One Name

Today’s reading is Psalm 54.

In whom or in what do you trust? In whom or what do you put your faith and hope in?

Last year brought us arguably the most hyper partisan election in U.S. history with each side claiming the other would end democracy as we know if the other won. With the election result nearly a 50/50 split, half the country was really happy with the outcome and half the country was really disappointed.  Unfortunately, most who voted looked at their candidate to solve our country’s problems and also many to fix their own problems and to rescue them so to speak.

If you did not put your hope and trust in one of these leaders, or even if you did, we can likely find ourselves putting our hope or trust in other political figures, leaders, athletes, or celebrities. We can also find ourselves putting our hope and trust in our careers, money or belongings, or even our spouses, parents, or children looking to them to solve our problems. Sadly, most of us we form our identity or measure our self-worth based on our career, our money or belongings, or relationships. The problem is we end up finding out politicians do not solve all our problems, careers end unexpectedly or due to retirement, money does not bring happiness and can run out no matter the amount, and relationships can end due to death or falter no matter how good of a job we do to nourish them because we are all sinful humans who make mistakes. All these things are futile and end.

As I read Psalm 54, what kept coming to my mind was….one name.

“God save me by your name

and vindicate me by your might.”

Psalm 54:1

Life is short..even if we live 90 to 100 years. There is only one thing we should really fear and that is death. There is only one name that can save us from death and give us eternal life through His sacrifice on the cross. In only Him should we put our hope and trust.

“It is better to take refuge in the

Lord

than to trust in man.

It is better to take refuge in the

Lord

than to trust in princes.”

Psalm 118:8-9

Ross Blumhorst wrote in a Bible Journal post back in January, “God is always right, we never have to guess if He is right or wrong, and you that makes me rejoice-how thankful I am that there’s something in this crazy world I can always know to be true!” Wow..powerful words that are so true. Thank you, Ross. I posted this quote to my social media and my Mom reminded me of this great verse.

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”
Hebrews 13:8

Thanks, Mom. How great it is to know this in our messed up world?!

Earlier I asked the questions, in whom or in what do you trust? In whom do you put your faith and hope in?

We should strive to constantly remember the words of David here in Psalm 54.

“Behold, God is my helper;

the Lord is the upholder of my

life. “
Psalm 54:4

“For He has delivered me from

every trouble…”

Psalm 54:7

Let us then respond as David does…

“..I will give thank to your

Name O Lord, for it is

good.”

Psalm 54:6

By only one name are we saved. Only one name should we call on and put our faith, hope, and trust in. By only one name should we form our identity. And only in one name should we give our thanks, glory, and praise. That name is Jesus.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ypXUd_vGmI

 

 

A Thrill of Hope

Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.  Isaiah 7:14

I wonder how this landed on people seven hundred years before Christ came. We may accept this prophecy as known and believed today, but based on the responses in scriptures, they didn’t seem to. God With Us?  Could they imagine it or understand it?

When you zoom out from this moment with God, King Azah, and the prophet Isaiah, the landscape is heavy. Isaiah served as a prophet to the people of Judah and during the reign of four different kings. This time period experienced war  after war, and all the while Isaiah counseled the kings to trust only in the Lord. Wait on the Lord. But his advice fell on deaf ears resulting in defeats, captivity, and exile.

All the while, the people had turned away from God – their hearts weren’t in it. Interesting enough, they were still going to the temple and making sacrifices for their rebellion. They knew they weren’t following the Lord, but rather than truly repent and change, they tried to quick-fix their sins with worthless sacrifices. These sin and hypocrisy cycles continued for decades!

You know what I love about God and how he used Isaiah? In the midst of all of the disobedience from the kings and leaders of the nation, to the disobedience to the everyday people – at every level they had turned their backs on the Lord – but he remained. He still continued to give them hope. He didn’t leave them. He provided prophets to point the people back to himself. The thrill of hope is woven all through the book of Isaiah!

