June 20, 2019

365 Days of the Great Names of God, Day 202: Carpenter


"But in the next breath they were cutting him down: 'He's just a carpenter—Mary's boy. We've known him since he was a kid. We know his brothers, James, Justus, Jude, and Simon, and his sisters. Who does he think he is?' They tripped over what little they knew about him and fell, sprawling. And they never got any further." (Mark 6:3 MSG)

The Carpenter is at His wood bench. He has an idea for something He wants to make. He knows what He wants the finished piece to look like. He has a model He's working from.

The Carpenter lovingly and carefully selects a chunk of wood that's about the right size and sets to work.

He chips away at the piece of wood to hew it into the basic shape He has in mind. Then he planes and whittles and shapes it to refine it. He keeps checking His model for reference. He knows what He wants the finished piece to look like.

There are some rough places on the chunk of wood that have to be smoothed down. There are sharp edges that have to be curved. The wood has to lose some of itself so it can gain the shape the Carpenter has in mind. It has to give way to itself so it can be molded by the Master.

Finally, after a long time, the Carpenter looks at His creation. He is pleased with it. He treasures it. He cherishes it. He is satisfied that what He has made fulfills the vision He had in mind to begin with. He has always known what He wanted the finished piece to look like. He has a model He's working from.

The Carpenter checks His model one last time: He looks into the crystal-clear river of the water of life and sees His own reflection. He nods with approval. He has finished His creation. It looks like Himself.

June 19, 2019

365 Days of the Great Names of God, Day 201: Friend of Sinners

Friend of Sinners

"The Son of Man came, eating and drinking, and people say, 'Look at him! He eats too much and drinks too much wine, and he is a friend of tax collectors and sinners.' But wisdom is proved to be right by what it does." (Matthew 11:19 NCV)

Jesus is a friend of sinners. 

Jesus is a friend of sinners.

The problem with being raised in the church (which is otherwise a blessing I hope never to take for granted) is that I can get so "used to" this truth that I miss how radical it is.

I can get to a point where I accept it as fact and forget how fantastic it is.

Jesus is and was a friend—a FRIEND!!—of sinners. Not just someone who tolerated them. Not just someone who paid them a little attention. But someone who befriended them. Someone who loved them.

The religious elite of Jesus' day had no idea how to truly be in relationship with God, and so they did what they knew: made and followed rules. People who broke those rules—the "sinners"—were outside their frame of reference for relating to God.

Then came Jesus, the rule-breaker who talked to "those people"! And touched them! And let them touch Him! And took part in the personal, intimate act of eating together IN THEIR VERY HOMES!

"'Justification by grace through faith,'" wrote Brennan Manning in "The Ragamuffin Gospel," "is the theologian's learned phrase for what [G.K.] Chesterton once called 'the furious love of God.' He is not moody or capricious; He knows no seasons of change. He has a single relentless stance toward us: He loves us. He is the only God man has ever heard of who loves sinners. False gods—the gods of human manufacturing—despise sinners, but the Father of Jesus loves all, no matter what they do. But of course, this is almost too incredible for us to accept. Nevertheless, by His mercy, we have been restored to a right relationship with God through the life, death, and resurrection of His beloved son. This is the Good News, the gospel of grace."

I read this, and I am shaken a little from my lethargy. I think, "Wow...it really WAS a big deal that Jesus was a friend to sinners." But then I hear God's voice taking me further.

"Elizabeth, don't you understand? Don't you see? The sinner I am a friend of is you."

Oh my friends and fellow sinners, hear God's voice speak that radical truth to you today, too...

"_______________, the sinner I am a friend of is you."

June 18, 2019

365 Days of the Great Names of God, Day 200: Only True God

Only True God

"This is eternal life: that they may know You, the only true God, and the One You have sent—Jesus Christ." (John 17:3 CSB)

When I was in college, I worshiped an idol.

I bowed down to it. I gave it all my time, energy, and attention. I put all my hope on it. I believed in it to fulfill me.

My idol was not a shiny statue or any actual object. My idol was a number: the almighty 4.0 GPA...and I was fiercely loyal to it. Nothing else—not relationships with potential friends, not opportunities for service beyond myself, not peace or joy—mattered more to me.

I worshiped this god more than the only true God because I thought it could do something for me. I thought it would give me a sense of accomplishment and distinction...that I would not be just one of hundreds in my class but someone who stood out. I would have something to be known for. (And if you're thinking this reeks of that dangerous combination of pride and insecurity, you're 100% right.)

I realized the folly of my false worship somewhere along about spring of my senior year. With the 20/20 perspective of hindsight, I could see the stark contrast between my idol and the I AM.

When tested, false gods fail, but the only true God answers every question.

When tried, false gods wither, but the only true God surges.

When questioned, false gods stutter, but the only true God responds without hesitation.

When sought, false gods hide, but the only true God reveals Himself.

When called on, false gods are silent, but the only true God speaks.

Even as I was typing this post, God grabbed my attention with one sentence above: "I worshiped this god more than the only true God." It wasn't that I wasn't worshiping God at all; it's that I was worshiping my idol more. It wasn't that I worshiped my idol instead of God but that I worshiped it in addition to Him. The enemy was very happy with that arrangement: he takes the path of least resistance and grabs onto any piece of our loyalty he can get, because he knows that's all it takes to make our relationship with God less than it could and should be.

But God, whose name is Jealous, is not a God who settles. He is not just one good choice among many; He is the One and Only above all. And He wants all of us, because He knows that's what's best for us.

I know the enemy would love nothing more than to lull me into thinking my idol-worshiping days are as much in the past as the electric typewriter I hunched over for hours, writing college paper after college paper. But the temptation of new idols remains; I don't have to stray very far from my past to worship them in the present. There are new numbers I can bow down to: my bank account or online followers or likes on social media posts.

I need to keep being schooled by the lessons of my college days. I need to be on guard again the lure of idols I think can do something for me...and instead put my thoughts, time, energy, and affections on the only true God who can do something in me.

June 17, 2019

365 Days of the Great Names of God, Day 199: Arm of the Lord

Arm of the Lord

"Awake, awake, arm of the LORD, clothe yourself with strength! Awake, as in days gone by, as in generations of old. Those the LORD has rescued will return. They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away." (Isaiah 51:9,11 NIV)

Have you spent some time in a pit lately? Or maybe you're in one now?

Maybe it's pit of regret. A pit of despair. A pit of hopelessness. A pit of separation. A pit of bitterness.

Whatever the specifics, a pit is a place our souls do not belong.

