Not just from, but to

I’ve been spending a lot of time in the Old Testament here lately, mostly because of prepping for my trip to Israel.  (I still can’t even believe I get to type that ya’ll!)  I just finished up watching a series about the Feasts of Israel and I’m currently reading a book by Daniel Juster called “Jewish Roots.”

I was reading last night before bed and in this bit, Dr. Juster was giving kind of an overview of the Feasts.  At one point he was talking about the Passover, which is a time of remembering when God brought the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt.  (That whole saga plays out in the first twelve or so chapters of Exodus.)

Have you ever noticed though that the freeing of the Israelites from slavery was kind of a two-part thing?

See, it wasn’t just that God was trying to get his people free from years and years of being held in bondage in a foreign land.  I mean, that part was important for sure and God sent all kinds of crazy plagues to see that it happened.  But that wasn’t the end of it.  God wasn’t just trying to lead them out of slavery.  He was also trying to lead the to the Promised Land.

It wasn’t enough for God that His people would be set free from their bondage.  He wanted them free AND He wanted them living in a place of abundance.

So after all the plagues, the Pharaoh tells the Israelites to get the heck out of Egypt and so off they go, but then the Pharaoh changes his mind and gives chase after them (Ex. 14:5).  And this is the part where God splits the Red Sea and sends His people across the dry land to safety, closing the waters over the Egyptian army in pursuit behind them.

But even after watching God send all those plagues to free them and then watching Him part the Red Sea to save them, the Israelites still complain, they still don’t fully trust in God, they still don’t believe He will provide for them.  And so they wind up wandering around the desert for the next 40 years instead of entering the Promised Land right away.

I’m wondering if you’re picking up on a pattern here in your own life like I’m picking up on one in mine?

I’ve heard the word repent also has a two part meaning.  That it’s not just the idea of turning from sin, but also then turning to God.  To turn your face from the thing that keeps you tied down, and turn it toward the God who moves heaven and earth to free you.  God doesn’t just want us free from our sin, but He wants us living like we’re free.  You’ve probably heard it put like this before – even though Jesus broke the bonds of sin, we’re still carrying the chains around like we own them.

Yes Lord, and my arms are exhausted from the weight.

Jesus didn’t come to free us from sin just so we could schlep around in the desert.  He came to set us free so that we could live free.

Do you really believe you’re free?  I can’t say I’ve honestly believed it.  I’ve stood on the edge of the Red Sea a hundred times.  I’ve seen the enemy approaching and instead of walking away on the dry land, I let satan carry me right back into bondage even though God has already carved my path to freedom right there in front of me.  I just don’t believe it.  I don’t trust in His provision.  I don’t step out in faith onto the dry land.

Nope.  I just follow the Pharaoh right back to Egypt even though the truth is that the Pharaoh doesn’t own me anymore.

I’ve got to start living like I’m free.  Like I believe that I am no longer satan’s property, but that I belong to God.  Maybe you’re right there with me too?

And look, it’s still going to be a process.  Even if the Israelites hadn’t been stubborn, they still would have had to travel the journey from Egypt to the Promised Land…it just would have probably been a lot shorter and a lot easier.

The same holds true for us.  When we decide to leave our Egypts and follow the Messiah, we are free.  John 8:36 says it this way:

So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

There’s no question about it.  You.  Are.  Free.

But that doesn’t mean the enemy isn’t going to come after you.  Of course, he is.  And that doesn’t mean that you’re going to follow Jesus today and be the perfect Christian after that.  The enemy will still always give chase and sanctification is still a process.

But we’ve got to stop…I’ve got to stop…letting my doubts and my fears lead me back to Egypt.  We’ve got to…I’ve got to…fix my eyes on Jesus and follow Him to freedom.  His blood paid for that freedom.  And it’s yours and it’s mine to receive.

Receive it, soul.  Receive it and own it.  You don’t belong to the enemy anymore.

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Can oohs be holy?

During one of the songs last night at church, there was a part where there was no words…just oohs.  You know those parts?  Where it’s just a lot of aah-ing or ooh-ing during what would otherwise be an instrumental part of the song?

