Labels

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.

labelsweb

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.

Wash your hands

Hand washing is important. We go through our days touching doors, handrails, and shopping carts. We shake hands and high five. We flush toilets and read waiting room magazines. Do you know what could be on all that stuff? Just wash your hands, people! Not like every five minutes or anything, but maybe before you put your grubby little fingers all over those McDonald’s french fries. Because if you don’t, you will die! Too far?

hand-washingExodus 30:17-21 17 Then the Lord said to Moses, 18 “Make a bronze basin, with its bronze stand, for washing. Place it between the tent of meeting and the altar, and put water in it. 19 Aaron and his sons are to wash their hands and feet with water from it. 20 Whenever they enter the tent of meeting, they shall wash with water so that they will not die. Also, when they approach the altar to minister by presenting a food offering to the Lord, 21 they shall wash their hands and feet so that they will not die. This is to be a lasting ordinance for Aaron and his descendants for the generations to come.”

These guys seriously had to wash or die. It wasn’t just a passing comment; the Lord said it twice. “Wash your hands and feet so that you will not die.” Not catch a cold. Not get the flu. No… die.  I guess God really wanted the priests to be clean when they entered His presence. It makes sense, right? God is clean and so if we are to be in His presence, we are to be clean, too.

The good news is that elaborate hand and foot washing isn’t necessary for us to be in God’s presence. We don’t need a gold basin filled with water. We don’t need washcloths and towels. We just need repentance and we just need Jesus. Jesus is the wash basin through which we are cleaned and repentance is our response to the wash basin. We recognize that we have dirty hands that need to be cleaned. Jesus cleans. And because of his love for us poured out on the cross, we are made clean.

If you don’t wash your hands you might catch a cold. But unlike Aaron, you won’t die. Jesus has already done the washing. Receive in it. Bathe in it. Thank Him for it. Be clean!

When right things don’t fix wrong things

Genesis 28:8-9 Esau then realized how displeasing the Canaanite women were to his father Isaac; so he went to Ishmael and married Mahalath, the sister of Nebaioth and daughter of Ishmael son of Abraham, in addition to the wives he already had.

backspaceEveryone messes up.  Sometimes we mess up on accident and sometimes on purpose.  There are those times when we didn’t know any better, but we were still wrong. For example, getting caught going 50mph in a 35 when you never saw the speed limit sign would be a mess up that was on accident.  If you are going 100mph, you are going to have a hard time convincing the officer it was a mistake.  You blew it, just admit it.

Sometimes we think can do something right to fix what was wrong.  And we can fix some of the damage. Other times, however, no amount of fixing will do the job.  You’ve heard the expression that 3 wrongs don’t make a right (which is odd because 3 lefts certainly do).  I would say that in the same way, 3 rights don’t fix a wrong.  A week’s worth of being a good person doesn’t repair a lifetime of poor choices.

Esau had a startling realization: he had married the wrong women.  The word on the street was that his dad didn’t approve of Canaanite women, which apparently he had married.  So in order to remedy the situation, he went out and found an additional wife.  She was a good wife, a good choice, the right kind apparently.  This will make dad proud.  Now I have the right kind of wife.  Just one question, Esau… what about your other wives?  How does marrying one right wife change the fact that you are married to a handful of wrong ones?  Short answer – it doesn’t.

Placing a drop of clean water in contaminated water doesn’t make it drinkable.  Doing one right thing doesn’t negate the 3 previous wrong things.  But many people approach God in this way.  They try to clean up their act before going to Him.  They make a point to be good the day before church.  Maybe He won’t notice all the other days.  We try to so hard, but we need to realize that all these right things don’t fix the wrong things.  There’s just one solution: Jesus. Jesus fixed all the wrong things.  He did for us what we couldn’t do for ourselves.   He made right what we had made wrong. He is our saviour, our fixer; He is all that is right.

*Are you trying to fix all your wrong things on your own?  Turn it over to Jesus and let Him make it right.

Bad negotiation

Genesis 23:10-13 Ephron the Hittite was sitting among his people and he replied to Abraham in the hearing of all the Hittites who had come to the gate of his city. “No, my lord,” he said. “Listen to me; I give  you the field, and I give you the cave that is in it. I give it to you in the presence of my people. Bury your dead.” Again Abraham bowed down before the people of the land and he said to Ephron in their hearing, “Listen to me, if you will. I will pay the price of the field. Accept it from me so I can bury my dead there.”

NegotiationHave you ever negotiated something before?  I have, plenty of times.  I have negotiated cars, musical instruments, and random stuff in Mexico.  Here’s how a negotiation is supposed to work: the buyer looks at the seller’s price and offers less.  The seller counters with a higher price and the buyer counters again with a lower price.  Generally you meet in the middle somewhere.  Recently, I was negotiating on something and the seller actually ended up coming in below my starting price.  Holla!

This negotiation in Genesis 23 is just plain odd.  Abraham asks if he can buy some land to bury his wife who has passed away.  A guy named Ephron says, “You can have the land, Abe.  We really like and respect you, so just have it.  It’s all yours.”  Now any rational human being would simply say something like, “Thanks Ephron.  That’s very generous of you.”  But instead Abraham says, “No. I want to pay for it.”  I don’t think Abraham passed his Negotiation 101 class at community college.