Sometimes, we're thrown into a pit through no wrongdoing or choice of our own. We have no say in the matter. Something is done to us or happens to us, and we find ourselves in a hole we had no hand in digging.

Sometimes, we're lured into a pit. We drag our feet at first, but in the end, we make the decision to sit on the edge, put our feet over the side, and let ourselves down.

Sometimes, we jump feet-first into a pit. We know it's a pit. We know we shouldn't. We know better. We do it anyway.

However we got into the pit in the first place, the choice is up to us whether we stay there or not. If we put our name on the mailbox and hang some pictures and arrange the furniture and get comfortable, we have made it our home, though our hearts can never be truly at home there. It is not where we belong. It is not where God wants us.

So out of the pit we must climb. Yet the walls are high and steep. We cannot get a good grip. We will have to have help from above. We look up from the bottom and cry out to God in conviction and confession, and over the side, He extends His strong arm, His powerful hand.

He does all the lifting; we must only grab on and hold on.

When sin has landed us in the pit, the Arm of the Lord lifts us out with His forgiveness.

When ignorance has landed us in the pit, the Arm of the Lord lifts us out with His wisdom.

When persecution has landed us in the pit, the Arm of the Lord lifts us out with His vindication.

When apathy has landed us in the pit, the Arm of the Lord lifts us out with His passion.

When depletion has landed us in the pit, the Arm of the Lord lifts us out with His renewal.

When heartbreak has landed us in the pit, the Arm of the Lord lifts us out with His healing.

When hate has landed us in the pit, the Arm of the Lord lifts us out with His love.

"My soul, praise the Lord, and all that is within me, praise His holy name. He redeems your life from the Pit; He crowns you with faithful love and compassion" (Psalm 103:1,4).

Dear ones, if you're in a pit right now, look up and see the Arm of the Lord extending down to you, eager to redeem your life and pull you out. Reach for His strong arm in faith, and then add your voice to the Psalmist: "The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I called to the LORD, who is worthy of praise, and I have been saved from my enemies. He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me" (Psalm 18:2,3,19).

June 16, 2019

365 Days of the Great Names of God, Day 198: Abba


"So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, 'Abba, Father.'" (Romans 8:15 NLT)

I didn't meet my dad until I was eight months old, on account of the war. We've been making up for lost time ever since.

Because my dad is who he is, I have an idea who Abba is.

Abba—an Aramaic word equivalent to our English "daddy"—evokes the image of a small child climbing onto the lap of a loving, caring, strong, safe father.

These are characteristics of my own dad, whom I often still call "Daddy," and I am so grateful for them and for him. I do not have to fight my past memories or my present realities to appreciate, cherish, and love this name of God.

Yet I understand this is not the case for everyone. I know this is not how it is for some of you, dear friends. For some of you, the image of Abba wars against the fact of a father who was absent or disinterested or worse...maybe far worse.

How my heart goes out to you. But even more than that, how God the Father's heart goes out to you.

He knows the track in your mind that runs on automatic repeat and distorts your image of Himself as Abba.

There is another father who wants that track in your head to run forever: the enemy of all that is good whose name is the father of lies (John 8:44).

But by the power of God's Spirit in you, Abba writes over that track of lies with His truth.

If the false track tells you a father cannot be trusted, the truth track tells you that Abba is the Covenant-Keeper.

If the false track tells you a father is selfish, the truth track tells you that Abba is the Giver of every good gift.

If the false track tells you a father will let you down, the truth track tells you that Abba is the Lifter of your head.

If the false track tells you a father will abandon you, the truth track tells you that Abba is the Rescuer.

Run to Abba today. Feel His strong arms pull you onto His lap. And hear His voice of truth telling you, "My child, my child...oh how I love you. All I am, I am for you."

June 15, 2019

365 Days of the Great Names of God, Day 197: Horn of Salvation

Horn of Salvation

"Praise the Lord, the God of Israel, because He has visited and provided redemption for His people. He has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of His servant David, just as He spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets in ancient times." (Luke 1:68-70 CSB)

Maybe it's because music is my second language, but when I first read this name of God, I immediately thought of a trumpet.

"Horn," though, as it is most often 
used in Scripture, refers not to sound but to strength. On a bull, for example, the horns show the power of the whole creature. These protrusions are what ultimately allow the animal to accomplish its mission, to defeat its enemies, to achieve victory.

This is such an important distinction, because I can blast at the top of my lungs that I want someone to be saved—from themselves, from separation from God, from trouble—but I do not have the strength to save them. I can make all the noise I want about eternal life for a loved one, but I don't have the power to make it happen. I can scream until I'm hoarse that a person I care about is being crushed by the weight of sin, but I don't have the muscle to lift that weight off them.

Jesus, though, has both the will to save us and the way to save us. He has the power to accomplish His purpose. He has the muscle to rescue us.

The Horn of Salvation is the strength of our salvation. And one day, the trumpet will sound this triumphant truth as it's never been sounded before:

"The seventh angel sounded his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, which said: 'The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign for ever and ever'" (Revelation 11:15).

Victory is His. Mission accomplished.

* * * * * *

Song suggestion: "The Trumpet Shall Sound;" from "Messiah;" George Frideric Handel; The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WVxOf6Zok1I.

June 14, 2019

365 Days of the Great Names of God, Day 196: Peace-Keeper


"You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you." (Isaiah 26:3 NIV)

I've read Isaiah 26:3 dozens of times and always bee-lined for the peace.

The other day, I ran across (or, rather, God steered me across) this verse again, but this time, I hovered over that third word: "keep."

"Keep" as it is used here has less to do with storing something and more to do with maintaining something. (Think of "keeping" a house.) It conveys present-tense constancy and ongoing attention.

God does not just take us to a point of peace, drop us off, and then leave us there to ration out that peace for the rest of our lives. Instead, He keeps refreshing our peace. He keeps tending to it. He keeps polishing it up.

But we have to do our part, too, and this is where I need to borrow from the King James Version of Isaiah 26:3: "Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee." I love that word "stayed," which in other versions is translated "steadfast" or "fixed."

Improbably, when I was thinking about this particular word, my mind went to colonial women's foundational garments. (I told you it was improbable.) "Stays" were those boned contraptions that essentially kept everything in place and supported proper posture.

When my mind is "stayed" on my Peace-Keeper, it's going to be in the right place, with the proper posture toward God: upward-looking; reverent; worshipful.

There is one other hinge word in this promise of peace: "because."

"Because" in this instance is answering an unspoken "why." When there are so many reasons for my mind to be unsteady and so many places other than God where it could go, why should my mind be steadfast? Why should I "stay" it on God? The answer: "because" I trust in Him. Because I know I can count on Him to bear the full weight of my sin and my weakness and my incompletion and my neediness without dropping me.

