I’m not a huge fan of labels. Ok, let me clarify. When I go shopping, a price label is a good thing. When I receive a package from UPS, I take a look at the label to see who it is from. When I am at an art store, the label helps me know what exactly the artist was attempting to convey with the painting. (I’m not much of a connoisseur, so the description helps.) So when I say I’m not a huge fan of labels, I’m really talking about labels that apply to people.


Let’s be honest; labels on people generally have a negative connotation. We don’t necessarily label people as “awesome” or “outstanding.” Instead, we label them as lazy, arrogant, self-centered, indifferent, annoying… should I stop? Those are the kind of labels that we put on people. It seems that God labels people, too. But it’s not in the way you think.

Exodus 39:30-31 They made the plate, the sacred emblem, out of pure gold and engraved on it, like an inscription on a seal: HOLY TO THE LORD. 31 Then they fastened a blue cord to it to attach it to the turban, as the Lord commanded Moses. 

So here’s how it went down: they made this “holy to the Lord” label and fastened it to the garments of the priests. Now that’s a good label! Let it be known that God calls me holy! Watch out people, I’m holy to the Lord. It’s written right here on my uniform. That makes it true.

1 Peter 2:9 says “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” You are chosen. You are a priest. You are a holy nation. You know what that means? It means you get to wear the uniform with the label, too.

God looks at you, His son or His daughter, and proclaims out over you: “HOLY!” You have been marked. You have been labeled. You have been set apart for the purposes of God. Wear your badge proud, my friends. Because the God of the universe sees you as holy. So be holy. Set your heart on it, set your mind on it. In fact, set your whole life on it. After all, Jesus set his whole life of attaining that holiness for you.

Do NOT be a good neighbor!

Exodus 23:31-33  31 “I will establish your borders from the Red Sea to the Mediterranean Sea, and from the desert to the Euphrates River. I will give into your hands the people who live in the land, and you will drive them out before you. 32 Do not make a covenant with them or with their gods. 33 Do not let them live in your land or they will cause you to sin against me, because the worship of their gods will certainly be a snare to you.”


Well now, that doesn’t seem very neighborly, does it? Yet this was God’s instruction to His people. He was about to give them some serious real estate. When they got there, they were not to move in as friendly neighbors. It was intended to be a takeover. There would be no oaths, no handshakes, no loaning the neighbor their lawnmowers. It would be a purging.


If you’ve ever lived in a neighborhood you can probably relate. Sometimes your neighbors, as nice as they may be, have very different values. And if you aren’t careful, they can have more of an influence on you than you are on them. Now we aren’t called to kick our neighbors out of the neighborhood, but the Israelites were. Why is that? Because God knew those neighbors would cause them to sin.

The same thing rings true for us today. Yet I’m not talking about the people in your neighborhood. I’m talking about the neighbors within us. You see, we’ve asked Jesus to come and take residence in us. We in a sense, invite him into the neighborhood of our lives. So now we are a Christian neighborhood. Our values are holiness, righteousness, kindness, love, and the like. But we do something foolish in this Christian neighborhood. We violate Exodus 23:33 – we let places of sin live in our land. We hang on to unhealthy life choices.

God knew that His people would be easily convinced to give their hearts away. He knew that they would, by default, follow the customs and patterns of this world. It was for this reason that He instructed us to kick out the old residents in our new neighborhood. He desires a holy land. He desires a pure land. He desires the best for you and your neighborhood. He knows that if alcohol is your source of peace, He can’t be. He knows that if you worship image, you won’t ever pursue being made into His image. If you listen to what is common, you won’t be made holy. 

So I encourage you today, do NOT be a good neighbor. Don’t let bitterness live next door. Give an eviction notice to envy. Serve lust with a homeowner’s association violation. Do not let these things reside in your land. Set God as first in your heart. Set God as ONLY in your heart. Jesus doesn’t need neighbors. When it comes to the land of your life, He gets it all.


The world’s first “fast food” experience

I’m not a huge fan of fast food. It’s not that it doesn’t taste good. It’s just that it seems unnatural to have a hot meal ready in less than two minutes. That cannot be good for me! “What would you like today sir?” Um, ya… I’ll take a 2-minute heart attack burger and a side of indigestion fries. Oh and can I get a love handles chocolate milkshake with that? “Sure thing, sir. Would you like to supersize that?”  No thanks, I prefer to die slowly.  “No problem, is that for here or to go?”  Definitely to go. I’ll just start driving toward the hospital while I eat.

fast food combo

This is the typical fast food experience. At least that’s what goes through my head. This whole order-to-go thing seems so American. So fast paced. So rushed. But did you know that the order-to-go idea has been around for thousands of years? It’s true. You might be surprised that the whole idea was God’s. You’ll find it in Exodus 12 right before God freed His people from Egypt.