Isaiah is truly an amazing foretelling of Jesus. God used this one prophet to share so much hope and truth about our Messiah. The need of a savior was apparent, and Jesus Christ is our perfect provision!

        • The coming of Christ is announced in Isaiah 40:3-5
        • The virgin birth of Christ is foretold in Isaiah 7:14
        • The Good News through Christ is positioned in Isaiah 61:1
        • Christ’s death and sacrifice for our sins is outlined in Isaiah 52-53
        • Christ’s return and reign in Isaiah 60:2-3

These are just a few of the many recorded and fulfilled prophesies from Isaiah about the life and ministry of Christ.

When we zoom back in to what is happening specifically in Isaiah 7, we find King Azah too rebellious and too proud to ask God, or “test God”, even though God commanded him to. God wanted to have his whole heart and be fully trusted. Even after King Azah’s excuse to not ask God, God still offers him a sign of the future to come. A future of hope and salvation through Jesus. If the people would just trust the Lord and have faith! Today we can do exactly that. We can trust. We can follow the Lord. We can let go of our empty sacrifices and rely solely on the saving grace of Jesus.

As we continue looking toward the birth of Jesus, we can trust the one who sent him. He wants us to believe. He sent Jesus so He can be with us again. I’m praying that we all experience the thrill of the hope we have in Christ!

A Living Stone

What goes into building a strong structure? Time, energy, and a strong cornerstone. Together as the Church, we are all one strong structure that is supposed to uphold our faith with Jesus as our cornerstone. That means that we must see ourselves each individually as small building blocks.

As a stone to uphold a structure, how are we able to be good enough to work together as the church and have Christ as our cornerstone?

It may come to a surprise to some of us, but we are not perfect. Our Heavenly Father made us in His image, but sin has made us broken. When we are born into this world, we are made to be broken because of sin. How do we overcome sin and be in a relationship with Christ? We can’t, we can only believe in what God has done for us to be saved.

It is by faith alone through Jesus Christ that we come to know true salvation and the presence of the Holy Spirit. As we come to a relationship with Christ, He calls us to believe in Him. That means to believe that we are made broken and in need of a Savior. Jesus is that Savior, fully God and man. He is eternal with the Father and Holy Spirit. Because God loves us and wants to be in relationship with us, He brought His Son down to Earth to preach the “good news” and to become an eternal sacrifice for all. Therefore, Jesus came to Earth as a baby, died on the cross as a man, and was resurrected to give us eternal life.

When we believe in this, there is a change in all of us. We see lives to start changing and go toward the Word of Jesus. In 1 Peter 2:4-5, Peter says, As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ”. We come to Jesus broken and with a past. None of us are perfect or are called to be perfect when you come to a relationship with Jesus. We need a Savior and He wants us to be with Him.

Jesus makes us into living stones, building blocks, that will be rejected by others, but will make us into one whole structure. This structure is a royal priesthood that is in a relationship with Jesus. This structure is constantly growing and will continue to do so. The Church is unlike other structures or buildings, it will continue to transform each and every day. It will add more building blocks and become more refined, but always have a perfect cornerstone that allows the structure to never fall.

As the Chruch, let us grow more towards living like a royal priesthood and sharing the good news of the Gospel. Never forget that God’s grace is a blessing and gift towards us, that is worth sharing with everyone!

My Salvation

How do you describe God? What words do you usually use? Deliverer, comforter, loving, just, redeemer, etc. There are endless words that can be used to describe God. Throughout all of Scripture, we are constantly learning more about the character of God. God is described in so many different ways, but what truly makes us believe and have hope in Him is that He is our salvation.

What does it mean that God is our salvation?

In Exodus 15:2, we see that Moses describes God as his salvation, “The LORD is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation; this is my God, and I will praise him, my father’s God, and I will exalt him”. Moses and all the Israelites have just been saved from the Egyptians. The Israelites, since the time of Abraham, believed in God as their Creator, but now, they are coming to a different understanding of Him, he has now become their hope and freedom from slavery. The Israelites have been delivered from 400 years of slavery. They know that God is for them, and is willing to save them! Moses is rejoicing and trusting that God is the only hope that He has.

