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Step Counter  

The phone screen says the same thing every morning. As I swipe to look at yesterday's step count, it speaks of the new day just begun, "No data." Meaning, I haven’t taken a single step (okay, not technically true—it’s about 50 steps from my bed to the phone in the office). The point is, there’s nothing to report. Hence the statement, “No data.” But that doesn’t last for long.

Like many folks, I’m hounded by the daily drive to get those magical ten-thousand steps in. So when working at home, having finished early morning devotions, I’m off for a 40-minute walk.

That’s a great start. But it doesn’t get me to my goal by any stretch. So, like you—though maybe you use a Fitbit—I’m constantly checking in to monitor my step count.

If you were to accuse me of being a bit obsessive on the step count thing, there would be little in my defense (did I mention I manually add those 50 steps from the bed to the phone—to make sure they’re tallied?).

In the world of heart health, counting your steps is huge. But when it comes to spiritual heart health, the metrics are different. The question is not how many, but what kind.

Look at your life—today's schedule, for example. Where will those steps take you—toward serving self or serving your Savior? As you look back on yesterday, did your steps lead you to “the least of these” or “more for you”?

Jesus is not looking at the quantity of our steps, but He is very concerned about the quality. Ultimately, the issue is one of destiny. Am I walking toward the kingdom of God, or walking toward the kingdom of me?

Back to the phone (or your Fitbit) for one last thought. Once I turn out the light and fall into bed, that day’s steps are “done.” No chance to add more. The record is there.  A thousand days—or a thousand years—from now, the steps I take today will be what they are. Same is true spiritually. Better walk wisely!

 

Keep steady my steps according to your promise, and let no iniquity get dominion over me.

-Psalms 119:33

 
Which Country?  

Call it a case of nostalgia.  Or maybe it’s proof of our advancing age.  Many of us miss the America that was kinder and gentler toward folks who revere the Bible and its Author.  We miss the old country.

That’s well and good to a point.  The problem is, I want that country too much.  Maybe you, too?  We’re not the first. 

I'm pretty sure believers in the first century longed for the "old country" of safety once persecution broke out. But that didn't stop them from taking a stand for Christ. Noting their legacy of endurance, Hebrews 11:16 says of them, “they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one.”

I suspect that for many of us, the real problem is, we want heaven down here—not up there.  Of course, as Christians called to be salt and light, we should do whatever we can to preserve what is right and good about America. But not to the extent we forget this earth is just a stopping place, a campsite for a season.

Sadly, many of us seek the continuance of our comfort and the certainty of our safety more than the hope of heaven. We want our old country more than the new country, heaven. We must set our sights higher!

The antidote is to read about heaven, ponder heaven, talk about heaven, invest in heaven, look for heaven—and live for heaven.  That’s the new country—where your forgiveness, your salvation, your rewards, and your Savior can never be canceled!

Where is your heart set—the old country or the new?

 

But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them.   —Hebrews 11:16

 
Turf Wars  

Who would believe it was even there?

In the first week of March?

Under a pile of melting snow?

A weed!

Not just any garden variety nuisance, this was a tuft of the dreaded Creeping Charlie, the wicked weed that battles us for lawn supremacy every summer.

Diana and I were raking off the flower beds in our front yard when we spied the modest growth. With no small sense of grim and grit, I pried the thing out of the soil. Satisfaction was mine!

Until I found another. And another. Yanked those out, too. The war against Creeping Charlie is not to be taken lightly. Yet, I am firmly resolved, totally dedicated. Let the turf wars begin!

I wish my sense of battle were as strong when it comes to our struggle with sin. But we are not alone. Puritan John Owen wrote an entire book on "The Mortification (killing) of Sin." He asks,

Do you mortify? Do you make it your daily work? Be always at it while you live;

cease not a day from this work; be killing sin or it will be killing you.

Like the Creeping Charlie I think I’ve eradicated from the flower bed, sin comes back. It always does. There is never a day when you or I can rest from the task of “killing sin.” But to cease the fight is to lose the fight.

