Every Day Bible

NO Vacancy?

Back in the dark ages before Priceline and, do you remember what it was like to drive on a road trip and look for a hotel? You’d always look for the sign. Was the “no” light on? If so, the glaring “NO VACANCY” light would send you down the road to the next town. Every now and then, a careless front desk clerk would accidentally leave the “no” light on from the night before and cause the hotel to miss out on some real business.

Sometimes churches accidentally leave a “no vacancy” sign out. They communicate to people that they aren’t really welcome. Can I tell you how it happens?

If we don’t make room for our guests to sit together, we’re hanging up a no vacancy sign. It’s hard enough to go to a new church. It’s even harder if you don’t get to sit with your family. Don’t get me started on telling someone “that’s my seat.” (I want to be snarky and say that the seat might be saved, but the person saving it might not be!)

If we sit in the same place and talk to the same people, we’re hanging up a no vacancy sign. Without meaning to, we communicate that we already have friends, thank you very much, and you didn’t make the cut.

If we don’t make an effort to learn names, we’re hanging a no vacancy sign. I know names are hard. Nobody is actually good at it, but if someone visits us for 6 months and we still act like we don’t know them, they’re going to get the idea that we never will.

If we talk like insiders, we’re hanging up a no vacancy sign. Churches love to have cutesy names for things—that’s not a problem. The problem is when we fail to explain them. Inside jokes make everyone else outsiders. Outsiders see a no vacancy sign.

If we insist on our preferences and our traditions—not the things that are biblical, but all the other stuff—we are hanging a no vacancy sign for everyone who has a different preference.

If we never make an effort to get outside the walls of our building, if we never go out to where the community is, and if we don’t foster creative opportunities to interact with people for the kingdom’s sake, we haven’t just hung a no vacancy sign—we’ve taken our sign down altogether and acted confused when nobody arrives.

Churches don’t hang no vacancy signs on purpose, but unfortunately, they do it all the time.

Every Day Bible


Humankind has a nasty tendency for dividing into groups: us and them.

The Jews hated the Samaritans. The Zealots hated the tax collectors. The Pharisees hated the “sinners.”

Hate might be too strong of a word for what normally happens.

More often our feelings are subtle. We stereotype and label. We cut “our” people more slack than “their” people.

The Jewish Christians were suspicious of the Gentile Christians and vice versa. Somehow the Greek speaking widows got neglected while the Hebrew-speaking widows did just fine in Acts 6.

The Bible is clear: “God shows no partiality, but in every nation, anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.” (Acts 10:34-35)

Humans like to divide on the basis of skin color and language, but God does not approve.

On the day of Pentecost in Acts 2, there was a beautiful mixture of Parthinians, Medes, Elamites, Mesopotamians, Judeans, Cappadocians, Cretans, Arabs, Romans, and Asians who came together to learn of Jesus.  We praise the Lamb who “ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation” (Revelation 5:9).

Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in his sight! Christ followers must be serious about combating all of the ugly -isms that creep into our hearts. We need to make sure we are aren’t doing things—even little things—that make it harder for the body to be united like Jesus wants.  

Every Day Bible

In Support of Singles

Valentine’s Day can be tough on our singles. Unfortunately, church isn’t always an easy place for singles either.

Well-intended friends try to fix you up. Many of our activities are hosted by couples, so it’s easy to get left out or feel like a third wheel.

We have a lot of people who are afraid of saying the wrong thing so divorced people and widows find themselves alone in a crowd.

I wish I had an easy solution for the hurts and frustrations our singles have felt. I don’t. I do have an apology—I’m sorry that life is hard, and I’m sorry that we have made it harder.

In the Bible, singleness is not viewed as a defect, but as a sign of spiritual maturity:

Paul wrote, “I wish that all were as I myself am. But each has his own gift from God, one of one kind and one of another. To the unmarried and the widows, I say that it is good for them to remain single, as I am.” (1 Corinthians 7:7-8)

He continues, “I think that in view of the present distress it is good for a person to remain as he is….Are you free from a wife? Do not seek a wife…I want you to be free from anxieties. The unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to please the Lord. But the married man is anxious about worldly things, how to please his wife, and his interests are divided… I say this for your own benefit, not to lay any restraint upon you, but to promote good order and to secure your undivided devotion to the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 7:26-27, 32-35)

Singles aren’t second-class citizens in the kingdom of God. I want to make sure that I act that way!

Every Day Bible

A Geography of Faith

God designed our hearts and minds to lock on to certain places.

When I walk into a room and forget what I’ve come to do, I turn around and walk back in. It’s funny how that jogs my memory.

When I drive past a cemetery, my mind almost involuntarily remembers the graveside services I’ve attended there.

When I visit Vanderbilt Hospital in Nashville, I have flashbacks to the birth of our kids.

I smile every time I see the pedestrian bridge across the Cumberland River in Nashville where I proposed to Leslie.

I cringe whenever I pass the dentist’s office.

We recognize that, in one sense, there is no such thing as “holy land.” The rocks in Israel aren’t sacrosanct—but there’s still something special about the fact that our heroes of faith lived and died there. We know that the church building is built with the same drywall and steel as the firehall, but the weddings and funerals and baptisms and worship services have a way of sanctifying it in our memory.

One thing I’ve noticed while reading through the Old Testament this year is just how prevalent the “geography of faith” is. Abraham and Jacob set up altars to remember God’s providence in specific places. Joseph was adamant that his bones not be left in Egypt, but taken back to the land of promise.

This principle could be abused and idolized, but used correctly, it’s helpful.

It’s wise to intentionally remember the times and the places when God has blessed you.

Here’s an exercise to try: draw a map of the big God-moments in your life, and let the geography of your faith remind you of the journey God has brought you on so far.