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Here Are the Answers

In our last post, I asked readers to try their hand at recognizing famous athletes by their nick names.  Then I offered 12 names of God.  The challenge was to figure out what each of those twelve names meant as it regards our relationship to God through Jesus.

Here are the translations of the names of God that I listed.

God is…

…my Creator…

…my Lord God…

…my Supplier…

…my Master…

…my Provider…

…my Banner…

…my Sanctifier…

…my Righteousness…

…my Shepherd…

…my Peace…

We rejoice that our God is this and infinitely more.  Through Jesus we have as our Heavenly Father the One Who spoke and the world was.

This Advent Season let’s come humbly to Him offering gifts of praise, thanksgiving and love.

Have a blessed Christmas celebration.

A Change of Pace

In this post, for a change of pace, I thought it might be fun to play a name recognition game.  From the following list of nick names, how many famous athletes can you name.  Some became famous because of baseball, basketball, hockey or car racing.  See how many you can correctly identify.

The Big Unit, the Admiral, the Great One, the Dream, the Bus, Sweetness, the Big O, Hondo, Gunslinger, the Fridge, the Intimidator, the King, the Beast, the Deacon, the Minister of Defense, the Cheeseheads, the Steel Curtain…

How did you do?  If there was one nick name that you didn’t recognize, simply Google the famous nick name and the real name of the athlete will come up.

Now, for the next round of name recognition–one of greater importance:  see how many of these twelve names of God you recognize.  I’ll give the Hebrew name in English.  See how many of the twelve you can correctly identify and translate.  Here goes…

Elohim

Jehovah

El Shaddai

Adonai

Jehovah Jireh

Jehovah Nissi

Jehovah Mikkadesh

Jehovah Tsidkenu

Jehovah Rohi

Jehovah Shalom

Jehovah Shammah

O.k.  Work on it and I’ll give the answers in an upcoming blog.

Advent blessings to all as you seek the Lord in order to worship Him  like the Wise Men described in Matthew’s Gospel chapter 2 did.

 

Which one would you want?

I’ve been following, at least with moderate interest, an unscientific survey of sport’s commentators as they speculate as to the most sought after movie props or sports memorabilia.  Collectible because of their general popularity, these items could fetch six figures at auction.  Among those listed is an autographed Arnold Palmer golf club putter, a Wayne Gretzky signed hockey stick and a Pete Sampras autographed  tennis racket.  One item, though, piqued my interest more than the others, but for a different reason.

One of the commentators mentioned a desire to own the sweat shirt worn by Jim Belushi in the popular movie ‘Animal House’ that had the word ‘College’ written across the front.  The commentator never revealed what he’d be willing to pay for it, but simply said that he’d win the auction.

Later that day, I sat and thought about what I’d be most willing to own.  I didn’t need to think long.  Remembering the third chapter of Zechariah in the Old Testament, I decided that I’d most like to own a ‘robe of righteousness’ given me by my Savior, Jesus Christ the Lord.  In that chapter, Joshua stood guilty before the Lord dressed in the filthy rags of self-effort, self-centeredness  and sin.  As he stood condemned, the Lord commanded the attending angel to ‘take off his filthy rags’ and put on new, clean, ‘pure vestments’.

That is what I’d like to own more than anything.  The pure vestments of Christ’s righteousness.  We are learning a new song in worship that repeats: ‘His robes for mine, oh wondrous exchange’.   What a joyous possession…a precious gift from God.

At the cross of Calvary, Jesus wore my robe of punishment because of what I did wrong.  By Grace through faith, He gives me His robe of righteousness to wear as a gift for what He did right.

A MARVELOUS EXCHANGE, INDEED!

 

We’ve All Done It

It happens countless times every day.

Someone decides to look at a new or different car.  After work one day, they swing by their local dealer having already decided the make and model of their next vehicle.  Arriving at the car lot, they notice three vehicles that match their new preferences–right color, year, trim package, etc.  Like any of us would, they walk up to the car, look at the price tag, check out the ‘sticker’ that details the specs and give the exterior a quick ‘once over’ glance.

At this point, we all do it.  To look inside, we cup our hands on the sides of our eyes and press our face close to the car’s window.  Shielding out the light seems to help us see more clearly what might be in the car’s interior.

But what is true when looking at a car is NOT true when creating a more civil, healthy or godly culture.  There, shutting out the light creates an increasing darkness that results in cultural arrogance, hostility, unkindness and murderous self-centeredness, to which the rash of recent shootings attest.