Exodus 12:11 This is how you are to eat it: with your cloak tucked into your belt, your sandals on your feet and your staff in your hand. Eat it in haste; it is the Lord’s Passover.

There you have it – the first ever to-go order. Fast food eaten fast. Can you just hear the announcement throughout Israel? “Alright guys, we are eating at McDonalds tonight.” I imagine what this might have looked like. The Israelites got dressed, tucked in their cloaks, put their shoes on, and had their walking sticks in their hands. That’s the equivalent of eating your nuked burger in your car while driving with your knee. Staff in one hand, meat in the other. There’s a big difference between their fast food experience and ours, though.

We do fast food because we are in a hurry (or sometimes lazy). They did fast food because they were prepared and expectant. God was about to free them. At any moment, the angel of the Lord would show up and they were to be prepared when he got there. So this was not the night to get out all the fancy dishes and sit around the dinner table for hours. On this night, they would be going on a journey of freedom. The Lord was coming. So don’t get comfortable; instead get ready.

Don’t get comfortable; get ready. Just let that sink in for a moment….

Comfortable defines us, doesn’t it? But we are called as Christians to get ready. Ready for Jesus to work in our lives today. Ready to give an answer for the hope that we have. Ready for Jesus to return for His Bride, the church.  Are we living ready? Because this is the way He has called us to live. Spiritually speaking, we should have our cloaks tucked in, shoes on, walking sticks in hand, and knees on the steering wheel.

Jesus is coming for a church that is ready. So eat quickly, grab your brown bag, and prepare your heart for the journey of freedom that Jesus has for you. Expect it. Live for it. Fast food it if you have to. JUST BE READY! 


Covered in dirt

Genesis 38:24-26 About three months later, Judah was told, “Tamar, your daughter-in-law, has acted like a prostitute. And now, because of this, she’s pregnant.” “Bring her out, and let her be burned!” Judah demanded. But as they were taking her out to kill her, she sent this message to her father-in-law: “The man who owns these things made me pregnant. Look closely. Whose seal and cord and walking stick are these?” Judah recognized them immediately and said, “She is more righteous than I am, because I didn’t arrange for her to marry my son Shelah.” And Judah never slept with Tamar again.

dirtyA friend who is addicted to alcohol criticizes your smoking habit. Your girlfriend gossips about your gossip problem. It’s what people do.  We judge others when we are just as guilty of the same things. I saw a sign recently that read, “don’t judge me just because my sin looks different than yours.” Now don’t get me wrong, we need to be called out on our sin. We need accountability. We need friends who steer us toward God. But let’s not burn the prostitute when we are the ones who slept with her… so to speak.

Judah was a man of God. He had no business sleeping with a prostitute; he knew better than that. Unbeknownst to him, the prostitute he slept with wasn’t a prostitute at all – it was his daughter-in-law. Ew. A while later, Judah is told that Tamar committed an act of prostitution. Now here is where awareness of your own sin comes in. This is when you think to yourself, “I really want to punish her, but I just slept with a prostitute myself.” Instead, he recommends burning her.


Jesus said that we should remove the plank from our own eye before we point out the speck in our brother’s eye. That’s like someone covered in dirt saying to a friend, “Hey, you’ve got a little dirt on your face.”  What’s a little dirt on a friend matter if you are covered in it yourself? It was upon the realization that he was filthy himself that Judah changed his tone. He exclaimed that this sinner was far more righteous than he was. He became painfully aware of his own shortcomings and it caused him to have grace on her. If we would only do the same, we might be able to extend some grace also.

Is your pointer finger covered in dirt?

Determined in the wrong direction

Hosea 5:11 Ephraim is oppressed, crushed in judgment, for he is determined to follow what is worthless. 

I try not to sin.  Even amidst the failure, I am pretty determined not to.  It’s not because I think it is yucky or that it will cause me to go to hell.  It’s not because I am trying to follow a bunch of rules.  I genuinely want to please the Lord with my life.  So I try.  I fail, but I try.  And there are those times that it seems like we fail over and over again.  Do you ever experience that?  You know – you just blow it day after day.  So we try harder not to mess up and focus on not doing bad stuff.  But it doesn’t work.

Recently, I was staying at a campground that had lots of rules.  I swear the word “no” was on a hundred signs.  No running, no diving, no riding bikes here and there, no kids in this pool, no tents on these sites, no, no, no, no, no.  You know what that does?  It focuses me on the word no.  I was thinking about all the things I couldn’t do rather than the things I could.  Later in that trip, we visited a waterpark.  I noticed that their signs were different.  They said things like, “please stack your tubes when you leave the lazy river.”   They focused on what you should do rather than what you shouldn’t.  It was a happy place.

