The Name of God

“Oh my God!”

I drew a deep breath, put on a big smile, and turned around to face her.

“Oh, you know Him too? Isn’t He wonderful? Aren’t you glad He is your Father!”

The shocked look on her face told me I was right – she didn’t know Him as Father. She glared at me, “What are you talking about?!”

“You were calling out the name of God, so I assumed you knew Him like I know Him – as my Heavenly Father.”

“You’re crazy! It’s just a word!” she muttered as she walked away. 

When Jesus taught His disciples to pray, He opened with reverence and worship: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name,” (Matthew 6:9). Jesus was teaching them and us that the name of God should always be treated with the holiness that is due Him.  When the Lord gave Moses the Ten commandments He included reverence for His name: “You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses His name” (Ex. 20:7). The name of God is His essence and identity, it declares Him as great, mighty, powerful, exalted, and deserving of worship. And when it is combined with profanity, misused as an expression of surprise or disgust, or used to deceive and manipulate it is a personal affront to Him. Likewise, the name of Jesus Christ is never to be spoken in any manner that denies His holiness and righteousness.

When I was in school I was teased horribly over both my first and last names: Dorcas Beegle. Every day I was greeted with “Here comes Dorky Dorcas, the beagle dog!” followed by a chorus of barking and howling. It hurt. They were making fun of my name, but their words felt like a personal attack on me. When we misuse the name of God, we think we’re only speaking words, but we are attacking God’s character. When my classmates teased me, I would hide in the bathroom and cry, but God says that He will hold accountable anyone who misuses His name.

And while we’re at it – please do not misuse the word “holy.” It is the word that most defines God. Jesus shed His blood to make unholy people holy. It is not to be combined with profanity, bodily functions, or farm animals. It should also always be used with reverence. So, no more “Holy cows! okay?”

Beloved, how does God’s name and the name of His Son roll off of your tongue?

Shut up, Satan!

O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is Your name in all the earth!

You have set your glory above the heavens. From the lips of children and infants, You have ordained praise because of Your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger. Psalm 8:1-2

I have always read this verse with the image of the “Cherub Choir” of little children gathered in front of the church, singing (and wiggling and giggling and waving) to the delight of the congregation. It’s such a sweet vision. But God gave me another perspective of this verse as I wrote it in my prayer journal this morning.  “Ordained” jumped out at me, like the Spirit turned a spotlight on that specific word. Oh, the dig is on! This word means “to lay a foundation, to establish,” and as I researched farther I found a slightly different version of verse 8: “Through the praise of children and infants You have established a stronghold against Your enemies.” I got glory goosebumps as the Spirit turned that Cherub Choir into a fortress, a strong tower against the enemy that God and I – and you – share.

I have studied the Names of God for many years and one name that I use often is The Lord my Stronghold. When I call on Yahweh Metsudhathi He surrounds me and protects me from our enemy. This verse says that what builds that stronghold, that protective wall, is praise. That is why I always try to start my prayers – written or spoken – with praise. It’s not that God needs an ego boost, but I need to look at my struggles and trials and challenges in the shadow of the One who is greater than all of them. There is a bonus to praise that verse 2 presents. Read it again. Do you see how the praise of little children “silences the foe and the avenger.”? When you and I praise the Lord, the enemy shuts his lying mouth! Yes!! That’s the power of praising the mighty Name of God! Have you ever wanted to stop satan’s taunts? Praise the Lord!

You have a real enemy and you will never get through this battle without a strong tower, a fortress, a place of defense, and protection. Beloved, God is your Defender, and praise is your defense – it is your shield of faith. Tell the devil to shut his mouth by filling yours with praise!

God Doesn’t Make Watches

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“I’ll see you in heaven,” I said to my Mom as peace fell over her still face. It’s the same thought I had when I got the call several weeks ago that my brother had passed away. For the believer, to be “away from the body” is to be “at home with the Lord” (2 Cor. 5:8). Truly, I envy them. I long to be home – eternally home. But it occurred to me that I never have to tell Jesus, “I’ll see you in heaven.” Yes, I will “see” Him in the sense that I will, like my mother and brother, gaze into His face in heaven. But I am not separated from Him at all. Over and over in Scripture, He promised, “I am with you,” and I know that He is.

