He Knows Your Name

Hello_my_name_is_sticker_by_trexweb1Names are important, aren’t they? They’re one of the first things we ask for when we want to get to know a person. They are the reason parents spend so much time poring over lists of baby names and their meanings. They are how we are known, an essence of who we are.

Names are important to God also. Have you ever tried reading through those names listed in the genealogies in the OT and wondered why? Why are they in here and why should we care? But think about it. Each of those names matter to God and, to the early readers, they were family. Each name listed represents a father, uncle, brother, son, or in a few rare instances a mother, a sister, a wife. Names like Bukki and Uzzi may only be something we stumble over or snicker about today, but to someone at some moment in time, those names meant everything.

In the Bible, God tells us He knows each one of us by name. When talking to his people in Isaiah, God said this:

“Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you.
I have called you by name; you are mine.” Isaiah 43:1 [NLT]

In the New Testament, Jesus calls Himself the Good Shepherd who knows each of His sheep by name. [John 10:3]

Did you get that? God knows your name. Yes, GOD, the one who made the universe and everything in it, knows your name.

Do you understand what that means? It means He knows YOU. He knows the very essence of who you are. And because you are His child, your name has deep meaning to Him.

I love the stories in the Bible where God changes someone’s name. I’ve been pondering the life of Peter lately getting ready for a class I’m planning to teach next semester. Do you know what happened when Peter met Jesus? He got a name change. Here’s how the Bible described their meeting.

“Then Andrew brought Simon to meet Jesus. Looking intently at Simon, Jesus said, ‘Your name is Simon, son of John—but you will be called Cephas’ (which means ‘Peter’).”  John 1:42 [NLT]

Here are a few items I noted when I read this passage:

  • First of all, Jesus knew Peter’s name—his given name, Simon. Not only did he know his name, he knew his father’s name—John. He knew this man without ever needing an introduction.
  • But Jesus didn’t merely know who Peter was, He knew what he would become—He saw his potential. Did you catch that? His name was Simon, but Jesus told him, “you will be called (future tense) Cephas” or “Peter” which means “rock.” Can’t you just picture this scene? Peter’s brother Andrew was standing right there. I have a brother. My husband has four brothers. I can pretty much imagine what Andrew was thinking, “This guy? A rock? Ha! You obviously don’t know my brother.”

And If you think about it, Andrew would be right. The Peter who walked with Jesus during His earthly ministry really wasn’t very rock-like. He was more like a spark or a firecracker whose enthusiasm would flash quickly and then die out. This was the man who one minute was walking on water and the next was drowning beneath the waves. This was the guy who boldly proclaimed Jesus as the Messiah earning his Master’s praise and then, a few verses later tried to keep that same Messiah from following his destiny, earning his Master’s sternest rebuke. Jesus actually called him Satan. Ouch! This was the same Peter who assured Jesus at the Last Supper that even if everyone else turned away, he would have his back and would follow Him even to death. Well, we all know how that turned out.

But before we get too critical of Peter, let’s remember that the way he started was not the way He finished. After Jesus’ death and resurrection, Peter did become a rock-solid leader of the early church. He boldly proclaimed the gospel in the face of imprisonment and persecution. And in the end, he gladly gave his life as a martyr.

  • Jesus saw Peter’s potential and we see his potential come to fruition because when we give our all to Christ, He makes us like Him. If you look up the word ROCK in the Bible you will find it overwhelmingly used to describe GOD, not Peter. Psalm 18:31 probably says it best:

For who is God except the LordWho but our God is a solid rock?

In Matthew 16:18, Jesus told Peter that he would be the rock on which He built His church, but Ephesians 2:20 explains that although Peter and the other apostles were certainly the foundation of this living thing that is the church, Jesus Himself was the cornerstone.

You see, God’s main purpose for our lives is to make us LIKE HIM.

