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After the Mudfest  

As I write this, snow is falling—enough white stuff to make me fire up the snowblower snoozing in my garage. Now, you might be a warm weather worshipper, but to me, a walk in the snow is one of God’s great gifts.

Still, as I walk, I'm constantly amazed at how quickly the pure white blanket is stained. Scarcely has the snow landed when a car spews black exhaust on it or a muddy boot stomps its dirt. To say nothing of dogs who pause long enough to…well, you get the idea.

Where are we going with this?

As followers of Christ, you and I have complete forgiveness. Spiritually speaking, we stand dressed in pure white. Yet, I'm dumbfounded at the speed with which I can muddy the robe of righteousness given to me by Christ Himself.

A careless word, a me-first thought, a clinging to myself more than my Savior—these are as dirtying and disgusting as yellow snow.

Can you relate to what I'm saying? If so, you're familiar with the guilt after the mud fest. Our enemy—often the one who has enticed us in the first place—now scorns our muddied state.

What to do?

Confess the crime. Ask forgiveness—and speak the truth. That truth is spoken with a grand and glorious eloquence in Romans 8:1.

Therefore, there is now no condemnation at all for those who are in Christ Jesus.

If you've stepped in the mud—like me—and feel defined by the filth of your failure, it's time to hear the decree of the Almighty once more:

Therefore, there is now no condemnation at all for those who are in Christ Jesus.

Hear it again. And again. But don't just hear it! Shout it aloud every time you hear the wicked whisper of guilt. It's the rightful song of everyone wearing a robe made white by the Blood of the Lamb!


P.S. If you'd like a beautiful graphic version of this verse—something to use as a bookmark or note for your mirror—email me at Jgauger@moody.edu. Just say, "I'm tired of the mud!" And I'll email you the free pdf you can print.


Jesus is Coming Again!  

When asked if Jesus “will return to Earth someday," a Pew Research poll finds:

  • 55% of all U.S. adults say this will happen.
  • 86% of historically Black church traditions agree.
  • 92% of evangelicals believe in Jesus' Second coming.

The same Pew research poll shows:

  • 25% of Americans do not believe Jesus will return to Earth.
  • 16% say they do not believe in Jesus.

I have news for you. Whether or not ANYONE believes it—Jesus is coming back to Earth!

David Jeremiah points out that scholars have identified 1,845 unique biblical references to the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. The Old Testament refers to Christ's return in no less than 17 books, while the New Testament authors speak of it in 23 of 27 books. The Lord Jesus Himself referred to the Second Coming 21 times!

In fact, one out of every 30 verses in the New Testament proclaims that Jesus Christ is coming back to this Earth.

If it’s that important to the writers of Scripture—and that important to our Savior Jesus—don’t you think we ought to prepare? You and I certainly make a big deal of Christ’s first advent. But what about the second? Here’s how to prepare:

If you don’t know Jesus, Acts 16:31 urges, "Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved." Ask Jesus to forgive you for your wrongdoing—your sins. Invite Him to take charge of your life.

If you do know Jesus, does He have your whole heart—or just part of it? The Christmas carol compels us, “Let every heart prepare Him room.” Jesus isn’t looking for a spot in the corner. He wants the entire throne. Does He have it?

It was great celebrating Christ's first coming (most of our decorations are still up!). But how much greater will our delight be at His second coming?

Joy to the World, the Lord will come!

Mercy--The Road Back  

Until you have messed up and fully understood the mess you've made, you can't appreciate the wonder of mercy.

Last Sunday, our church orchestra accompanied the congregation, singing In the First Light. While the lyrics and melody are powerful, the arrangement—created by our minister of music, Dennis Criser—is profound.

Our rehearsal went well, and afterward, I put my French Horn down and jaunted over to Dennis to let him know how much I appreciated the creativity that went into his work. Then came the actual Sunday morning performance.

Dennis wrote the French Horn part in an easy key—just one flat. Yet, for whatever reason, I carelessly failed to check this detail and played as if there was one sharp instead.

For non-musicians, imagine the sound a piano makes when you simultaneously play a white key AND the black key right next to it. Sour! It sounded even more sour because the introduction was essentially a French Horn solo accompanied only by piano. It wasn’t a total wreck, as I was able to correct the error of my ways in just one or two bars. Nevertheless, the damage was done.

That’s hardly the crime of the century or the disappointment of a lifetime. Still, as music goes, it was a wreck—and I caused it. After church, I apologized to Dennis and added, “The first few bars were a disaster. But then, I found the road back.”

With the warmest of smiles and the kindest of words, Dennis replied, “Jon, there’s always a road back.” And he left it at that. What a picture of mercy—the fragrance that defined Jesus perhaps more than any other.

As we stand at the edge of a new year, we can be sure that in the days ahead, there will be folks who (mostly unintentionally) create sour music: a critical word, an ungrateful spirit, a temper out of control. Ugliness has a thousand sounds.

The only question is—will you respond in anger, or will you show mercy?

Here’s to choosing mercy.

It’s always the road back. 


Because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment. 

-James 2:13





He Came to Restore  

While babysitting Ava and Emma recently, Emma trotted into the living room bearing two dolls—and an announcement: “This is Anna and Elsa—but they lost their legs.”

It was hard not to giggle at how this four-year-old crammed facts and fate into one tragic sentence. However, upon further examination, Emma's assessment proved reliable. The lead characters of Disney's Frozen franchise were decked out in their movie finest—but lacked legs. All of them.

The sight of the dolls’ (plastic) smiles, despite their mangled condition, felt odd. At my wife Diana’s encouragement, the girls dug through their dolly collection and found some of the missing limbs, which Diana lovingly restored. Alas, one doll is still missing a leg. Yet there’s something profound—even divine—about restoration, even when it’s just a doll getting her leg back.

When Jesus came to earth, His signature was restoration: healing the lame, the blind, and the deaf. But His mission was more sweeping and grander than that.

Christ came to restore our souls by offering forgiveness of our wrongdoing through His death on the cross. He gave us a lifetime Coach in the Holy Spirit who counsels, corrects, and—when needed—convicts us. But more than that, He promises us eternal life with Him in a new heaven and a new earth. The ultimate restoration.

Have you let Jesus restore you?

It's His Christmas gift to you—so what are you waiting for?

“Come now, let’s settle this,” says the LORD. “Though your sins are like scarlet, I will make them as white as snow. Though they are red like crimson, I will make them as white as wool."  -Isaiah 1:18



That Rarest of Luxuries  


At the age of 99, Chuck Christensen is one of the best listeners you could ever meet. After every sentence you utter, he offers an affirming response.

When you talk, he makes unfailing eye contact. He nods in empathy, asks clarifying questions, and leans forward—as if to support you. He's the only human being I've ever met whose "Hmm…" feels like a comforting hand on your sagging shoulders.

Were your conversation recorded, stop-watched, and displayed as a pie chart, your half of that talk would invariably be larger than his. Always.

Like me, you’re probably guilty of “listening” while daydreaming, staring at the TV screen, or sneaking a peak at your phone or smartwatch. But could there be anything more Christ-like than giving someone the gift of listening—really listening to them?

This is the ultimate evidence of others-first living. It’s the lifestyle Philippians 2:4 calls us to: “Do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.”

When it comes to Christmas, it’s easy to buy stuff.

But it’s costly to give time and attention.  

This season, why not treat those you love to that rarest of luxuries—listening? 


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Jon GaugerJon Gauger

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