This trust is not misplaced, because God is in fact fully able to bear my weight. If I "trust" in a decrepit, termite-eaten chair, I cannot blame it for falling apart when I lean into it; it is only doing (or not doing) what it's capable of. But I can trust God to keep my peace completely when I stay my mind on Him as a demonstration of my trust in Him.

I keep God in my mind. God keeps His peace in me.


June 13, 2019

When 18 Summers Are Over, This Is What's Just Beginning

My first baby is 20 years old.

She just finished up her sophomore year of college and is back home for the summer.

Clearly, she’s not a baby anymore. Technically, she’s not even a child anymore, even though she’ll always be my child, and she’ll always be a little bit my baby.

She’s a young adult, with her own life and her own schedule and her own job and her own habits and her own dreams.

According to post after post I’ve seen on social media, I’ve already burned through a lot of parenting real estate. I have a lot of mom mileage in my rearview mirror. 

I’ve used up the 940 Saturdays between my child’s birth and when she left for college.

I’ve emptied out the jar of 936 pennies representing all the weeks I had to raise this child.

I’ve had my turn at the 18 summers between when she was born and when she was considered “grown.”

I guess I’m supposed to feel done, somehow. I guess I’m supposed to feel like something has ended.

But I don’t feel either of those things. I’m sure part of it—probably a big part—has to do with the fact that she hasn’t completely moved out or moved away or moved on…yet. But I think the other part—probably the biggest part—is that during all those weeks and summers and Saturdays, I didn’t feel like I was counting down to anything. I felt like I was counting up to something.

I didn’t feel like I was emptying anything out. I felt like I was filling something up.

I didn’t feel like I was using up anything. I felt like I was storing up something.

I didn’t feel like I was losing. I felt like I was gaining.

A lifelong relationship.

Memories I’ll cherish forever.

Trust that goes both ways.

Time spent together by choice.

Joy. Pride. Encouragement given and received.

A friend who knows me better than almost anyone else but likes and loves me anyway.

A confidante.

Someone who worries about me sometimes the way I worry about her.

A cheerleader.

A gift to myself and others.

Gratitude for the past. Hope for the future.

All those years ago, I didn’t have a baby just to have a baby. I had a baby to bring a new life into my world and into the world at large—and to make both those worlds better. Which she has.

Over the first 18 years of that baby’s life, it was my job to teach her and correct her and train her and support her and guide her and provide for her. But the salary for all that teaching and correcting and training and supporting and guiding and providing is still paying dividends. In some ways, I feel like I just cashed the check and am starting to enjoy spending it.

The first 18 years my daughter’s life were only the first act of parenting. I hope there are second and third and maybe even fourth acts still to come. I hope there are summers and Saturdays and, if I counted weeks this week, pennies still to accumulate.

I know that in a lot of ways, I have to let this adult-in-the-making of mine go, even though she’s still here a lot of the time.

I know I have to let our relationship shift, as it should.

I know I have to step back and step away.

I know I can’t expect this summer to be like the first 18—even though every one of those 18 was different from the one before it anyway.

But for all the looking back I’m doing these days, I’m looking ahead, too.

For all the letting go I’m doing, I’m holding on to so much more.

A version of this article first appeared on Grown and Flown.

365 Days of the Great Names of God, Day 195: Glorious Crown

Glorious Crown

"In that day the LORD Almighty will be a glorious crown, a beautiful wreath for the remnant of his people. He will be a spirit of justice to the one who sits in judgment, a source of strength to those who turn back the battle at the gate." (Isaiah 28:5,6 NIV)

There came a day when the Glorious Crown wore the most inglorious of crowns.

The roots for this crown were planted the moment Adam and Eve chose their way over God's way, and sin contaminated creation's perfection. Divine justice demanded this sin be dealt with, and so God meted out His right punishment, telling Adam, "Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field" (Genesis 3:17,18).

The curse followed Adam and all his descendants along every road they walked until one day, its roots climbed a hill called Calvary, and its thorns—heavy with the accumulated sin of every person who had come before and the anticipated sin of every person who would come after—were woven into the cruelest of crowns and set on the head of the Glorious One.

The worst cruelty of Jesus' crown of thorns was not the piercing of His flesh with their sharpness but the piercing of his soul with our sinfulness.

Yet in wearing that crown of death, the King of kings purchased for us the crown of life.

"Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him" (James 1:12).

The crowning is coming, my friends. Keep on keeping on. Stand up for the test. Wait for your crown. It will be worth it, and it will be glorious.

June 12, 2019

365 Days of the Great Names of God, Day 194: Sower


"He presented another parable to them: 'The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while people were sleeping, his enemy came, sowed weeds among the wheat, and left.' Then He dismissed the crowds and went into the house. His disciples approached Him and said, 'Explain the parable of the weeds in the field to us.' He replied: 'The One who sows the good seed is the Son of Man.'" (Matthew 13:24,25,36,37)

Everything I know about sowing, I learned from "Little House on the Prairie."

Specifically, I know what I know from the books series by Laura Ingalls Wilder and "Farmer Boy" in particular. In the chapter titled "Springtime," Laura describes her future husband working with his father at planting time:

"While Father sowed the grain, Almanzo followed him over the fields, harrowing the seeds into the earth. Almanazo could not sow grain yet; he must practice a long time before he could spread the seeds evenly. That is hard to do. The heavy sack of grain hung from a strap over Father's left shoulder. As he walked, he took handfuls of grain from the sack. With a sweep of His arm and a bend of his wrist he let the little grains fly from his fingers. The sweep of his arm kept time with his steps, and when Father finished sowing a field every inch of ground had its evenly scattered seeds, nowhere too many or too few. The seeds were too small to be seen on the ground, and you could not know how skillful a sower a man was, till the seeds came up."

Galatians 6:7 also has something to say about sowing: "Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows." Of course, this is true teaching.

But thanks be to God, we often do not reap what we sow..and this is mercy. 

Thanks be to God, we often reap what He sows...and this is grace.

We sow sin, but the Master Sower allows us to reap forgiveness. 

We sow foolishness, but the Master Sower allows us to reap wisdom.

We sow weakness, but the Master Sower allows us to reap strength.

We sow the temporary, but the Master Sower allows us to reap the eternal.

With a sweep of His mighty arm, the Sower scatters seeds on His fields of faith. They are often too small to be seen at first, but the hand of the skillful Sower lets them fly evenly and perfectly, in just the right measure...and when what He has planted comes up, He gathers unto Himself a harvest of souls.

