We are all covered in labels.

Some were given by our government:
“Citizen” “Immigrant” “Illegal Alien” “Taxpayer” “Voter” “Driver” “Felon”

Some were given by our parents:
“Cute” “Obnoxious” “Hyper” “Lazy” “Stupid” “Gifted” “Messy” “Favorite”

Some were given by other kids:
“Brainiac” “Dummy” “Ugly” “Stuck-up” “Messy” “Jock” “Nerd” “Queer” “Hot” “Slut” “In” “Out”

Some were given by our employers:
“Self-starter” “Arrogant” “Bossy” “Know-it-all” “Go-getter” “Unreliable”

Some we give ourselves:
“Shy” “Introvert” “Extrovert” “Not good enough” “Better than” “Fat” “Artistic” “Untalented”

We even take social media quizzes in order to acquire the labels that we desire!

There are labels we try to live up to:
“Cool” “Talented” “Respected” “Loved” “Successful” “Thoughtful” “Christian”

There are others we try to live down:
“Christian” “Klutz” “Always late” “Impolite” “Thoughtless” “Rude” “Cheater” “Alcoholic”

(By the way: It’s no accident that “Christian” was in both of those lists.)

There are labels we give to others:
“Thug” “Loser” “Role model” “Black” “White” “Old” “LGBT” “Different” “Entitled” “Generous” “Needy” “One of us” “Not one of us” “Leftist” “Right wing nut job”

The thing is, labels really are necessary. I’m pretty sure we can’t live without them. But they can get in the way. They can block the view into who a person really is. Not that we could ever actually know the heart of another person. We can’t. All we can really do is spend some time with a person and get acquainted with what they reveal about themselves.

If we do that, we can maybe get past the big general labels and apply some that are more nuanced:
“Christian, but not THAT kind of Christian.” “Gay, but politically conservative.” “Pro-life, but politically liberal.” “Alcoholic, but recovering”

Even in the closest of all possible relationships, with the person who knows us better than anyone else in the world, the best we can do is to see the most accurate and nuanced labels. A person simply cannot know completely another person’s heart. That’s why labels are necessary.

At some point, as we get to know people better, perhaps we can begin to recognize that there are some labels that all of us wear equally:
“Human” “Sinner” “Created in God’s image” “Broken” “Wounded”

You know, I’m starting to think that maybe Judgment Day simply consists of removing the labels.

All of them. Every single one.

Maybe that’s why it’s more important to Jesus that he be allowed to change our heart than just our behavior. Read the Sermon on the Mount sometime. It’s all about what takes place inside, not what’s seen. (See Matthew 5:21-30)

God doesn’t just give us another label. He removes every label we’ve ever had and reveals us for what we really are.

What are we, really?

If we’re with Jesus, what we are is:
“Pure” “Forgiven” “Righteous” “Holy” “Welcome”

“For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” –1 Samuel 16:7


My Picks for Wednesday 2-24-2016

This is the stuff I found helpful, challenging, interesting, or amusing today that I think may enrich your day as well...

I can’t say I agree with everything in this article but I found it very thoughtful. It’s worth reading if only for the final paragraph…

Risen: Movies, Faith, and the BibleKyle Borg“Finally, viewers need to remember the drama of the resurrection isn’t a cinematic experience. Sure, it may glitter as only the silver screen can, but the real power of the resurrection is experienced every Lord’s Day as God’s people gather for worship. It is there that he is bringing together a community of people who are raised and seated with Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:5-6). It is there that Christ is presented before our eyes as crucified in the preaching of the Word (Galatians 3:1) and in the Lord’s Supper (1 Corinthians 11:23-26). It is there that he gives faith to believe to the salvation of body and soul (Romans 10:17). It is there that he meets with us and we with him as he confirms again and again that the tomb is empty and we worship a living Savior. That may not be the thing that movies are made of, but it’s through these ordinary means that he manifests his resurrection power.”

I pray that I can learn to be one of these people…and that our tribe would increase…

The Seven Habits of Highly Depolarizing People
David Blankenhorn“But if polarization is all around us, familiar as an old coat, what about its opposite? What would depolarization look and sound like? Would we know it if we saw it, in others or in ourselves? Perhaps most importantly, what are the mental habits that encourage it? …

…We can recognize the mindset of the polarizer, but how does the depolarizer understand conflict and try to make sense of the world? Here is an attempt to answer these questions, by way of proposing the seven habits of highly depolarizing people.”

