What’s In A Name?

What’s in a name? “That which we call a rose would by any other name smell as sweet.” Really? What we call something, its name, reveals to us something of its “essence.” Therefore, if I am talking to someone about a rose, I would not call it a daisy. The name rose contains within itself the “essence” of the flower of which I am speaking. When people speak of you, when they mention your name to those who know you, the word “Bob” does not stand alone. It carries with it your character, things you’ve done and said, your values, your personality- the “essence” of who “Bob” is. What’s in a name? Everything.

I think a lot of Christians fail to realize what “in the name of Jesus” means. For many, it’s really nothing more than a moniker attached to prayers and endeavors in order to assure success. The louder we say it, the frequency with which we use it, somehow, magically, validates our words or course of action. Sadly, in many cases, “in Jesus’ name” is merely the Christian version of “abracadabra.” And perhaps the reason so many of us experience unanswered prayers, and fruitless “ministry” is because we have attached the “Jesus Moniker” to things in which his name, quite frankly, has no part.

If you read the book of John, especially chapter 17, you find Jesus speaking a lot about the name. And reading these passages, you understand that his name is more than just a formula for successful prayer and ministry. It is in this name that we are kept. The revelation of the name continues among his followers “that the love with which you have loved me [Jesus] may be in them, and I in them.” The very heart of God, his “essence,” is contained within the name. All that God is, all that he is doing, his character, his values, his personality, his intentions and desires are contained within the name. So when we pray in his name, when we minister in his name, as we simply live in his name, it is to bring a revelation of who he is and what he desires.

So, what does this look like? How does this all play out in us? Well, the first thing we need to understand is that there is no “in the name of Jesus” without relationship. And the cool thing is that as lovers of Jesus we are right smack-dab in the middle of the relationship God has enjoyed within himself for all eternity. We are “in the name.” In Jesus, we have been made partakers of the life, love and fellowship that the Father and Son have always known. We have been made partakers of the divine nature, and as we abide in him, we come to know who he is and what he desires. And as a result, we live and pray and minister.

What’s in a name? If you are in Jesus, you are!

(Please understand that in this post I am not using the term essence in a strict theological fashion.)

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When God “Sleeps”

More often than not, when you read in the Bible of times when God appeared to be sleeping and non responsive to the cries of Israel, it was because they had sinned having turned their hearts from him. In Psalm 44 however, we find Israel in the midst of trial and defeat, yet the author of the Psalm protests their innocence.

We find in this Psalm the author lamenting to God after an apparent military defeat. He remembers the victories of old, how God had vanquished the nations before Israel. He recalls the intimacy with which God, by his right hand, strong arm, and the light of his face had led Israel from victory to victory.

“But now you have tossed us aside in dishonor.
You no longer lead our armies to battle.
10 You make us retreat from our enemies
and allow those who hate us to plunder our land.
11 You have butchered us like sheep
and scattered us among the nations.
12 You sold your precious people for a pittance,
making nothing on the sale.
13 You let our neighbors mock us.
We are an object of scorn and derision to those around us.
14 You have made us the butt of their jokes;
they shake their heads at us in scorn.
15 We can’t escape the constant humiliation;
shame is written across our faces.
16 All we hear are the taunts of our mockers.
All we see are our vengeful enemies.”

The Lord seems to have abandoned his people. When they cry out to God, they receive no answer. People are making fun of them because the once mighty people of God have been left alone, forsaken by their Lord and given over into the hands of their enemies. When they ask God why…..SILENCE!

“All this has happened though we have not forgotten you.
We have not violated your covenant.
18 Our hearts have not deserted you.
We have not strayed from your path…

The author insists that they have done no wrong. He claims that God is also aware of this fact.

…If we had forgotten the name of our God
or spread our hands in prayer to foreign gods,
21 God would surely have known it,
for he knows the secrets of every heart.”

“But for your sake we are killed every day;
we are being slaughtered like sheep.” (v22) The psalmist associates their suffering with the reality of their relationship with God. He sees the suffering that has come upon the nation as that which is in direct correlation to their covenant with Yahweh.  And, he cries,

“Wake up, O Lord! Why do you sleep?
Get up! Do not reject us forever.
24 Why do you look the other way?
Why do you ignore our suffering and oppression?
25 We collapse in the dust,
lying face down in the dirt.
26 Rise up! Help us!
Ransom us because of your unfailing love.”

