping to find some?).

Then I looked down and noticed the guy had no shoes—only filthy socks, well-worn. They had been white in another world, but long ago, they'd morphed into a muddy gray.

As the train approached, I wondered what this guy would do. Curiously, he ran toward the passenger car closest to the engine—which was not in use. He pounded on the door, then darted forward after receiving no response.

At this point, I had to board or risk missing the train. So, I never saw the end of this little drama. I wonder. Did the guy manage to board wearing nothing but frayed socks? How did he expect to dodge paying the conductor? Or did he have the fare?

May I share with you my first reactions?

  • Who is this guy—and why does he seem so nervous?
  • What is he trying to do to that parking meter?
  • Why doesn’t he have any shoes?
  • Is he actually hoping to force the train doors open?
  • Where is he going—and why?
  • Should I be afraid of him—he does creep me out!

I had tons of questions—but zero compassion. None. I felt uneasiness. I even felt fear. But I felt nothing remotely related to compassion. And that is so unlike Jesus.

When Jesus encountered two blind men on the Jericho road, Matthew 20:24 notes He was "moved with compassion" and restored their sight. When a leper approached Christ, Mark 1:41 tells us Jesus was "moved with compassion," so He said to the man, "Be cleansed."  When Jesus passed by the widow of Nain, He "felt compassion for her" (Luke 7:13). Stepping out of a boat on the Sea of Galilee, Matthew 14:14 tells us Jesus “saw a large crowd and felt compassion for them and healed their sick.”

When Jesus looked at people—sick people, oppressed people, hurting people—he felt compassion. Every time. This was His first reaction. 

Where is my compassion?

Where is yours?

 

 

 

 
Our True Selves  

Nassau, Bahamas—the fifth busiest cruise port in the world.

At Port Nassau, they can dock six massive cruise ships simultaneously. And nearly 100 ships do so monthly, bringing some 20,000 cruise passengers who tour Nassau daily.

My wife and I are just back from an anniversary trip to the Bahamas (no cruise—just a few days in the sun). There, we observed Port Nassau passengers immediately ushered to a pristinely manicured neighborhood.

The "Straw Market" is a collection of upscale shops and eateries with more diamond stores than any street I've ever walked. And this is the only version of Nassau that many cruise passengers ever get.

But just blocks away from the glitz and glamour of the Straw Market is a much more realistic view of the Bahamas: cratered sidewalks, grimy buildings, noisy trucks, and a lot less sparkle.

Our visit to both “halves” of Nassau reminded me of the way many Christians posture. We project a carefully manicured image of happiness and success. We’re all smiles—when we sense the spotlight on us. With our coiffed hair and cute kids, we’re killing it on Instagram. And nobody at church appears more together than us.

But the real us—the non-staged us—is not near as sparkly, which is odd—because God sees right past it all.

“Man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).

Are you projecting an image—or letting people see the real Jesus inside the real you?

 

 
Who Do You Love More?  

Tree sap. Dust. Grime.

They transformed our once-beige storage unit into a grimy gray. But I was sure the power washer would bring a quick restoration.

Begrudgingly, the filth gave way, but at a snail's pace. The cleaning process was so slow I decided to entertain my wife by "drawing" the outline of a big heart on the lid of the storage unit using the jet stream of water.

Because four-year-olds rarely miss anything, that drawing did not escape little Emma, who inquired of my wife, "Who put that heart on there?"

“Grandpa did.”

“Is it because he loves me?”

“Yes, it is.”

But Emma was not done. She asked, “Is it because he loves you?”

Diana teasingly said, “Who do you think he loves more?”

With a twinkle in her eye, Emma answered, “Jesus!”

Question: Do you love Jesus? If so, how much? More than your boyfriend or girlfriend, or spouse? More than your possessions and position in this world?

The Bible commands, "Do not love the world—or anything in the world." But my experience is that it's shockingly easy to love the world.

There’s no point in comforting ourselves by saying, “I’m sure I love Jesus more than the world.” Because the bar is much higher than that. The command, you’ll recall, is “Do not love the world.” Period. Zero. Nada. Nothing.

It is not acceptable to love the Lord with some of our hearts or even most of our hearts. Jesus spells it out in Matthew 23:37. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’

Jesus wants all my heart.

All your heart.

How much of it does He have?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
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Jon GaugerJon Gauger

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