June 11, 2019

365 Days of the Great Names of God, Day 193: Potter


"Yet Lord, You are our Father; we are the clay, and You are our potter; we all are the work of Your hands." (Isaiah 64:8 CSB)

I couldn't think about this name of God without hearing the worship chorus "Change My Heart, O God" running like a soundtrack in the back of my mind.

When I read the story behind the song in "The St. Augustine Record" (https://www.staugustine.com/living-religion/2016-11-19/story-behind-song-change-my-heart-o-god), what struck me most was songwriter Eddie Espinosa's testimony that before he wrote the song, he had become "complacent" in his faith.

"I saw a lot of things in my life that needed to be discarded. I prayed to the Lord, ‘The only way that I can follow you is for you to change my appetite, the things that draw me away. You must change my heart!’”



And as far as the enemy is concerned, safe.

I don't want the enemy to mark me as "safe." I don't want him to get comfortable around me. I want him to put me on the dangerous list.

If I'm going to be dangerous for God, though, I'm going to have to be willing to be remade over and over by the Potter so that just when the crafty one thinks he has me figured out, I'm changed again by the Craftsman.

Things are going to get messy. I'm going to feel like I'm being spun around in circles. It's going to be dizzying. Just when I think I'm the right shape, the Potter might press me down and start over again.

But think of a potter. Hands that are firm but gentle, intending no harm. Respecting and appreciating the medium—the clay—and simply wanting to form it into something beautiful and useful.

The clay's job is not to form itself; the clay's job is to yield to the heart and hand of the Potter. And that's my job, too.

"You are the potter,
I am the clay.
Mold me and make me,
This is what I pray.

Change my heart, oh God.
Make it ever true.
Change my heart, oh God.
May I be like You."

(From "Change My Heart, O God;" songwriter Eddie Espinosa; Maranatha! Music; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IlSmG-_eJTU.)

June 10, 2019

365 Days of the Great Names of God, Day 192: Understanding


"Advice and priceless wisdom are mine. I, Understanding, have strength." (Proverbs 8:14 GW)

"I understand how you feel."

On my life's mental voice recording, I can hear myself saying this to friends who are hurting or struggling.

My intent is to both sympathize and empathize...to try to provide my friends with the "I'm not the only one" comfort I myself have received.

I believe my friends have known my intent, and yet no one can truly understand exactly how another person feels. No one except the One and Only.

Only Jesus can say, "I understand how you feel" without needing to sidestep or backtrack.

We say, "I'm hurting," and Jesus, who was wounded for our sake and not just physically, tells us, "I understand."

We say, "My friend has betrayed me," and Jesus, whose friend denied even knowing Him, tells us, "I understand."

We say, "I don't want to do this," and Jesus, who went to a garden to plead with His Father not to have to go to the cross, tells us, "I understand."

We say, "I feel so distant from God," and Jesus, who cried out to Abba from that cross and heard only silence, tells us, "I understand."

But here, as everywhere, what God knows is matched by what God does. Jesus not only understands, He undertakes.

He understands our loneliness and undertakes as our Friend. He understands our separation from God and undertakes as our Bridge to the Father. He understands our pain and undertakes as our Healer.

"His understanding no one can fathom," the prophet Isaiah definitively declares. Aren't you glad we can't fathom God's understanding? Aren't you glad it is so much bigger, wider, higher, and deeper than our human minds can possibly wrap themselves around? But at the same time, aren't you thankful we can trust His understanding? That we can pour out our hurts and hearts to God, hear Him say,"I understand how you feel," and respond with full assurance, "I know You do."

June 9, 2019

365 Days of the Great Names of God, Day 191: Refiner


"I will bring that group through the fire and make them pure. I will refine them like silver and purify them like gold. They will call on my name, and I will answer them. I will say, ‘These are my people,’ and they will say, ‘The LORD is our God.’” (Zechariah 13:9 NLT)

"If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen."

I think this classic adage applies in a very small way to the life of faith. It is NOT (!) that God wants us to get out of it (faith, that is, not the kitchen), but that when we're journeying toward heaven, there are going to be some hot spots on the road.

I know this, and yet I always seem to be surprised at how hot my kitchen is getting.

"When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze" (Isaiah 43:2).

"When you walk through the fire..." God assures us. 

When. Not if.

So, when—when!—God allows fires to burn in our lives, we can endure them with the confidence that He's up to something for the good of our faith.

Sometimes, God delivers us from our fires. He lifts us up and plucks us out of them. Done. At which point our faith is strengthened, especially when we do not forget that deliverance...when we never quite go back to normal life because we keep on being a little stunned and a lot grateful.

Sometimes, God delivers us through our fires. He gives us the provision and protection we need to come out on the other side. At which point our faith is refined...a tested, strengthened version of what it was before.

Sometimes, God delivers us by our fires into His presence. We stand before His throne and see Him face to face. At which point our faith is perfected. It is complete. It lacks nothing. We lack nothing.

I'm not who I was, on the other side of some fires I've been through. And I wouldn't want to be. The dross that the flame of God burned away—that inferior material that contaminated my faith—needed to go. I needed to look less like myself so I could be a better reflection of my Refiner.

Refine us, O God. Burn away all the pieces of us that don't look like you. Take us from, through, or by the fire to the place where we hear you, the Refiner, say, "These are my people" and where we, the refined, say, "This is our God."

June 8, 2019

365 Days of the Great Names of God, Day 190: Sanctuary


"Thus says the Lord Yahweh...yet will I be to them a sanctuary." (Ezekiel 11:16 WEB)

When I read the word "sanctuary," I tend to think of part of a church building. But God is not limited by location, so there must be more to this description of Him than that.

God as our Sanctuary has less to do with place than with presence.

I was helped along in my understanding of this name when I broadened my viewpoint of sanctuary to something more along the lines of a bird sanctuary.

A sanctuary is protected...and God is the Protector.

A sanctuary is beautiful...and God is the Beautiful One.

A sanctuary is peaceful...and God is Yaheweh-Shalom.

A sanctuary is quiet...and God is the Quieter of His People.

A sanctuary is set apart...and God is the Holy One.

Do you need to sit a while in the Sanctuary today? I know I do. Maybe the place you'll find His presence is in your car. Maybe it will be a pew in a traditional church. Maybe it will be a blanket on the beach. Maybe it will be in the woods. Maybe it will be along a walking path. 