There was a theory espoused in the late 18th century called “the Watchmaker Analogy.” Just as watches are set in motion by watchmakers, after which they operate according to their pre-established mechanisms, God created the world, set the laws of nature in motion, and then sat back on His heavenly throne to watch it all unfold without His regular involvement unless there was a catastrophic need to intervene. (2020 would be a good time.) It allowed for theism – the belief in the existence of a Creator – and evolution – the natural process of selection – to coexist without firmly standing in one camp or the other.

That’s not the God of the Bible, nor is it the God of my life. The God I know is not sitting back with disinterest, He is actively engaged in the world and even in the minute details of my everyday life. He is passionate about His creation and especially about His children. Recently I cried to God over hard stuff in my life, and He assured me of His ever-watchful eye and His hand poised to act at the right moment.

This life is hard. It’s doubly hard when you think you’re alone. It is comforting to know that the God who promised His presence to Abraham and Moses and Joshua and David and the Apostles and Paul has also promised to be present and active in your life as well. Beloved, you don’t have to wait for heaven. God is with you now, today. He is El Hayyay – the God of your life.

A Prayer for Today

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This is my prayer this morning. I invite you to pray with me:

Holy Father,

This is the day that You have made, and I will be glad and rejoice in it (Ps 118:24).

Nothing will touch me today that has not passed through the filter of your loving purpose.

I have awakened to new opportunities and new mercies (Lam. 3:23).

Yesterday’s failures are buried. Today is a new slate, bright and clean.

I do not face this day alone; You are present with me (Matt. 28:20).

You are my Shepherd (Ps. 23:1).

You are my Father (Matt. 20:17).

You are my Peace (Heb. 13:20).

My Comfort (2 Cor. 1:3)

My Rock (Ps 18:2).

My Strength (Ps 19:14).

My Shield (Deut. 33:29).

 

Lord, when my heart and mind are focused on You, the worries of my life seem small because You are so great. Oh, help me keep my eyes fixed on You all through the day.

Gracious, mighty, sovereign God what an extraordinary thing that You sang me to sleep last night (Zep. 3:17) and You sent me word this morning of Your unfailing love (Ps. 143:8).

I make one plea in this early hour – the angels declare that the whole earth is full of Your glory. (Isaiah 6:3). Give me eyes to see Your glory all around me today.

In the mighty and holy and perfect name of Jesus Christ, my Savior and Lord.

Amen.

Babes in Christ – or Men and Women of God?

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My granddaughter eats from a plate that belonged to her daddy when he was her age. It is made of hard plastic and has brightly-colored cartoon dinosaurs painted on it – she calls them “puppies” and so puppies they are. We’ve tried to remember to always hand wash it, to preserve the puppies’ colors because dishwasher detergent tends to fade and bleach away designs on dishware. But lately, it’s been put in the dishwasher rather than take the few minutes to hand wash it with a gentle cleanser. A couple of days ago I noticed flecks of white showing in the puppies and the colors were not as bright as they had been. Our laziness was beginning to show – and it was beginning to diminish the dish.

The writer of Hebrews chastised the recipients of his letter saying, “We have much to say about this but it is hard to explain because you are slow to learn” (5:11). The word “slow” caught my attention, and I grabbed my spiritual shovel to start digging.  What I found was a very sharp rebuke. That word does not indicate a learning disability – it speaks to a heart problem instead. The word means “lazy, undisciplined, no longer trying to learn.” Oh. The writer continued by saying that they were not growing and progressing in their understanding of God’s Word and their faith – “you need milk, not solid food!” (v. 12). They were content being spiritual “infants” sucking on their spiritual bottle.

So how do we grow in our faith? How do we go from babies on milk to men and women producing fruit for the Kingdom of God? The writer continued, “Solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil” (v. 14). Spiritual growth requires spiritual discipline –effort and time and developing holy habits that become an ingrained part of our character. Salvation is always the work of God, but growing in our faith requires our cooperation. Beloved, lets you and I determine to put down our bottles, shake off our laziness, and grow up. Let’s revive those bright colors so that the world can see the unfading beauty of men and women of God.

