The name game

Read: Numbers 18-20, Mark 7:1-13

What’s a name? Is it just something we call ourselves to differentiate us from others? Is it part of our identity? Is it our entire identity? Do our names make us who we are or do we define our names? We use names lightly and we take them seriously. They become associations and labels. They let others know who we are, what we do, and where we belong. Names can lift people up or tear them down. They can be forever or they can be for convenience.

Several groups in the Bible had some issues with their names. They assumed a name, but rejected the identity that went along with the name.

Now there was no water for the community, and the people gathered in opposition to Moses and Aaron. They quarreled with Moses and said, “If only we had died when our brothers fell dead before the Lord! Why did you bring the Lord’s community into this desert, that we and our livestock should die here?”

Numbers 20:2-4 (NIV)

In one sentence, the spokesperson for Israel both declares them to be a nation belonging to God and a nation who rejects God. They had just gone through the whole ordeal of having proven Moses and Aaron as leaders of the nation, yet the people still weren’t pleased. They liked to remember and point out their status as God’s children, but quickly forgot all He had done for them and all they had done in disobedience to Him.

Jesus also encountered a group of people who used their name for status and wealth.

He replied, “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written:

“‘These people honor me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me.
They worship me in vain;
their teaching are but rules taught by men.’

You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men.”

Mark 7:6-8 (NIV)

For both the Israelites and the Pharisees, it suited them to be associated with God. It was helpful and beneficial to assume a relationship with the name of the Lord, but that’s all it was—a nominal association.

Sound familiar? Who hasn’t met a person who call themself a Christian, but like the Pharisees and teachers of the law, merely honours God with their lips while their hearts are far from Him?

CHRISTIAN: A real disciple of Christ; one who believes in the truth of the Christian religion, and studies to follow the example, and obey the precepts, of Christ; a believer in Christ who is characterized by real piety.

Being a Christian is far more than assuming a name. In the early days of the church, to bear the name of Christ meant a constant threat of painful death. Followers of The Way were all to aware of the consequences of those they associated with, yet they took the name anyway, giving themselves completely to the cause of Christ.

Few of us regularly consider why we even call ourselves Christians. We simply are. Do we take the time to meditate on what that really means? Or do we use the name because it is useful to us? We should all consider our purpose and reason for bearing the name of Christ. We must determine if our claim to Christ is one of convenience or commitment.

What’s in a name?

There are a lot of people in this world who will tell you they’re a Christian. Maybe they were baptized as a kid or they go to church on Christmas and Easter. But is that what makes you a Christian—just calling yourself one? Noah Webster didn’t think so.

CHRISTIAN: A real disciple of Christ; one who believes in the truth of the Christian religion, and studies to follow the example, and obey the precepts, of Christ; a believer in Christ who is characterized by real piety.

There are many who believe that a simple profession of faith in Jesus Christ as the Son of God is what makes you a Christian. I believe that profession is what makes you a believer. It’s everything that you do afterward that makes you a Christian.

By definition, being a Christian means that you should be ever striving to act like Christ. It’s right there in the name. Paul wrote an entire letter to Titus discussing how Christians should conduct themselves.

For the grace of God has been revealed, bringing salvation to all people. And we are instructed to turn from godless living and sinful pleasures. We should live in this evil world with self-control, right conduct, and devotion to God, while we look forward to that wonderful event when the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, will be revealed. He gave his life to free us from every kind of sin, to cleanse us, and to make us his very own people, totally committed to doing what is right.

Titus 2:11-14 (NLT)

Christians, true Christians, should turn from godless living and sinful pleasures. We should talk different. We should act different. And people should notice. If you claim the name of Christ, truly claim it. Live it. Act like him.

Imagine what this world would look like if every single person who claimed the name of Jesus Christ really acted like him. If, instead of churches full of nominal Christians, we went out on the street and actually lived the life we claim to have chosen when we first called on Jesus.

Salvation is free. It’s a gift for all people. But the name of Christ should be reserved for those who follow his example, those who are totally committed to doing what is right.

Daily Bible reading: Jeremiah 31-32, Titus 2

Your name here

As we read the Bible, we should always take into consideration the context in which the verses were written. Who wrote them? Who are they talking to? Are they talking about a specific event or period of time? Is it culturally relevant? There are many variables that can change the way we perceive the Word of God. As Pastor Morris Watson put it in his message Do You Know What You’re Asking For?, not everything in the Bible is meant for us personally. But that’s not to say that we can’t take some of it personally.