While I love those parts of the song when I’m in the car, I’ve often felt they were a little awkward in corporate worship because they just didn’t say anything.  Sometimes when leading worship during one of those parts, I’d look out at the congregation and sometimes think, this feels a little weird.  I mean, were just singing a bunch of oohs.

And sure, those parts sound really pretty, but are they necessary?  We’re supposed to be offering up worship, but we aren’t even saying anything.  Does God appreciate our oohs as much as our words?

So I’m standing there last night ooh-ing along with the worship leaders and the rest of the congregation and that’s when it hit me.

You won’t always have the words.

I had to just let that settle for a second.

Because there will be seasons of hardship when words fail.   And I thought at that moment about times in my life so difficult that I’ve been at a complete loss as to how or what to pray.  I thought of situations I’ve seen my friends walk through that were so hard, so gut-wrenching that I didn’t even know how to pray on their behalf.

And in the middle of that part of the song that was without words, I was reminded of this verse:

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.

~ Romans 8:26

There will be those moments where all I can get out of my mouth is an “ooh” or “aah.”  We’ve all had them.  Life happens and we are left feeling confused and hurt, angry and frustrated, or frightened and alone.  Sometimes your brain just can’t get it together.  And when we land in that spot, the Holy Spirit steps in and prays the words on our behalf.

And you know, there’s even a flip side to that coin.  I’ve found myself in moments where I have been so stunned at God’s love and His mercy that I can’t think of anything that even comes close to saying how wonderful and beautiful He is.  All I can do is stand there and “aah.”  I bet you’ve had those moments, too.

So then…can oohs be holy?  Yep.  I’m thinking absolutely they can.  🙂

 

When you find yourself in the shame pit

My husband recently went camping in the mountains with some guys from church.  They were warned about bear activity in the area, and that there was one bear in particular who was especially determined.  Being mindful of that, they hiked along and set up camp for the night.  They did all the things they were supposed to do to keep the bear out of their food and hung their food bags from a tree away from their camp site.  The idea was that hopefully keeping the food off the ground would be a deterrent for the bear, but at least if he did get the food, it wasn’t right there in the camp where the bear would be tromping around in their tents.

Well, remember this bear (who they named Kevin) was determined.  I guess a little thing like elevation wasn’t going to keep him from his prize.  So Kevin just climbed that tree and got ahold of those food bags.  Clearly Kevin was hungry and he wasn’t playing around.  (The guys were all fine by the way.)

Isn’t that how it goes sometimes though?  You do all the things you’re supposed to do, you dot all your “i”s and cross all your “t”s and somehow you still find yourself in the pit.  I mean, how does that happen?  How is it that you can be going along just fine, moving in a good direction, doing what you think is the thing God has set out for you, following all the rules and suddenly everything goes careening off the rails.

You find out you have a little one on the way.  You take all the vitamins, follow all the doctor’s orders, do everything you can to take care of yourself and it ends in miscarriage.

You send your kids to church, thankful for a place where they can learn about Jesus and find godly friends.  You put your trust in leaders to teach and encourage your child, only to find out that your child has been molested by one of the very ones you trusted.

You do your best to be a good husband or wife.  You are faithful and kind and try and keep God at the forefront of your marriage.  But one day your spouse comes to you and tells you they love someone else and don’t want to be married to you anymore.

It seems so unfair.  And wrong.  And confusing.

I remember hearing Beth Moore say once that sometimes we find ourselves in the pit because we jump right in there with both feet, but then other times we end up in the pit because we either fell in or we were pushed.

Now I can spend all day telling you about all the stupid things I’ve done in my life that have left me in less than desirable places.  I could list decision after decision that led me onto paths that weren’t at all what God wanted for me.  It’s very true that more often than not, I am where I am completely of my own doing.  But I can also recall a few times where I found myself in a dark place because either someone did something that put me there or else things just went south and there was really nobody to blame.

But here’s the thing.  Regardless to how you got there, the enemy will do everything he can to keep you in the pit.  And one of his favorite tools to do that is shame.

My pastor preached on shame this weekend and how the accuser uses it to bring separation between us and God.  He said to overcome shame, we must learn to separate who we are from what we do.  Yes and amen to that.  I would even add that we must separate who we are from what we do….as well as from what has been done to us.