This article seemed to fit well with the series we’re in right now at WOCC

SafetyJim Tune
“…a simple equation for how church should operate: gospel + safety + time. We need the good news of the gospel: that we are accepted by God through the work of Jesus. But we also need safety (“non-accusing sympathy so that they can admit their problems honestly”) and time (“enough time to rethink their lives at a deep level, because people are complex and changing is not easy”). Church then becomes a place of safety and honesty, rather than a place of shame and anxiety.”

I find it interesting that marketers are trying to be like the church…

Brands Are Behaving Like Organized Religions
Utpal M. Dholakia
“Organized religion has shaped virtually every aspect of human behavior for thousands of years. Some historians have even argued that religion was integral to human survival. Perhaps it’s not surprising, then, that savvy marketers have figured out that they can use some of the same basic principles to connect with their customers – and that brands have taken on such importance to consumers.

And yet the narrowly formulated, self-serving, and consumption-focused beliefs and values, rituals, and communities provided by brands usually have little to offer beyond the boundaries of their products and services. Thoughtful marketers should have an understanding of how this is shaking out – how some brands are adopting the characteristics of organized religion – so they can think critically about whether this is something they want to do.”

I always looked forward to my annual “performance review”…
Source: Cartoon Stock

Exodus 23:20-33

The idea of these little devotionals is simple. I want to approach scripture with the understanding that God is speaking. I’m reading through the Bible and listening for God to ask me questions. I expect these questions to be fairly open-ended and plan to carry them in my mind throughout the day. I’ll share these questions with you in the hope that you find them challenging and helpful.

Exodus 23:20-33
20 “Behold, I send an angel before you to guard you on the way and to bring you to the place that I have prepared. 21 Pay careful attention to him and obey his voice; do not rebel against him, for he will not pardon your transgression, for my name is in him.

22 “But if you carefully obey his voice and do all that I say, then I will be an enemy to your enemies and an adversary to your adversaries.

23 “When my angel goes before you and brings you to the Amorites and the Hittites and the Perizzites and the Canaanites, the Hivites and the Jebusites, and I blot them out, 24 you shall not bow down to their gods nor serve them, nor do as they do, but you shall utterly overthrow them and break their pillars in pieces. 25 You shall serve the Lord your God, and he[a] will bless your bread and your water, and I will take sickness away from among you. 26 None shall miscarry or be barren in your land; I will fulfill the number of your days. 27 I will send my terror before you and will throw into confusion all the people against whom you shall come, and I will make all your enemies turn their backs to you. 28 And I will send hornets[b] before you, which shall drive out the Hivites, the Canaanites, and the Hittites from before you. 29 I will not drive them out from before you in one year, lest the land become desolate and the wild beasts multiply against you. 30 Little by little I will drive them out from before you, until you have increased and possess the land. 31 And I will set your border from the Red Sea to the Sea of the Philistines, and from the wilderness to the Euphrates,[c] for I will give the inhabitants of the land into your hand, and you shall drive them out before you. 32 You shall make no covenant with them and their gods. 33 They shall not dwell in your land, lest they make you sin against me; for if you serve their gods, it will surely be a snare to you.”

From this passage I hear God asking me:
Do you think I can keep my promise?
Are you drawn to any other gods?
Why is that, do you think?
Do you serve any gods that have become a “snare to you”? (v. 33)

My Picks for Tuesday 2-23-2016

This is the stuff I found helpful, challenging, interesting, or amusing today that I think may enrich your day as well...

Here’s a challenging and motivational piece for us “boomers”…

Hillary, Bernie, Donald, and MeJohn Piper
“At 70, I am energized to dream great things, because this year Hillary turns 69, Bernie turns 75, and Donald turns 70. My rising energy has nothing to do with their policies or character. It has to do with the incredible fact that all of them want to spend their seventies doing the hardest job in the world…

So if Hillary and Bernie and Donald want to bear the weight of the world for the next four to eight years out of man-centered, philanthropic motives, I find my seventy-something zeal for Jesus heating up. They only get to be president of a tiny territory called the U.S.A. I get to be an ambassador of the Sovereign of the universe. They only get to change the way some people live for a few decades. I get to change the way some people live forever — with a lot of good spill-over for this world in the process.”