So why would Abraham insist on paying for something that he could have had for free?  I think it was because Abraham knew that something of value costs something.  He knew that someday when Ephron wanted to change his mind on the land, he would be able to hold up the receipt and say, “I paid for this, you can’t take it back.”  Yes, things of value are worth paying for.

Jesus paid for something of value, too.  He paid for you.  It was a bad negotiation, really.  You had nothing to give in exchange, nothing to offer.  But He knew that you were worth everything, so He laid down His life for you.  He purchased your life and your freedom.  You are like that land that Abraham bought – you have value.  And like Abraham, Jesus wants to hang on to you forever.  You were worth a bad negotiation.

*What goes through your mind when you think about what Jesus did to pay for your life?

The deadline

Genesis 7:1-4  1 The LORD then said to Noah, “Go into the ark, you and your whole family, because I have found you righteous in this generation. 2 Take with you seven of every kind of clean animal, a male and its mate, and two of every kind of unclean animal, a male and its mate, 3 and also seven of every kind of bird, male and female, to keep their various kinds alive throughout the earth. 4 Seven days from now I will send rain on the earth for forty days and forty nights, and I will wipe from the face of the earth every living creature I have made. ”

AA009358I used to work really well with the pressure of a deadline.  I remember being in school and working full time.  Assignments would be given and I might have procrastinated a bit… but when the deadline was approaching, it was go time.  I would kick into some weird high gear and crank out quality work.  It was like a late night superpower or something.  I have since lost that power.  Deadlines kind of stress me out now.

Noah had a deadline.  But his deadline wasn’t the difference between an A and a F on a homework assignment.  This was a matter of life or death.  God was going to flood the earth in seven days and Noah needed to be ready.  His instructions were clear and the Bible says that he followed those instructions.  At the end of those seven days, Noah was ready.  I imagine he was hanging out on the ark with his family and those animals waiting for the rain to come.

I wonder if things would have been different if Noah wasn’t given the deadline.  Like what if God said “I am going to flood the earth someday.  When it comes, be ready.”  After a few weeks or even years, would Noah have become complacent and forgot about this huge flood thing? Would he procrastinate gathering up the animals?  Or would he have woke up every day of his life determined to be ready if today was the day?  I just wonder.

Because God has made a promise to us and gave us instructions too.  The promise is that Jesus is coming back and the instructions are to be ready.  The stakes are high and life and death is at hand.  It’s not animals that need to be brought on to the ark, it is people.  People who, if not brought on board, will die.  If we knew we had seven days, we would be doing everything within our power to get ourselves and others ready.  But we don’t.  And if we don’t, His return will catch us by surprise.

*What are you doing to be ready?

Holding His Hand

Genesis 6:9 Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked faithfully with God.

holdmomshandWe have a rule in our family and you probably do too.  We expect our younger children to hold our hand when walking across a street or in a parking lot.  Now sometimes they just want to hold our hand and hang on tight with love.  But other times, we have to squeeze a little and remind them that our hand means safety.  On occasion, I have pulled my daughter back when a car was coming.  She felt free to run but I saw the car.  So I gave a tug and kept her close.  Close to my side.  Close to my voice.  Close to safety.

Noah lived in a wicked time – a time like no other.  It says in the text that every inclination of the thoughts of every heart was all evil all the time.  But Noah was different.  He was man who found the Lord’s favor.  While the other kids were running through the parking lot, Noah held God’s hand.  Yes, Noah walked faithfully with God.  With his hand tightly would around the fingers of God, he was safe.  When the traffic of life came his way, God pulled Him close.  And because he walked with God, his steps were in sync with his Lord.

Noah sets a example for us even today.  The life we live is like a giant parking lot.  There are many routes and many cars.  Danger lurks from every direction and every turn.  So we must grab the hand of our Savior.  We must walk in step with Him so that he can direct us.  When danger comes, He will give us a tug and keep us close.  Close to His side.  Close to His voice.  Close to safety.

*Is your hand grasping His today?

Jesus supermodels

1 Thessalonians 1:7-8 And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia.  The Lord’s message rang out from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia—your faith in God has become known everywhere.

modelI didn’t realize the Bible talked about modeling.  These must have been some good looking Christians.  We are talking supermodels!  They hit the runway in both Macedonia and Achaia.  They probably wore designer jeans and expensive makeup. They were attending modeling school regularly and getting their hair done all nice.  Oh, wait… not that kind of model?  My bad.  So what kind of model was Paul talking about?

Paul wrote to the Thessalonians that they had become models to other believers.  Their conduct, their character, their worship, and their love was worth emulating.  In fact, they were such great witnesses of Jesus, that their faith became known everywhere.  All of the surrounding cities were talking about them.  News spread throughout the region that these guys were the real deal.  Their faith was real and attractive; their words rang loud and their actions rang louder.  So they became famous.  And in their fame they were making the work of Jesus Christ famous.  That’s the kind of models they were.

I wonder sometimes how well we are doing at showing off the gospel.  It’s likely that we don’t feel like Jesus supermodels that show off who He is.  Think about it, what does a model show off?  Clothes.  (That is, if they are wearing any.)  We are to be clothed with Christ and model Him for the world.  We are called to live for His glory and His fame.  I wonder how that’s going for us.  Do we need to attend modeling school more regularly?  Could it be said of us that we are Jesus models like the Thessalonians were?

*I bet models look in the mirror a lot.  When you look in the mirror what do you see?  Is there a reflection of Jesus looking back at you?