God is not the author of shame anymore than He is the author of sin.  And God doesn’t use shame to “keep us in line.”  Does the Holy Spirit convict us when we make decisions that move us away from God?  Absolutely.  But there’s a pretty considerable difference between conviction and condemnation.  Conviction leads us to repentance.  Condemnation leads us to shame.

Psalm 34:4-5 says this:

I sought the Lord, and he answered me;
    he delivered me from all my fears.
Those who look to him are radiant;
    their faces are never covered with shame.

We also read this in Romans 10:11:

For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.”

I cannot say it enough.  Shame is absolutely from the enemy.  And the enemy’s number one priority is to put a rift between us and Jesus.  Covering us in shame weighs us down and distorts our view of Jesus and who we are in Him.  Shame causes separation and that’s never God’s desire.

I’d love for you to take just a moment and ask God if you are allowing shame to keep Him from having every bit of your heart.  Maybe you made some sketchy choices and you’re somewhere you never thought you’d be.  Or maybe something happened to you…something someone else did or something that just has no good explanation…and you’re now living in condemnation because of it.  Whatever the cause, Shame. Is. Not. From. God.  It’s not how God operates and don’t you let the accuser make you believe differently.

God desires peace…wholeness…shalom…for us.  Shame was nailed to the cross when Jesus gave Himself on our behalf.  Satan uses shame to keep us feeling defeated and hanging our heads.  But in Christ, shame has no power.

But you, O Lord, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head.
I cried aloud to the Lord, and he answered me from his holy hill. ~Psalm 3:3-4

What I learned from an unclean spirit

I started a study through the book of Mark a little over a week ago.  In true form, I’m only three days in, but they’ve been a good three days.  It’s interesting what things stand out when you read scripture slowly and really sink your teeth in.

In Mark chapter 1, starting in verse 21, it says Jesus went to Capernaum and started teaching in the synagogue on the Sabbath.

They went to Capernaum, and when the Sabbath came, Jesus went into the synagogue and began to teach. The people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law.

~ Mar 1:21-22 NIV

Evidently these people had never heard anyone teach like Jesus before.  There was something different about Him.  He taught with authority and it was enough to make the people take pause.

But the enemy wasn’t having it.  Immediately following this verse, there’s a distraction.

Just then a man in their synagogue who was possessed by an impure spirit cried out, “What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are–the Holy One of God!”

~ Mar 1:23-24 NIV

Jesus is right in the middle of teaching and the people are finding themselves being drawn to Him and boom…the enemy sends an interruption.  But here’s a couple of things I thought were interesting about this scene.

First, I wonder how long this guy with the unclean spirit had been hanging around the synagogue.  Like, who was he? And what was his influence on the people around him before now?  Did they know already that he was possessed or was it only in the presence of Jesus that he was forced to reveal himself?

Either way, I think it’s worth noting here how important it is that we stay connected to Christ and in constant fellowship with Him.  That we stay in the scriptures.  That we stay aware of what’s going on around us.  That we are in the habit of renewing our minds (Romans 12:2).  Because Satan is sneaky.  Who knows where he’s hanging around or how long he’s been there?  And if we are counting on our own eyes to see his schemes, we’re in trouble.

Second, it’s interesting how this unclean spirit decided to out himself.  There’s Jesus teaching like nobody ever and all of a sudden there’s this guy crying out and detracting from the moment, but he’s doing it by addressing Jesus as the Holy One of God.  It would seem like this demon is working against the enemy by confirming Jesus’ identity.  And while that might be a little true, the fact is that even sometimes things we think are God things can be distractions from the main thing.

Jesus wasn’t having any nonsense and immediately cast the demon out, but then in the next verse it says,

The people were all so amazed that they asked each other, “What is this? A new teaching–and with authority! He even gives orders to impure spirits and they obey him.”

