Thursday, October 29, 2009

What is in a Name?

Have you ever looked your name up in a book to see what it means? A name defines a person...what they do, who they are, what they believe. It is your identity and speaks of your character. My dad was studying Greek and Hebrew in seminary when my brother, sister, and I were born. He and my mom chose our names because of their meanings. My name is Greek for "God's grace", my brother's is Greek for "God is my good", and my sister's is Hebrew for "protected of God." Growing up, my parents often prayed that we would embody the meaning of our names.

Did you know names in the Bible were often chosen to define a person? Moses was named because he was drawn up from the water. The prophet Micah's name meant "for who is like God." Adam means "earth" or "man." Get the point? Did you also know that God chose to rename people because of things they did or something He called them to do that redefined who they were? Abram is changed to Abraham (father of many nations) and God promised to bless this fatherless man with generations more numerous than the stars. Jacob (deceiver) was changed to Israel (struggler with God) because He wrestled with God. Naomi means pleasant, and she changed it to Mara (meaning bitter) after she lost her family. Saul changed his name to Paul after his conversion. Jesus changed Simon's name to Peter (Rock) and promised he would use Peter to help build the church.

So if names are chosen to define a person and our names are often reflective of our character, actions, and decisions - then how much more should we recognize and trust in the character of our God who is defined by His many names?

I AM God Almighty (Genesis 17:1)
God Most High (Genesis 14:18)
Lord, Master (Genesis 15:2)
The Lord is My Banner (Exodus 17:15)
The God who has been my Shepherd (Genesis 48:15)
I AM the Lord your Healer (Exodus 15:26)
The Lord is There (Ezekiel 48:35)
The Lord is our Righteousness (Jeremiah 23:6)
I, the Lord, sanctify you (Exodus 31:13)
The Lord, the Everlasting God (Genesis 21:33)
God, Creator (Genesis 1:1)
I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God (Exodus 20:5)
The Lord will Provide (Genesis 22:14)
The Lord is Peace (Judges 6:24)
Jesus, Savior (Matthew 1:21)
Alpha and Omega, beginning and end (Revelation 1:17-18)

All of these phrases are actually names for God in the Hebrew language. Have you ever heard of names that pack a more powerful punch? If names reflect character and the Hebrews considered names to identify and match the character of the person, what does that say about the names by which God is identified? What an awesome God we serve! If you don't know Him, understand that these names of God not only identify His character but demonstrate His power and love for His people. He created You and desires for you to know Him! He has a mighty purpose for your life!

In The Crucible, a play by Arthur Miller about the Salem Witch Trials in Massachusetts in the 1690s, one of the characters, Proctor, is falsely charged for witchcraft and sentenced to hang. To avoid death, he is asked to sign a confession that he participated in witchcraft and here is what he says, "Because it is my name! Because I cannot have another in my life! Because I lie and sign myself to lies! Because I am not worth the dust on the feet of those that hang! How may I live without my name? I have given you my soul; leave me my name!" (Quoted from a spark notes site on Crucible quotes taken directly from the book.) Are you getting why names are SO important? They not only reflect who we are, but who we belong to. Are we making our King proud...the One who Defends, Saves, and Provides? Do our lives, our character, our names reflect the One we serve? Are we marring his name by claiming to be His but living in such a way that disrespects ourselves and Him?

I know this is long, but stay with I mentioned earlier, sometimes God renamed His people to redefine who they were, equip them, and remind them what task He had designed them for. Maybe you haven't felt God calling you to something specific, or maybe you have. This summer, I felt God renaming me "His Bold Grace." I desire to share the gentleness and love of His salvation while standing up for what is right...even if that means standing alone. Is your name associated with good character? Do people know to whom you belong? Wait and listen for His calling in your life. Live a life worthy of the name He has given you and look to see if He will rename you to equip you and define you for the purpose He has created you to fulfill. I will be right here....serving along with you!

