Power of a Name

This week’s Pastor to Person was written by Pastor Caleb Beller.

“As she breathed her last–for she was dying–she named her son Ben-Oni. But his father named him Benjamin.” (Gen 35:18)

What a gut-wrenching moment for Jacob. The love of his life dies while giving birth to their second son. Jacob had just returned to the place of God’s promise in his life. There the Lord appeared to Jacob and confirmed the blessing on his life.

As Rachel nears her last breath, she names her son Ben-Oni (son of my pain). It’s hard to fathom the mix of joy and sorrow in this crossroads of life and death. Names were a funny thing in Israel. Your name identified you and your family, but it was also a reflection of your character. Jacob knew how powerful a name could be. In verse 10 God changes his name from Jacob (heel catcher) to Israel (governed by God).

In a moment of fatherly wisdom and grace Jacob overrides the proclamation of his dying bride. We too can become defined by the worst moments in our lives. So often these things happen outside of our control, but they can define us and confine us to a perspective that we are somehow the source of everyone’s pain. His father named him Benjamin (son of my right hand). No matter what label the world or circumstances have put on you, the power of the Gospel allows us to be defined not by tragedy, but by Jesus’ triumph. The Gospel allows us to be “Benjamin” son of God’s right hand because of Jesus. Have you accepted your new name? Let His love define you and me this week.

Alien

“And Abraham lived as an alien in the land of the Philistines for many days.” (Genesis 21:34, CSB)

Alien.  A word that conjures up all sorts of images in our heads.  Perhaps little green men or a space monster. Maybe just that neighbor down the street from a foreign country.  All those pictures define a person who doesn’t belong. There are times when we too feel a little out of place.  The question is, where do you belong?

As believers, we are “sojourners and pilgrims” in this world.  We are children of light while the world around us dwells in darkness.  When you are out in the world, whether it’s at work or just going out to eat with your family, there may be times when you are definitely aware that you “don’t belong”.  But that’s okay beloved.  We are supposed to be lights in the world.  We are a chosen generation, intended by God to give those around us an idea of where the path leads to God. In the end, the Philistines went on to … disappear in the pages of history. Abraham and his descendants went on to multiply and are everywhere. Be sure you are making your attachments based on what lasts, not what passes. You may indeed feel like a stranger in this world, but you weren’t made for this world, you were made for heaven. As a citizen of heaven, you belong. You are family.

Noah: Lessons in Perseverance & Faithfulness

This week’s Pastor to Person was written by Pastor Daniel Grant:

God did for Noah what he could not do for himself. Noah is a story of redemption, it is also a story of perseverance amidst extreme human depravity.

God called Noah to build a boat, a BIG one. Even though Noah never experienced rain, and had probably never even seen a boat, he was faithful to do as the Lord instructed. God gave Noah exact specifications for the dimensions of the Ark, and it took Noah many years to complete it (he had no power tools!!) While Noah built the boat, we sometimes lose sight of the fact that it was God who organized and sent all the animals to Noah. He didn’t ask Noah to head out and wrangle two of every type of animal. Gen 7:8-10 “From the clean animals, unclean animals, birds, and every creature that crawls on the ground, two of each, male and female, came to Noah and entered the ark, just as God had commanded him.  Seven days later the floodwaters came on the earth.” Before it started raining God had Noah and the animals enter the Ark, and it was God himself who closed the Ark’s door.

So, what has God called you to build this year? What has God called you to be faithful to this year? Where is He challenging you spiritually, financially, and physically? Or have you tried to take on your part AND His part?? Let’s not get in the way of God doing the wonderful miracles that I know He is going to do. Let’s make sure that we are doing the things that He has called us to do, no more, no less! When He calls us to get on the boat, don’t be late!!

Wandering

For the idols speak delusion; The diviners envision lies, And tell false dreams; They comfort in vain. Therefore the people wend their way like sheep; They are in trouble because there is no shepherd. (Zechariah 10:2)

The people in Zechariah’s day were not a whole lot different than those of our time.  People are looking for direction.  People are searching for answers.  What’s worse is that our world seems to be looking in the wrong direction.

We may not have the same kinds of “idols” the ancients had, but we have other, much more sophisticated, things we look to for answers.  We look to education.  We look to popular opinion.  We look to those with the biggest Instagram accounts.  Instead of real answers that satisfy and deepen us, we find empty, hollow tidbits that blow away in the wind.

My friends, there is a Shepherd who knows exactly what you need.  He’s the One who created you.  He knows all about your history, your personality, your wants, and your desires.  He has a plan for you.  If you haven’t already noticed, your life is going to be filled with a whole lot of emptiness unless you ask Him to fill it.  Your life will be wandering down aimless paths unless you ask Him to guide you.  Latch on to the Good Shepherd.  Follow where He leads.

Hab’s Encouragement & Faith

This week’s Pastor to Person was written by Pastor Daniel Grant:

Beloved, we have spent a lot of time looking at what faith is in the book of Hebrews! We have gone through Hebrews 11 line by line, story by story, looking at the hall of faith. Sometimes it feels daunting to look at the incredible stories of God’s mighty deliverance! At the same time, we have cruised through the book of Judges, looking at how God can use extremely messy people, in terrible circumstances, to do amazing things! “The righteous will live by faith.”Hab 2:4Such a short line and such a small yet powerful truth hidden amongst the rebukes for a sinful nation.

Where is your faith engaged? Are you living by logic, cleverness and your own means? Or are you actively applying your faith, actively pursuing your calling, and speaking God’s truth in love?