Former Moody Radio Pastor Donald Cole once told me, “the fact that you struggle with sin is not a thing for discouragement—it’s evidence you’re on the right track. It’s when you stop fighting that you have a problem.”

John Owen’s words are worth repeating: Be killing sin—or it will be killing you.”

Let the turf wars begin!

 

“For if you are living in accord with the flesh, you are going to die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live.”   -Romans 8:13

 
Taking Shots at the Light  

It juts 165 feet into the sky and has lit the coastline since 1874.

The St. Augustine lighthouse is more than just a landmark. It is a tower of living history (its light is still in use today!).

One bizarre chapter of that history unfolded in 1986.  Bullets fired from a .30-06 rifle aimed directly at the light. Those shots ended up shattering 19 prisms in the Fresnel lens. Hank Mears, who served as the caretaker of the light from 1968 to 1989, immediately called the FBI.

After carefully combing the area, agents discovered powder burns on a nearby palm tree.  Eventually, they traced the shooting to a fourteen-year-old kid. The lens needed repair, which required two years of painstaking work.

You have to wonder, who would want to shoot at a lighthouse? Turns out, people have been taking shots at the light for a long time.

Consider the prophet Jeremiah, whose unflinching prophecy got him tossed into a cistern, where Scripture says he sank into the mud. Daniel spent a night with lions. Stephen was stoned outside the city.  For his unwavering beam of light, John had his head cut off. Consider all the shots that Jesus took throughout his three-year ministry—all before being crucified between two thieves. 

People have been taking shots at the light for a long time. And the darker it gets (and the brighter we shine), we can expect to take our share of shots, as well.

But lights were made for nothing other than the darkness!

No point in having a lighthouse for mere decoration. 

I’m not suggesting a hideous fate awaits every one of us. But a proper reading of Scripture demands a certain sobriety. 

Consider Christ’s assessment: “And this is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the Light; for their deeds were evil” (John 3:19).

What now? Shall we dig a hole somewhere and hunker down? Here again, the words of Jesus are compelling: "Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 4:16).

It’s time to shine!

 
Theraputty  

It’s called Theraputty.

To four-year-old Ava, it was "firm play dough." My wife somehow acquired a plastic tub of the green stuff used in exercise regimens to strengthen muscles and joints. At $27 per pound on Amazon, it’s not cheap. But it is fun.

Sitting at the kitchen table, we spent hours crafting shapes and critters of all sizes. I attempted a cat, but Ava wondered where the front legs were. Appropriately chastised, I made a horse that did have four legs. This Ava immediately trotted off to her personal pasture.

My next attempt was a cube, which she plucked up for her own purposes.

Finally, I attempted a pyramid (which turned out to be surprisingly challenging). Not ten seconds after completion, this was repurposed into an appendage of some kind on Ava’s ghost.

None of this reallocation of putty resources was mean-spirited. Ava was just having fun—at my expense.

Still, I’d be less than honest if I didn’t admit it was a bit disconcerting. I was proud of what I had made. I kinda wanted those things to stay around—for at least 30 seconds. Those were my creations made with my playdough. Or Theraputty. Or whatever (and here, I sound like a four-year-old).

We smile. But that playful protest of mine is not so different than our response to God. When He takes our grandiose plans and dreams and shapes them into something entirely different than we've envisioned, our first response is usually to complain rather than comply.

It’s so easy to get spun up. But what’s God’s perspective?

We get more than a hint in Romans 9:20-21, “Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, ;Why have you made me like this?’ Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use?”

Are you willing to be putty for Jesus?

Willing to let Him remold your agenda?

Willing to release your grip on what is in glad exchange for what might be?

Next time you feel like God has rolled you up and then stretched you out— and your life looks very little like your dreams, come back to earth. Come back to humility. We are, after all, just clay.

But now, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter;

we are all the work of your hand.

-Isaiah 64:8

 

 
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Jon GaugerJon Gauger

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