Arguments and blame begin within hours of these crippling events.  One person blames firearms.  Another blames legislation or the lack thereof.  Still another blames poor efforts to help the mentally unstable or chronically aggressive.  But all of these fall short of providing a good description of the REAL source of our  problems.

Simply stated, we do not have a GUN problem.  We have a GOD problem.

For far too long, we have culturally bonded together to close out true light from our public conscience and create a ‘darkness’ in our souls that has just begun to bear fruit.  I don’t believe we are going to benefit from reaching the goal to which we are heading.  Just in my lifetime, we have culturally adopted sinister thoughts that can only harm us.  We’ve said…

  • You can’t pray in public whether at school, athletic events or other sanctioned functions.  Oh, we can have ‘student initiated prayers’ as long as they’re not at graduation ceremonies.  We’ll be forced to censor those.
  • You can use God or Jesus’ names as long as they are curse words, but don’t include them in a speech where their dignity and worth are extolled and praised.
  • We tell our children that they arrived on planet earth by evolving from ‘goo’ to ‘you’ by way of the ‘zoo’.
  • We tell our students that it’s fine to kill a pre-born baby because, after all, it’s not human.  BTW, some stem cell companies will gladly ‘purchase’ your aborted baby so that ‘human genetic research’ can be conducted on him/her.  What heartless irony, that.
  • We teach that whatever you think is truth to you and no one has the right to contradict your ascertains. And if they do, well, that’s hostility toward you.
  • We teach that the Bible is ‘passe at best and hateful speech at worst’.
  • We applaud ‘putting yourself publicly forward as priority #1, even if it’s at another persons’ expense.
  • As for violent video games/movies–that’s ok.  That’s good entertainment.

Why do we wonder at the crass paucity of our increasingly uncivil, violent society when we have dedicated the last 60+ years of our lives to BLOCKING OUT THE LIGHT?   Let’s all realize that if you take G-O-D out of g-o-o-d, you end up with ‘0’.

Are Analysts Asking the Right Question?

In today’s age, it is rare to be in a public setting and not hear numerous discussions regarding the public protests of our national anthem and the symbol of our freedom–the American flag.  I would like to make one observation regarding this issue, without delving in to the ‘rights of protest’.

Almost every analyst is heard asking the same question: “Why do they hate America?”  To answer this question, most of the analysts suggest the same litany of reasons why the protests are not only justified, but even required.

Granted, there are many injustices that deserve our attention.  With the level of suffering in the world and our nation, it is fitting for us to reflect on the injustices and resolve to help alleviate a measure of injustice.

If we remove just one word from the question that is being asked, we discover a more important issue to ponder.  The question, “Why do they hate America?” is appropriate to ask in a purely ‘social’ context. But, in a ‘spiritual’ context of greater importance, simply removing one word could frame the discussion in a more compelling way. For example, should we not be asking the question, “Why do they hate”?

In general, hating America is a temporary concern.  It will only last as long as America exists or we live.  However, hating in particular is of eternal consequence.  When we face God in judgment, He may not be as concerned with our hating America as He is concerned with our hating.

Understand that hating is not the result of the presence of unjust circumstances.  It is the result of how we choose to respond to those circumstances.  For example, take the tragedy of the Nazi death camps.  Two individuals experienced the same horrors and yet left with polar opposite reactions.  Elie Wiesel left the death camp with a heart full of bitter anger and resentment.  Corrie Ten Boom left the death camp with a heart prepared to live in humble forgiveness.  Same circumstance . . . different responses.  One chose hate while the other chose forgiveness.  It is all a matter of the heart.  The same is true of our social controversies.

It is entirely rational that so many are furious with our unjust social conditions.  But is hatred our best choice?

Perhaps our responses should more appropriately mirror the counsel of our Lord in Matthew 5:43-48

You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward to you have? do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is  perfect.

 

 

“Bet You Can’t Make It”

The challenge came from my younger brother.  “Bet you can’t walk it all the way around.”

Now, I’ll say at the onset that I’m not particularly competitive.  Usually, the type of dare he would give me wouldn’t even cause me to think twice.  But, this one was different.  It was a little bit more than intriguing.  Could I actually make it all the way around, I thought.