Habakkuk had some mighty rebukes and some incredibly strong warnings for the people of Judah. Habakkuk was carefully and diligently waiting on the Lord to see what the Lord would both say and do in his time, even if that meant that God had to correct him.I will stand my watch and set myself on the rampart, and watch to see what He will say to me, And what I will answer when I am corrected. Hab 2:1

Beloved, stand just like Habakkuk, living by faith, and ready to be corrected! Let us carefully watch to see what God is calling us to do, and then let us fearlessly do it. Be encouraged, beloved, we stand side by side, even when it gets tough. God is good, and He is NEVER late!!

Stubborn

“Then Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from the fish’s belly.” (Jonah 2:1)

The people of Nineveh were some of the most feared of ancient times.  If the Assyrians didn’t skin their conquests alive, they would drag them off to foreign lands to serve foreign gods.  To the godly, Jewish person, these people were simply obnoxious. Yet the God of Israel had hope that they might respond to His compassion and turn around if someone would simply share God’s message. God had just the man for the job, a prophet named Jonah.  So God said “Go”, but Jonah said “No”.

Jonah was so repulsed by the Assyrians that he got on board a ship heading in the opposite direction. Initially, Jonah thought he escaped God’s call but instead found himself in the belly of a fish. I would think that most people would be crying out to God the moment they were being tossed overboard, but not Jonah.  Jonah was a man of principle.  His “no” meant“no”.  So Jonah sat in the belly of that fish for THREE DAYS.  That’s what I call stubborn.

Have you been stewing in some fish’s belly, fighting the call that God has on your life? Jonah finally softened up and cried to God for help, just like the Ninevites would do. God can even use the stubborn, if they just turn around.

The Kindness of a Papa

This week’s Pastor to Person was written by Pastor Daniel Grant:

Hosea in some respects shows the extreme lengths to which God will go to redeem his children. The prophet Hosea was tried and tested unlike any other prophet. If you think your situation is tough, take a glance at Hosea’s marriage. God called him to marry, love and care for a prostitute. God even called Hosea to love her and buy her back after she was unfaithful to him. That is how much God LOVES us!!

 God reminds us of His kindness in Hosea 11 when He speaks of Ephraim the way one gently speaks of a child. “I taught Ephraim to walk, taking them by their arms; But they did not know that I healed them. I drew them with gentle cords, with bands of love, and I was to them as those who take the yoke from their neck. I stooped and fed them.” Hosea 11:3-4

God uses an illustration that we can relate to, the picture of a father tenderly caring for his young son. God loves us enough to stoop down and gently feed us, the way that a good papa would gently feed his infant child.

For me this is a beautiful reminder that God meets us where we are, brings us along, grows us up, and loves us even when it’s tough! Let God be a papa to you today, for He is the BEST papa anyone can have!!

Boring

They shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads. (Revelation 22:4)

I imagine that for some of us attention deficit folks the idea that heaven is all about being with God just seems a bit boring.  And yet, this is at the core of what heaven is all about.  Yes, heaven is a place where we have new bodies, all knowledge, and the streets are paved with gold.  Yet, all that dims compared to the amazing fact that we will be with God.  Forever.

If that still sounds just a bit boring to you, may I suggest something?  God’s heart is not only that we will spend the future with Him, but He very much wants to be a part of our life here and now. He is the One who wants to walk with you through the valley of the shadow of death.  He is the One who wants to take you to the Rock that is higher than you.  He is the One who longs to be your strength and shield.  He is not only the awesome, majestic, powerful, Creator of the Universe, He is also the lover of your soul.  He knows you intimately and longs for you to know Him just as intimately.

If heaven sounds boring, might I suggest you make it your prayer today to know God better.  Tell Him you want to know more about Him.  Spend time with Him. Tell Him you wish to walk with Him.  You will find that heaven will be anything but boring.

The Wrath of God

This week’s Pastor to Person was written by Pastor Caleb Beller:

“Then I saw another sign in heaven, great and marvelous: seven angels having the seven last plagues, for in them the wrath of God is complete” Rev 15:1

The author of the book of Hebrews says that, “it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” The wrath of God is not a topic we like to spend a lot of time talking about.

Most of us are uncomfortable with the idea of God’s wrath because it can be difficult to reconcile with our idea of Love. First, we must remember that God’s wrath is not the same as our wrath. The writer of James tells us that, “the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” God’s wrath is rooted in His love. He would not be loving if He did not punish sin.

Second, we see that God’s wrath serves a purpose. The idea here in Revelation 15 is that His wrath will fulfill its intended design. Satan and his kingdom will be defeated. Evil will be punished.

Lastly, we must not forget that Jesus drank the cup of God’s wrath for us, so that we could drink the cup of God’s grace. God’s wrath is real, it is just, and it is coming. We must not water down this truth. The blood of Jesus allows God’s wrath to pass over us a Christians. Paul says, Christians are not appointed unto wrath. This should both encourage us and inspire us to share the gospel this week!

Prayer Power

Then the angel took the censer, filled it with fire from the altar, and threw it to the earth. And there were noises, thunderings, lightnings, and an earthquake. (Revelation 8:5)

The book of Hebrews has taught us that the things God commanded Moses to make and do in the Tabernacle were actually copies of what happens in heaven.

You see this at work in the book of Revelation, where John has been caught up into heaven and is transported to the time of the end.  John sees the real golden altar of incense and watches as an angel stands at the altar and offers up incense, along with the prayers of the saints.  This was the same ritual that took place every day in the Tabernacle and the Temple.

As the daily ritual is mirrored in heaven, something powerful takes place as fire from that altar is thrown to the earth and the events of the Great Tribulation are intensified.  What were those “prayers of the saints” that brought about such a response?  It might be that simple prayer of Jesus, “Thy kingdom come”.  Or perhaps one of David’s prayers, “How long O Lord?”  Whatever the prayers were, they brought about big things, ultimately leading to Jesus’ return. So, what are you praying for?  I wonder if we realize just how powerful our prayers are before God.