In the name of the One who is Mighty to Save,


Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Beauty of Change

It is in my nature to be the biggest optimist or the biggest pessimist, the biggest realist or the biggest idealist, the biggest romantic or the biggest cynic. Depends on the situation. Just goes to show the warring of our sin nature with our redeemed nature (Galatians 5:17). But lately, I am making the point to see the beauty in everything, and right now, I am enraptured by Fall (romanticizing, idealizing, pick one). Usually, Spring is my favorite life, new things, everything green, gorgeous flowers and trees...but Fall has captured me this year. And I wondered...why is that?
My mom loves Fall. We would walk through the neighborhoods and crunch through the leaves when we were little kids. We would take the prettiest ones home and use them to decorate the table as the centerpiece. But this year, it has struck a special chord with me. Spring may be the season of new beginnings, but Fall is the season of change. One thing is passing away for something else to be born a couple of months later.
I feel like this season of my life is a lot like Fall. Something is passing away. People, moments, places that have defined my life the last three and a half years are falling away, coming to an end. I am preparing to say goodbye and step into the unknown and a season of new beginnings. This season of my life is one of change and transition.
Change is difficult for me. I like my comfort zone. Who doesn't? But change also excites me. I love seeing everything green in the Spring, but I know that in order for that to happen, the leaves now have to change color, fall, and decompose. They turn such beautiful colors, though, before they fall! It is reminder to me of God's hand being constantly at work through the changing of the leaves and this transition phase in my life. He is doing something beautiful, intimate, and purposeful through the change.

Jeremiah 29:11 says, "'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord. 'Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.'" For those that are experiencing change or transition and your life feels like chaos trying to prepare for it...know that the One who made you desires to do something just as beautiful through the change as He promises to do wherever your destination may be. He has a divine plan and purpose for you and NOTHING takes Him off guard. He has your back and He is in control even when everything is upside down!
Trusting in His perfect plans for me,


Saturday, October 24, 2009

Even in Darkness...My King still Shines!

Lately, I have developed a fascination with the night sky. Well, I say lately, but I have always loved it. This summer, we went on a night hike up Pike's Peak twice...the first time we took the wrong trail so we did it right the next night. But the sky was beautiful!!!! We were out away from the city, on the side of a mountain, in the woods, and it was pitch black. The moon was gorgeous and I had never seen so many stars. They literally coated the night sky and sparkled. I stood in awe of my Creator, and wish I could have walked up the mountain with my face pointed at the heavens.

Psalms 19:1-3 says, "The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard."

How can you look up at the sky, see stars more numerous than the sands, and not acknowledge that there is a Creator? Have you ever wondered why they hang up there and don't fall down? The heavens scream that there is a Creator. They are beautiful, they are divinely created, and more numerous than we could ever count. God even promised Abraham that his descendants would be more numerous than the stars in the heavens (Genesis 26:4). What an amazing promise! Psalms 147:4 even says that He numbered the stars and knows each one by name. If the God of the universe could make so many stars that we can't even count and know each one by name (which indicates both an intimacy and involvement with His creation), how could we ever doubt that He both knows our needs and our hearts so intimately?

By nature, I am a night owl. My dad and I would stay up for hours on the weekend to watch movies or talk...often long after the rest of the family had shut down for the night. Night has always been a time of rest, peace, and beauty to me. But I think we also fear the night...we fear the darkness...we fear the fear that comes with things we can't see. Darkness in its very nature has always been associated with the evil one. He is always associated with spiritual darkness. But even in the God is a genius!!!

Genesis describes the moon as the lesser of the two bodies of light that God created. The stars are also not very bright. But guess what? Even with the weak light that they give off, they still shatter the darkness! It is like the Lord, in His divine planning, is showing us that even when we can't see, are so weak, give fear and evil power over us, He provides light that shatters our darkness. Darkness is simply the absence of light. But because we serve such a big God, we will never be without some light!

As believers, "You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden" (Matthew 5:14). As light, we are shattering the darkness in our world. And one light effectively ends darkness. It may be dim, but darkness no longer has complete power. This world will never be without God's people. Even in prophecies about the tribulation, the Bible says that Christians will be handed over to the Antichrist but they will not be completely blotted out! We stand and we shine because we serve a God of light who always, always, ALWAYS shines a light in our darkest night. Look for the light He is giving you! Beauty in the brokenness and light in the darkness. It is a promise, and we serve a God who has not broken a promise in all the existence of creation. Take heart and look to see the light God promises to provide! He is faithful!

