Worshiping Names

Tuesday, Mar. 31

I’ve often wondered why so many hymns seem to worship the Lord’s name rather than the Lord Himself.
“Blessed by the name of the Lord” for example. Meditating on this, it came to me that names often reflect the nature or character of the person. At least some American Indian tribes waited until a child showed some kind of distinct personality or trait before naming him. One tribe named the child for whatever was first observed after the birth. Maybe “Night Hawk” or “Swift Eagle.” It might be buffalo dung. Too bad, kid! This system was part of their religious system. Old Testament names often do the same. Moses means “drawn out,” obviously in reference to being drawn out of the water. God re-named Abram and Sarai to reflect the new status they had with God. God instructed Hosea to marry a harlot and then gave their children names that predicted how He was going to punish Israel. Saul, which is a Jewish name, was changed to Paul (Acts 13:9). From that time on Luke refers to the apostle as Paul, no doubt to reflect the ministry that God had given him to reach the Gentile world. He would be better received by Gentiles with a Greek name rather than a Jewish name. The point is that names are used for more than identifying a person; they are teaching tools. Jesus means “Jehovah is salvation.” Emmanuel means “God is with us.” Then there is the word “Christ” which is the Greek word for Messiah. Originally a title, it gradually became more like a name. The word really means “the anointed one.” We also refer to Jesus as Lord, which of course means “master” or “ruler.” All these names and titles describe the magnificent character and achievements of Jesus. Using these names and titles gives Him the honor and glory that is due Him. We are not worshiping the names, but the person described by the names. The song writers are OK. The main issue is whether or not we are really exalting Christ when we sing these songs, not just mouthing the words.

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Conditional Promises

Monday, Mar. 30

All of God’s promises are limited to certain conditions. Take Rom. 8:28. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” If you just focus on “all things work for good,” you’re missing a huge package of truth. This promise is limited first of all to those who love God. God loves the whole world. But not all people love God. Many do not even believe He exists. So the promise does not include the whole human race. That’s the first condition. A second condition is “who have been called.” The context reveals that there is more to the word “calling” than merely an invitation. The calling involves God’s foreknowledge, predestination, justification and the certainty of a home in heaven. So this promise is for those who have accepted the gift, who have believed and who have been born into God’s family, redeemed people who can commune with God. There is a third condition: We who are redeemed have accepted the truth that God has a purpose for out lives and we are His servants. We are called to a ministry and we are to “bear fruit.” So we have three conditions: to love God, to accept the gift of salvation by faith, and to dedicate ourselves to serve God and bear fruit. Once these conditions are met, we can deal with the promise that “all things work for good.” The word “all” can be a stumbling block here. A lot of things are readily accepted as good. But there are a lot of things that seem bad to us—a wayward child, a death in the family, sickness. But God says that all things are good. This goes back to the “according to his purpose.” phrase. God has goals for us. He is transforming us into His image, preparing us for heaven, but He is also preparing us to be ambassadors and soul winners. Becoming like Christ is necessary in order to reach those goals. Suffering is part of the process. According to 1 Pet. 2:21 we are called to suffer. We think of suffering as bad; God says it is good. Some of God’s people will be martyred. Most will be persecuted for their faith. And God says that it is all good. So don’t expect your spiritual journey to be a bed of roses. Don’t despair when things seem to go wrong. They are not going wrong; they’re part of God’s plan for you. A proper interpretation of this verse may make you more reluctant to “claim the promise,” but it is loaded with “good news.” Don’t miss it. And don’t let Rom. 8:28 suck you into a false doctrine.

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“Common” Prayer

Sunday, Mar. 29

Prayer is one of the most intriguing things in my Christian life. I’m in communication with the eternal God, the Creator of the universe, the Holy One, the Judge. It’s awesome. Yet I can be so glib or even brash. We come across as deserving, almost as though we are on a par with God. Bible references to personal encounters with God show something quite different. Think of Isaiah’s standing before the throne in Isaiah 6. “Woe is me. I am undone.” Think of Daniel falling on his face, prostrate on the ground and dumbstruck. Think of John’s response in Rev. 1—despite a strong intimate relationship with the incarnate Christ earlier. When we pray, we formulate words to accurately portray our thoughts to God, when we know full well that He knows our thoughts before we ever think them. He really doesn’t need accurate words. He needs a clean heart. How God can tolerate our casual “familiar” approach, our inflated view of ourselves, the idea that we can hide anything from Him, our attempts to come across as “righteous”—is absolutely amazing. Another thing: We do most of the talking. And we seldom make any effort to listen. It would do well to emulate Samuel’s response, as prompted by Eli. “Speak, for your servant is listening.” There’s a lot in that statement. There’s the idea that I want to hear what God says. There’s the element of being subservient; He is Lord. Then there’s the implication that when I get the message, I ;will obey it. This would be a marvelous way to start every prayer. Following prayer, there should be a time of meditation. David constantly talks of meditation in his Psalms. That practice has a lot to do with his relationship with God and why God was so in love with David. I hope my exposure of much of our prayer life doesn’t give you the idea that I am any different. I’m not. But the silver lining is that God loves us anyhow, and He is delighted that we want to communicate with Him. What a God we serve!