Wherever the place, while you're there, do what the people of God did in the sanctuary: worship. This could mean singing. It could mean speaking Scripture out loud. It could mean praying. It could mean mentally thanking God for the things He's made that you can see around you. It could mean journaling your journey. It could mean being still.

"I have seen you in the sanctuary," wrote David in Psalm 63.

Look for the Protector, the Beautiful One, Yahweh-Shalom, the Quieter of His People, the Holy One in your sanctuary, sweet friends—for this reason above all else: "because Your love is better than life."

June 7, 2019

365 Days of the Great Names of God, Day 189: Shiloh


"The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler's staff between his feet, until Shiloh comes. And to him shall be the obedience of nations." (Genesis 49:10 LEB)

When I sat down to make a list of 365 names (also attributes, titles, and descriptions) of God, "Shiloh" was not all that near the top.

Actually, it wasn't on the list at all.

I'd never even heard of "Shiloh" as a name of God until I came across it in a devotional book originally published in 1925 that my mom had given me "in case" it might be useful on our journey. (Thanks, Mama.)

In most Biblical references, Shiloh—known as "a place of rest"—is the town in central Palestine where Joshua placed the tabernacle (Joshua 18:1).

But in Genesis 49:10, we see Shiloh not as a place but as a person: the foretold person of the Messiah, the Christ.

As it refers to Jesus, "Shiloh" means "the peaceful one"—and now we hear, from our position on the other side of Jesus' earthly existence, an echo of the Messiah's own words: "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God" (Matthew 5:9).

At this point, "Shiloh" requires some action of us, because Jesus is not supposed to be just a nice guy we admire. He is supposed to be the Redeemer we reflect. He is supposed to the the I AM we imitate.

I love the way this brings Shiloh the name and Shiloh the place together. When we strive to be "peaceful ones," we imitate the name of Jesus. And in so doing, we are used by God to make the places we spend our time—our homes, workplaces, churches—"places of rest."

Oh God, help us to be imitators of Shiloh. To Him, may our obedience be.

June 6, 2019

365 Days of the Great Names of God, Day 188: Resting Place

Resting Place

“My people have been lost sheep; their shepherds have led them astray and caused them to roam on the mountains. They wandered over mountain and hill and forgot their own resting place." (Jeremiah 50:6 NIV).

If ever I needed a fresh example of the timeless, to-the-point power of God's Word, this Scripture from Jeremiah is it. How incredible is this? An ancient prophet spoke words that would have gotten the attention of the people of His day, yet they still arrest us now...thousands of years later.

"My people...forgot their own resting place."

I read this and think, "Yes. I have forgotten my own Resting Place."

I've tried to "rest" on my own accomplishments, on my reputation, on what other people think of me, on how good of a mom I am, on my plans, on my comfort zone—and the list goes on. I've followed other shepherds instead of sticking close to the Good Shepherd...the only One who can lead me to my true Resting Place.

If the opposite of forgetting is remembering, then I need to "remember" my "own resting place." I know I act on what I remember, so how would I act—what would I do—if I didn't forget but actually remembered my resting place?

Maybe during the Sunday sermon at church, I would wrest my mind away from my work for the week ahead and back to the Word being preached.

Maybe I wouldn't rush through my Bible study homework like it's a fifth-grade math assignment.

Maybe I wouldn't substitute looking good for God with looking for God.

I don't want to be a modern-day member of the "they" Jeremiah wrote about. I don't imagine you do, either. Let's insert our names into the blank—"_____________ remembered her own Resting Place" or "__________ remembered his own Resting Place"—and then ask God, "Make it true of me, O God...make it true of me."

"My faith has found a resting place—
Not in device nor creed;
I trust the Ever-living One—
His wounds for me shall plead.
I need no other argument;
I need no other plea.
It is enough that Jesus died,
And that He died for me."

(From "My Faith Has Found a Resting Place;" words by Lidie H. Edmunds, music Norwegian Folk Melody; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hccUVINhB1c; Don Moen, from "Hymns of Hope.")

June 5, 2019

365 Days of the Great Names of God, Day 187: Flame


"The LORD, the Light of Israel, will be a fire; the Holy One will be a flame. He will devour the thorns and briers with fire, burning up the enemy in a single night." (Isaiah 10:17 NLT)

One of my favorite fea
tures of the house my husband and I bought almost 20 years ago is that it came with a fireplace. And the fireplace came with a fireplace tool set. And the tool set came with a bellows...the wood-and-leather contraption used to feed oxygen to a fire.

I'm always amazed at how a little air can ignite a fire that's dying out. Of course, God the Flame never dies out, but I know I need to be constantly fanning the flame of faith in myself. As usual, my first stumbling block in doing this is remembering to do it, and the second one is being able to mentally access tools (like those bellows) to do it. So once more, I'm calling a mnemonic acrostic into action. (I do try not to bombard you with these every day, but I couldn't resist here. Of course, I didn't try very hard. Thanks for your grace, friends.)

F = Fellowship. As an introvert, this is a hard one for me, but I know that when I spend time with people who are on fire for God, my own flame gets ignited.

L = Love. (The action.) Faith on the inside often looks like love on the outside. What can I do today to show love to my people in a way that looks like love to them?

A = Ask. God is big on saying "yes" when we ask Him for things He's in favor of. His affirmative answer may not always be in the form or timing we have in mind, but when we ask for something He's already made clear He wants us to have
—like hot faith—His "yes" is a pretty sure thing.

M = Move. I've worked on enough wood fires to know that moving the logs around usually gets the thing going again. When my flame of faith is dying out, maybe that's the time for me to move some things around: my schedule, my habits, my thoughts, my choices.

E = Expect. If I'm asking God to fan faith's flame in my mind and heart, I need to do it with a mental posture of expectation and be looking for those flames to leap up.

Author Madeleine L'Engle wrote, "We draw people to Christ not by loudly discrediting what they believe, by telling them how wrong they are and how right we are, but by showing them a light that is so lovely that they want with all their hearts to know the source of it."

Oh God, You are the eternal Flame. Fan the flame of You in me so that I might be for you a light so lovely that others are drawn to You, the loveliest Light of all.

June 4, 2019

365 Days of the Great Names of God, Day 186: Restorer


"Restore us, LORD God Almighty; make your face shine on us, that we may be saved." (Psalm 80:19 NIV)

My husband has some clients who are painstakingly restoring one of the historic houses in the tiny village that's home to his business.

This project epitomizes the phrase "labor of love": my husband's clients—a long-married couple—are giving the project and its end product back to the community for its use and enjoyment out of love for the people who have been their friends and neighbors. They are pouring into it the powerful combination of passion and backing.

