Christianity 201

February 27, 2017

The Importance of Names

Today we’re paying a return visit to Jeremy Serrano who we connected with briefly here about a year ago. Jeremy is currently the Pastor of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Concord, CA.  Before that he was a Youth & Family Minister for 14 years. And his name is not Joshua, as you’ll learn in a minute!  Click the title below to read this and many other articles at his blog.

What’s in a name?

I just heard a very thoughtful Pastor (Gypsy Pastor) ask the question, “I wonder why we get so wrapped up in proper names?”

I think it’s a question worth asking.  I have to confess, I do find myself getting wrapped up in proper names. I think proper names are important; when I use proper names, its because I want to show respect to the person who has given me their name.

I appreciate when I am in an environment where people can self-identify using the name they want to be called, the gender they wish to identify as, the pronouns they want others to use about them. I think names are important because they tell others how they want to be identified.

I know a tiny bit about multiple names.  As a twin I go by two names.  If you call out my name, or my twin brother’s name, in a large crowed of people, I will respond to both.  Not because I’m my brother, but because I understand that other’s may be making an honest mistake.  I am never bothered when people call me by my brother’s name unless they’re being rude and are trying to tell me that I am my brother.

We leave room for everyone to self-identify, yet we seem to have trouble with that when it comes to God. God has chosen to reveal God’s-self in a specific way, yet we seem to just give only a slight nod to that and say, “there must be more.”  So instead of focusing on how God has chosen to reveal Gods-self, we see similarities in other religions and proclaim “Look, God is there too.”  I am not denying that God is at work in other places, at the same time, we seem to neglect the place God has promised to be revealed, and that is through Jesus.

Proper names are important because they identify and differentiate the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob from Ba’al, Molech, Ashtoreth, and for all you Game of Thrones fans—The Many Faced God and Lord of Light.

christians-praying-to-allahOn the one hand, Christians praying to “Allah” should be no big deal—we’ve been doing that for thousands of years—Allah is God in Arabic.  On the other hand, if by Allah we mean the God of Islam then there’s something that needs to be clarified. The God of Islam is not the same God revealed in Jesus Christ nor are the Gods’ of Hinduism, Zoroastrianism, and Sikhism (among others).

In fact, it’s offensive to many in those other religions to claim that they worship the same God we do—Jesus by another name.

So, I think it’s important that we allow God to self-identify, as Christians believe God does in Jesus.

We as Lutherans have a ground up, earth to heaven, physical to metaphysical way of doing theology. We begin all of our understandings about God through God’s self-relation in Jesus Christ who we believe is the Word of God made flesh (John 1:1).

Jesus is God on earth according to scripture.  When we look at Jesus way of being in the world, we are looking at God’s way of being.

For in him [Jesus] the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily (Col 2:9)

He [Jesus] is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being (Heb 1:3)

Likewise we know who we are to follow as God’s revelation.  We follow Jesus because we believe that he is God’s self-disclosure to the world, especially in his act of sacrificially love.

Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son [Jesus]… (Heb 1:1)

It is to this God. This self-revealed, specifically named God, that we pray, “Hallowed be thy name.”

When we use a name for God from other religions and call all God’s the same we are no longer identifying God in the way God chose to be self-identified.  We are not taking God’s self-revelation to heart.

I think names are important and I get wrapped up in proper names because I want to show respect to the person named, including God.

With all that said, I don’t have a problem referring to God as the Great Spirit, or Creator, or Olodumare, or Waengongi. Let us be clear in what we are doing though—we are using foreign names and appropriating them to identify the God revealed to Abraham and Moses, who came to earth as Jesus, and who is the One God now and forever.

January 25, 2016

God Calls Out: “Where are You?”

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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Something different today wherein a scripture medley is inter-woven with words God might speak to you*; followed by a prayer. We’ve highlighted the scriptures as we always do, but try to see this as a continuous flow. The writer, Jeremy Mark Lane is the author of Dearest Son and Dearest Daughter.

Click the title below to read. Then click “devotionals” to learn more about the books.

Dearest Son – Where are you?

Where are you? I called this out to the first man and I call it out to you now. Where are you?

But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” – Genesis 3: 9-10

You hide because your view of me is incomplete. You view me as Creator of all you see, Master of Heaven and Earth. You fear me as the Righteous Judge. Your mind tells you that I am the Lord.

You are correct – I am these things.

I am the God of the Universe.

And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.  – Genesis 1:3

I am the God that builds nations.

And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. – Genesis 12:2

I am the God that tolerates the worship of no other.

Do not turn to idols or make for yourselves any gods of cast metal: I am the LORD your God. – Leviticus 19:4

And I am so much more. Starting right now, I ask that you view me for all that I am.

My dearest son, I am your most Loving Father. You are my son. You do not realize it, but you are the son of the Most High King. You are royalty. I have waited as a patient Father for you to take your rightful place, my son, but I seek to wait no longer. I deeply desire to have a relationship with you. To spend time each day with the child I love so dearly. My heart aches for you. All of the questions you have, I will answer.

But first…I ask again.

