Monday, August 29, 2016

“P.C.” Labels


[Photo of the word

“He calls his own sheep by name.”
—John 10:3

We live in a wild and crazy world that seems overwhelmed by so-called “political correctness.” Our society today demands that we never, ever, offend anyone by the label we might give someone. The culture harshly legislates what we can and cannot call others. And, the “politically correct” terminology changes frequently.

The culture now dictates even what we should call males and females—and it’s certainly not those titles!

For the last 25 years at least, the hard-working people putting together translations of the Bible and hymnal texts have tried to avoid the use of the word “man,” or using male nomenclature in any description about God, for fear of offending women.

We seem to categorize every person and respond judgmentally to those who don’t abide by our chosen categories. It seems that this practice seeks to take away any quality of uniqueness in others by “leveling the playing field” of our verbiage.

Away with blue and pink for babies! Don’t you dare use the gender role images of “housewives” and “businessmen.” Even “Men at Work” signs have been reformatted to read “People Working.”

The latest declaration of war given by those enforcing “political correctness” requires us to eliminate even gender specific bathrooms.

One comforting passage of Scripture that stands in stark contrast with our culture’s insistance on “political correctness” is found in Galatians 3:28:

There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

And what makes that Scripture passage different from insisting on “politically correct” labels? Jesus knows our names. Isaiah 49:16 tells us that God has engraved us on the palm of His hands. He knows us individually.

We should, of course, always avoid rude or profane labels. But, when we know people, really know them, it doesn’t matter what label we use for them. No! Instead, we call them by name.

So many of the stories in the New Testament tell about people and refer to them as “the man born blind,” or “the woman with an issue of blood,” or “the Samaritan woman.” Do you think Jesus knew their names? Of course He did. But, the writers of the Gospels, like us, forget names and can only remember them by these labels. They meant no offense in using the labels. They simply used them to describe something noteworthy about them.

When you come to God, remember that He not only knows your name, He calls you by it. He knows that you are a unique and special person whom He created with beautiful qualities that He admires. Take comfort in His knowledge of you.

And, make it a point, in learning about others, to remember their names. Each one is a special workmanship of God, created in His image, and certainly represents someone worth knowing!



Monday, August 22, 2016



[Photo of two smiling girls]

“I remember the devotion of your youth, how
as a bride you loved me and followed me
through the desert, through a land not sown. ”
—Jeremiah 2:2

As a teacher, I always looked forward to the first day of a new school year. Summer came to school on the children’s faces and gradually faded into fall. I remember those pink cheekbones, and glowing tanned arms and legs. Yet, without a notice in another month, the sun’s influence on their complexions faded, just as their first intentions to behave and please the adults around them did.

God notices the glorious joy of new Christians. Luke 15:7 speaks of the rejoicing in heaven when a sinner repents. The parables of Jesus in Luke 15 speak of the Lost Sheep, the Lost Coin, and the Lost Son. In each case, the “finding” of these brings great celebration.

God also notices when the attitude of that one who once took great joy in the early relationship with Him drops off to a routine, or to a forgotten “experience” at summer camp, or to a no-longer-remembered particularly blessed time of the Spirit’s movement in a congregation.

In the Book of Revelation, Jesus speaks through the exiled John on the island of Patmos to the Seven Churches of Asia Minor (the land now occupied by Turkey). In each instance, He commends them for various aspects of their faith. Then, He also speaks bluntly about those things that distress Him.

In Revelation 2:2, 4-5, He speaks to the church in Ephesus with these words:

“I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance…Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first.”

I often wonder, if John wrote to report Christ’s pronouncements to our current churches, what would he write? Perhaps Jesus would say:

“You share your love with the less fortunate, and I like that. But, some of you work out of obligation, rather than from your hearts.”


“I enjoy the fellowship and worship in this place. But, I don’t see you sharing with others the gospel of Christ.”


“You have endured great suffering. But, You don’t pray like I’d wish you to pray.”

Now, translate this from a church setting to your personal relationship with the Savior. Has the personal bond you once had with Him faded?

What does Jesus, through John, offer as a remedy for this lost first love? He says:

“Remember the height from which you have fallen and repent. Do the things you first did.”

Remember… Repent… Do…

Has your love for Christ and His church faded from the glowing beginning that you once experienced when first you came to a saving knowledge of Him? I urge you to prayerfully remember when You first experienced the glorious awareness of His deep love for you. Repent of your “backsliding” and begin again to do those things that pleased Him so much and gave you so much joy. Don’t let the “Son”-shine fade!



Monday, August 15, 2016

Being, Doing, Having


[Photo of a mother comforting her baby]

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ,
he is a new creation; the old has
gone, the new has come!... God
made him who had no sin to be
sin for us, so that in him we might
become the righteousness of God.”
—2 Corinthians 5:17, 21

Many years ago now, I heard my friend and founder of Celebrate Kids!, Kathy Koch, Ph.D., speak to an audience consisting of the members of a Christian organization. She reminded us that God made us “human beings,” not “human doings.” I like that. So often other people conclude that God will only accept them on the merits of what they do. It’s all too easy for us to slip into that mode of thinking, too.

In the famous Love Chapter of 1 Corinthians 13, the Apostle Paul reminds us that even if we give all we possess to the poor and surrender our bodies to flames, without the love that comes from our being in Christ, what we do is vanity—of no import.

