Devotions, Politics and Government, Workforce

The Label Maker

Read: Acts 16:22-31

“Anyone who is willing to hear should listen to the Spirit and understand what the Spirit is saying to the churches.  Everyone who is victorious will eat of the manna that has been hidden away in heaven.  And I will give to each one a white stone, and on the stone will be engraved a new name that no one knows except the one who receives it.”

Revelation 2:17 NLT


It was a dull afternoon.  All of the pages had finished their tasks for the day and were shut up in the “page cage.”  We were busy debating what to do with the rest of our day, when someone pointed out that we had several label makers available to us.  And what good were label makers if they weren’t used to label things?

Picking up one of the guns, one of the pages quickly printed out the word “door” and attached it to the door of our tiny office.  Passing it on, another page typed out the word “window” and immediately affixed it to the windowsill.  The next thing to receive a label were the chairs followed by the bookcases. We labeled the ceiling, the lights, the walls, and a paperweight… even each other.  And when we ran out of things to label?  We started all over in Spanish!

The Bible has quite a bit to say about the labels that each of us bear and none are more important than our names.  Given to us by our parents, they serve to identify both us and (at times) some of our unique characteristics.  They are labels which say something about who we are or what our parents hoped we would become.

Unlike the labels that the pages placed on the items in the room, these names may be more or less accurate and each of us knows someone who fails to live up to the name they were given.  This will all change, however, when we finally see God “face-to-face”.

Scripture tells us that at the end of time, God will give each of us a special name which He has chosen for us and which will describe us perfectly.  These labels will not be based upon what He hopes we will become, but upon what we actual are through the sacrifice and renewing power of His Son.  There’s only one catch if you want one of these perfectly accurate labels… you have to belong to Him.  Unlike pages, He doesn’t label other people’s property!

Challenge:  Have you accepted God’s gift of Salvation?  If you haven’t, consider doing so.  A little step of faith will lead to great rewards!

Devotions, Retail Ready

Paint Pigment and Sesame Street

(The following excerpt is taken from “Retail Ready: 90 Devotions for Teens in the Workforce”, available for purchase on Kindle for $7.99 or in print from Amazon for $9.99.)

Read: 1 John 1:5-10

“All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.” – Isaiah 64:6

I was terribly excited when my first employer decided to teach me to mix paint.  I had spent plenty of time watching the other employees use the fancy color matching machine, gazing over their shoulders with fascination as they added pigment to the white base inside of the paint cans, creating an exact match for the color which our customers had chosen.

Perhaps it was thanks to my intense interest that I picked up on the process quite easily.  In a very short period of time, I had taken to mixing colors like a pro and was feeling pretty confident in my skill.  There was, however, one warning which they had inadvertently forgotten to share and the mess which resulted from my lack of understanding was about to have a noticeable affect upon my weekend.

It was a busy Saturday afternoon and I had retired to the back to mix up a gallon for a customer.  Unfortunately, it turned out that the last person to use the machine had not cleaned it properly and the pigment nozzles were clogged.  It didn’t seem to matter how much pressure I applied to the levers, I could not get the small metal tubes to squirt out any pigment at all.  Digging through the supplies, I found a nail and began to follow the prescribed procedure for clearing the nozzles.  Shoving the nail up into the tiny hole, I pulled it out again with a wad of dried pigment attached.

Unfortunately, the aforementioned wad of pigment was not all that was in the hole.  The wad had formed a sort of scab on the end of the nozzle, preventing some of the liquid pigment involved in the previous mixing from leaving the chamber.  When the wad was removed, this liquid pigment saw its opportunity to escape and, within seconds, my hands, arms, and shins were covered in a shade of blue that would have made a Muppet proud.  (To this day I do not recall how I managed to get the pigment all over me like that.)  I finished mixing the paint and, while it was in the shaker, I wandered into the bathroom to wash off the mess. And it was here that I discovered that pigment is less like paint and more like permanent dye.  Thanks to this, I spent the rest of the day and a good part of the next week looking just like Grover from Sesame Street.

Scripture teaches us many truths about sin and, one of the most important is that, like paint pigment: it doesn’t take much to cause a great deal of damage.  While the stain of paint pigment eventually does disappear through time and exposure, the stain of sin isn’t quite so “easy” to remove.  The Bible tells us that only the cleansing blood of Christ is strong enough to remove sin from our lives and return us to our intended state!

Challenge: Are you indulging sin in your life?  Remember that God’s rules are there to protect us.  Confess your failures to God, let Him remove the spots, then commit to living a life of obedience to His Word.


What Is Evangelism?

Quite simply, Evangelism is sharing the Good News that after we blew it, God still loves us and wants us as a part of His family.  It’s the message that He heals broken hearts and fixes messed up lives.

Obviously, like any good news, the person best equipped to share it is the one immediately affected.  No one can share the joy of making the football team, being elected class president, or finally getting an A in math like the person who received it.  In the same way, you will be able to share God’s message best if you’ve experienced His Saving Grace for yourself.So here’s the Good News…

First, we’ve all blown it.  God laid down the Laws and, since the dawn of mankind, we’ve been breaking them.  He says do and we don’t;  He says don’t and we do.  Scripture says that we’ve all done it.

“…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”  (Romans 3:23)

What makes this situation worse is that, just as in any earthly system, restitution must be made for the damage done when we violated the Law.  If you steal something, you have to give it back and pay the owner for the inconvenience of not having the item available when he needed it.  If you damage someone’s property you have to repair it.  And if you break the speed limit, there is a fine to pay.  We call this “justice” and we’re all pretty keen on getting it for ourselves, but not always so thrilled when we have to render it to others.  The just penalty for violating God’s Law is death.

“For the wages (payment) of sin is death…”  (Romans 6:23a)

Scripture tells us that this death isn’t just physical.  If it were, it wouldn’t be that big of a deal – we could break any Law we wanted to and, at the end of life, we would just cease to exist.  In a sense, death wouldn’t be a penalty for our sin as much as a “get out of jail free” card.

Instead, the death that results from our sin is eternal, conscious separation from God.  Keep in mind that all of the nice, good things on earth, including the ability to experience pleasure, friendship, and happiness will only be available in God’s eternal presence because every good thing comes from God to begin with… and Hell is where God is not.  (James 1:17)  Even if every one of your friends is there, you can guarantee that you won’t be having a party.

“And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books.  Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire.”  (Revelation 20:12,15)

If you’re feeling a bit gloomy about now, don’t!  This is where the Good News comes in!  God wants us to be with Him and, since we can’t satisfy His demands for perfection or make restitution for our wrongs, He has provided someone else to do that for us: Jesus Christ.

“He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”

(2 Corinthians 5:21)

With justice satisfied and our debt paid, we can now spend all of eternity doing what we really wanted to do in the first place: experiencing joy.  And that really is Good News!  There is only one more catch.  Salvation is a gift of God (Ephesians 2:8,9) and, like any other gift, we have to receive it in order to make it ours.

“They said, ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved…'”  (Acts 16:31a)

Think of it this way: you get a letter in the mail telling you that you just won a brand new car, but that you have to come in to the dealer to claim it.  Obviously, you aren’t going to just sit on your couch and do nothing!  After you get through screaming and dancing around, you’re going to head right down there and pick up your keys.  That’s Salvation: a free gift of eternal life in the presence of a God who loves you and wants you to experience real joy.  All you have to do is “pick up your keys” and trust that Christ has taken care of all of the rest.

And once you do?  Well, who wins a new car and doesn’t want to share the good news with everyone they meet?  Once you’ve experienced God’s Grace for yourself, it’s hard not to let others know.  And that is evangelism!