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International Religious Freedom Act  

According to the World Evangelical Alliance, over 200 million Christians in at least 60 countries are denied fundamental human rights… solely because of their faith.  If current trends continue, by 2025, an average of 210,000 Christians will be martyred annually.

We hear numbers like these and feel disturbed...but powerless. Or at least I do.  That's why a recent article caught my eye about a senate bill under consideration.

The bill would appoint a religious freedom envoy that would operate in the Near East and South Central Asia.  The purpose of the envoy would be to monitor and report on abuses of religious freedom.

The envoy, to be appointed by the President, would report on countries like  Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco,  and Saudi Arabia, to name a few. But of course, religious persecution is also a huge issue in south Central Asian countries like Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Kazakhstan, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.   

The Senate bill that could help bring these troubles to light is number S1245.  It was introduced last year, but has yet to be brought to a vote.

And that's the point of this commentary: to invite you to step up.  To take a stand for our persecuted brothers and sisters by encouraging the Senate to pass this bill.

Heb 13:3  Remember the Lord's people who are in jail and be concerned for them. Don't forget those who are suffering, but imagine that you are there with them

What should you do? Write your Senator a short, but sincere letter, asking them to pass S-1245.  That's S-1245. You'll find a sample letter you can use as a guide at  Advocacy.opendoorsusa.org. That's   Advocacy.opendoorsusa.org.

Persecuted Christians. These aren't generic names and faces.  They're family.  The Bible tells me so.

Just Try Jesus  

Forgive me for offending you.  But to make my point, I'm afraid I must offend some.

It is a well-established fact that I cannot stand the taste of creamed corn.  The truth is, after one bite, I honestly begin gagging.  I wish it were not so...but it is. (See—now I've gone and done it--offended all the creamed corn lovers out there.  My apologies). 

At a recent Christmas party, I turned down someone's prized recipe for creamed corn and was entreated with a familiar line: “If you'd just try it.....I think you'd like it.”  Trust me—ain't gonna happen.  And it’s not like I “tried” to whip up some awful hatred for creamed corn. What could be more American than corn?  I just honestly, sincerely, don't like creamed corn.

In the same way, I think we Christ followers sometimes miss the mark when sharing Christ with the people around us.  We logically assume that in a culture that reveres experience over just about anything, it's a powerful argument to say, “Just try Jesus.” 

For some people, that simple invitation may indeed be the tool the Holy Spirit uses to redeem a life. But an increasing number of people have a built-in distaste for a faith of any kind.

Just like my strong aversion to creamed corn, there are people who simply can't stand the notion of surrendering their life to Christ.  [All the pleasant language in the world about a King who longs to make right a world that's gone terribly wrong makes no difference to these folks.]

Does that mean “End of story....let's pack up and go home.”?   No! It just means that these people will need something else: the powerful evidence of life change in US.

If you were to do a life inventory, how much change could you—would you—honestly claim for this last year?  Are you and I tangibly more like Christ today than last January?  What will ultimately win hearts and minds, as Colossians 1:27 eloquently states, is “Christ in you—the hope of glory”--not fancy speech.

Christ in you.  And in me.  Now THAT's a taste we can ALL agree on.

Jesus at McDonald's  

I think I saw Jesus today!

At...McDonald's, no less.

As I write this, I'm seated at a booth in a Detroit airport McDonald's. 

Frustrated by the gouging prices at other food stands, I settled for some Chicken McNuggets and a fruit and walnut salad.   

I hardly had time to dip the first nugget when a voice from across the way breaks into a solo rendition of O Holy Night.  It was clear from her face and gestures she preferred a choir to a solo, so I joined in.  Heartily.  The two of us finished the song,  high-fived each other and I downed another Nugget.  But I couldn't help notice, a man off  to the right waved his hand in the air—as if to whisk the music away.   

Next thing I know, Choir girl breaks into “Joy to the World.”  A handicapped lady in a wheelchair sitting at a nearby booth joins in—and others seem to quietly follow along.  Not exactly the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, but it's a fascinating moment. 