“ But whenever someone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.  For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image.”  2 Corinthians 3:16-18 [NLT]

There’s a song playing on Christian radio these days called He Knows My Name by Francesca Battistelli. When it first came out, my husband copied off the lyrics and gave them to both sixteen-year-old girls living in our house right now because they are so often looking in the mirror and seeing only their flaws. But aren’t we all like that? Whether we’re sixteen or eighty-seven, when we look at ourselves, we often focus only on our failings. But as a line from that song says, “He made Something out of Nothing.” If you’ve never heard the song, click HERE to listen to the lyrics and as you do, consider these three things:

God knows your name.

He sees your potential.

He’s making something out of nothing because He’s making you like Him.

Beautiful One

credits: Kevin Dooley/flickr.com

credits: Kevin Dooley/flickr.com

By Carey Helmink

As human beings, made in the image of God, we are lovers of beauty. To some degree, I think this is even truer for us as women. A friend of mine who came back from a mission’s trip told me that she was astounded by the fact that women who lived in cardboard shacks would look for things to make their “homes” beautiful – a wall hanging, some flowers, anything to add a special touch.

There are things that every person on the planet would most likely describe as “beautiful”: a glorious sunset; snow-capped, majestic mountains; the fury of the ocean waves; a strong, black stallion; a lion in all of his glory. But there is also the ever-changing way our culture defines beauty.

I recently read an article that articulated some of the ways the concept of physical beauty has changed through hundreds of years of civilization. At one time a full, voluptuous figure was considered beautiful. A few years ago, pencil-thin was “in.” (I have to say that I am in trouble on both counts. I was never voluptuous and pencil-thin? That ain’t never comin’ back for me.)

In the 80’s, blonde and blue-eyed was the name of the game, but now the heroines in the movies have dark hair and eyes. The lists go on. We are practically worshipers of physical beauty in our culture.

For example, when you hear the name Audrey Hepburn what do you think of? Read some of the facts of her life below:

“…she was the granddaughter of a baron, the daughter of a Nazi sympathizer, spent her teens doing ballet to secretly raise money for the Dutch resistance against the Nazis, and spent her post-film career as a goodwill ambassador for UNICEF, winning the presidential Medal of Freedom for her efforts.”

But here’s the kicker – history remembers her as “pretty.”  Those of you who are fans of Pinterest can search her name and literally hundreds of photos come up of Ms. Hepburn in her prime. And she was beautiful. But there are a handful of photos interspersed throughout of her as an older (even more beautiful) woman holding a starving child. But our culture is obsessed with only her physical beauty.

As lovers of Jesus, we might argue that He is the most beautiful person ever to grace our planet.  But the Bible would say something different about him:

“…There was nothing beautiful or majestic about his appearance, nothing to attract us to him.”  Isaiah 53:2b (NLT)

If Jesus stepped into the scene in our country today, we most likely would give him no notice at all, or possibly even think he was physically unattractive. I find it interesting that when the creator of the universe; the perfect Son of God; the Savior of the world came to earth, he was not physically appealing.  People did not gasp at how handsome he was, or what an incredible physique he had (unlike the Jesus we see in our modern day movies).

But here’s the deal – He IS beautiful.  Beauty gives pleasure to the mind and the senses, it is excellent in every way, and it is without flaw. What could be more beautiful than Jesus? David knew this when he said:

“One thing I have asked from the Lord, that I shall seek: That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, To behold the beauty of the Lord And to meditate in His temple.”  Psalm 27:4 (NASB)

In a world tainted by destruction and sin, our souls long for something of true beauty. That Beauty, is worthy of our worship.

“You opened my eyes to your wonders anew; you captured my heart with this love. Because nothing on earth is as beautiful as You.” (from Beautiful One by Tim Hughes)

By the way, the first time Jesus came – he came in an unassuming, humble, “nothing special” way. Many people missed it. But the next time He comes? NO ONE will miss his beauty and his glory as every knee bows and every tongue confesses that He is Lord.

Come quickly, Lord Jesus.


Ponder Anew

sunset-401541_1280What have you immersed yourself in this week?

Has God awakened some new idea about His character as you studied your lessons?

Have you immersed yourself in prayer to allow God’s Spirit to overcome a stronghold or to intercede for someone else?