In God, we have hope, and we are saved from our enemies. For the Israelites, their enemies were the Egyptians. Our enemies look a little different today. Sometimes we face physical enemies, but more than likely, we are facing “the enemy” through sin. Depression, anxiety, racial tensions, poverty, lust, etc. These are the tactics that Satan uses to try and lead us astray. Since we can say that God is our salvation, we have hope from sin!

Jesus Christ is our salvation and hope! In John 3:16, we see that Jesus says, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life”. God loves us so much that He gave His only Son to die a horrific death, so that we may be saved from our enemy and sin! God is our salvation through Jesus Christ!

In our salvation through Jesus Christ, we have confidence in being worthy of freedom from our enemies and sin! Psalm 27:1 says, The LORD is my light and my salvation; who shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?”. We are not only saved through Jesus, but we are made into a new creation. God protects us in our salvation and promises that He will be with us forever.

Jesus Christ is our salvation. He is the only one that can free us from the bondage of sin. The salvation that Jesus provides is eternal. It gives us hope for the future. This salvation that Jesus grants us is to be shared with everyone. How are you sharing this joyous message today? I encourage you to lean into understanding the Gospel message more, so that way you can continue conversations in your daily life around the salvation that Jesus gives us.

Resting Place

Lost and nowhere to be found in the middle of the woods. You are all alone, miles and miles away from any communication to the outside world. As the hour draws near, it starts to get dark outside, and it starts to rain. You find yourself searching for shelter to get out of the rain and rest for the night. Finally, you find a cave, a resting place.

This short story is an analogy for how we walk through life. Humans walk around looking for something significant. Everybody wants to be seen as valuable in society. People attempt to do this through their work, families, health, achievements, etc. It is exhausting, to see how much weight is put on finding value in life. Everybody wanders around to find something that will put their minds and hearts at peace.

From the time of the Fall till today, God recognizes that sense of belonging and value that individuals seek. Humans were always supposed to live with God in the garden until Adam and Eve sinned against God. They are left with a void inside themselves because of sin. People are left leading a life without a shepherd that they need (Jeremiah 50:6). Now, everybody attempts to fill that void with material goods, achievements, families, relationships, school, advancements, etc. People are running themselves exhausted because they are not rooted in the Lord.

What happens when people get to this point of exhaustion?

What does God do to help with this?

Why is being rooted in the Lord do for us?

Back to the story told from earlier, you find yourself lost, stranded, and stuck in the rain in the middle of nowhere…you are to that point of exhaustion and need a resting place. This is what happens in life, and how people find themselves in life. They get to a point where they can’t handle it anymore, and they want to give up or find some type of answer for why everything is falling apart in their world.

God knows that everyone can’t do this alone, and that is why He wants us to see Him as our resting place. Psalm 62:5-7 says, “Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him. Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken. My salvation and my honor depend on God; he is my mighty rock, my refuge”. When we are to that point of exhaustion, to the point of giving up, God gives us that cave every time. He always provides a resting place in Him.

Throughout all of the Gospels, Jesus tells all the people, to allow Him to take their burdens and rest in Him (Matthew 11:29). Jesus came to give us rest from all of our labors. He came, so that way, the burden of sin would no longer leaving us to feel lost and broken.

The longing and value that everybody is attempting to find on their own are found in a relationship with Jesus Christ. In 2 Corinthians 5:17, Paul says, ” Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come”. Everything that you are searching for is in Christ Jesus. He is the resting place that we are all longing for. He provides that cave for us every time we need it!

Our Peace

Our world has changed over the past few months. Currently, we are dealing with social and racial issues that are splitting the country apart. COVID-19 has changed the economic, physical, and emotional tides of the country. Each day, in the United States, we hear on the news about everything that is going wrong in the world around us.