Living life as a train wreck is no fun.  But you won’t pull out of it if you continue to focus on what you shouldn’t be doing.  You will just fail over and over again.  And to God, it will seem as though you are determined to follow what is worthless.  Friends, that is determination in the wrong direction.  Now we all know that you probably aren’t determined to sin, but apparently that is what it looks like to God.  What you need to do is turn your determination in a different direction.

If you don’t, you will end up trying to walk forward while looking backward.  Have you ever tried that?  You will inevitably crash into a telephone pole.  So turn your head around and start walking away from sin.  Determine to do right things.  Determine to please God with your thoughts, your actions, your life.  Determine to point your determination in the right direction.  Start focusing your thoughts on what you should be doing rather than what you shouldn’t.

Should we lock up the kids?

Daniel 1:3-5  3 The king ordered Ashpenaz, the chief of his court officials, to bring some of the Israelites from the royal family and from the nobility — 4 young men without any physical defect, good-looking, suitable for instruction in all wisdom, knowledgeable, perceptive, and capable of serving in the king’s palace — and to teach them the Chaldean language and literature. 5 The king assigned them daily provisions from the royal food and from the wine that he drank. They were to be trained for three years, and at the end of that time they were to serve in the king’s court. 

The king of Babylon took God’s people captive.  He didn’t put them to death or torture them.  No, he wanted to use them for his service.  So what did he do?  He worked to turn Israelites into Babylonians.  How would he accomplish this?  Through the young people.  He would invest in them and train them and put them into his service.

Something tells me that today, the enemy is still trying to turn God’s people into Babylonians.  And he is attempting to get the hearts of the children.  He is teaching them the language, showing them his version of right and wrong, and promising to meet their needs.  He is making magic and sorcery fun and presenting vampires as harmless (and even sexy!)  He is cramming his meal of tolerance and acceptance of sin down their throats like  Nebuchadnezzar’s royal food and wine.

Do you see what is happening?  Not only are they eating it, but so are their parents!  They are drinking their way to being numb to sin.  And the only way to keep up the buzz is to drink more of it.  Where are the Daniels?  For Daniel determined he would not defile himself with the king’s food or wine.  Even though he now lived in Babylon, he didn’t lose his identity as a citizen of heaven! 

So what are we supposed to do about this?  Should we lock up the kids?  Should we hide them away so they never see Babylon?  I say, no.  We need to teach them what Babylon looks like.  We need to prepare them for the traps that the enemy will set for them.  We need to teach them how to be heaven’s citizens in a sinful world.  It starts by doing it ourselves.  Have you inadvertently signed up for the king’s training program and sat down at his table?  If so, it’s time to take a stance like Daniel did.  It is a stance of holiness and identity in Christ.  Be set apart, friends… and teach the younger generation to do the same.

Flip the switch

1 Peter 1:13-16  13 Therefore, with your minds ready for action, be serious and set your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 14 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the desires of your former ignorance. 15 But as the One who called you is holy, you also are to be holy in all your conduct; 16 for it is written, Be holy, because I am holy. 

Sometimes during power outages, I still try to turn on the lights.  It’s pointless, I know.  But there is something instinctual about going to the bathroom with the lights on.  During power outages, it’s really annoying trying to get light.  You have to light a candle or fumble through the junk drawer for fresh batteries for the flashlight.  Which is one reason I appreciate electricity and light switches so much.  Power is available at the flip of a switch.  There is really no need to be in the dark, you just have to flip the switch.

Sometimes in the morning, I wake up with what feels like a mental power outage.  My brain doesn’t work all that well.  When our minds aren’t engaged, it’s easy to get sidetracked.  It’s easy to head down a path of distraction and sin.  When our minds aren’t engaged, it can be difficult to answer the call of holiness that Peter talks about here.  Fortunately there’s a solution.  In verse 13, Peter makes this key statement: “with your minds ready for action.”  What? I have to turn my brain on?

Yes.  If we are going to live a life holy before the Lord, it is going to require that our minds are set on it.  We cannot revert to laziness or trail off into boredom.  Serving the Lord is a thinking man’s task.  Holiness happens when we flip the switch.  Have you ever noticed that when you sin, you often have the thought, “how did I end up here?”  You find yourself in the dark wondering why the lights aren’t on.  The issue so often is that you simply didn’t walk over to the wall and flip the switch.  So get your minds ready for action today.  Be engaged with the Lord and His call to holiness.  He’s got all the power you need, so turn on the lights!