In the process of restoring the house, workers are renewing, replacing, refurbishing, and rebuilding. Some old parts of the house are being discarded entirely in favor of better versions. (The windows, for instance.) Other elements, like the woodwork, are being kept but are being given new life. The benefactors' goal is to transform the house into the best authentic version of itself.

God, our Restorer, also works on us as a labor of the most profound kind of love. He starts with our souls and works outward. He loves who we are to begin with, so His goal is not to toss all that we are into the trash heap. His aim is to transform us into the best authentic version of ourselves: the version we can only be with the passion and backing of the Creator who knows all the rotting or cracked pieces of us that need to be replaced, along with the parts that are tarnished or dulled from neglect and are crying out for the hand of the Craftsman.

Sometimes, God takes us down to our studding...down to the foundations of our faith and relationship with Him. Sometimes He strips off our wallpaper...the false facades that look pretty in polite society but are covering up crumbling walls behind. Sometimes, He polishes up hidden treasures...strengths and talents we didn't even know we had hidden in our closets that, once gleaming, can bring joy to others.

As with most restoration projects, when we're in the middle of the middle of the middle of the thing, not only does it not look or feel like we're being made better, it appears to all the world like we're being destroyed. We might feel as though we were better off before we let God have His way with us. If you're raising your hand just now, I pray you'll clutch tightly to faith in your Restorer. I pray you won't bail on the project before it's completed...before you're completed. 

God sees the final masterpiece on the other side of  all His labor, and He knows that if we let Him finish His work on us, what will be left standing will be a house that is, in fact, His home.

June 3, 2019

365 Days of the Great Names of God, Day 185: Star


“I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near. A star will come out of Jacob; a scepter will rise out of Israel." (Numbers 24:17 NIV)

My husband and I are big fans of the TV game show "Jeopardy" (and yes, this tells you exactly how exciting we like life to be). The other night while we were watching, I learned a fascinating fact about the North Star: not only is it the brightest star in the Little Dipper, it is also the only star whose position does not change.

Other stars revolve around the North Celestial Pole, but the North Star maintains its position. It is a steadfast star...so steady, in fact, that at one time, sailors used it as a navigational tool.

Oh, friends, Jesus is our North Star. He does not move. He does not shift. He is consistent. And His position in relation to us never changes: He loves us.

"Love," wrote Shakespeare, "is not love which alters it when alteration finds, or bends with the remover to remove: O no! It is an ever fixed mark that looks on tempests and is never shaken; it is the star to every wandering bark whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken."

Jesus, our Star and Best Love Divine, looked on the tempest of the sea and ordered it to be still. He looked on the tempest of sin and ordered it to be submissive. He looked on the tempest of death and ordered it to be silenced. He did all this because our worth is known to Him. We are, in fact, worth everything to Him.

When we have lost our bearings and can no longer tell up from down or east from west, we can look to Jesus. We can turn Scripture about Him over and over in our minds. We can sing songs that tell His story. We can talk to Him in prayer. We can fellowship with friends who lead us closer to Him.

Jesus is our ever-fixed mark. He is our steady star.

And He will lead us home.

June 2, 2019

365 Days of the Great Names of God, Day 184: Shade


"The Lord is your keeper; The Lord is your shade at your right hand." (Psalm 121:5 NKJV)

My family and I live in a 109-year-old farmhouse on a tree-lined country road. In its original selling condition, the house was well-described as a "fixer-upper": it had almost no where to go but up.

The house has 109-year-old plumbing (or something close to it), which is why water pressure is not our home's area of giftedness. But it also has 109-year-old trees, which are absolutely a gift. You can buy plumbing, but you cannot buy 109-year-old trees. Our stately pines shade our house and make up significantly for its lack of central air. They are cooling and protective, and the shade they faithfully provide gives me a profound appreciation for God as the Shade at our right hand.

Psalm 121 is far from being the only example in His Word where God places Himself "at" our "right hand," so there must be something significant about it. With no offense intended toward the left-handers among us (my own sweet husband included), the right is the dominant, default hand for most people, so provision and protection there is most beneficial.

Think, too, of the reference to someone as our "right-hand man": this is someone we can count on, rely on, trust to be available in full supply when we need him—and all these are surely true of God our Shade. 

Yahweh is not a Shade we have to go searching for. Neither is He is some sliver of shade, like the lone tree everyone tries to park under in a blazing asphalt lot on a hot summer day. The cooling comfort this Shade provides is lush and lavish...a broad canopy that refreshes us and helps us get on with the tasks at hand (right or otherwise).

If life feels like it's beating down on you today, sweet friends, maybe this is a good time to sit in the Shade for awhile.

June 1, 2019

365 Days of the Great Names of God, Day 183: Bridegroom


"The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete." (John 3:29 NIV)

I sometimes joke that I married my husband for his last name.

My maiden name is the very German "Guetschow" (pronounced exactly like it doesn't look..."good show"), and if I had a quarter for every time a new teacher in school was going down her class list alphabetically by last name and paused uncertainly in the "G" territory...well, let's just say I'd have a good haul for free coin-exchange day at my credit union.

For the record, my absolutely wonderful husband had (and has) countless good qualities far more important than his simple surname, but I was quite happy to trade "Guetschow" for "Spencer." (Also for the record, this is not any kind of commentary on women who keep their maiden names.)

I was happy to take my husband's name: his history, his heritage, his reputation. I was also happy to have a new designation: wife.

Male or female, married or no, all who follow Jesus are part of the Church, His bride. And as "brides" of the Bridegroom, we take His name, and we are given new designations.

We might say our "maiden name" was "sinner," but the Bridegroom says we are the Savior's saved.

We might say our maiden name was servant, but the Bridegroom says we are the Master's friend.

We might say our maiden name was lost, but the Bridegroom says we are the Shepherd's found.

We might say our maiden name was judged, but the Bridegroom says we are the Advocate's acquitted.

We might say our maiden name was defeated, but the Bridegroom says we are the Victor's victors.

Beloved, you are the Bridegroom's bride. He gave you His name. Wear it radiantly.

May 31, 2019

365 Days of the Great Names of God, Day 182: O Praise His Name

O Praise His Name

"Now, our God, we give you thanks, and praise your glorious name." (1 Chronicles 29:13 NIV)

A few mornings ago, I got a text from my teenage daughter.

"Look outside!" her message read.

We were both at home, but she was downstairs getting breakfast around, and I was upstairs making the bed. Yelling to me might have awakened her sleeping sister. And say what you will about how technology has been the ruin of face-to-face communication; I'll take this kind of communication from my daughter any way I can get it.

