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Just Looking the Part  

As I walked through a Jacksonville airport store, I was confused. On the table was a stack of red and white lifeguard shirts. But since when can just anybody buy and wear a lifeguard shirt? Don’t you have to first be trained? Certified?

Looking closer, I realized the shirts were merely souvenirs for a popular swim spot known as Jax Beach (shown in much smaller print). No doubt the shirts sell well because our age is consumed with “looking the part.”

Going into a sporting goods store these days, you'll find very little sports equipment. It's primarily athletic wear, or "athleisure," because (in addition to being comfortable) people are fixated on wanting to look the part.

This desire to look the part has also affected us spiritually. For example, when it comes to sharing our faith, many of us can readily quote John 3:16. So we sound right. We "look" like spiritual lifeguards. Yet many haven’t spent time—let alone shared the gospel—with an unsaved friend for years, if ever. Plenty of us could use some training because real lives are at stake.

When the Bible uses the word "saved" or "salvation," this is not a bland theological lectureship. Think of a drowning victim in his last conscious moment desperately reaching out for a life ring.

That’s what’s in the balance—life and death! That is why it's not enough to merely "wear the tee shirt.” My apologies for shouting here, but this is absolutely that important.

I can assure you, there is someone in your life who desperately needs to hear the simple gospel from you. Someone who is spiritually drowning. Do you feel a sense of urgency? Enough to join Jesus in His urgent, life-saving rescue mission?

When it comes to sharing the life-saving message of Jesus and His death on the cross, are you a lifeguard? Or do you just wear the tee shirt?

 

 

 

 

 

 
Living at the Cross  

I saw something unusual the other day at the King's Camp as I played with Ava (7) and Emma (5).

The front wall of “Shelter B," where outdoor church services are held, features a wooden cross. Nothing unusual about that, right? But firmly attached to one side of that cross, we discovered a bird's nest. Round and reedy, the thing perched perfectly on the crossbeam.

Naturally, Ava and Emma urged me to find out if there were any eggs (or babies) inside that nest. But a respectful search revealed nobody was home at the time.

At first, the presence of that nest struck me as quirky, a bit irreverent even. Who builds a nest on a cross? But after further thought, the bird's choice of homes struck me as a visual metaphor for wise believers. 

Living at the cross, the bird and its family enjoyed complete safety. Lashed to that unshakable upright, they would never experience uncertainty or wobbly times.

Likewise, those of us who choose to live at the cross of Christ enjoy uninterruptible peace and safety. But that kind of peace comes only from a lifestyle of living at the cross. You don't get it by merely visiting once a week on Sundays or only when you happen to feel spiritually needy. C.J. Mahaney reminds us, "A cross-centered life is made up of Christ-centered days."

Some will remember the old hymn, "Near the Cross."  But for a sinner like me, that's not enough. I need to live at the cross. Only then can I hope to make it through the wobbly times.

 

“If anyone wants to come after Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me.” —Luke 9:23

 

 

 
Distracted by Jesus  

Imagine a fragrance with the hypnotic power of ocean waves or the delicate dance of a candle flame. That's the perfume Diana spritzes every morning. The scent floats through our home and totally distracts me from whatever I'm doing. I immediately track Diana down for a kiss!

It's one thing to be distracted by your spouse, but it's another to be distracted by Jesus. How often does that happen to you?

What I mean is, as you’re reading the Word—or praying to the Living Word—does He turn your head? Does Jesus occupy your thoughts? Are you fascinated with Him? In short, are you distracted by Jesus?

Notice, I'm not asking if you "have devotions" or read the Bible daily. I'm asking something deeper. Here are three "Checks" you can use as a self-inventory.

Check #1. Am I regular in my time with Jesus? Is He a first-thing-in-the-morning priority for me? Am I with Him every day? Have friends and family "caught" me in my time with Christ?

Check #2. Am I real in my time with Jesus? Am I honest with Him about my fears and failures? Do I readily confess sin—or do I hide behind a plastic piety, with prayers that sound almost identical to yesterday’s and the day before? (Ouch! I’m guilty!).