He was referring to the top rail of a five rail fence that surrounded the corral where our dairy cows jostled, pushed and shoved each other around in order to be the next in line to find relief in the milking parlor.  That fence was five and a half feet high and stretched over two hundred feet in total length and width.  Half that length was a cinch, I mused.  The top rail of that section was a new addition to the paddock and sported a top rail constructed from used ‘bridge plank’; the kind of board that was ten inches wide and three inches thick.  Laid on edge, it provided easy footing for the feet of a young lad wanting to pluck his suspenders and boast of an easy walk around.  But, the other half of the fence was different.

The remaining part of the fence, the older part, consisted of six inch creosoted posts spaced eight feet apart and 1×6 top rails that were only 3/4 inch thick.  Combined with a total board length of eight feet, those top boards provided an ‘interesting’ wobble for the feet of those boys who wanted to walk across the top of them and, let’s say, show off a little.

Humility/reality requires that I admit to failure…my first try.  Once outdone by the fence, I became determined to ‘master’ it.  If memory serves me right, it took ten tries before I successfully navigated the entire length.  By the time victory was mine, success was experienced most every ‘trip up’ until finally, I could walk the top board all the way around anytime I tried.  Oh, the thrill of victory.

Now you may be wondering what in the world this has to do with spiritual matters.  Well, simply this.  In 2 Corinthians 6:11-13, the Apostle Paul urges his readers to ‘widen your hearts also [for me]’.

In Corinth, Paul had a few antagonists. Some questioned his Apostleship.  Some didn’t like the sounds of his admonitions.  Others liked OTHER church workers better.  All in all, the relationships were somewhat strained.  This was disconcerting to Paul, who often pleaded for unity and mutual cooperation among church brethren.  Philippians 4:2 and following for example.

His inspired solution to the dilemma was to appeal to the Corinthians to ‘widen their hearts so relationships could more easily develop without the risk of failure’.  Church health increases where love is ‘broad enough’ to insure a successful balance of all the natural differences in believer’s spiritual gifts and personalities.

God doesn’t intend that we all be alike.  But, He prefers that our love be broad enough to accommodate all the unique Godly differences of people in relationship together and provide each one with the security to walk in Christ without fear of rejection or retaliation.  It is so  much better for the church to ‘widen its hearts to each other’ so everyone can securely walk together in Christ and so the world can tell that we are God’s children.

Let’s widen our hearts.

The Tale of the Tape

I was anxious to go down and look this morning.  Recently, I had begun to tape and mud seams and corners on the drywall we installed in a basement room we are finishing.  All the corners and seams were put in place.  And last night I put the first coat of mud over them.

This is a somewhat routine part of the process, with one caveat.  If, by chance, the corner beads were not sealed correctly, the new mud will pull at the edges of them and create ‘bubbles’ where any part of them is loose.

I wondered how many spots were not sealed correctly that now would need to be redone.  To my pleasure, only one small spot, a bubble six inches in length and a fourth of an inch wide, needed attention.  I’ll just need to take a razor knife, cut underneath it, press it back down and let it dry.  Once dry, I’ll put a coat of mud over it and if it sticks okay I’ll sand the seams and apply the next coat of mud.

The key to my relief this time was taking care to apply an adequate coat of join compound underneath the seams/corners, firmly press them down and trowel away excess mud.  This process will be repeated at least two more times before we can begin to sand, finish and paint the surfaces.  Hopefully, by the end of the first weekend in September, I’ll be looking at an adequate finish job.  I see why not everyone wants to do this job and why those who do, get paid well.

In a way, this process reminds me of ‘sanctification’ God takes me through in my spiritual life.  As the Lord leads us along, He draws us into deeper and deeper relationship with Him.  His desire is that we press into Him ever more firmly each day.  He knows that a day in the future will dawn with the advent of a circumstance that will tug and pull at us and threaten the strength of safety of a life secure in Him.  If not, then He will help us cut away those things that are inadequately secured and redo the process.  He’ll repeat this as many times as needed until all holds strong in the face of stretching pressure.

In a way, I wonder if this common natural event is a fit example of the process God describes in 1 Peter 5:10.  There He says,

And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace…will Himself restore, confirm, strengthen and establish you.

Let’s resolve to press into Him today.

TESTING…TESTING…THIS IS ONLY A TEST

We’ve heard it so many times that we almost don’t notice it any more.  The alert goes like this.  “This has been a test of the Emergency Broadcast System.  This is only a test.  Had it been a real emergency, you would have” …and so on.  Frankly, I have grown somewhat dull to this announcement.  It has been so routine for so long that I hardly stop to listen and consider it.