There are those who like to take scripture and insert their own name into it. I’m not usually one to make a habit of it, but since today’s portion of scripture already has a name in it, why not try inserting your own name in place of Timothy’s?

But you, (insert your name here), belong to God; so run from all these evil things, and follow what is right and good. Pursue a godly life, along with faith, love,  perseverance, and gentleness. Fight the good fight for what we believe. Hold tightly to the eternal life that God has given you, which you have confessed so well before so many witnesses.

1 Timothy 6:11-12 (NLT)

Paul has been writing to Timothy about avoiding many of the pitfalls the Jewish nation was prone to. We’re pretty much in the same boat as the Jews were at that time. The world pushes against us trying to force us into their way of thinking and holding on to the truth becomes more and more difficult.

So today, if you find your faith being pressured, remember these words. Insert your name here and remember that you belong to God. Follow what is right and good. Pursue a godly life. All of these things that Paul encouraged Timothy to do still apply to us today.

Take these words to heart. Take them personally and then you and I can fight the good fight for what we all believe.

Daily Bible reading: Jeremiah 17-19, 1 Timothy 6

Sustain

What sustains you? Food, obviously. Hopefully sleep. Water. Maybe the help of family or friends. Perhaps there are things in life that you enjoy that make the tough times more bearable. But what about words? In many cases, words are empty. On their own, they may hold great meaning, but when offered by certain people in a certain way, they may be hollow and weightless. Worthless.

Your words are what sustain me. They bring me great joy and are my heart’s delight, for I bear your name, O Lord God Almighty.

Jeremiah 15:16 (NLT)

Few of us could say that we have it worse than Jeremiah when it comes to the words of God. The prophet spoke these words while God was in the middle of telling him of all the destruction He was going to bring upon Judah and Israel. They were to be utterly destroyed and yet, somehow, Jeremiah finds it within himself to let God know that His words are sustenance. They bring him joy and are his heart’s delight.

SUSTAIN: To bear; to uphold; to support, as a foundation; to keep from falling; to keep alive; to endure without failing or yielding.

In the midst of what must have been a truly dark time, Jeremiah still found God’s word to be full of life. Enough so to support him, to keep him from falling or failing, to keep him alive. And Jeremiah wasn’t the only one who found delight in the words of God in the middle of a trial.

Your decrees are my treasure,
they are truly my heart’s delight.

Psalm 119:111 (NLT)

How can these two men, through storms, destruction, war, and everything else that may have come against them still have found comfort in God’s words? Aren’t they just words?

The yes to all of God’s promises is in Christ, and through Christ we say yes to the glory of God. Remember, God is the one who makes you and us strong in Christ. God made us his chosen people. He put his mark on us to show that we are his, and he put his Spirit in our hearts to be a guarantee for all he has promised.

2 Corinthians 1:20-22 (NCV)

Jeremiah, David, Paul, and many others all found joy and delight in the words of God because God gave us a guarantee. He gave us His mark. He gave us His name. And because He has never failed, we can take that as our assurance that His words will indeed sustain us through whatever may be in store for us in this life.

So he will do for me all that he has planned. He controls my destiny.

Job 23:14 (NLT)

Daily Bible reading: Jeremiah 14-16, 1 Timothy 5

 

Carefully protect

I can’t say for sure whether what follows is what Paul meant when he was talking about all the parts of the body of Christ, but as I was reading 1 Corinthians 12, this is what came to mind.

And the parts we regard as less honorable are those we clothe with the greatest care. So we carefully protect from the eyes of others those parts that should not be seen, while other parts do not require this special care. So God has put the body together in such a way that extra honor and care are given to those parts that have less dignity.

1 Corinthians 12:23-24 (NLT)

Here’s how I came to see it: the outward parts of the body, the parts that are seen, are the five-fold ministers. The prophets, preachers, teacher, apostles, and evangelists. They are the most visible part of the church and, as such, actually protect the rest of the church from a lot of potential harm. Since they are the visible ones, they will take the brunt of an attack against the body.

Many people strive to be an outward part of the body. They want to be up front and centre, but they aren’t always prepared or even called to deal with the fallout of being the face of ministry. There are some that are called to be essentially faceless and nameless.