This may be a little long but it’s an excellent piece about how build disciples the way Jesus did…

Discipleship in Jesus’ StyleKen Smith
“I’ve wondered if that is why some people become discouraged with church.  It’s a kind of “with him” occasion, but with little or no meaningful interchange.  It’s also why I have learned that no one can be helped or trained in one’s Christian growth who is not available.  And obviously if one’s home is a reflection of that kind of church – proximity but no real personal interchange – everyone busy with himself/herself – why should children not be anxious to get away from home hoping to find meaningful relationships?  The “with him” and “with her” principle is fundamental to relationships in general and to discipleship in particular.”

Is Our Worship Too Emotional?David Santistevan
How emotional should our worship be-“… worship is about truth – we dishonor God if we don’t know Him. But worship is also emotional – if we don’t feel strong emotions in response to God’s revealed truth, it isn’t truly worship…

There’s a problem if I hear the Word of God and am not affected.

There’s a problem if I sing a worship song and am not affected.

There’s a problem if, as a believer, I don’t engage in corporate worship.”

This needs to happen sooner rather than later…

The Time is NOW! Reasonable GOP Candidates Must Unite
Dave Miller
“If you are truly conservative and care about America you know that the Donald Trump candidacy has to be stopped… Reasonable voices and cooler heads need to prevail.

Here is my plea to the four remaining GOP candidates not named Donald.

It is time to put the needs of the nation and the needs of the party ahead of your personal needs.

I know that there is a certain amount of ego that attaches to anyone who runs for president, an ego that tells you that you ARE what is best for America. But it is time for each of you to look in the mirror and say…

‘The nation matters more than I do.’

It is the essence of statesmanship.”

A not-so-serious side effect?
Source: Bizarro


Exodus 23:10-19

The idea of these little devotionals is simple. I want to approach scripture with the understanding that God is speaking. I’m reading through the Bible and listening for God to ask me questions. I expect these questions to be fairly open-ended and plan to carry them in my mind throughout the day. I’ll share these questions with you in the hope that you find them challenging and helpful.

Exodus 23:10-19
10 “For six years you shall sow your land and gather in its yield, 11 but the seventh year you shall let it rest and lie fallow, that the poor of your people may eat; and what they leave the beasts of the field may eat. You shall do likewise with your vineyard, and with your olive orchard.

12 “Six days you shall do your work, but on the seventh day you shall rest; that your ox and your donkey may have rest, and the son of your servant woman, and the alien, may be refreshed.

13 “Pay attention to all that I have said to you, and make no mention of the names of other gods, nor let it be heard on your lips.

14 “Three times in the year you shall keep a feast to me. 15 You shall keep the Feast of Unleavened Bread. As I commanded you, you shall eat unleavened bread for seven days at the appointed time in the month of Abib, for in it you came out of Egypt. None shall appear before me empty-handed. 16 You shall keep the Feast of Harvest, of the firstfruits of your labor, of what you sow in the field. You shall keep the Feast of Ingathering at the end of the year, when you gather in from the field the fruit of your labor. 17 Three times in the year shall all your males appear before the Lord God.

18 “You shall not offer the blood of my sacrifice with anything leavened, or let the fat of my feast remain until the morning.

19 “The best of the firstfruits of your ground you shall bring into the house of the Lord your God.

“You shall not boil a young goat in its mother’s milk.

From this passage I hear God asking me:
What do these laws tell you about me?
What do you see that’s important to me?
Why do you think this stuff is important to me?

My Picks for Monday 2-22-2016

This is the stuff I found helpful, challenging, interesting, or amusing today that I think may enrich your day as well...

I Feel I Think I BelieveTim Challies
I Feel I Think I Believe“I think that our preference for “I feel” may just unmask our culture’s fear of strong convictions and confident self-expression. “I feel” may be a way of safeguarding ourselves in an age that elevates faux tolerance and political correctness as the highest of all virtues. It proactively softens the blow for those things we would otherwise declare to be true and right and good. You may be offended by my thoughts or beliefs, but surely not by my feelings!