Recently, I read a chapter by Dr. John Claypool in which he expressed the cultural pressure of having that bears on us as Christians. He used the ancient story of Hannah from 1 Samuel 1. Like the culture surrounding her, Hannah felt that, until she could have a child, her life amounted to nothing. She actually made a bargain with God that if He would give her a child (so she could have one) she would give his whole life back to the Lord. God used this means to raise up the great prophet Samuel.

Dr. Claypool writes:

When the God’s gift of “being” is seen as primal and foundational, then creative “doing” and responsible “having” grow naturally from such a base. But when we turn reality upside down and make “doing” or “having” the basis of “being,” we produce anxiety and distortion of the worst kind. Having to produce or else is frightening! 1

After considering this, it seems to me that we fall into the trap of “having” for our fulfillment, nearly as easily as we do into “doing.” Jesus’ story of the rich young ruler from Matthew 19 expresses this truth. Thinking eternal life had to do with “doing,” the rich young ruler asked Jesus what he needed to do. Jesus told him to sell his possessions and give to the poor. Verse 22 states:

When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.

This man’s “having” and “doing” had gotten in the way of his “being.”

How easily we fall into the same thinking. If I have the right kind of status, or money, or education, or do kind deeds and all the “churchy” things required of someone living a holy life, God and my Christian society will accept me. We want to belong, and our society screams at us that these doings are the way of becoming acceptable.

Instead, God wants all our having and doing to spring from our being in Christ. It may seem like a thin line at times, but taking stock of our thought processes, and reviewing why we act as we do, will help us to live out the real truth of who God has made us to be!


1 Claypool, John, Glad Reunion. Waco: Word Books, 1985. p. 73.



Monday, August 8, 2016

It Isn’t Fair!


[Photo of a pounting girl]

“[God] did not bring upon them [the people
of Ninevah] the destruction he had threatened.
But Jonah was greatly displeased and became angry.”
—Jonah 3:10 - 4:1

Children often learn the story of Jonah and the “whale.” Much of teaching on this story revolves around the way God protected and rescued Jonah. Amid the lessons in this small, but potent, book of the Bible, we find the one about Jonah’s responses to God.

If we consider children and how they react to the circumstances of life, one of their strongest reactions occurs when they think someone, especially themselves, has been treated unfairly. They have fierce opinions about justice. These opinions often stem from an innate selfishness.

Jonah had served God as a prophet. He believed that nothing would ruin his reputation for accurate forth-telling as much as something he warned of not coming to pass.

On the other hand in this story, God cared deeply for the people of Nineveh. These Ninevites had an evil society known for its prostitution, witchcraft, and violence. So, God called Jonah to go to Nineveh and preach to the people there in hopes of restoring this large city to righteousness.

Once Jonah had his experience with the whale and had been “coughed up” onto land, he obeyed and went to Nineveh. Once there, he preached repentance to the people. To his chagrin, the people did repent and God spared their lives.

Jonah’s response to God came out of his mouth like an “It’s not fair!” comment from a child. He sat pouting for days.

Another story in the Bible, with a similar kind of reaction to seeming injustice, comes from the elder brother of the Lost Son, as recorded in Luke 15. The father forgave and welcomed home his younger, prodigal son with a great feast. The elder, “faithful” son, who always did the right thing, quickly responded to his father, “But, it’s not fair!”

How do we respond when we hear of people who have done wicked things all of their lives and then come to Christ when they’re near death’s door? Or, what reaction do we feel when we observe a change of heart in someone we hoped would eventually get their “just desserts?”

Do we resent God’s goodness to others? What drives this reaction in us?

Let us examine our responses to God’s ways, renew our pledge to humbly obey Him in those things He has asked of us, and thank Him for His gracious mercy in behalf of anyone—no matter whether it appears fair or not.



Monday, August 1, 2016

Not My Boss!


[Photo of two children sticking out their tongues at each other]

“Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy
the devil prowls around like a roaring
lion looking for someone to devour.
Resist him, standing firm in the faith.”
—1 Peter 5:8

I heard them arguing. This five-year-old and his three-year-old sister had a dust up about something. Giving it all she had, she stretched her little chest out and faced him with the words, “You’re not the boss of me!”

Sometimes we grown-up Christians forget the authority with which God has equipped us in this world, where Satan roams about seeking to devour us. God, by His Holy Spirit, has given us His power through which we can resist evil and stand against the foe.

William Gurnall, the 17th Century theologian, wrote an entire book about the verses in Ephesians 6, which goes into great detail how we should prepare to engage our enemy. Of the phrase in Ephesians 6:10, “in his mighty power,” Gurnall writes:

The apostle’s drift is so to encourage the Christian to make use of God’s almighty power, as freely as if it were his own, whenever assaulted by Satan in any kind. 1

1 John 4:4 reminds us of this power to which we have free access:

Greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.

God gives us the Holy Spirit, and all the mighty power that belongs to Him. We have no power in ourselves to withstand the awful violence and deceit of the Enemy. But we, through faith, have the power of God on our side.

When we step out in faith, accept the pieces of armor God provides us, and pray for His power to fill us, we have an authority few of us may realize.

The next time you engage in a battle over temptation, or experience the subtle attempts to take you down emotionally, physically, or spiritually, puff your chest out and say with the authority you have been given in Christ, “You’re not the boss of me!”


1 Gurnall, William, The Christian in Complete Armour. Carlisle, Pennsylvania: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1979 (reprinted). p. 25.