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When God Examines Your Paths  

Dressed in a powder blue paper gown, I sit crinkling on the exam table.  The doctor looks over every inch of my skin for evidence of skin cancer or pre-cancerous growths. Armed with her magnifier, she always finds something (thankfully pre-cancerous, to this point). Nothing escapes her examination!

The reward for all this probing and poking and intimidation? She blasts every problem area with a can of liquid nitrogen. It's an instant burn that throbs, turns red, then oozes, then scabs over. Maybe you’ve had the same (not joyful) experience.

Frankly, there is nothing about this examination that is pleasant. It is embarrassing and painful, and intimidating. But it has to be done. Every six months, in my case.

Whether we like it—or acknowledge it—such examinations have to be done, spiritually, as well. Proverbs 5:21 observes, "For a man's ways are in full view of the Lord, and He examines all his paths."

Thoughts are like paths. They all take us somewhere. Will your chosen paths today take you toward godly places or ungodly places? Toward Jesus or away from Jesus? What paths are you taking?

Today you and I will not take one step, speak one word, think one thought that God will not examine. We will not write one email, make one call, watch one show, surf one site that God will not examine.

As you plop your head on your pillow tonight and the diary of your day is officially closed, what will God see when He examines your paths?

 
You are Beautiful!  

The sticker stood out on that electrical switch box on the scoreboard at the football field. It said simply, "You are beautiful."

My initial reaction was, What a great message! Then the cynic in me said, Wait a minute. Nobody posts anything these days online, let alone on an electrical box, without some kind of agenda. Maybe it's an internet hoax or a British rock band or PR campaign for some new product.

After a brief online search, I arrived at the website, you-are-beautiful.com. There I learned that more than 5 million of these 1.5" x 2" friendly sticker reminders have traveled around the globe. And then I thought, What could be more uplifting than pondering how much God loves us—as we are?

Hear me clearly. As you read this blog, you are beautiful.  Right now.  Right at this instant. But let’s trade in the glittering generalities for some specifics.

Your TV is daily bombarding you with thoughts like you need a better body, better hair, better skin, better teeth, better everything. But David testifies before God for every single one of us in Psalms 139:14, “I will give thanks to You because I am awesomely and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, And my soul knows it very well.” Let me spell this out.

 

If you're a girl reading this blog, consider:

You don’t need to lose a single pound.

Or grow an inch taller.

Or have smoother skin.

Or Botox lips.

Or less varicose veins.

Or “better” hair.

 

If you’re a guy reading this blog, consider:

You don’t need to lose a single pound.

Or grow an inch taller.

Or have bigger biceps.

Or chiseled abbs.

Or thicker hair.

Or hair at all!

 

God is thoroughly, totally thrilled with the "you" that He made. Seems to me some folks could use that reminder today.  Maybe you're one of them.

 
Of Toilet Bolts and Troubling Jolts  

There's no way it should have been that difficult. All I was trying to do was replace our broken toilet seat. You remove two screws, pop off the old seat, and install the new one. A five-minute job—ten at the most.

The first bolt came right off. The other—not so much. Rusty! More than rusted, it appeared welded. No amount of torque from my wrench or spray from my WD-40 made it budge.

It was time to get serious. With a power tool, I could slice the bolt off and grind down some of the wing nut. Still no go! Finally, we ended up drilling out the brass screw. By the time we finally "won," the toilet's exterior oozed oil, rusted flakes, and metal powder. And did I mention my face wore the same concoction (you practically hug the toilet bowl to work on it)? It just shouldn't have been that difficult!!

Or should it have?

Charlie “Tremendous Jones” once quipped, “A lot of people are miserable because they expect everything to go right. They’re asking for misery!”

Exactly where do we get the notion that life should be easy? Or comfortable? Without a shred of experience or evidence to support it, we embrace this undying fiction of a smooth life here on earth. Heaven?  Yes! But here and now?  Bible teacher Michael Easley is fond of reminding us that "Life, at best, is a clean bus station."

In John 16:33, Jesus said, "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."

He didn’t say we might have trouble. He didn’t say there was a possibility of trouble. He said we would have trouble.

Thank God for Jesus—the Overcomer.

He overcame sin.

He overcame death.

He'll overcome anything in your life or mine.

 
Unfulfilled Expectations  

It's the most impressive mountain range in the state of Illinois.

You say there are no mountain ranges in the Land of Lincoln? Okay. So maybe I've exaggerated the peaks of rust that jut skyward near Chicago's Kedzie Avenue. Upon closer examination, the man-made mounds of steel reveal surprisingly recognizable chunks of everyday stuff.

Crane-mounted magnets and hydraulic claws paw at the piles, sorting and stacking washing machines, cars, refrigerators, dryers, freezers, and more. Though I’m glad for the recycling, I’m a bit sad for myself—and you.

In those piles, I see the investment of so many false hopes, not to mention big dollars. We were just sure the rush of owning that new car would translate into a lasting satisfaction of knowing we’d finally joined the cool kids.  Somehow it didn’t. And that new refrigerator—the one with the TV monitor built into the door—was going to revolutionize our grocery shopping, saving us time and money. Somehow it didn’t.

There it all stands, a pricey pinnacle of unfulfilled expectations ready to be recycled.

These mountains of mangled machinery haunt me with a solitary question. Why do we place hope—any hope—in a man-made thing? In the long history of this world, has there ever been one single manufactured thing that brought lasting peace? Or enduring hope? Or endless joy? 

Possessions can certainly streamline our work, save time, or bring happy distractions and momentary pleasure. But as our things wear out or rust out, their exaggerated offers of fulfillment deteriorate, as well.

Jesus never said, "Come to your stuff, and you will find rest." But He did say, "Come to me, all you who are weary and heavy-laden—and I will give you rest." 

Refreshing—but never recycled—Truth.  That’s Jesus, our only lasting satisfaction. 

 
Holy Expectation  

Our two garden boxes are nothing to brag about. But come July or August, they will produce: beans, tomatoes, onions and peppers (sweet and spicy). We have every expectation of enjoying our own organic crops.  

The soil we used was pre-loaded with plant minerals. We’ve watered regularly and there’s been plenty of sun. I even yanked a couple of weeds earlier today. So there’s every reason to hope for a harvest. 

The other day, in a weird warped moment, I asked myself, how would I feel if after all the work (mostly my wife’s) of planting, watering, fertilizing and weeding we got nothing for our return. Not one tomato or pepper. Or maybe just a handful of string beans. What then?

Honestly, I’d feel ripped off. More than that, I think I’d feel a sense of righteous indignation: “How dare those plants take in water and nutrients and have every opportunity to thrive—but give back nothing! After all, they were planted to produce!”

My harvest harangue was quickly interrupted with the thought, “What about you, Jon? Doesn’t God have the right to expect a harvest from your life?” 

Consider the rich soil of my heritage—a godly family upbringing. Consider the fertilization and watering of my faith in an education at Moody Bible Institute...the mentorship of several strong believers...the faithful teaching of our pastor. 

How could it be “normal” or “acceptable” for there to be little or no harvest from my life? Or yours?

We don’t all enjoy the same rich background, spiritually. But we’ve all been bought by Christ at a price. And He has expectations for every one of us. In John 15:8 Jesus asserts, “My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples.” Catch that? Bearing fruit is the proof of our discipleship.

Planted to produce. That’s you. That’s me.  Call it—God’s holy expectation. 

So how’s it growing?

 
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Jon GaugerJon Gauger

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