Yet we as Christians must know what we believe and we must believe these things with strength and confidence. It is not wrong to feel, but it is not enough…”

I like this story a lot. Change can happen…

Gladsden Finds GodFred Conrad
“When Morris A. Young was elected sheriff of Gladsden County, Fla., in 2004, he inherited a community caught in one of the deepest cycles of violence, poverty and incarceration in the state. Soon after taking office, he began an unusual collaboration with local officials and churchgoers to turn things around…”

The Quirky Wisdom of T. S. EliotPhilip Yancey
Eliot1In short, the world’s most famous poet decided that humanity had reached such a state of crisis that he must do his part to help preserve civilization. Caught between the polar evils of Nazism and Communism, the world faced a defining moment,and although The Waste Land had poignantly described the void, it had not proposed any solutions.  Eliot knew of only one alternative, a rediscovery of what it means to live ‘Christianly.’  He became increasingly skeptical of any real solution to social problems from politics alone, concluding that, ‘political remedies are about as useful as poulticing a cancer.'”

“What is worst of all is to advocate Christianity, not because it is true, but because it might be beneficial.” –T.S. Eliot

The realest thing in our livesSeth Godin

“The realest thing in our lives are the stories we invent.

We live with these stories, we remind ourselves of them, we perfect them.

And, happily, if you don’t like the story you’re telling yourself, you can change it.”

If you’re looking for 4D you’re in the wrong neighborhood…
Source: The New Yorker

Exodus 22:16-23:9

The idea of these little devotionals is simple. I want to approach scripture with the understanding that God is speaking. I’m reading through the Bible and listening for God to ask me questions. I expect these questions to be fairly open-ended and plan to carry them in my mind throughout the day. I’ll share these questions with you in the hope that you find them challenging and helpful.

Exodus 22:16-23:9
16 “If a man seduces a virgin[a] who is not betrothed and lies with her, he shall give the bride-price[b] for her and make her his wife. 17 If her father utterly refuses to give her to him, he shall pay money equal to the bride-price for virgins.

18 “You shall not permit a sorceress to live.

19 “Whoever lies with an animal shall be put to death.

20 “Whoever sacrifices to any god, other than the Lord alone, shall be devoted to destruction.[c]

21 “You shall not wrong a sojourner or oppress him, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt. 22 You shall not mistreat any widow or fatherless child. 23 If you do mistreat them, and they cry out to me, I will surely hear their cry, 24 and my wrath will burn, and I will kill you with the sword, and your wives shall become widows and your children fatherless.

25 “If you lend money to any of my people with you who is poor, you shall not be like a moneylender to him, and you shall not exact interest from him. 26 If ever you take your neighbor’s cloak in pledge, you shall return it to him before the sun goes down, 27 for that is his only covering, and it is his cloak for his body; in what else shall he sleep? And if he cries to me, I will hear, for I am compassionate.

28 “You shall not revile God, nor curse a ruler of your people.

29 “You shall not delay to offer from the fullness of your harvest and from the outflow of your presses. The firstborn of your sons you shall give to me. 30 You shall do the same with your oxen and with your sheep: seven days it shall be with its mother; on the eighth day you shall give it to me.

31 “You shall be consecrated to me. Therefore you shall not eat any flesh that is torn by beasts in the field; you shall throw it to the dogs.

23 “You shall not spread a false report. You shall not join hands with a wicked man to be a malicious witness. You shall not fall in with the many to do evil, nor shall you bear witness in a lawsuit, siding with the many, so as to pervert justice, nor shall you be partial to a poor man in his lawsuit.

“If you meet your enemy’s ox or his donkey going astray, you shall bring it back to him. If you see the donkey of one who hates you lying down under its burden, you shall refrain from leaving him with it; you shall rescue it with him.

“You shall not pervert the justice due to your poor in his lawsuit. Keep far from a false charge, and do not kill the innocent and righteous, for I will not acquit the wicked. And you shall take no bribe, for a bribe blinds the clear-sighted and subverts the cause of those who are in the right.

“You shall not oppress a sojourner. You know the heart of a sojourner, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt.