As I’ve been reading, noticing how God’s people immerse themselves throughout scripture, one woman stands out. Let me give you some clues to see if you know who I’m talking about:

  • Wore a blue shawl
  • Rode a donkey

Yep, Mary the mother of Jesus; certainly she was “all in” for God’s kingdom.

Luke chapter 1 introduces her as a virgin, engaged to Joseph, living in town called Nazareth when an angel appears to her with this message,

“Hail favored one! The Lord is with you” vs. 28
But she was greatly troubled at this statement, and kept pondering what kind of salutation this might be. vs 29

But once the angel explains God’s favor and His choice of her as the mother of the Messiah, she responds,

“Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; be it done to me according to your word.” vs. 38

She’s “all in,” right?

And God was so pleased with her that her life became easier than that of all the other villagers. She was praised in the streets and given abundant wealth and riches beyond her wildest dreams! Right?

Well, not exactly …

Instead, her fiancé wanted to dump her but, luckily, changed his mind after an angel appeared to him in a dream, thus sparing her from being stoned. Still, no doubt there were plenty of whispers around their village about her pregnancy and maybe even accusations.She goes alone to visit her cousin Elizabeth and help her deliver John.

When she returns to Nazareth, she finds out a census is required and she travels (on a donkey in her blue shawl) to Bethlehem. And being great with child, she delivers Jesus, the Son of God, in a stable. Even in first-century terms, her situation was not ideal.

No sooner had she delivered her baby, then visitors arrive with their sheep … and a story!

Luke 2:9-16 tells the story of angels appearing in glory. Though the shepherds were terribly frightened, the good news of a great joy – the Savior coming as a baby – spurred them on. They simply must find this child and worship him!

Finally (we might think) something magnificent is coming out of this pregnancy. Maybe those angels were going to show up any minute to whisk the little family away to a lovely villa on the shore where they would live happily ever after.

But Mary didn’t seem to get caught up in the magnificence of their story. She didn’t take a selfie with the shepherds or Skype from the stable to the family back in Nazareth.

Maybe she was just too weary from the day’s events. Maybe she was in shock. Whatever the case, the Scriptures tell us,

“But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.”

There’s a word that jumps out to me, used twice now in describing Mary’s response. Ponder.

Ponder means to think or consider, especially quietly, soberly and deeply.

It also means to chew over, reflect on, meditate.

In Hebrew culture, their process of thought often involved this act of pondering:

  • Taking in current information and weighing it along with things that have happened.
  •  It’s a deep way of understanding and internalizing what’s going on.

From what I understand, much of our western culture has  been influenced instead by the Greek thought process.

  • It’s linear, more of a cause and effect.
  • We seem to want to add up the facts and move on to a conclusion.
  • It’s arithmetic.
  • It’s keeping a ledger.

I wonder if that’s what makes me strive for instant gratification.This way of thinking seems to drive our culture in this information age. Something amazing happens, so we take a picture, text, tweet.

We try to capture the moment, but in capturing it, don’t we sometimes miss it?

We can look at it later, we say. Really, is that the same? I wonder what we lose by not pondering the moment–just soaking it in and reflecting.

My son caught an amazing, headfirst, diving catch in football last week … just as I was walking into the stands.

I missed it.

People told me all the details, and my son even showed me the replay on his iPod after the game. It was amazing to watch, but I didn’t really experience it.

I didn’t sit in the stands and reflect on how that boy has grown over the years. There was no flashback of all the times he played catch with a plastic football in the living room. Or the time he threw the Wii remote and broke the TV. I didn’t get the chance to recall the good and the bad that layer into his life of throwing and catching things.

I saw the clip and it was amazing, but I lost the opportunity to ponder.

What strikes me about Mary was her practice of treasuring and pondering the activities of earth that collide with the activities of God.

I want to be more like that … to ponder what God might be doing when I experience loss or abundance, when I feel pain or joy.

I want to reflect on what God has done in the past and lay that on top of what He’s showing me right now.

I want to go deeper in understanding His WAY with me.

What about you? What might you treasure and ponder in your life this week?