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Second Most Important Book  

The second most important book on your shelf.  What would that be?  When it comes to living a consistent Christian life, a world atlas might just be the second most important book on your shelf. Right next to your Bible, of course. Did my suggestion surprise you?  Give me a moment to explain.

You see, there's a problem with our evangelical worldview.  For many of us, there's very little “world” in it.  While on paper, we agree to the urgency of what we call the “Great Commission,” most of us suffer from a great omission.  We simply do not know—or much care—about the rest of the world.

I have had repeated conversations with otherwise intelligent believers who assume Africa is one big country.  There is no concept of the fact that Africa contains 54 independent nations.  No grasp on the fact that Africa is so massive, that inside its borders, you could easily fit the United States, China, all of Europe...with plenty of room to spare.

Yet having traveled to more than 30 countries, I myself still struggle with a myopic view of the world.

“So what?” you say.  Why the big harangue?

The big deal is if we hardly even know where people live, we'll hardly even care about them. Out of sight...out of mind.  

But it was Jesus Himself who told us “Go into ALL the world and preach the gospel.”  Jesus went out of His way to remind us to go out of OUR way and care about “the uttermost parts of the world.”

In a day of Google Maps and Google Earth and GPS screens, there is no reason—and certainly no excuse--for being a geographically ignorant American.

Though Christ's concern is primarily about people, we cannot—and must not—ignore their place, whether Judea, Samaria, or the uttermost parts of the earth.  Their place, after all, is inextricably linked to their plight.  And the plight of people—wherever they live—is always at the heart of Christ.

 
Lessons from a Hospital Stay  

Hospitals.  They're no fun when you're sick—but remarkably instructive if you're healthy.

Recently, my wife went into the hospital for kidney surgery.  So I spent four nights sleeping out in the waiting room, and countless hours observing.  I've come away with three lessons I'm trying to hang on to.

Lesson #1: Everybody is hurting—from something.

Hospitals, of course, are filled with the sick, the broken, the bleeding.  There isn't a hallway you walk down that doesn't offer some kind of evidence of intense personal pain. 

Yet this is also true of life, itself. Everybody's hurting over something.  The problem for most of us is that because life isn't labeled a “Hospital” we often fail to see the pain in front of our face...in the face in front of us.

Lesson #2: The best care is team care.

I'm intrigued at the clusters of doctors and nurses in the hallway, talking about this or that patient and what they've attempted so far—and what they think might be most beneficial next.  These very smart people have learned that the smartest among them is not sufficient for the mystery of human hurt.  It takes a team.

Same is true in the body of Christ.  Galatians 6:2 calls us to “Bear one another’s' burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ.”

Lesson #3: There is indescribable beauty in the humility of serving.

Over the past five days, I have witnessed countless acts of kindness from nurses and doctors and technicians.  There is little glory in cleaning up human waste...or changing bloody dressings. Frankly, I was caught off guard at the beauty I saw in the humility of this selfless service. 

I now hear Christ's statement in Matthew 5:7 with fresh ears:  “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.”

There's no glory...and certainly no fun—in visiting someone in the hospital.  Or someone shut in.  But it's the lifestyle we've been called to.   That's mercy.

With a view from a hospital corridor, those are my thoughts .

 
Spared  

The Waldo Canyone Fire.  By the time it was finally put out last July more than 300 Colorado homes were destroyed.  One person was killed, with nearly half a billion dollars in damages.
 

Like any disaster, it's one thing to see it on the web...or watch it on your flat screen TV.  Quite another to be there.

On a recent trip out west, my wife and I decided to visit the ruins.  The scent of burning is still in the air, months after the last of the flames were silenced.

What we saw was beyond sobering.  Block after block of burned down homes, many concrete foundations entirely cleared of even a hint of blackened sawdust.  The sense of nothingness was oddly gripping, inducing an almost sacred sadness.

 Yet oddly, we saw random homes that were somehow spared the fury of the fire.  You drove down the street and a list of the houses went like this: Destroyed, destroyed, destroyed...spared.  