Interestingly, the Apostle Paul equates this Psalm (at least v22) with the suffering of Christians. Check out Romans 8:35-38:

“Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? (As the Scriptures say, ‘For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.’[Ps. 44:22]) No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

One of the hardest things in our Christian walk is going through times when God seems to be asleep, and we suffer. So often, during these times, we are tempted to abandon hope and pursue our own desires. We get mad at God, through our hands up in the air, and say “Well, so much for the faithfulness of God!” We need to understand that sometimes we are not given the reasons why we suffer, but we are given the assurance that in spite of it; God has poured out his unfailing love on us in Christ, and nothing can separate us from him. There will be heartache, trouble, danger, trials, tribulations, and perhaps even death, but in all these things; we have the victory in Jesus.

When it seems that God is sleeping, remember what he has done for you, remain faithful to him, and KNOW that the victory is yours in Jesus.

 

Looking In the Mirror

In prayer, I began to think about some of the people in my life. There are those who are mere acquaintances, others who I know rather well, and still others who I would consider to be intimate friends. (While I most definitely haven’t retreated into some kind of monastic solitude and ceased to interact with those outside of Christ, I should point out that I am talking about brothers and sisters in the Lord). Anyhow, I was thinking about how my closest friends love the Lord and seek him just as I do, yet; we have such different thoughts concerning life and ministry. I began to ask the Lord to help me understand theses things. Honestly, I must say as of now I haven’t received any great “revelations,” but He did show me some things – about me.

Isn’t it strange that when you go to the Lord with your complaints about “every body else,” he is usually more interested in talking about you? The Spirit brought to my mind that passage in James 4 that asks, “What is causing the quarrels and fights among you? Don’t they come from the evil desires at war within you?” I immediately began to ask God to expose my motives. I started thinking that maybe some of the difficulty I was having with my thoughts about others was due to my own selfish desires. I wondered if perhaps my expectations of others had become centered on my desires instead of the will of God. I thought of how strange it is that in the midst of our pursuing Jesus, we are still able to hurt each other; if not outright, in the secret place of our hearts. Something just didn’t seem right about that. I began to suspect that perhaps even my supposed selflessness was selfish, and that my love for others was shallow and disingenuous.

As I waited before the Lord, I began to ask him if I had come to cherish the act of ministry more than the people to whom I minister. Am I truly seeking to build up and equip the body of Christ, or am I in love with preaching, teaching, and singing? Am I holding on to my position out of fear that if I let go, I wont be able to “minister” as I have I have become accustomed to doing? Has my service to God become about me? Perhaps the conflict regarding ministry I sometimes sense with others is merely a result of my own selfish desires.

Pondering these things in his presence, I began to cry out for God to heal me. I thought of David’s prayer to God for a clean heart and a right spirit. I was reminded that it is the willing spirit that the joy of fellowship with God produces that yields fruitful ministry. I was brought back to the realization that knowing and loving him is what life is all about. Anything that is pleasing to the Father is produced out of our intimacy with Jesus. I don’t have the capacity within myself to truly love or sincerely minister. I need God’s Spirit to expose me, and give me discernment as to my motives, and then produce in me the heart of Jesus. Yeah, there are always going to be trials, especially when it comes to relationships (real boats rock), but honestly; I’m beginning to think that the biggest problem I have with everybody else is me.

“So Peter seeing him said to Jesus, ‘Lord, and what about this man?’ Jesus said to him, ‘If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow Me!’”

“What You Pray I Pray. What You Say I say.”

We’ve been talking about prayer lately. We’ve asked ourselves the question, “Why should I pray?” We’ve discussed the fact that when we pray we should keep in mind that we are praying to a holy God. Now, I’d like to look at how we know what we are to pray.