~ Mar 1:27 NIV

Only a couple of verses before, the people were astonished by Jesus’ teaching.  They were listening to the Son of God talking about His father and they were enthralled.  Now it says they were amazed by His authority over demons and immediately His fame spread throughout the region.  I can’t help but wonder what spread the most from that occasion?  His words or His works?  Is it possible that the enemy thought that using a miracle would take the focus off what Jesus was teaching?  That people would be more interested in what Jesus could do for them than what He had to say to them?  Sorta like, fix their bodies, but stay away from their hearts?  Because the heart change was really the point, right?

Sometimes even things that seem good or right might not be best.  Sometimes the things we do for God can start to overshadow our walk with God.  Like it starts to be more about the doing than the being.  It’s like something Noelle said the Pursue the Passion conference this past weekend.

Walking with God is far better than walking for Him. 

It might seem like semantics, but think of it like this.  If I’m walking beside someone, conversation is easier.  Eye contact is easier.  But following along behind or getting ahead  can break the connection.  It’s easy to miss part of the conversation or even the direction the other person is going.

It’s not to say that doing God’s work is a bad thing.  But when our relationship with God gets off track because we’re fixed on this thing or that thing, God’s work really isn’t God’s work anymore.  Now it’s our work.  And I’ve come to realize more and more that if I’m going to stay in line with God’s will for me, then I’m going to have to stay in line with Him.

God, help me keep my focus.  When my eyes wander to great and mighty things instead of the Great and Almighty God, draw me back.

a beautiful exchange

When only love could make a way

You gave Your life in a beautiful exchange.

-Beautiful Exchange, Hillsong Live

I’ve just sitting here trying to pound out something on this keyboard.  I don’t know why this has gotten so hard.  And just about the moment I’m going to give up and go to bed, this song starts playing in my headphones.

…trading Your life for my offenses,

for my redemption You carried all the blame…

And it’s appropriate since we are nearing Easter, or Passover as it’s probably more appropriately called.  And my mind drifts to a place long ago where men were gathered together at the feast of Pesach, or Passover in English, and their Rabbi does the strangest thing.  He breaks the unleavened bread and tells them to take it and eat it,

This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.

The Bible says He then takes the cup and tells them,

This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.

 And it would seem then at the moment, that whole thing just went right by the disciples.  Oh, remembrance of you.  New covenant.  Hmmm, yes Jesus.  That sounds nice.  Clearly they missed something because in Luke, right after this part, the next thing you know the disciples are arguing about which one of them was the greatest.

(You know, sometimes as I’m reading this sort of thing going on amongst the men who were closest to the Messiah, I’m thinking man, you guys were a bunch of dunderheads.  But I have no room to talk.  I can be a pretty big dunderhead myself most times.)

They’re sitting there (or I guess reclining there) having a meal with their Rabbi and even in the midst of a meal, He’s teaching them.  In the miraculous, He’s teaching them.  Even in the mundane, He’s teaching them.

In everything, He’s showing them how to walk in His dust.  How to follow Him.  How to live in a way that pleases the Lord and brings glory to His name.

Because that’s really it.  Doing all things to His glory.  Doing everything, all the while remembering Him…

Remembering the beautiful exchange that was made on the cross…His life for mine.

Remembering that I am restored by the grace and mercy that poured out red.

Remembering that I am whole because He was broken.

Remembering that I have life because He conquered death.

Yes, it was a beautiful exchange.  His life for mine.

And what’s even more beautiful to me is that now, I live, having exchanged my life for His.

I remember Him…because He remembered me.

Five Minute Friday: Roar

I’m linking up today with Gypsy Mama for Five Minute Friday.  On 5MF, we just write for five minutes straight with no backtracking or tweaking.  Just type it out as it falls right out of your head.

This week’s topic:  Roar

When you’re done here, be sure to head over the Lisa Jo’s page and have a read over some other 5MF contributions!

START!

God is our refuge and strength,

an ever-present help in trouble.

Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way

and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,

though its waters roar and foam

and the mountains quake with their surging.

Selah

Psalm 46:1-3

The waters are swirling…seeming to overcome.  The roaring of the waves as they crash are deafening.  The creaking of the boat as it bounces and pitches around in the tumultuous sea may imply that it would come completely apart.  The fearful cries of grown men ringing out across the water as they begin to wonder if they will make it out of this thing alive.  Is there really something on the other side of this sea that’s worth all this?