At this point, a United Airlines crew member parks himself in the booth next to mine.  The black and gold epaulets on his crisp white shirt seem to shrug in confusion at the impromptu caroling.  But the handicapped girl is now launching into “He rules the world with truth and grace.”  So we must finish the verse.

When the would-be choir director broke into Silent Night, it was all I could do to chase away a lump in my throat.  Silent Night....Holy Night....All is calm, all is bright.

Right then and there...at that McDonald's in the Detroit airport on a foggy December afternoon, the thought struck me like thunder: There's Jesus!  Doing what Jesus has always done: confounding, confronting...compelling.

Some were confused by the music.

Some were offended.

Some smiled in faint interest.

But a few...a happy few—they joined the chorus. 

The Holes in Environmentalism  

The environmental movement—it's riddled with holes: inconsistencies that nobody seems to care about. 

Don't get me wrong.  I believe Christ followers SHOULD be good stewards of the earth—as long as we don't worship it.  That means we SHOULD care about clean air and clean water. 

Genesis 1:26...God gave man dominion over creation.  The idea is that we are to care for creation,  not abuse it.

That said, I'm fascinated by all the inconsistencies.  For example,  when I bought some expensive music software, it came in a rather large cardboard box.  Inside? Three paper-sleeved DVDs.  That's it! Not even a manual! What a waste.

Think of the landfill waste associated with buying something as tiny as an ink jet cartridge .  There's all kinds of cardboard, plastic tins, shrink wrap and more.

Then there are all those SUV's I see on the road.  Hundreds of thousands of gas guzzlers—despite what their owners may claim.

 With the advent of the flat panel, hundreds of thousands of TVs that are perfectly good now sit out at the curb waiting for the trash collector.  Consider the enormous landfill occupied by discarded televisions.   Mind you—there owners are the same people talking about respecting the environment. 

Clearly tablet devices are in....and Palm Pilots are out—have been out for years.  But that's more gizmos in the garbage—despite the fact that they still work!

At some point, we must concede that we like green policies as long as they don't mess too much with our choices in driving, viewing, entertaining, eating, etc.

In other words, we like the sense of personal piety and the public notariety that comes from being perceived as green. But we're only green...skin deep, if you will.

At heart, we still love 8 cylinder engines, big cars, and a certain disposability to our entertainment and technology choices.

If it's true that some people worship the environment, it's almost refreshing to see that their religion is plenty full of its own hypocrisy.

Consider the Cooks  

Is it just me or is America’s fascination with food—or at least food that’s prepared by chefs on TV—at an all-time high?

I suppose it began back with Julia Childs.  But her legacy is an army of Food Network television chefs: Emeril, Bobby Flay…Paula Dean.

More stars than Hollywood.

More shows than you could possibly stomach. 

Cooking is definitely on America’s front burner.

Yet I watch it all with a…tasteful mixture of intrigue and cynicism. 

On the one hand, the Food Network seems to thrive.  On the other hand, there’s an explosion in things like “lunchables” and other pre-packaged meals.

While cookbook sales seem to soar, grocery stores at unprecedented rates are:

  1. Selling less ingredients for real cooking.
  2. Selling more and more frozen and prepared foods

Never before have we been more content to watch someone else slice and dice—but been less inclined to do it ourselves.

Sure there are some who genuinely enjoy whipping up recipes for braised pork cutlets with pumpkin cherry sauce.  But frankly—the majority of us are much more satisfied to watch—or pay—for someone else to do our cooking.

Yet allow me for a moment to jump out of the frying pan and into the fire when I suggest Christians today face a similar dichotomy when it comes to worship. 

We love to talk about it, write about it, read about it—and above all—sing about it.  And just like the Food Network, our self-styled “Worship” network has its own stars: Jeremy Camp, Matt Redman, Darlene Zschech. Yet if you distill worship down to its most practical core component—obedience…well there most of us all fall quite short.

Just like cooking is work, there’s a work side to worship.  A lifestyle of consistent obedience knows little of whipped cream.  It is, in fact, sometimes tough.  And sometimes bitter.  But always required.

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Jon GaugerJon Gauger

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