“And Elijah the Tishbite, of the inhabitants of Gilead, said to Ahab, “As the Lord God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, except at my word [emphasis mine].” (I Kings 17:1)

” Elijah was as human as we are, and yet when he prayed earnestly that no rain would fall, none fell for three and a half years!” (James 5:17)

When we first meet the prophet Elijah, he kind of pops up on the scene and announces that it won’t rain unless he says so. That’s definitely a bold statement to make. What catches my attention even more than the claim that it won’t rain is the statement he makes, “…except at my word.” What gave Elijah the confidence (maybe audacity is a better word to use) to make such a claim? I think reading James’ commentary on the deal gives us a little more clarity. James said Elijah prayed earnestly (lit., “prayed with prayers”) that it wouldn’t rain.

Elijah said that he stood before the Lord. In other words, he served the Lord continually. He was a man who spent time with God, developing an intimate relationship with Him. As he “stood” before the Lord, the word of the Lord came to him, and that let him know how he should pray. James lets us know that this wasn’t just a casual offering up of a prayer or two, but earnest, continual prayer regarding what the Lord had spoken. Elijah was so “in tune” with the Lord, knowing His heart so well, praying only that which God had spoken to Him, that he was able to say, “It won’t rain unless I say so.” He knew what to pray (and say) because it was the very word of the Lord that had birthed the prayers  in him!

You can see another example of this kind of thing in Daniel 9. The Bible says that while Daniel was reading the writings of Jeremiah, he understood that the period of Israel’s desolation was complete, and this understanding moved him into a time of prayer and fasting. What Daniel read in Jeremiah provided the framework for his prayers.

How do we know what to pray? I think in light of what we’ve looked at today, we can confidently say that the Lord desires to birth His prayers within us through an abiding relationship with Him, and as we hear Him speak, we understand His heart and know what to pray.

Praying To A Holy God

When the disciples asked Jesus to teach them how to pray, the first thing he told them was, “Pray like this: Our Father who is in heaven, hallowed be your name…” I think many of us have lost sight of the fact that when we pray we are praying to a holy God. While it is most definitely true that God is our Father, that we have his very Spirit in us that enables us to cry out “Abba Father,” and that we are tenderly loved by God himself, we must remember that he is God and his name is holy.

While I understand the motivation of many when they tell others to just talk with God like you would anyone else, we must keep in mind that while we don’t have to pray to God using King James English, he is not just anyone else. He is altogether holy and separate from anything that we can even imagine. He’s not just another buddy that we call up and say, “Hey, yo God…” When we pray, we are addressing the almighty living God, creator of heaven and earth. He is holy and his name is to be reverenced.

Among Christians today, it seems that the casual manner in which they approach God is worn like some sort of badge of spirituality. We are told in the Bible that even the angels cover their faces before our holy God. Think of the times in the Bible when you read about people having a real up close encounter with the Lord; it scared the daylights out of them! John, the beloved Apostle who walked with Jesus, ate with him and leaned against his breast, says in the book of Revelation that when he turned around and saw the One speaking to him he fell down like a dead man. When Isaiah had his vision of God he said, “Woe is me!” It seems like today it has almost become unpopular to speak of God’s holiness. People immediately shout, “Legalist, Pharisee!” We want a God we can control, a snugly teddy bear, Santa Clause God that we can manipulate and who is subject to our every whim. Why have we become offended when we are reminded that we pray to a God that says, “I am the Lord God and there is no other!”

The understanding of God’s holiness should produce confidence when we pray. The God we pray to, the “Our Father” is the One before whom the hosts of heaven bow down and cry, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God, the Almighty— the one who always was, who is, and who is still to come…You are worthy, O Lord our God, to receive glory and honor and power. For you created all things, and they exist because you created what you pleased.” This holy God before whom mountains tremble and the earth quakes is the One that loves you!

The fact that our Abba is holy means that he is separate and different from all else, there is nothing nor no one like him. I think we see this so clearly in the cross. This God who is holy, righteous, and beyond comparison revealed his heart in the offering of Jesus.  Someone has said, “What God’s holiness has demanded, his grace has provided in Jesus.” Can we not pray in humble reverence to such a God as this?

To be continued…

Let Us Pray: Why?

Why must I pray? How am I supposed to pray? How do I know if  I’m praying the will of God? These are just a few of the questions about prayer that most of us ask. While I would not even begin to claim that I understand everything about prayer, I would like to share some thoughts on the subject. So, please join me as we  see what we can learn about this thing called prayer.