And in the middle of it all, where is He?

Asleep in the bow of the ship.

Complete chaos all around Him, and the Lion of Judah lay at peace, resting in the midst of it.

Those in His presence had nothing to fear.  The waters know Him by name.  The winds had heard His voice since they blew for the very first time.

But yet, those who followed Him succumbed to their fear.  The roaring of the water as it crashed into the boat shook them to the very core.

And they called out to Him.

And He answered.

The roar of the storm could not overpower the hushing by the Lion of Judah.

He was in the midst…He is in your midst.

He is hushing your storm, quieting your raging sea.

Shhhhh.  Can you hear Him?

Shhhhh.

Hush now.  It’s going to be alright.

I am here.

STOP….

Just like that.

Still hanging around in Luke 1.  As I was reading and pondering through Zechariah’s response to the angel Gabriel that I posted yesterday, my eyes couldn’t help but drift across the page to see Mary’s response to Gabriel.

Both Mary and Zechariah were presented with what to them seemed impossible.  Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth were both on up in their years, and had yet to conceive a child.  But there was Gabriel standing there telling Zechariah to prepare for a child that was to come.  Told him this kid would be amazing.  Even told him what to name the boy.  And although Zechariah’s heart was probably doing flip-flops, his mind just could not…would not…fathom such a thing.

 Zechariah asked the angel,

“How can I be sure of this?

I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.” 

Luke 1:18

You can almost feel the pain and the hope all stirred up together in his question.  Tangible bitterness manifesting as doubt…a deep need for certainty.

Mary on the other hand hadn’t experienced an endlessly empty womb.  She hadn’t known the desperation of wanting to hold her tiny infant in her arms and the heartbreak of yet another year that passes without a child of her own.  Mary was really just a child herself at the time.

So Gabriel shows up and paints this amazing picture for Mary of this son that she will bear…that he will be the Son of the Most High, that his kingdom will be great, that he will reign forever.  And Mary’s response is:

“How will this be,”

Mary asked the angel,

“since I am a virgin?” 

Luke 1:34

Now just a side note here, but one thing that cracks me up a little about this exchange between Mary and Gabriel is that when Gabriel arrives and says to her “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you,” the Bible says that Mary was troubled by this and wondered what kind of a greeting this was.

Kind of an uh-oh moment for her, I guess.  I mean, when the Lord sends an angel and tells you that you are highly favored, would the knee-jerk response be to wonder what in the world God was getting ready to ask us to do?

Anyway, I think the difference between Mary’s and Zechariah’s responses has everything to do with heart behind them.  Zechariah’s heart had been saddened by the lack of a child and so he’d probably allowed bitterness to take root there and I can imagine that somewhere deep down inside he may have even begun to doubt God’s promise.

I think Mary’s response was less about doubt and more about an innocent wonder at how God was going to pull this off.  Not so much a lack of belief, but more of a child-like question of “why?” only this was instead “how?”

So she goes from fear and confusion as to how it is that she got to be highly favored, and now that the angel has given her the news, she’s thinking to herself, okay now wait a second.  How is God going to do this since I’ve never been with a man?  And just as simply as she asks, Gabriel simply answers:

The Holy Spirit will come upon you,

and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.

So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.

Luke 1:35

Just like that.

And just like that Mary says…well, okay.

Not, alright now how exactly is that going to work?  What do you mean by “the Spirit coming upon me?”  Could you give me a little more info there, Gabe?

 Just simply, okay.  May it be to me as you have said.

And as incredible as the angel’s explanation is, Mary had her answer and that was that.  Although she may not have completely understood the answer, she accepted it and was willing to let God handle the particulars.

We won’t always understand everything God asks us to do.   In fact, there will probably be lots of times where He asks us to do something so incredible, so totally out of our norm that at the moment makes little sense to us.  And it’s in the those times that we have to receive our answer in faith and trust that in God’s plan and in His time, everything will fall into place.