To Know, Know, Know Him . . .

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“Lord, I do not understand. Why this battle? Why this hard thing? Why this discouraging place? Why Lord, is this happening?”

I wonder if those words or something similar fell from your lips even this morning. Why does God allow these painful things in our lives? I believe it is to show us Who He is. God wants you and me to know Him. Think about it, I would never know God as my Provider unless I had a need I couldn’t meet. You would never know God as your Healer if you were never sick. We would never know He is our Protector unless we needed protection. If you never stand in the darkness you don’t appreciate the Light.

There is a name that I believe God wants you and me to know above all the others.

I ran across a verse this morning in Micah, who was an Old Testament prophet about a hundred years or so before the fall of Judah. The people have rebelled against and disobeyed the Lord. God spoke a word to them: “You will go to Babylon” (Micha 4:10) They would be torn from their beloved home and exiled in a foreign land. It would be a very hard time. God could rightly leave it there. They deserved punishment for their sins. But He doesn’t.

“There you will be rescued. There the Lord will redeem you.” God is our Redeemer – the one who saves us from danger, hostility, and slavery. That is the name I believe He most wants us to know. Because until you know Him as Redeemer, you cannot know Him as Provider, Healer, Protector, or Light. God revealed Himself as Redeemer when His people were in a place of danger and distress and hardship. He redeemed them out of Egyptian slavery. He redeemed them out of Babylonian exile. And He is still redeeming. He gave His one and only Son to redeem you out of bondage to sin and death (John 3:16). God redeemed you because He loves you. When you understand that you cannot help but love Him too.

Beloved, that hard place your in is the perfect place for you to get to know and love your Redeemer. Maybe the Teddy Bears said it the best “To know, know, know Him is to love, love, love Him.”

The God who Restores

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I saw something very cool this morning as I was reading in Revelation. “To him who overcomes, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God” (2:7). Do you recall the last time we saw the tree of life? It was way back in Genesis, chapter 3 to be exact. After the fall of Adam and Eve, God banished them from the Garden of Eden and said “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever” (3:22). Because they knew evil (notice the passage said they knew good and evil, but not good from evil) it would be a cruel thing to allow them to live forever with that burden.

Yet the Revelation verse shows that man is restored to all the good things God created for him to enjoy. The bounty of His blessing, the delight of His presence, and the promise of eternal life.

God restores. It is His nature to restore things that are broken. And not only in heaven but also here and now. I have seen broken marriages restored. Broken dreams reignited. Broke relationships knitted back together. Broken minds healed. Broken lives renewed. And broken hearts made whole. He is Elyshib – the God who restores. And He is working to restore you.

What Do You See?

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Sunday morning we dropped our granddaughter off at the nursery and headed to the sanctuary for worship. As soon as we settled in I turned my cell phone to vibrate and set it near me where I could see it in case the nursery texted me. When the pastor began his sermon I put my Bible in my lap and tucked my phone half-way under it. As I looked toward the pulpit and listened to the message, I was always conscious of my phone, keeping it in the periphery of my vision. If my girl needed me, I wanted to know it.
We tend to treat sin that way too, don’t we? We put on our best Christian clothes and sit up close to the front of the church. We post Scriptures and “Jesus sayings” on social media. We put the fish on our car and wear the t-shirt.  We have our Bible open and we come before God and repeat: “Our Father, who art in heaven . . .” But we also keep our favorite sin close by. Oh, not where everyone can see it, but just where we can catch the faintest glimmer of it, so we don’t miss it when it calls.  The Bible has a word for that: “cherished sin.” David said, “If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened” (Psalm 66:18). The word “cherished” in the original Hebrew means “to see, look, consider, to realize, to know.” It’s doesn’t mean that we simply notice sin as we pass by it, but it means we are keeping sin in view and are always conscious of it. It also means we have failed to cut ties with it. And those are ties that bind us up and keep us from walking in the Spirit.
One more thing about this word “cherished” – I told you what I meant, but I didn’t tell you the actual word – it is “Ra’a and we first see it in Scripture in Genesis 16:13. It is the name Hagar gives to the Lord God when He finds her in the desert running from Sarai: “I have now seen the One who sees me.” 
Beloved, it’s all about where you’re looking and what you’re keeping in your line of vision.

