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You Are Mine  

Remember those pastel-colored "Sweetheart" candies with Valentine's messages?

To meet the demands of Valentine's season, the Necco company (original makers) used to manufacture 100,000 pounds of candy hearts daily! And each candy featured a phrase like:

  • “Cutie Pie”
  • “Kiss Me”
  • “Be Mine”

In the spirit of the season, I offer a more ancient—not to mention substantive—valentine found in Isaiah 43:1. Directed originally to the Israelites, it’s a valentine you, too, can claim:

But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, and you are mine.”

If you know Jesus as Savior, you’re in an eternal love relationship with the Prince of Peace, with God Almighty! The only question is—are you enjoying it, or are you still trying to earn it?

It's funny. We born-again folks are quick to tell the world that salvation is not a works-based thing. But then we proceed to define ourselves by works-based things: careers, houses, social standing, etc.

But if Isaiah 43:1 is true—and it is—then that is the scale to measure our worth—not our achievements, portfolios, or fancy homes. 

The next time you hear a voice telling you that you’re just not worth very much, pull out this valentine and consider:

  • God has formed you.
  • God has redeemed you.
  • God has called you by name.

And pay special attention to those three last words from the Almighty:

“You……Are……Mine.”

 

 
Spiritual Anesthesia  

“How bad is it?” I asked the doctor.

"Well, if we don't intervene, you'll experience some permanent vision loss in your one eye."

The conversation was enough to get me to submit to a series of procedures in which the doctor injects medication into the leaky blood vessels. Translation: he pokes a needle in your eye.

Put yourself in my shoes, sitting in the reclining chair. The doctor’s assistant walks in and drizzles some drops into your eyes. Feel the sting? Now, sit there and wait for twenty minutes while you feel your pulse quicken.

Next, it's time for some more drops—more sting. But these are intended to numb the area—when the needle is poked in. You get another round of those stinging drops in a few minutes.

Feel how swollen your entire socket feels? Finally, the doctor walks in wearing a headlamp contraption suitable for a sci-fi movie. Leaning over, he asks you to look up, and before you know it, he jabs your eye with the needle.

Truthfully, the injection takes less than five seconds, so you honestly don't feel too much. (Okay, maybe a little ache). Why? Anesthesia—the great numbing effect. Anesthesia has extraordinary potential—for good or for evil.

While the injections I get from the doctor are intended for my good, you and I have a strange way of injecting ourselves—with sin. But if we know the result of sin is painful, why—and how—do we do this? In a word, anesthesia:

  • The anesthesia of minimizing sin’s deadly outcome.
  • The anesthesia of exaggerating sin’s pleasure.
  • The anesthesia of taking the short view of life.

Lord, deliver us from the misuse of anesthesia, lest we indulge ourselves in sin.

 

“For sin is the sting that results in death, and the law gives sin its power. But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

-1 Corinthians. 15:56,57

 

 

 

 

 

 
The Darkening of America  

America is growing darker—literally.

Consider. Everybody wants to sell you an LED bulb that's "the equivalent of 60 watts." But what if you have a somewhat larger room or a higher ceiling? What if you want the equivalent of a 100-watt bulb? Not as readily available.

Then there's the dimming of hotel rooms. It's not just that they've switched to LEDs (in this economy, who could blame management?). The problem is they use the absolute lowest wattage bulbs money can buy. Which means your room is quite dim.

Another example. This summer, we installed a new ceiling fan in my home office. The attached light fixture allows for a maximum of 19 (wimpy) watts of power.

For thousands of years, civilizations struggled to find enough light to illuminate their homes adequately. Today, we have the technology but live in dimmer and dimmer rooms. You could almost believe that in America, we love darkness.

Of course, my gripe about lightbulbs is small potatoes compared to the moral darkening we seem to encourage, culturally. Our movies, music, video games, and schools are moving from dim to dark—all the while calling darkness light and light darkness.