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God’s “Otherness”

Saturday, Mar. 28

“God is Holy.” We normally think of holiness as being sinless—absolute purity. God surely is that. But holiness has another facet that may be even more pertinent. R. C. Sproul says that the primary meaning of holiness “refers to God’s apartness—otherness, transcendence—that sense in which he is much more majestic in all of his being than is any creaturely being.” Sproul goes on to say that all other religions that recognize the sinful state of man and the holiness of God do not recognize the need for a mediator. They either have to minimize the sinful nature of man or the holiness of God in order to find a solution. That distorts the truth. Man is hopelessly lost in sin and God is absolutely holy. The impasse requires a mediator, someone that will fill the gap. Sproul is baffled that other religions do not recognize that a mediator is required. Christianity stands alone in declaring a solution to the sin problem through a mediator, Christ, without minimizing the sinful nature of man or the absolute holiness of God. And the only reason that we know this is because God has graciously revealed the truth through His Word. Yes, God is in a class of his own. He is unique. He is transcendent. And He is gracious and loving.

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How Much Am I Worth?

Friday, Mar. 27

“Your value does not decrease based on someone’s inability to see your worth.”— Pam Lotz. This statement is loaded with issues that call for clarification. I’ll give it a shot. First of all my concern should not be how people view me. It should be on how God views me. The statement kind of implies that I need recognition from others. My sinful nature likes that, but it is basically contrary to the humility that God expects of me. The flip side of this is that we are to be ambassadors for Christ. I am to live a godly life in order to attract people to Christ. So in that sense, how people view me is extremely important. In a nutshell, I don’t need to be praised, but God is praised when I live a life that attracts people to Christ. A second issue is important, too. My value to God is diminished by the sin nature that is still present in my life. And even if I were sinless, my status, as contrasted with God’s, is ridiculously one-sided. I have nothing to offer God. But, God loved me while I was a rebel, and then paid a horrible price to redeem me. In his eyes, I must be worth a whole lot, no matter how I view it. I’m reminded of the saying “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” Likewise, value depends on who’s doing the evaluating. For the record, anything good in me is the result of a divine work of grace. As John the Baptist said: “He must increase, and I must decrease.” Thanks, Pam, for this valuable quotation.

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Enjoying God

Thursday, Mar. 26

“If you enjoy someone, you get the joy; they get the glory.”—John Piper. This statement deserves some meditation. Enjoying someone is relative. We often do not enjoy being with a particular person. Sometimes we really dislike being with someone. Sometimes we are simply tolerant, and make a quick exit without being rude. Sometimes we are amused or temporarily interested in what a person is saying. And once in awhile, we so enjoy being with a person that we don’t want to leave. We might even forget an appointment or stay up past our bedtime. This is fairly normal with a couple who are in love. Which brings me to the point of Piper’s statement. Piper was no doubt talking about our relationship with God. I have a question for you. Do you ever read God’s Word and become so entranced that you don’t want to leave it? Do you ever communicate with God and become so fascinated with God that you don’t went it to end? Now read Piper’s statement again. When we become delighted with God, it’s because we begin to see His heart, His love, His caring attitude. And when we realize Who He is, the Creator and Sustainer of the world, the Holy One, and He deigns to spend time with us, revealing His love for us, the immensity of this captivates us and we worship Him in a new and richer way. We get the joy; He gets the glory. I think I understand where Piper is coming from, but I’m not sure how much I experience it. By the way, it’s not God’s fault.

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Badge of Honor

Wednesday, Mar. 25

“. . . I bear on my body the marks of Jesus.” Gal. 6:17. I find it interesting that Paul does not say that he bears the marks of suffering for Christ (although he did suffer for Christ, and mentions it in other places). He endured more suffering than any of us. There are no complaints, no regrets. In fact, when he says “marks of Jesus,” he implies that the suffering was at the hands of Jesus Himself. It’s sort of a badge of honor. Most of the martyrs of the early church took that view. In connection with the above verse, Doug Burch mentioned a practice in Bible times of a slave owner piercing a slave’s ear when that slave volunteered to serve him the rest of his life—with the thought that Paul thought of himself that way. Paul was willing to suffer anything for the privilege of serving God. We in America rarely suffer physically because of our faith, although we may endure criticism, disdain, and rejection, a milder form of persecution. So we may not be able to show the marks of abuse on our bodies, but there may be unseen mental or psychological scars. In any case, when we endure persecution, we need to realize that God is behind it. He expects us to be good soldiers, life time servants. To our shame, much of the time, we choose to avoid the persecution. It’s easier to lay down our weapons and raise a white flag than to fight. Capitulating or going AWOL is not for Paul. I want to be a good soldier like Paul, but I will have to pay the price.

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