In a way, I’ve had a similar response to the test signals that occur in my life every day.  Often, I don’t even notice when they happen and take advantage of them in order to complete the process described in II Corinthians 13:5.  Such was the case yesterday at the grocery store.

I had collected my items and was in line waiting my turn to check out.  As is my habit, I looked around to see if there was anyone with fewer items than me that I could invite to check out before me.  Just a courtesy, I know, but it still tends to encourage others.

As I turned to look, I notice a young woman scurrying to a line next to me.  She was in haste to get in line, hold onto her items and simultaneously retrieve her billfold as she ‘multi-tasked’ her way to the checkout counter.  Amidst her frenzy, several folded bills, 2 $20s and a $5, fell to the ground as she worked her way into line.

Just two quick steps away, I picked up the money and called to her. “Ma’am”, I said.  “You dropped this money.”  Sheepishly she blushed, nervously reached for the money and thanked my twice.  “Oh, thank you.  Oh thank you”, she replied.  With that, she turned back to her line, purchased her items and quietly left the store.

It was only after I paid for my items and left the store that I put the scripture to use.  Sitting alone in the truck, I asked myself several questions and mentally charted my findings.  First, did I have even a flicker of thought that ‘finders keepers, losers weepers’?  The answer…NO, NOT EVEN THE SLIGHTEST THOUGHT.  NEVER ENTERED MY MIND.  Ok.  That’s good.  Second, did it occur to me that I could expect to be thanked?  NO, NOT EVEN THE SLIGHEST THOUGHT.  Actually, it was embarrassing to me as well as to her.  Out of 100 people, 99 would have done what I did.  No ‘thanks’ needed.  Ok.  That’s good.  Third, and this was probably the most probing question, was I proud of myself for doing what most anyone would have done in my place?  NO, NOT EVEN THE SLIGHTEST THOUGHT.  NEVER ENTERED MY MIND.  Ok.  That’s good.

“So”, you ask.  “What are you telling us this, if you weren’t proud of yourself?”  For this one reason.  In each day, hardly noticed at all, we face such circumstances that provide each of us with an opportunity to ‘test ourselves to see if we are in the faith’.

It is my hope that when these tests come in those unguarded moments, when what is in our hearts spurts out, that good will come out because of the good we are laying up in them.  Matthew 12:35, Luke 6:45

Devotion on Prayer: The Person and Purpose of Prayer

All ‘good praying’ will focus on the Person of God and the purpose of extending His Kingdom’s work. 

According to the traditional recitation of this payer, we conclude our praying with a surrender to the will and ways of God by saying, ‘Yours is the Kingdom, the power and the glory forever, Amen’.  Though this last part of the Lord’s Prayer recorded in Matthew 6:9-13, is only found in late manuscripts, we can be confident that the message is true.  Whether we pray all six petitions, three of which are focused on God or the last three that are focused on our needs, the overall reason for praying them is to EXALT THE LORD and bring Him glory and honor.

So as we conclude our prayer time, our concern could be and should be to ’cause the dignity and worth of God to become apparent and be acknowledged’ and to ‘teach and admonish everyone while proclaiming Him’ (Col. 1:28).

And though our needs are a concern to the Lord (see I Peter 5:7), His position and purposes are preeminent, for ‘Whom have I in Heaven but You…’ (Psalm 73:25-26)

Will you join countless brethren all over the world in prayer?

Devotion on Prayer: Sanctified Saints

…lead us not into temptation but deliver us from the evil [one]… Matthew 6:13

It has been correctly observed that followers of Jesus have been, are being and will be saved.  We have been saved from the penalty of sin by virtue of receiving Christ’s finished work at the cross.  We will be saved from the presence of sin when we are glorified before the Father in our eternal heavenly home.  And we currently are being saved from the power of sin through the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit.

Because we have yet to be taken from the presence of sin, it could appear that God is leaving us in a spiritual state where we are being ‘led into temptation’.  Of course, this is not true.  First Corinthians 10:13 clearly teaches, ‘No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man.  God is faithful, and He will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation He will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.’

But, what we will surely encounter are life situations where our ‘desires’ may be stimulated to disobey God.  And it might feel like it is unfair for God to allow us to go through these experiences.

Yet He is not unfair.  He is simply leading us to understand Titus 2:11-12, ‘For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people.  It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age.’

In answer to our prayers, God Himself will strengthen and sustain us as we live for Him as He continues the work of sanctification in us.  Remember that, ‘…he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.’  Philippians 1:6