Check #3. Am I relaxed in my time with Jesus? Do I reserve a generous chunk of time to be with Him? And am I willing to extend that if the Savior beckons?

I know. You're busy. So was Martha. But Jesus told her, "There is only one thing necessary." That one thing necessary is unhurried time with the Savior.

It's what you and I need most. But beware. Busyness is seduction, and overcommitment is a temptress.

Does Jesus distract you?

Lord,

Teach me the want of the one thing necessary—unhurried time with you.

Amen!

 

 

 
Just Beneath the Surface  

To inhale the intoxicating fragrance of lush green grass —suburbia at its finest. That’s all we wanted. But should growing new grass be all that difficult?

I couldn't wait to see the results as I sprinkled the "guaranteed-to-grow" seed on that long patch of soil. But there were none. Not in three days. Not in a week. Not in ten days. Not a single sprout of green.

I was frustrated. I'm no green thumb, but I'd never experienced this colossal failure when planting grass. With a last gasp of hope, I grabbed the hose and watered it one more time.

The next day, I saw nothing. Bored, I removed the tiny sprigs of two rogue hastas that had somehow sprung up in that patch. Digging down, I removed an inch or two of soil, noting how warm the dirt was in the afternoon soil.

And then I saw it.

Underneath the top layer of soil was a cluster of tiny green sprouts—fine as the fur on a baby kitten. As my fingers cleared away more dirt, I saw more grass—green and growing—just an inch beneath the surface.

The next day, the grass finally popped through once the afternoon sun worked its magic.

The long wait— and my tendency to abandon all hope—reminded me of how some of us approach prayer. Because we're attempting something "reasonable" for God, we assume the process should be easy and that the Almighty should grant our request—soon!

When that doesn’t happen, we moan and complain about the lack of answers to our prayers. Some of us even accuse God of not caring.

But as this grass incident reminds us, we simply do not have God’s timing. Or perspective. Or rationale. And at the very moment we’re convinced our prayers have made no difference at all, the answer may be near—just beneath the surface!

So…

  • Don’t stop praying.
  • Don’t stop believing.
  • Don’t stop hoping.

Who knows what’s beneath the surface!

 

 

 
Do You Memorize Scripture?  

Do you memorize Scripture?

Lots of folks don't. And the ones that don't are convinced the ones that do have an easier time with it.

When I ask this question about Bible memorization, the most typical responses I get are:

  • “I’ve tried, but just can’t seem to memorize.”
  • “My brain doesn’t work so well anymore.”
  • “Those verses just don’t seem to stick.”

However, I have good news! You CAN memorize Scripture—even if (like me) it takes you longer. Much longer!

I can relate to those who say, "My brain just doesn't seem to work so well anymore." However, most of these same people can readily recall current advertising slogans. We've memorized the actors' names who star in our favorite movies. Unintentionally, many of us have memorized the lyrics to the chorus of a favorite new song.

We memorize more than we think we do—but not necessarily what we ought!

In our small group at church, we’ve committed to memorizing Romans 8–all 39 verses. I began around Christmas, figuring it would take me all of 2024 to get this done. Right now, I’m at verse 12. But my pastor (who leads our small group) is already working on verse 29. That’s a huge difference!

We recently compared notes, and it's not like he spends 45 minutes a day on this project—more like 20. If I hear Pastor Jim correctly, he spends less time memorizing than I do but is twice as far as I am. Which means...drum roll, please…I’m only half as fast as he is.

Who cares? Last time I checked, heaven isn’t waving a checkered flag over the finish line. No one is handing out trophies for best times.

No matter how slow—or fast—you memorize, the only thing that matters is that you’re doing something to hide God’s Word in your heart (“so that I might not sin against thee”—Psalm 119:11).

So don't excuse yourself, and don't put yourself down. Find a verse, passage, or chapter you need and start memorizing it —right now, even if it takes "forever."

Can you think of a downside to investing in that kind of forever?

I can’t!

 
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Jon GaugerJon Gauger

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