Because it will…

Drug addicts, homeless people, and a random sheep

For the last few years (with the exception of a few 80s and 90s kickback moments, a little Michael Jackson here and there and a few Indie bands) for the most part I listen to Christian music.  So although I was vaguely familiar with her drug and alcohol problems, I was otherwise pretty oblivious to Amy Winehouse and her music.  That is until a few days ago when the news hit the she’d passed away.  Reading online articles written about her tumultuous lifestyle was really just sad, but I think what was worse was reading comments from the general public written in response to those articles.  Disrepsectful and just down right cruel things that people said really just turned my stomach.  For sure she had drug addictions, alcoholism, and a potty mouth but that doesn’t remove the fact that a mother and father had to bury their daughter today.

I just felt heavy with grief as I thought about this life stolen away by addiction…at all the lives lost and moments lost to some form of addiction every day in this world.

I was sharing all this with my soul sister Mandi at our Tuesday morning coffee time this morning.  She shared with me about this homeless fella she and her fiance’ Jeremy had met over the weekend.  They’d gotten him something to eat and talked to him about Jesus.  It would have been just as easy to judge him…or any homeless person for that matter.  We can’t always know what gets a person into that kind of predicament but it’s not uncommon for it to be the result of feeding an addiction that wins out over jobs and houses and families.

But God reminded me today that we all have our vices…our addictions.  And He has grace to cover them all.

And without Him, we are all trainwrecks.  Without Him we are all lost.

In the middle of our conversation, Mandi opened her Bible to Matthew 10:1-2

He called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out evil spirits and to heal every disease and sickness.

These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon (who is called Peter) and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.

Did you catch that switch?   In the first part, they are called disciples but in the second part they are called apostles.  So we looked up the two words.  Turns out the root word of “disciple” means “to learn.”  The word “apostle” means basically “one who has been sent on a particular mission.”  All their learning from Jesus wasn’t just for their own benefit.  He taught them and then gave them His authority and they were sent on their mission.  We have been given that same authority and mission.

And as Mandi and I are talking through this, I look up and there looking into the window of the coffee shop is…

A sheep.

No joke.

A real live, flesh and blood sheep, ya’ll.

At first I was as little concerned about what might have been in my coffee, so I was somewhat relieved when Mandi and the other handful of folks there saw it too.

And this sheep was scared.  I could see it shaking.  It ran into the corner out on the patio area and then darted back to the door and back to the patio again.  When a couple of folks walked outside to get a closer look, the sheep ran off…by way of the drive-thru.  Insane I tell you.

But here’s where the really crazy part comes in.  Yes, I know the sheep at the Coffee Shack is crazy enough but hang onto your hat…

The sheep had a yellow tag in it’s ear with the number 102.

Remember we’d just read the first two verses of Chapter 10 of Matthew about five minutes before the sheep showed up?  I guess when God wants to drive a point home…

So, although I’m sure I’ll be thinking on this one for a while, here’s what I’ve gleaned from all this so far:

1.  There is a time to learn, and a time to use what you’ve learned.  We need to study the Word and spend time with the Father in order to learn, but at some point the time comes for us to go and tell what we’ve learned to someone else.  We are not just called…we are also sent.

2.  We all need a Savior and although ultimately the choice is ours, God’s heart is to be reconciled with all of mankind.  There is none too far gone for His grace, no heart too black to be washed white as snow by the blood of Christ.

3.  Sheep are fast.

4.  God is an incredibly amazing God who uses the craziest things to get our attention sometimes.

As “sent ones,” we’ve got places to go and people to see.  God is too good, His Word is too alive, His grace too abundant for us not to tell others about Him.  He is the Overcomer in the face of addiction, the Mighty One who tears down strongholds, the Redeemer who takes our broken mess and breathes new life into us.

Check out this quote from Hartley’s “Researches in Greece and the Levant”:

“Having had my attention directed last night to the words in John 10:3 I asked my man if it was usual in Greece to give names to the sheep. He informed me that it was, and that the sheep obeyed the shepherd when he called them by their names. This morning I had an opportunity of verifying the truth of this remark. Passing by a flock of sheep I asked the shepherd the same question which I had put to the servant, and he gave me the same answer. I then had him call one of his sheep. He did so, and it instantly left its pasturage and its companions and ran up to the hands of the shepherd with signs of pleasure and with a prompt obedience which I had never before observed in any other animal. It is also true in this country that a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him. The shepherd told me that many of his sheep were still wild, that they had not yet learned their names, but that by teaching them they would all learn them.