"Look outside!"

I knew right away what she was referring to. I'd already glimpsed the spectacular sunrise painting the sky a swath of pink tinged with orange and swirled with white.

It was glorious.

So glorious, in fact, that it evoked a reaction born into us: to share what is glorious with someone else. To praise it. To draw attention to it. To tell others about it so that its glory is magnified (made bigger) and exalted (made higher) by the telling.

"Praise is prompted by—compelled by—the revelation of something glorious," write Keith & Kristyn Getty in their lovely little book "Sing!" In other words, when we see (the "revelation") something that lifts us beyond the everydayness of earthly life (the "glorious"), we are wired to make a big deal of it (the "praise"). And God's names can help us do this.

When we see a magnificent sunrise, we praise the Creator.

When we hear a beautiful piece of music, we praise the Song.

When we learn that a friend has recovered from an illness or come successfully through a surgery, we praise the Healer.

When we find a solution to a problem that seemed unsolvable, we praise the Way-Maker.

When we're told that someone we love has put their faith in Jesus, we praise the Savior.

"Look outside!" 

I'm going to borrow my daughter's words here and encourage you and myself to do just that. Let's look outside ourselves. Let's look outside our present circumstances. Let's look outside our very real trials (which God very much cares about). 

Let's "look outside"...and praise His name.

O God, we praise Your name. Help me to make it known.

"O praise the name of the Lord our God,
O praise His name forever more.
For endless days we will sing Your praise,
Oh Lord, oh Lord our God."

(From "
O Praise The Name (AnĂ¡stasis);" Hillsong Worship; songwriters Dean Ussher, Marty Sampson, Benjamin Hastings; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LqBpifDpNKc.)

May 30, 2019

365 Days of the Great Names of God, Day 181: His Name Is Our Refuge

His Name Is Our Refuge

**A Names of God guest post by Shannon Lenz.**

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling.” Psalm 46: 1-3 

It’s been a struggle all my life. 

Anxious thoughts, worries of worst-case scenarios, the urge to be in constant control. When troubles come, I often try to plan my way through it with plan A, B, and even C. But as I’ve gotten older, my struggle with anxiety has only gotten worse. Despite all my well-laid plans. Despite numerous insurance policies. Despite my hard-working husband’s job. Despite my family’s mostly good health and access to well-respected doctors within our reach. 

Why do I continue to struggle so much even though I have done my due diligence to protect my family and safeguard our future? Because I know it’s not enough. Troubles will still come. And I am powerless to stop them. I want to be in control. But I have come to the end of myself enough to know that I am not in control. Thankfully, I believe that there is a purpose in this life-long struggle of mine. I believe that God is showing me that He is our Refuge. Our only refuge. The only place where we are truly safe. 

My fears are not from Him. But He is using them to draw me to Himself. And when I seek my refuge in Him, I find Him. He is there with me. He is very present. And He shows up to help me through my troubles so many different ways. Our homes are not our refuge. Our country is not our refuge. Our jobs, bank accounts, insurance policies, healthcare systems, and retirement plans are not our refuge. 

Jesus. Our refuge is His name alone.

Oh God, Your name is our refuge. Help me to make it known.

Shannon Lenz is a writer with a passion for studying God’s word. On her blog, Shannon Lenz: My Faith-My Family-My Stories (shannonlenz.com), she shares what God is teaching her through His word and through her experiences as a wife and mom. Her writing has also been published at Her View From Home. You can find her on Facebook at @ShannonMLenz.

Shannon is a former teacher turned stay-at-home mom. When she’s not writing or chasing kids, she’s reading a book or singing (in the car, at the kitchen sink, or with the praise team at church). She makes her home in Giltner, Nebraska with her husband, Stuart, their two small children, Colton and Millie, and their faithful fur-baby, Maverick.

May 29, 2019

365 Days of the Great Names of God, Day 180: We Bear His Name

We Bear His Name

"Lord, listen! Lord, forgive! Lord, hear and act! For your sake, my God, do not delay, because your city and your people bear your Name.” (Daniel 9:19 NIV)

You've really got to admire Daniel's boldness. Here's a guy who's basically telling God what to do—and judging by the exclamation points in nearly every English translation of the original Hebrew text, he did it with no small amount of gusto.

Yet Daniel's "request" wasn't self-centered: it was God-centered. He didn't say, "Do this to make me look good!" He said, "Do this to make Yourself look good! Your city and Your people are representing You! It's Your name on our label!"

To "bear" God's name is to put who He is out there, to show it off. I think it's a little (keyword: "little") like wearing a shirt emblazoned with the name and logo of a favorite sports team; we're putting the name of that team out there and showing it off, and we want that team to back us up by showing its skill and superiority.

With full reverence and respect for who God is and who we are (and aren't), I believe we can follow Daniel's bold example and ask God to move in our lives in accordance with His name—which we bear—and for its sake.

Lord! We bear your name Yahweh-Shalom! Please use us as peace-makers!

Lord! We bear Your name Holy One! Please set us apart for Your use!

Lord! We bear Your name The One Who Lifts Up My Head! Please help us to lift others up today!

Lord! We bear Your name El Roi! Help us to truly see those You love as you see them!

Oh God, we bear Your name. Help me to make it known.

May 28, 2019

365 Days of the Great Names of God, Day 179: For the Sake of His Name

For the Sake of His Name

"But you, Sovereign LORD, help me for your name’s sake; out of the goodness of your love, deliver me." (Psalm 109:21 NIV)

God has a well-stocked tool kit at His divine disposal when He wants to get our attention in His Word. The whole of God's great love letter is right, true, and for our instruction. But when God says something over and over, it's the Sovereign Lord's equivalent of "I've said it once and I'll say it again...." 

We would do well to listen up.

A quick search of Bible verses with the keywords "name" and "sake" turned up 20 results straight away...which tells me there's something about "for His name's sake" that God doesn't want us to miss.

We are image-bearers of God: we are made in His likeness, and one of our jobs on this planet is to make the One whose image we bear look good. He IS good (and great), of course; our task is to represent that goodness faithfully so that people who cannot see God in the flesh can see Him in our flesh.

God wants His name—His character, His nature, His cause—represented well, not because He's on some kind of ego trip but because He knows that to know His name is to know Him and to know Him is to find satisfaction for a place in our souls that cannot be filled up any other way.

God does what He does for us to show who He is in us. For the reputation of His name. For the proof of His name. For the sake of His name.

For the sake of His name Yahweh-Raah: "The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake" (Psalm 23:1-3).