Following His Light,

Friday, October 9, 2009

Shaken not Stirred

Hebrews 12:25-29 says this, "See to it that you do not refuse Him who speaks. If they did not escape when they refused Him who warned them on earth, how much less will we, if we turn away from Him who warns us from heaven? At that time, His voice shook the earth, but now He has promised, "Only once more will I shake not only the earth but also the heavens." The words "once more" indicate the removal of what can be shaken - that is, created things - so that what cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire."

OK, long passage but I have not been able to get it out of my head this week. Have you ever wondered why God allows your world to be rocked? I say allowed because the Bible also says that nothing evil comes from the Lord, but that does not mean that He does not allow it to happen. But why the heck would He want our worlds to be rocked? Why didn't I get into graduate school like I planned? Why did my plans bite the dust? Why did people I thought were permanent fixtures in my life up and walk away? For most of these questions I have to be honest...I have no clue. But that got me thinking...why did God allow Job to lose his family, his health, his possessions, his friends? Why did the Lord allow many of the disciples to be tortured and in some cases martyred? Why did He allow our good, Godly family friend to drop dead in His front yard a couple of months before his first child was to be born? I have no idea but it sure makes my problems seem minuscule.

However, this passage has gone a long way this week to soothe my heart and maybe not give me a definite answer but help me understand the Lord's purpose in allowing the storms in life to rage. Ready for the brilliant conclusion I have come to? He shakes our worlds so that when the dust settles we look around, take account of everything and see the things in our life that will never be shaken. Profound, right? Not really but a profound realization for me.

Maybe the Lord shook my life so that I would see the stock I was putting in my own plans when the Lord clearly says He directs our steps. Maybe I didn't get into grad school at Tech because a)I needed this time of rest and healing and b)there are people somewhere else that the Lord wants to use in my life and me in theirs. Maybe those friends drifted out because I was basing my identity in what they thought and not in the One who already bought and paid for my heart. Again, these are all maybes but I am finding I don't really need to know. I just know they were shaken out of my life for a reason and I see the beautiful things and people in my life that were not shaken and that I need to pour myself into. May this be an encouragement in the midst of your storm. As for me, I still don't understand but I know that He is good, and when everything else is Rock still remains.

Resting in His goodness,

Thursday, October 8, 2009

My 2.5 Week Challenge

I think God often laughs at me. Seriously, I think He does. I seem to have a problem with thinking that I know it all and He is constantly laughing, shaking His head, and gently saying, "Sweetheart, you can't even begin to fathom the plans I have for you. Stop trying to figure it out and stop thinking that you know what is best for you. I have something so much better in mind." When I started leading this Endeavor group through my church, (Endeavor is a group of sophomore leaders that I am co-leading to teach them leadership skills and equip and encourage them to lead small group freshmen Bible studies)I prayed that God would use me, but I really didn't think that He was going to teach me much. That was my first mistake. God seems to teach me humility in spades...and I am so glad that He does.

This past week in Endeavor we discussed solitude. If you have been keeping up with me at all, you will understand when I say that stillness and solitude are not my strongest abilities. In the past few years of college, I have grown very uncomfortable with stillness. I have this mistaken notion that if I am relaxing I am missing out on something I should be completing, and so even when I am relaxing, I am working. This is a huge problem. This week, I realized that I suffer from "hurrying disease" and I must ruthlessly eliminate it from my life. I do not like the quiet because it offers time to think about things that I frankly just do not want to deal with. But, I was reminded this last Sunday that "I can't go faster than the One who is leading" as our book said, and if I try, I miss out on the things He wants to teach me in the quiet and still moments of my life.

Again, it comes back to being still. So, we challenged our Endeavor leaders to practice solitude and eliminating hurry from their lives in some form or fashion over the next two weeks. So for the next two and half weeks (since I will miss a Sunday with them) I am committing and challenging myself to practice solitude and remember the beauty that comes in the stillness. I am committing to seeing how God moves and what He wants to teach me in the quiet, unhurried moments of my life. So I will deliberately turn the TV and radio off more and spend some time every day journaling on top of my time with the Lord. Last night, I spent an hour doing this and it was a sweet time of fellowship with my Savior. But it was not an easy thing and I was constantly thinking about what I had to do and about what movie I wanted to watch as I finished up a few things. So we will see what God does. After all, if I can't be still enough to hear Him in the quiet, how in the world can I expect to discern His voice in the chaos of my life?

Listening for His voice,