Many of our families live in fear and dismay over the COVID-19 pandemic and all the other concerns going on. Each one of us is shaken and made to rely on something in their lives for hope and peace.

During all the uncertainty, I keep listening to Christians and Non-Christians’ uncertainty of what the future could be. Each one of us depends on some type of faith. I believe that during all this time, that Christians should portray a peace that passes understanding.

Ephesians 2:14 is our verse today. It says, “For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility”. Paul is speaking to the Ephesian church and is addressing the disagreements within the church. He addresses this issue by saying that, Jesus is our only true peace, and He is the only thing that can solve all their issues going on. Also, in Christ Jesus, we are made brothers and sisters in Christ. Therefore, as brothers and sisters, we must represent the sacrifice that Christ has made for us and rally together around that.

How does this disagreement that the church in Ephesians helps us understand peace?

Dictionary.com defines peace as “a state of mutual harmony between people or groups, especially in personal relations:”. As stated above, we can see that we are far from peace in this country and world. There is only one way to obtain true peace, by putting your hope and faith in Christ Jesus for your salvation. Jesus says in John 16:33, “I have said these things to you that in me you have peace. In the world, you will have tribulation. But take heart, I have overcome the world”. Our peace is found in Jesus!

Each day we fight, disagree, backstab, and worry all out of the fear of the future. We are looking for some type of utopian society. Because of sin, that isn’t possible, but with Christ, we do have a peace that will surpass all understanding. See Jesus paid for our sin on a cross to provide us the peace in our hearts that we yearn for. The peace that Jesus provides, is the understanding that we have a Savior and God, who loves us so much that the Father sacrificed the Son to pay for all the sin in our lives so that we can live with Christ in eternity.

In the current season of life that we are all living, Christians need to unify under one banner, the cross of Jesus Christ. I encourage each of you to keep your hope in Jesus Christ. Life isn’t easy and there will always be some amount of uncertainty. However, when we are able to band together as believers, we gifted with the Holy Spirit that strengthens us. In Galatians 3:28, Paul says, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” There is no distinction that Jesus makes.

Our peace is stronger together as Christians. I encourage you, now is the time to reach out to Christians and Non-Christians, that you know you disagree with on topics. Pray with them, share the Gospel with non-Christians and Christians alike, share a meal together, and overall be together and unify under Christ Jesus, who provides a peace that passes all understanding.

In Jesus’ Name We Pray

Have you ever thought of prayers that close with “In Jesus’ Name We Pray, Amen”?  Maybe you close your own prayers that way.

I have to confess that sometimes thoughtful traditions become habits, and there are times that I miss the meaning in the moment of routine. When I stop and really think of these words at the end of my prayer, it’s an awesome reminder that:

          • God is in control
          • Jesus has the power, not us
          • To him be the glory
          • We want our heart and will to be aligned to the Father’s
          • Jesus is our intercessor
          • His name is above all names

When we truly believe in the power that Jesus’ name carries, we call on Him and know he is able. He is able to comfort. He is able to heal. He is able to meet us where we are. He is able to forgive. He is able to change us. He is all powerful, and his name is above all other names. Philippians 2:9-10 tells us:

Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth.

So Jesus’ name is above any other name, and there is POWER in his name! The New Testament is filled with examples of disciples praying and doing miracles in Jesus’ name, with faith, and then times when they weren’t. The results were very different. John 14:14, John 16:23-24, 1 John 5:13-15, Acts 19:13-16

This is an awesome encouragement for me to slow down and think about what I’m saying and what’s truly in my heart. What am I really asking for? What are my motives? Do I believe God will answer my prayer? Am I requesting Jesus’ power, by calling on his name?

As we are called to be more Christ-like, studying who he is will help us identify areas of growth. These daily attributes and names of God are amazing!

Jesus was named with the Hebrew origin meaning Jehovah / Yahweh Saves, or God Rescues. This name, chosen by God, is over every other name. And we have access to his power by calling on his name – wow! And when we call on his name, we are declaring that the power is his. The glory is His. None of it is ours! 