For the sake of His names Rock and Fortress: "Since you are my rock and my fortress, for the sake of your name lead and guide me" (Psalm 31:3).

For the sake of His name Deliverer: "Help us, God our Savior, for the glory of your name; deliver us and forgive our sins for your name’s sake" (Psalm 79:9).

For the sake of His name Spirit of Power: "Yet he saved them for his name’s sake, to make his mighty power known" (Psalm 106:8).

For the sake of His name Sustainer: "For my own name’s sake I delay my wrath; for the sake of my praise I hold it back from you, so as not to destroy you completely" (Isaiah 48:9).

Oh God, You do what You do for the sake of Your name. Help me to make it known.

May 27, 2019

365 Days of the Great Names of God, Day 178: His Name Is Our Hope in the Shadows

His Name Is Our Hope In The Shadows

"In his name the nations will put their hope.” (Matthew 12:21 NIV)

I love to see God take what's bad and use it for good. This is God in His role as Redeemer, when He buys what is imprisoned out of captivity and frees it for His purposes.

The aspect of God's name we're visiting on our sidetrip today paints shadows in dark and suspicious hues, and James 1:17 echoes this: "Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows."

But once redeemed by God, shadows become places of safety and refuge: "Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings" (Psalm 63:7 (NIV)).

God doesn't just offer an alternative to the shadow; He buys it out of darkness and brings it into the light of His name's hope.

Shadows shift, but hope in the Rock is steady.
Shadows hide, but hope in the Sun reveals.
Shadows distort, but hope in the Truth clarifies.
Shadows trick, but hope in the Guide leads.

Oh, God, Your name is our hope in the shadows. Help me to make it known.

"You're my hope, in the shadows,
My strength, in the battle,
My anchor, for all my days."

(From "Worthy Of Your Name;" Passion; songwriters Brenton Brown, Sean Curran, Brett Younker; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fcedMbopknM.)

May 26, 2019

365 Days of the Great Names of God, Day 177: His Name Breaks the Silence

His Name Breaks the Silence

"Unless Yahweh had been my help, My soul would have soon lived in silence." (Psalm 94:17 WEB)

Jesus—the Word—knew when to be silent and when to speak.

With the teachers of the law and the woman caught in adultery, He was silent...then spoke words that sealed the accusers' mouths: “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her" (John 8:7).

Before the Sanhedrin, He was silent...then spoke words that sealed His fate: "I am" (Mark 14:62).

On the cross, He was silent...then spoke words that sealed the deal: "It is finished" (John 19:30).

God's name, spoken in due season, breaks the silences of our lives.

The Joy-Giver breaks the silence of mourning.
The Victor breaks the silence of defeat.
The Friend breaks the silence of loneliness.
The Builder breaks the silence of destruction.
The Judge breaks the silence of injustice.

Oh God, Your name breaks the silence. Help me to make it known.

"Out of the silence, the Roaring Lion
Declared the grave has no claim on me.
Jesus, Yours is the victory."

(From "Living Hope;" Phil Wickham; songwriters Phil Wickham, Brian Mark Johnson; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u-1fwZtKJSM.)

May 25, 2019

365 Days of the Great Names of God, Day 176: His Name Reminds and Renews

His Name Reminds and Renews

"Look to the LORD and to his strength. Always look to him. Remember the wonderful things he has done." (1 Chronicles 16:11-12a NIRV)

"Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect." (Romans 12:2 NLT)

The human mind has been called a battlefield, and oh my YES, do I feel like I wage war on it. Every. Single. Day.

It seems like I’m always fighting my mind: fighting to think about things above, not earthly things; fighting to not think about “that thing” I’ve already thought about ENOUGH ALREADY, for crying out loud; fighting to think about others instead of myself.

I know I need to renew my mind. I know I need to reprogram and redirect it.

At the risk of stating the obvious, "new" is a big part of renewing our minds: our minds need to go somewhere new, think of something new, take a new path.

I understand all this, but so often my mind gets stuck on the old: old thoughts, old patterns, old worries, old regrets. Still, there is at least one aspect of the "old" that can help me renew my mind: remembering what God has done. The prayers He has said "yes" to; the prayers He said "no" to that turned out to be a greater "yes" in disguise; the things He has provided; His faithfulness.

We act on what we remember, so when I direct my mind to recount the works of God in my life in the past, it encourages me to act in confident expectation of what He will do in the present and future.

The Alpha and Omega is God of the old and of the new. He is God of then and of now. He is God of what has been and what will be. When I intentionally turn my mind back to what He has already done, my hope for what He will do is fed.

Even knowing this, though, my mind sometimes draws a blank when I'm trying to recall God's past wonders. (My mind is, in fact, quite prone to drawing blanks.) But look: here comes God's name to the rescue again, filling in those mental spaces and renewing my mind in the process.

I remember the seas the God Who Makes a Way has parted.
I remember the victories the God of Battle has won for me.
I remember when my mind and spirit have heard from the God Who Speaks.
I remember the times the God of Letting Go has unclenched my fists.
I remember nights of grief visited by the God of Mourning.
I remember being broken by the God Who Breaks.
I remember being put back together by the God Who Mends.

We can choose to remember what God has already done. We can choose to be hopeful about what He's going to do. And in the choosing, our minds are renewed.

Oh God, Your name reminds and renews. Help me to make it known.

May 24, 2019

365 Days of the Great Names of God, Day 175: His Name Is Our Saving Grace

His Name Is Our Saving Grace

"For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God." (Ephesians 2:8 ESV)

Of all the things God's grace has saved me from, the greatest has been from myself.

From my nature.
From my habits.
From my presets.
From my faults.
From my defaults.

It's not that all this is junk to God; He made us as we are, with emotions and nuances and personalities and "quirks"—and what He makes is perfect. But we wade into sin and muddy God's clear waters, and so we need the saving grace of God's name to lift us out of the muck and mire and take us from where we are to where God wants us to be.

The grace of the One and Only saves me from my divided heart.
The grace of the Yahweh-Tsidkenu saves me from my unrighteousness.
The grace of the Spirit of Wisdom saves me from my foolishness.
The grace of the Faithful God saves me from my unfaithfulness.
The grace of the God of Passion saves me from my indifference.

I'm so thankful that, by God's grace, I'm not who I used to be. And I'm so hopeful that, by God's grace, I'm not who I'm going to be.

Oh God, Your name is our saving grace. Help me to make it known.

"You're my helper, my healer,
My blessed redeemer,
My answer, my saving grace."

(From "Worthy Of Your Name;" Passion; songwriters Brenton Brown, Sean Curran, Brett Younker; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fcedMbopknM.)