From this passage I hear God asking me:
Does it seem to you that some of these laws are more compassionate than others?
Why do they seem that way to you?
Who decides what is compassionate and what is not?
What do these laws tell you about me?
What kind of a God do you think I am?

We Are Mistaken
The Incredulity of Saint Thomas by Caravaggio


They were mistaken.

Mary thought she knew her son. Mary loved and yearned for him. She followed and pleaded with him to come home. Mary wanted to protect him:
Mary was mistaken.

Peter thought he loved him most. Peter felt he knew him truly. Peter thought he would never fail his Master; Peter knew he would remain true to him no matter what happened:
Peter was mistaken.

Judas thought he should organize. Judas thought he should live up to his view of the ancient promise and hope, or give it all up. Judas began to be disappointed, and he began to distrust:
Judas was mistaken.

Thomas thought they were all very gullible. Thomas loved and revered him, and Thomas missed him; he grieved at his death. Thomas didn’t really believe he’d be back:
Thomas was mistaken.

Now, we know his ways. Given years of scholarship and prayerful perspective, we are now ready to box and label this man from Galilee. He’s ready for the completed file.

We are mistaken.


Number thirty in God Is No Fool by Lois Cheney

(I’ve always loved this little book since I first discovered it while I was in college. Click the image for purchase info.)



Exodus 21:33-22:15

The idea of these little devotionals is simple. I want to approach scripture with the understanding that God is speaking. I’m reading through the Bible and listening for God to ask me questions. I expect these questions to be fairly open-ended and plan to carry them in my mind throughout the day. I’ll share these questions with you in the hope that you find them challenging and helpful.

Exodus 21:33-22:15
“When a man opens a pit, or when a man digs a pit and does not cover it, and an ox or a donkey falls into it, 34 the owner of the pit shall make restoration. He shall give money to its owner, and the dead beast shall be his.

35 “When one man’s ox butts another’s, so that it dies, then they shall sell the live ox and share its price, and the dead beast also they shall share. 36 Or if it is known that the ox has been accustomed to gore in the past, and its owner has not kept it in, he shall repay ox for ox, and the dead beast shall be his.

22 [a] “If a man steals an ox or a sheep, and kills it or sells it, he shall repay five oxen for an ox, and four sheep for a sheep. [b] If a thief is found breaking in and is struck so that he dies, there shall be no bloodguilt for him, but if the sun has risen on him, there shall be bloodguilt for him. He shall surely pay. If he has nothing, then he shall be sold for his theft. If the stolen beast is found alive in his possession, whether it is an ox or a donkey or a sheep, he shall pay double.

“If a man causes a field or vineyard to be grazed over, or lets his beast loose and it feeds in another man’s field, he shall make restitution from the best in his own field and in his own vineyard.

“If fire breaks out and catches in thorns so that the stacked grain or the standing grain or the field is consumed, he who started the fire shall make full restitution.

“If a man gives to his neighbor money or goods to keep safe, and it is stolen from the man’s house, then, if the thief is found, he shall pay double. If the thief is not found, the owner of the house shall come near to God to show whether or not he has put his hand to his neighbor’s property. For every breach of trust, whether it is for an ox, for a donkey, for a sheep, for a cloak, or for any kind of lost thing, of which one says, ‘This is it,’ the case of both parties shall come before God. The one whom God condemns shall pay double to his neighbor.

10 “If a man gives to his neighbor a donkey or an ox or a sheep or any beast to keep safe, and it dies or is injured or is driven away, without anyone seeing it, 11 an oath by the Lord shall be between them both to see whether or not he has put his hand to his neighbor’s property. The owner shall accept the oath, and he shall not make restitution. 12 But if it is stolen from him, he shall make restitution to its owner. 13 If it is torn by beasts, let him bring it as evidence. He shall not make restitution for what has been torn.

14 “If a man borrows anything of his neighbor, and it is injured or dies, the owner not being with it, he shall make full restitution. 15 If the owner was with it, he shall not make restitution; if it was hired, it came for its hiring fee.[c]

From this passage I hear God asking me:
Seems a lot like some more of your civil law, doesn’t it?
Do you think any of this was new to the Israelites?
What was their civil standard of conduct before this?
What do these laws tell you about me?