Real Faith

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Merriam-Webster defines faith as allegiance to duty or a person, sincerity of intentions, belief, trust in, and loyalty to God, trust in the traditional doctrines of a religion, and firm belief in something for which there is no proof. But faith in the Bible is different – deeper, stronger, longer-lasting. The Greek word for faith is pistis and it means belief or trust with an implication that actions based on that trust may follow. There’s an old story about a tightrope walker who strung his rope across a tall and dangerous precipice then asked the crowd, “Who here believes I can walk across this rope and back without falling?” Many applauded their approval and so he stepped up and made the trip across and back with ease. Then he set a wheelbarrow on the rope and asked, “Who here believes I can push this wheelbarrow across this rope and back without dropping it or falling off?” The crowd, encouraged by his previous success, agreed that he could. And so he pushed the wheelbarrow across and back without a hitch. When he returned, the crowd whistled and clapped with delight. “Now,” the man said, “who’s willing to get in the wheelbarrow?” That’s what the Bible means by faith.

Christmas is many stories of faith. The shepherds had faith and went to see the Baby in the manger. Joseph had faith and took Mary to be his wife despite the scandalous circumstances. Mary had faith and humbly surrendered to the will of God even though it put her in a very difficult situation. The Magi had faith and traveled for two years to worship a King who didn’t rule their country. Elizabeth restored Mary’s faith by reminding her that there is a great blessing in believing God. Simeon and Anna had faith in God’s promise to redeem Israel, and their faith was rewarded in the face of the infant Son of God.

Faith is not just sitting around thinking faithy thoughts. Real faith, sustaining faith is faith that moves you. It looks at the impossibility of the situation and steps forward anyway. It submits to God’s will even when it’s hard. It makes the difficult journey of life an adventure and it never loses sight of the promises of El Emunah, the Faithful God.

Beloved, do you have real faith?

Waiting for Jesus

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The old man shuffling through the temple courts was a common sight. You could tell exactly what time of day it was when Simeon came around. Same gait, same expression, the same sense of yearning. But today there was something different about him. He was excited, his eyes darted around and his feet moved as if every step was determined by a force outside of himself. Suddenly his weathered face lit up like a thousand candles as his arms extended towards a young couple. With Jesus cradled in his arms the old man began to speak in the sing-song voice of worship: “Sovereign Lord, as You have promised, You now dismiss Your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen Your salvation, which You have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to Your people Israel” (Luke2:29-32).

Just then an old woman came up to the little group, her eyes bright with wonder and fixed on the infant in Simeon’s arms. “This is Him! This is the One! Oh, praise the name of the Lord – He has sent the Redemption of Israel!” Simeon smiled at Anna and nodded his head in agreement with her proclamation. They had both held tightly to the assurance that God would one day comfort and redeem His people and he was glad to share this glorious moment with his friend.

For the two elderly people, the baby was the fulfillment of a promise they had long held to and yearned to see. Simeon, filled with the Holy Spirit, had been assured by God that he would see the Hope of mankind before he died. Anna, widowed early in her life, had dedicated her years to worship, fasting and praying for the Messiah to come. It had been such a long time – not just their lifetime, but hundreds of years for the oppressed nation of Israel. In the temple courts that day, their faith was rewarded and they received the child with great joy.

How do you hold on when the promise of God is a long time in coming? Just like Simeon and Anna did – with faith. They never wavered in their expectations. They never stopped believing that every promise God made was as sure as His name – El Emunah, The Faithful God. Beloved, His name still stands today. You can wait in faith because God is still always and forever faithful. Christmas is the blessed proof that He will never fail to do what He says He will do.

Image: “Simeon’s Moment” by Ron DiCianna