Do you have a situation that needs the power of Jesus to intervene? Approach God in faith, knowing and believing that Jesus’ name is above all. Say his name out loud!

Man of Sorrows

Most of us are familiar with the Disney classic Aladdin and the legend of a genie in a magic lamp granting 3 wishes to the person who finds and rubs it, especially with the recent remake and also the emergence of Disney Plus. If there were such a lamp and you were lucky enough to find it, what would you do if you had that much power? Even if you would use that power for something good to change the world and mankind, would it be the first thing you would do with your power? Would you ever even think of helping someone who had directly disobeyed you which hurt you deeply? Much like the fortunate person to find a lamp with a magic genie like Aladdin, God has all power. We know from Genesis 3 when Adam and Eve brought sin into the world by eating from the tree God told them not to and thus directly going against His one direction, God not only immediately provided for them through skins to clothe them (Genesis 3:21) when they realized they were naked only because of their sin, but He also immediately promised a Savior in Genesis 1:15 to help mankind defeat Satan and death and bring us back to Him.

Let me pose another question…..if you made a decision to help save someone who directly hurt you, would you be willing to go through much hardship and pain to do so if you could get the same result without it? God chose to save us and to take the pain upon His Son Jesus. He also chose to do so in the most humbling way possible. Through the prophet Isaiah, God tells us Jesus was a “man of sorrows” in Isaiah 53:3 who was despised and rejected.

Jesus came in to this world the son of a carpenter and young virgin, not a king and queen. Jesus and His family were rejected from the beginning, there was no room at the inn so he was born in a stable, not a castle, and placed in a manger, not a bed. As He became a man, we know nothing about His earthly home leading us to believe it couldn’t have been much. From Scriptures, we know He became hungry and thirsty. He felt the pain of losing a friend in Lazarus and cried. He was rejected by those in His own hometown. He was betrayed and given to the authorities to be killed by one of his 12 closest friends and followers, Judas. The remaining 11 then ran, abandoned Him, and hid when He was captured. One of His other closest friends and followers, Peter, denied he even knew Him. Then, despite seeing His mighty works and raising others from the dead, another of His closest friends, Thomas, refused to believe He was raised and had done what He said He would. In all of this, we have not even mentioned yet He was beaten and tortured to the brink of death and then was executed in one of the most gruesome and painful ways our world has ever known. No doubt He was a “man of sorrows.”

When we have a bad day, week, month, or are in some of the deepest valleys and toughest, most painful seasons of our life, we must remember we have a God and Savior who empathizes, knows, and cares about what we are experiencing because He experienced some form of the same pain. He didn’t have to, but He did. If we think we don’t deserve what we are going through, we can remember Jesus definitely didn’t deserve what He went through…all for us nonetheless. If we now think about the honor, power, and glory of Jesus, we might picture Him on a throne sitting at the right hand of the Father in Heaven, but we can be thankful while He was on this Earth…He was a “man of sorrows”…all for you and for me…so that our pain could be temporary and not eternal.

Kinsman-Redeemer

 

Ruth 3:9 “He said, ‘Who are you?’ And she answered, ‘I am Ruth, your servant. Spread your wings over your servant, for you are a redeemer”.

Who has been a redeemer in your life? Who has taken you out of the darkness? Who has cared for you above all else?

On my worst days, I find myself thinking that I am all alone. In college, I struggled with a high amount of anxiety and depression. I kept seeking and attempting to find something that wasn’t there. I turned to the emptiness of sin to find satisfaction and meaning in my life. At this time, I didn’t depend on God, and I wasn’t searching for Him at all. I had a relationship with God, but I was fighting Him every step of the way.

I asked myself the question above, “Who can redeem me from this place that I am in”? I knew that God was always there for me and cared for me no matter what happened, but at the end of the day, I didn’t think He should. I thought that He shouldn’t love someone like me. I wasn’t good enough to be loved and cared for by a Savior.