Where are you?

Answer, “I am here, Father. I am here.”

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.  – 1 John 3:1

You need not hide from me ever again, my dearest son. You are loved.
PRAYER
 Father,

I know, until now, I have spent my life hiding from You. I was afraid. I was naked, exposed, with all of my mistakes and regrets and worries and problems and imperfections on display. I didn’t want You to see them. I didn’t want You to be disappointed in me. I didn’t want to discuss it. I was afraid of Your judgment.

Why would the Creator of all things tolerate my mess? I ran out of fear and shame. I have sought out other idols – things that I thought could bring me happiness, bring me purpose –  and I have chased after them. I have captured them and watched them turn to poison in my hands. I have so many questions for You. There are so many things I don’t understand.

I thank You for Your patience. And for Your love. I thank you for not giving up on me, though You’ve seen me at my worst. I realize now that there is no hiding from You. I understand that You know everything about me, and that you still deeply desire to have a relationship with me. To spend time with me every day. I understand that this is love. The love of my Father.

Thank you for who You are. I am here, Father. Amen.


*On my other blog, we’ve discussed the idea of writing as though God is speaking in the first-person, as it relates to a book which as topped the Christian bestseller lists for several years, and has proved controversial in some places. However, the approach is also used in other books, Come Away My Beloved, a classic by Frances Roberts, 66 Love Letters by Larry Crabb and a half dozen books in the His Princess series by Sheri Rose Shepherd; all of these without controversy.


Do you have a writer you’d like to suggest? Is there a Bible passage you’d like us to look into? Feel free to use the submissions/contact page.

December 20, 2014

Patterns in the Revelation Church Letters

Filed under: Uncategorized — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:36 pm
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Rev. 1:4 John,

To the seven churches in the province of Asia:

Grace and peace to you from him who is, and who was, and who is to come, and from the seven spirits before his throne, and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.

To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father—to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen.

“Look, he is coming with the clouds,”
    and “every eye will see him,
even those who pierced him”;
    and all peoples on earth “will mourn because of him.”
So shall it be! Amen.

“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.”

Today’s reading is from the website Blogos which features a variety of writers. Today we’re presenting a post by Laurel J. Davis:

(Click the title to read at source)

Hearing God's Voice at Matt Glover dot comAre You Listening?

What does the word of the Lord mean to you? Are you hearing the Lord? Are you listening? Are you allowing His Word to minister in your life? To lead you? To uplift you? To correct you? To guide you into all truth?

In the Book of Revelation Chapters 2 and 3, John records the Lord Jesus’ individual messages to seven churches — Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea. Four key statements appear in all seven messages that should make us in the Christian church today stop and really listen to the voice of God:

1. These are the words of Him who…: Every message to the seven churches starts with this phrase, and then goes on to attest to Jesus’ status as Almighty God — His power, His authority, His infinite nature, His marvelous glory, etc.

The message to today’s church is: Remember who and what God is. When He speaks, remember His power and authority over all of creation – including you. Meditate on His awesomeness. Rest in His faithfulness and truth, remembering that it is impossible for Him to lie. When God speaks to you — to your heart and mind in compatibility with His Word — remember that He holds your very life and breath in His hands.

2. I know your works [or, deeds]… : That’s the next thing Jesus says to every church. As the One with all power, authority, glory, faithfulness and truth, Jesus is omniscient. He knows all things. There is nothing hidden from His sight — not what you do, and also not why you do it. He is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart just as much as He sees all of your actions, both good and bad.

So, when Jesus speaks to you, be encouraged to know your good deeds have not gone unnoticed. You will be rewarded in due time. Know too that He wants to bring your bad deeds to your attention so that you can seek His forgiveness, repent, grow and ultimately overcome.

3. He who has an ear to hear, let him hear: After telling each church what their works, good and/or bad, have been, Jesus punctuates it with an exhortation to really get what He is saying. Do you have an ear to hear what God is saying to you? Enough to get it and do it? Are you a doer of what He’s saying, or just a hearer only?

Almighty God, who holds all power, authority and truth, and whose glory is unmatched, and who knows all things – does He have your ear? Are you willing to listen and then be accountable to follow through? We all get tempted to turn a deaf ear to the Lord sometimes, especially with the tough stuff. But think about those people who don’t have an ear to hear? What is it about them that let’s you know they don’t? Don’t be like them.

4. He who overcomes…: Jesus closes His individual messages to the churches with a promise for those who do have an ear to hear and who correct their deeds accordingly. Blessing comes with staying the course God has set before you and accepting His correction if you get off track along the way. Sometimes that blessing may not come right away, or even in this lifetime, but it is a promise nonetheless and will come to pass because it comes from the One who is all-powerful, all-knowing, deserving of all glory, and most faithful and true.

 

The words to the four churches of Revelation should make Christians stop and listen.tweet

So, stick with Jesus. Hunger for His authority in your life. Receive His Word in your heart and endeavor to live honestly by it. Be assured of your reward. Listen to His voice (as expressed in His Holy Word) and heed it. For in Jesus Christ alone, you can overcome.