How?  What could possibly have prevented these places from lighting up like torches as the monster fire gobbled up entire neighborhoods like prawns on a platter?

Then...it hit me: this is exactly what judgment day will some day be like.  The majority of people whose names you've known and whose lives you've touched--their souls: destroyed.  Destroyed, destroyed, destroyed.  And then—miracle of miracles...this one spared.  Destroyed, destroyed, destroyed.  And then wonderfully, gloriously...that one...spared. Spared the fire and destruction of hell, an agony that will not cease.

And the questions again: How?  Why?

There can be only one answer: Grace.

There can be only one response: Go.  Go and share what Christ has done...and what Hell will do unless one is rejected and the other recieved. 

 
Repairing the Cracks on the Narrow Road  

Recently we did a major home remodel and in the midst of the dust, discovered that our house's foundation had cracks in two places.  Damaging water was slowly leaking in.  We did not enjoy paying the price to have the foundations fixed.  But I'm so glad we did! 

How wish it were that easy to repair the cracks in the foundation of our Christian culture.  We see those "cracks" when we read study after study showing followers of Jesus divorce nearly as much as followers of the world.  We see them when we read that Christians visit pornography sites with disturbing frequency.  We see the cracks when we read scientific evidence that followers of Jesus are increasingly comfortable claiming to believe one way...but behave another.

My concern is two-fold.  One, we seem to lack a consensus that the cracks are truly severe.  And two, the few solutions out there appear to be rather surfacy: read this book...attend that webinar... download this resource.

I'm reminded of the street they recently resurfaced in our neighborhood.  A concrete barber of sorts shaved off the top three inches of concrete pavement.  I was intrigued that most of the cracks I had seen at the surface were still quite visible three inches down.  Supposedly, a fresh coating of asphalt will smooth over those cracks.

But there is no easy way to pave over the cracks Christians have allow to develop on the narrow road Jesus spoke of.

And if Christ followers are going to stand out from our culture--in a good sense--we will need to dig much deeper than surface level cracks.  We'll have to go down to the very foundations for vital repairs.

It's not pretty. It's not fun.  But it must be done.

For followers of Jesus, the time for band aid solutions is long past.   The course before us may be expensive.  But pay the price we must.  The cracks must be fixed. 

Lest "the narrow road" opened up by Jesus, become perilous for the very folks we invite to travel alongside us.

 
The Hand of God Removed  

Last night I dreamed a horrible dream.  It has haunted me to the point where I can no longer delay sharing it.  Understand that I am not a prophet, nor do I claim to have the biblical gift of prophecy.  But…this is my dream.

I was in my own town.  Familiar streets and places.  Yet I was very far away.  It seemed like evening, but I couldn’t really tell. The sky was dark, but not black.  More of a strange gray greenish color.

As I walked around, I was surrounded by violence—and its evidence.  Broken things.  Broken relationships.  People using profanity to the point where printable language was merely the mortar between the bricks of their vulgar expressions.  

I heard people plotting vengeance…making violent plans.  My own life was threatened.  Though I hurried to leave, my shoes were mired in a landscape of brown ooze with a gripping power far greater than common mud.

When home at last, I shared the scene with my wife.  And one of us—I’m not sure who—quietly assessed, “This is the hand of God removed.” 

And then I woke up, deeply stirred by the dream.  I’m not suggesting that this is “a vision for all mankind.”  Yet it does seem like a reliable picture of what a society becomes with the hand of God removed.  Consider America:

  • The debauchery that increasingly defines our sexual norms—it’s the hand of God removed.
  • The ignorance and arrogance of our scientific community—worshipping the “natural” while deploring any worship of the God of the supernatural—it’s the hand of God removed.
  • The rise of corporate greed and treachery toward human beings—it’s the hand of God removed.
  • The move away from our historical support of Israel—it’s the hand of God removed.

Could it be those gray green skies I saw in my dream are something of a forecast for a nation unaware?   The hand of God removed….

 
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Jon GaugerJon Gauger

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