We vilify anyone who suggests that having biologically born boys showering with girls at school is wrong. We assault (legally) anyone who offers gender conversion therapy. Would anyone just ten years ago have believed this could happen in America?

The prophet Isaiah said, "Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness" (Isaiah 5:20).

How shall we then live? The words of Jesus come to mind:

"Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven." —Matt 5:16

 
The Price of Purity  

Imagine hearing this conversation…

"I was all excited—and then—not so excited."

"What do you mean?" I asked Timothy as I offered him a plate of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies. 

"No secret that I love to read," he mumbled as he crunched one I'd left in the oven too long. 

"You're forever talking about your latest book," I teased. 

"And you know I like action novels, right?"

"Again, not exactly a secret."

"Well, I recently discovered this author—an ex-military guy that spins a story like few others. Gritty characters. Action that never lets up. And, of course, the good guys always win."

"I'm not seeing the problem here, Timothy," I said, unable to resist the stack of cookies myself. Here, Timothy grew thoughtful—nervous maybe—and he wolfed down the last of his original Toll House treat. And then the conversation took an abrupt turn.

"This year," Timothy blurted, "I've felt like God is calling me to focus on personal purity. And one phrase keeps echoing in my head: 'Purity—in all my thoughts, words and ways.'"

"Great goal, Timothy," I encouraged. 

"It's just that in these books I was reading, the language got rough. Tons of F-bombs. The more I read, the more uncomfortable I got."

"I see your point."

"Here I am having conversations with God about purity and then reading conversations that are anything but pure."

"Whatcha gonna do?" I ventured.

"It's what I already did. Took those books out of the house to a donation center. Bummer. I'll never know how the stories end." 

I wanted to say something wise, pithy even. But nothing came—until Timothy half whispered, "I guess purity comes with a price."

Guess so. 

Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
-Psalms 51:10


P.S. If you like action books, too, Timothy shared some Christian authors you might like:

  • Ted Dekker
  • Jerry Jenkins
  • Joel Rosenberg
  • Frank Peretti
  • Terri Blackstock
  • Amir Tsarfati

 

 
Trash Talk  

As the new year swallows up the last of this year’s Christmas memories, one story lingers.

Like many pragmatic folks, Emma's parents' stuff Christmas presents into empty household boxes: detergent, cereal, Amazon boxes, whatever happens to be around. It makes wrapping gifts like stuffed animals or plush slippers a bit easier. To the young, though, it can be confusing.

We watched three-year-old Emma tear the wrapping off one gift, revealing a box of trash can liners. Not fully understanding, she shouted, “Hey, Dad. I get my own trash can!” As she spoke, she had the nicest smile on her face. Emma was genuinely grateful for a gift she probably hadn’t expected—a garbage can.

After all the chuckles subsided—and the true gift was revealed—a question jabbed at me. Are we as grateful when God sends us gifts that don't look like the blessings we expected? Are we as apt to smile and be gracious when the gift doesn't feel like much of a gift?

Some of God's most awesome gifts come wrapped in packages we don't recognize.

When the distracted driver of a 66-passenger school bus slammed into the back of Diana's car, it didn't appear like much of a gift. The kids were in shock, Diana was in pain, and the car was totaled. Worst of all was the shoulder surgery Diana underwent. It temporarily immobilized Diana's arm, forcing her to change our baby boy's diapers using her teeth.

But many years later, we learned God used the drama of that experience to turn the bus driver's heart to Christ. She might never have come to faith apart from her implacable guilt.

I'm guessing someone reading this has come into their own "unexpected gift." Something you wish you could return or undo. Life looks grim, and the future seems dark. But Scripture promises, "Every good and perfect gift is from above and comes down from the Father of lights."

I dare you to be like Emma. Smile—and thank God for your "trash can."  I promise you. There's a gift inside. 

 

 
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Jon GaugerJon Gauger

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