To be a nameless, faceless part of the body is not a slight against anyone. It is, if you look at it, a place of honour. There are those that God has put in front of you who will protect you. So long as you have no face and no name, you are more likely to have no enemy. And, any truthful minister will tell you, they can’t do their jobs without the nameless people working tirelessly behind them. The Church as a whole would not survive if it were made up entirely of public speakers.

Today I worked at the church and cleaned eleven toilets and five urinals. Tomorrow, I will step up onto the stage and lead worship. Today’s work, though far less glamorous, is no less important than tomorrow’s so long as they are both done unto the Lord with the purpose of strengthening the body of Christ.

Now all of you together are Christ’s body, and each one of you is a separate and necessary part of it. Here is a list of some of the members that God has places in the body of Christ:

first are apostles,
second are prophets,
third are teachers,
then those who do miracles,
those who have the gift of healing,
those who can help others,
those who can get others to work together,
those who speak in unknown languages.

1 Corinthians 12:27-28 (NLT)

Paul goes on to say that you should desire the most helpful gifts. Sometimes the greatest and most honoured gifts in the body of Christ have nothing to do with standing on a stage. They are the ones done silently in the background under the careful protection of our leaders.

Our greatest position as believers in the body: helpers.

Daily Bible reading: Proverbs 1-2, 1 Corinthians 12

 

 

A word of encouragement

Who doesn’t need or want a little encouragement every once in a while (or all the time)? We feel good when someone gives us a pat on the back, tells us we’re doing a good job, or sends a text just to say they’re thinking about us. But what about those days when those things don’t happen? What about the days when we could really use that encouraging word and it doesn’t come? What then?

It sure would be nice if our frame of mind wasn’t so dependant on outside reassurance.

I will praise the Lord at all times.
I will constantly speak his praises.
I will boast only in the Lord;
let all who are discouraged take heart.
Come, let us tell of the Lord’s greatness;
let us exalt his name together.

Psalm 34:1-3 (NLT)

It’s interesting that, in all these lines about praising God, David inserts something about the discouraged. He saw a relationship between praising God and a happy heart.

What if, when we’re feeling a little down and tend to focus more inwardly, we turned it around? What if we took the focus completely off of ourselves? Think about this, when you’re worshipping God, praising Him, speaking about His greatness, what’s your mental state like? Do you feel burdened, in need of a pick-me-up? No. It’s pretty difficult to stay down when you’re lifting God up.

When we turn our focus on to God and His greatness, first of all, our troubles become very small. Second, we allow our spirits to commune with His Spirit—our helper and comforter. Our affirmation doesn’t need to come from outside sources—it shouldn’t come from outside sources. We have the ability to lift ourselves out of the gloom and into the glorious light of God.

How can we be anything but encouraged when we shift our focus from our inward troubles and outwardly praise the Lord, speak His praises, boast in Him, tell of His greatness, and exalt His name?

Daily Bible reading: Psalm 34-35, Acts 22

For the honour

We know that God is both able and willing to provide for those who trust in Him. He is great in power and rich in mercy. He wants to see us prosper and succeed. He wants us to go to Him with our praise and our needs.

When we go to God with our requests, what’s our reason for asking? Is it simply because we have a need? David made many requests of God, but in his asking, he also made an offer of sorts.

You are my rock and my fortress,
For the honor of your name, lead me out of this peril.

Psalm 31:3 (NLT)

For the honour. David wasn’t aiming to merely be set free from peril, he wanted to be lead to freedom so that he could give honour to the name of the God who brought him out.

This verse brings to mind a song from Elevation Worship* that bears the same title as this post:

Verse 1

For the honor of the Father
Who reaches out to us
That we might live inside His love
He gave His only Son

Verse 2

For the honor of the Savior
Let the cross be lifted high
The great exchange of love and grace
Came down to give us life

Verse 3

For the honor of the Spirit
Whose power lives in us
That we might see much greater things
As we embrace Your love

Verse 4

For the honor of Your kingdom
Whose reign will never end
We’ll give our lives in sacrifice
Until You come again

Bridge

Forever forever
We’ll honor You forever

All that God does in and for us is not only for us, but for Him as well. It is for His glory and honour that He supplies our needs.

And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:19 (NLT)

Go ahead and make your requests known to God, but don’t forget to give honour where honour is due. When your needs are met, be sure that God gets all the glory—He is far more deserving of the praise than we are of whatever it is we’ve asked of Him.