My post-sheep-sighting prayer would be that you and I would never get tired of teaching others about the goodness of the Lord, of showing His love and compassion to others, of telling the lost sheep about the Shepherd.  We all had to learn our name sometime.

What’s in a name?

One of the songs we sang at church this past weekend was called Break Every Chain by Will Reagan and United Pursuit BandIt’s a pretty simple song but with an incredibly powerful message…

There is power in the name of Jesus

There is power in the name of Jesus

There is power in the name of Jesus

To break every chain, break every chain, break every chain…

There’s more to the song than that – you can listen to the rest here – but just that part was playing through my head this morning and it got me thinking.  Power in the name…the name, the name, the name…Jesus.  What is it about the name of Jesus that is powerful?  I mean, it’s just a name isn’t it?  How can a name have power?  Well, let me tell you how.

In Hebrew, Jesus’ name was Yeshua which was a shortened version of Yehoshua (Joshua)…sort of like Bill would be short for William.  His name really wasn’t that uncommon for the Jewish people.  So what then would make the name Jesus of Jesus Christ have power that some other person’s name Jesus wouldn’t have?  Well, first I thought about what His name means…Yeshua in Hebrew means God is salvation.  But Yeshua is sort of a combination of two root words – Yehovah and yasha.  Now I’m guessing you already know what Yehovah means – God or Lord.  According to the Strong’s concordance yasha means to save or be saved, to be delivered, or to give victory to.  So there IS power in the name of Yeshua – God’s power to deliver us.  His very name is a reminder that in God we have victory.

In Revelation, we see Jesus in His returning glory and specifically in Revelation 19:13 we are told that His name is called The Word of God.  Well, now if there’s power anywhere to break chains, it’s in God’s word for sure!  Jesus is the Word made flesh.  All authority has been given Him in heaven and on earth (Matthew 28:18).  And the Bible tells us that the Word of God is alive and active (yes He is!) and sharper than any two-edged sword (Hebrews 4:12) – certainly sharp enough and strong enough to separate us from our strongholds.

There is power in the name of Jesus – Yeshua, the Word of God – to break every chain…yes there is. 

 

 

 

The List

Alright well it’s that time of year….THE LIST!!!!  Resolutions for things I will do different this upcoming year.  Honestly I don’t know why I ever make a “list” because I never do what I say I’m going to do, but maybe if I share my list with you, it will make me more likely to at least acknowledge it from time to time.  Feel free to periodically hold me accountable.  Here goes…

1.  I will finish something.  I am the world’s worst procrastinator and the world’s best at losing interest in something.  I have been doing an honest assessment of myself recently and have found that I am in fact all talk.  I have lots of great ideas, I just have no follow through.  Yes…this year, I will finish something.

2.  I will be more consistent with my blog.  I started out strong, as always, but then my posts became less and less regular and further and further apart (see #1).  I love blogging.  I will not quit.  I will not give up.  I will blog.  It’s a matter of discipline.

3.  I will not buy any more books until I read the ones I have.  Nevermind.  That’s a total fallacy.  Won’t happen.  Next…

4.   I will lose weight.  I will eat better and exercise.  I will make healthier choices.  My children follow my lead and if I’m making poor health-related choices, they probably will as well.  If Jesus were here in the flesh to visit for a week, would I serve dinner on paper plates and make Him sleep on the floor?  Would I not clean the house from top to bottom before He got here?   Wouldn’t I want my home to look nice for Him?  Of course.  So why do I offer Him a flabby temple (i.e. – my body) in which to dwell.  He deserves better than that.

5.  I will spend less time learning about God and more time getting to know God.  I love learning about God, about the time in which Jesus lived, about Jewish traditions, about word studies of the Hebrew language…but I have a terrible habit of allowing that to consume more of my time than just hanging out with God.  I want to know more about HIM.  I want to learn how to listen more and talk less. 

I think I’ll stop there for now.  I’m sure I’ll be adding more to the list in the new few days.  Happy New Year!