The first thing about prayer that stands out to me is the fact that when we pray, we are intentionally placing ourselves in a position to encounter God. We read in the Bible things about seeking the Lord, waiting on God, crying out to the Lord, and coming into his presence, well what does all of that mean? How do you do that? It’s in prayer. We cant (at this point) physically come into the presence of God. I can’t physically “enter his gates.”  Prayer is the way I come to the Lord. Prayer is how I encounter the presence of the living God. (I understand about community & the Body, but we’re just talking about prayer right now.) I can  come and talk to God, and what’s more, I can hear him speak to me. (Yeah, I said it.)  No wonder we meet so much opposition when we endeavor to develop our prayer life.  Through prayer I am communing with the living God. Why must I pray? I should think the answer is pretty obvious! In prayer, I’m meeting with God and he has the tendency to “rub off” on you. (And to rub stuff off of you as well!) It has been said that demons get alarmed when a Christian begins to read the Bible, but they TREMBLE when Christians begin to pray.

I heard pastor Dennis Hall once say that “how much we depend on God is a gauge of sorts as to a Christian’s maturity.” The mature disciple is one that depends upon God and prayer is perhaps the ultimate sign of this dependence. “But I thought that the more one matures the more independent he becomes.” Isn’t that what they tell us? Once again we need to be reminded that God’s ways are not our ways and his thoughts are not our thoughts. We seek a spiritual maturity that only comes through surrender and dependence on God. Our heart before the new birth cries out for independence and maturity according to the flesh, but the heart of the disciple relates maturity to his relationship with God. Let me ask you this, when Jesus said, “I do nothing of myself. I only do and say what I see and hear from the Father,” how do you suppose he saw and heard those things? You already know the answer-prayer, communing with the Father. What an example he gave us to follow!

Simply put, when we pray, we are meeting with God. We can’t really meet with him and not come away changed.

To be continued…

Twas the night before Cristmas, and all through the Kingdom…

Twas the night before Christmas and all through the Kingdom

The people were wondering what the New Year would bring them

Pouring through their bibles, and pondering “words” from this past season

They were searching for clues, for rhymes, and for reason

***

Some were in fear of two thousand and twelve

For the Mayan calendar had foretold the end of the world

Earthquakes and disasters, cataclysms of all kinds

Were stealing their peace and filling their minds

***

There were those who saw trouble but had not a doubt

That Jesus was coming to rapture them out

They seemed unaffected and had not a care

“Why should we care what is coming, we’ll no longer be here.”

***

Still others saw the New Year as a time for planting more seeds

Through sowing and reaping God would provide for their needs

Their hope was in money though they claimed it was in God

I heard one of them exclaim, “Our Lord is a great Santa Clause!”

***

In the camp of the prophetic one said, “Brothers, let us do this,

Get on your computers and search the Elijah List,

Surely someone has heard what this New Year will bring

We’ll need a fresh word to make our hearts sing.”

***

Others foresaw politics and dominion as the solution

“Let’s take back America and call for revolution.”

“We’ll occupy Wall Street and usher in change.”

But there was no talk of repentance or the lost being saved

***

Some dreamt of justice and the righting of all wrongs

Postmodernity had emerged and a new day would dawn

Inclusion and tolerance and relative truth

“Yes, a good social-gospel; now that’s what we’ll use.”

***

I in the country, alone with my cat

Sat pondering this and considering that

When off in the distance at barely a whisper

I began to hear the prayer of some sweet unknown sister

***

Father, she prayed, may your Kingdom come

And on earth as in heaven please let your will be done

I see trouble a plenty but I have no fear

I know you are with me, I know you are near

***

I ask not for riches, for fortune or fame

But pray you will use me to glorify your name

I don’t ask for signs or for some brand new word

But ask in my heart that your Spirit be heard

***

I seek not an office nor make demands for my rights

For I am your servant and that will suffice

Wickedness abounds and all injustice is proof

Our only hope is in Jesus the way, the life, the truth

***

As she said amen I wiped tears from my eyes

Then thought to myself, “My what a surprise.”

The prayer of this sister, so simple and clear

Was a prayer for us all for this coming New Year

-Kyle Fuller