*For the Honor
Chris Brown | Mack Brock | Steven Furtick | Wade Joye

© 2011 Be Essential Songs (Admin. by Essential Music Publishing LLC)
Elevation Worship Publishing (Admin. by Essential Music Publishing LLC)

The golden ticket

I grew up watching the original Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I still get the golden ticket song stuck in my head:

I’ve got a golden ticket
I’ve got a golden chance to make my way
And with a golden ticket, it’s a golden day

Charlie dances around singing a song and his bedridden grandfather miraculously hops out of bed to join him.

Jesus gave us a golden ticket.

The truth is, you can go directly to the Father and ask him, and he will grant your request because you use my name.

John 16:23b (NLT)

Jesus wouldn’t have told us that we can go directly to God if it were a difficult thing. His name is our golden ticket to access the Father.

On my last mission trip, there were several older people on our team. Apparently grey hair gets you the golden ticket—literally, they got a yellow slip of paper—that allowed them an easier time through the security line. They got to leave their shoes on and only had to go through the metal detector, not the full body scan. They had the closest thing to a free pass the airport could give them. And they (and their aching knees) were happy about it.

You haven’t done this before. Ask using my name, and you will receive, and you will have abundant joy.

John 16:24 (NLT)

Comparing our prayer life to an airport security line may seem trivial, but it can help to see the simplicity of Jesus’ words. Christianity is not complicated. Access to God is not difficult. Jesus gave us the use of his name as our golden ticket to God, all we have to do is use it—without hesitation. Those people in the security line with their yellow card didn’t hesitate to reap the benefits of what they’d been given and neither should we.

So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it.

Hebrews 4:16 (NLT)

Daily Bible reading: 2 Chronicles 23-25, John 16:16-33

Anything

You can ask for anything in my name, and I will do it, because the work of the Son brings glory to the Father. Yes, Ask anything in my name, and I will do it!

John 14:13-14 (NLT)

This verse almost sounds like Jesus is giving his disciples carte blanche to do whatever they want whenever they want to do it. Many people today look at this verse that way and then end up bitter and disappointed when Jesus didn’t give them the boat they’d been lusting after for months.

While Jesus didn’t place stipulations on what anything means, the next few verses offer a little more clarity.

If you love me, obey my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another counselor, who will never leave you. He is the Holy Spirit who leads into all truth.

John 14:15-17a (NLT)

The anything Jesus talks about in verses 13 and 14 is part of the truth that is revealed to us by the Holy Spirit. Jesus isn’t a genie in a bottle waiting for us to rub the lamp and invite him to perform a few magic tricks. He’s telling his disciples that, as Jesus has been speaking the words of the Father, so we—with the help and guidance of the Holy Spirit—will also be able to speak the words of the Father.

The Spirit leads us in all truth. Jesus is the Truth and the Truth is the way to the Father. We are able to do the greater things Jesus spoke of in verse 12 because we have the full power of the Truth living inside of us. Greater things come when we align ourselves with the Truth. When we are one with the Truth, we can ask anything in Jesus name and he will do it because the words we speak are not our own. They are His.

Daily Bible reading: 2 Chronicles 13-16, John 14 

Without measure

How much of God’s Spirit did He put in you? What limits did He put on your heavenly authority? What can’t you do with the power of His name?

These are all questions we should never be asking.

When Jesus was giving his disciples their last pep talk, he never even approached the topic of what they couldn’t do. But he spent several verses discussing all that they could do.

And then he told them, “Go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone, everywhere. Anyone who believes and is baptized will be saved. But anyone who refuses to believe will be condemned. These signs will accompany those who believe: They will cast out demons in my name, and they will speak new languages. They will be able to handle snakes with safety, and if they drink anything poisonous, it won’t hurt them. They will be able to place their hands on the sick and heal them.

Mark 16:15-18 (NLT)

They will… they will… they will… I don’t see anything there about they won’t.

So if we can do all these things through the name of Jesus, what kind of power is backing that name?

For he is sent by God. He speaks God’s words, for God’s Spirit is upon him without measure or limit.

John 3: 34 (NLT)

Without measure or limit. That is the kind of power that backs the name of Jesus.

We Christians need to stop acting as though we got dealt the short end of salvation. God didn’t give us just enough of His Spirit to squeak into Heaven. He hasn’t withheld from us. He’s given us all of His Spirit and it’s time that we started acting like it.

Keeping in mind that we have access to the Spirit without measure or limit, the only question that remains is this: what can God do through you?

Daily Bible reading: 2 Kings 1-3. John 3:22-36I