Sin is rooted deeply into all of our lives. Our flesh gives into sin naturally. However, there is One thing that can redeem us and save us from this…our kinsman-redeemer Jesus. In the story of Ruth, Ruth’s husband passed away and she was left with her mother-in-law, Naomi. In this time, it was extremely difficult for women to survive without a male family member. The one way one would be able to survive, and flourish was through a kinsman-redeemer. The kinsman redeemer would restore the rights and freedom to oneself. Ruth found herself in one of the worst situations, but then God redeemed her through her kinsman-redeemer, Boaz. Even in our worst situations we can be redeemed.

No matter how we got into a terrible situation, through our own sin or external circumstances, Jesus, our kinsman-redeemer, redeems all of it. For me it was my direct sin and anxiety that brought me to depend on Him. Ruth, however, was given a kinsman-redeemer, Boaz. Jesus paid the ransom that we may be with Him forever!

Home

Today’s Verses:

Psalm 84:3-4 Even the sparrow has found a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may have her young—a place near your altar, Lord Almighty, my King, and my God. 4 Blessed are those who dwell in your house; they are ever praising you.

Psalm 90:1 Lord, you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations.

Home

What do you think of when you think of home? Is it the current house you have been in now for our “stay at home” order? Do you think back to your hometown? What does home look like when you think of Jesus? Do you consider the visible church a home? What about your heart?

For me, I have thought of all these places in the last week.  Growing up, we attended church on occasion.  (North Darien Bible Church – very old photo)It was a safe place to be, and it allowed me to interact with others. Be around people that weren’t fighting.  We never went as a whole family though.  I went to my first Christian camp!  (Circle C Ranch)  Still, what was going on at home and what I heard at church were two different things. (thank you for my memory lane moment) Do you remember the church you grew up in? Is it the same one you still attend?

Thirty-plus years later and in our house now, we have been together daily without the distractions of the worldly race for over a month.  When asked how we are doing, I will say that “I’m trusting in God and His purpose for this time”. Honestly, 90% of the time has been great to be together so much.  The other 10% I’m still dealing with my selfishness and parenting skills. Most of the time has been a blessing.  Devotionals, meals, prayers, life lessons and skills are being discussed and shared. With the fair share of prayers for grace in our parenting.

Together as we grow closer to God through this pandemic I pray we remember the plans Jesus has through this time.

Ephesians 2:10 
10 For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.

Proverbs 16:9 
9We plan the way we want to live, but only GOD makes us able to live it.

Just this last week at our small group, we discussed devotionals being implemented and shared, family members listening to multiple services in a day, children talking with their parents about getting baptized. Impressive work that God had already planned.

This time has allowed me to notice how much I miss the face-to-face fellowship and praise.  For some reason, my singing doesn’t sound the same?  God is giving us this time home to truly make our houses the church for ourselves and family. In the Bible, the church is always a reference to people, not a place. The church is a body of believers that live out the Gospel in their words and actions. Are we doing that? The church is at its best when people inside the building take Jesus’ message outside the building and serve those they meet. It’s incredible to see how God provides a platform that allowed over 25K watch Easter service.  Amen!

Lastly, think of home and its connection to our Lord, its not a town, house, or building we attend.  The home I pray for is in our hearts.

Has the Lord found a home in your heart?  Jesus left his home in Heaven to make a home in our hearts.  This was Paul’s prayer for the church in Ephesians 3, will it be yours today.

Dear Heavenly Father,

1For this reason, I bow my knees and pray to You. 15 It is from You that every family in heaven and on earth has its name. 16 I pray that because of the riches of His shining-greatness, He will make you strong with power in your hearts through the Holy Spirit. 17 I pray that Christ may live in your hearts by faith. I pray that you will be filled with love. 18 I pray that you will be able to understand how wide and how long and how high and how deep His love is. 19 I pray that you will know the love of Christ. His love goes beyond anything we can understand. I pray that you will be filled with God Himself. Amen 

See you at home.