Names of God: I AM

Names of God: I AM
by Greta Suchy

The first time God called Himself I AM is in Exodus 3:14.  God has just told Moses for the first time that he is to lead the Israelites out of Egypt, and Moses has proceeded to question God on the details and plausibility of His plan.  He says, “Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?”, and he asks what he is to tell the Israelites God’s name is.  God says to Moses “I AM WHO I AM” and to tell the Israelites “I AM has sent me to you”.

I feel like we (or at least I) expend a lot of our thoughts worrying about ourselves.   Aside from our thoughts that are more obviously about ourselves, “I am tired,” “I wish I was like so-and-so,” “Why do I have this pain?”and “How will I ever get all this done?” many of our thoughts that we may think are more oriented on our relationship with God are often still very much focused on ourselves.  Like Moses we worry that we do not understand how God will work out His plan, or that we are not good enough to do what He is asking us to do.  We may worry that we are not walking close enough to God, or we pat ourselves on the back when we feel we are.

What if we stopped focusing on ourselves so much, if when God says I AM, we rested in that and stopped occupying ourselves with what we are?  Granted, sometimes we need to examine our lives so that we can recognize and grow in areas of weakness, but I think in general a lot of the thoughts we have focused on ourselves can be destructive.  Looking back on Moses, it is easy to think that He should have trusted God more, that it was silly of him to later say to God that he was insufficiently eloquent for the task at hand and beg God to send someone else, but I think we often succumb to similar thoughts and questioning.

If we honestly assess our circumstances based on ourselves and our own capabilities, it does not put us in a very good place.  We are sinful, we are weak, we are human and we will die.  When we speak of ourselves, we cannot truthfully follow the words “I am” with anything that we could do by our own power to fix the brokenness in the world or our own lives.  God, on the other hand, later follows His statement of I AM with “The Way,” “The Truth,”  and “The Life.” When God says “I AM”, it is much more powerful, because it can be followed by more infinitely many more wondrous things than we could comprehend.

It doesn’t matter who I am and if I think I am able to do what God is calling me to. It only matters that He is.   In Galatians 2:20 Paul says “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”   Just as it was completely by God’s power that Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt, everything we do to serve Him is not by our own power, but by Him living in us and working through us.

It is very easy and normal to center our thoughts around ourselves, but I think we need to make a conscious effort to re-orient our thoughts to God when we find ourselves fixating on ourselves.  If we are focused on God, not so much living ourselves as letting Him live through us, we should be less susceptible to earthly desires as well.  I know sometimes I become so caught up with some worry or desire in my life that I neglect to worship and thank God for who He is and all the ways He has blessed us until I can somehow resolve or forget it.  If we are fixating on and recognizing God’s power and goodnessthough, we need not be anxious about our lives, because He is in control, and we will be less prone to desire worldly things, as they will pale in comparison to His majesty.

Names of God: Mediator

Name of God: Mediator
by Casie Rodenberger

I Timothy 2:5­
For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus . . .

If law school has taught me anything, it’s that lawyers like to argue (or debate, consider, theorize, discuss, etc.). Ask a lawyer a question and you’re likely to get three answers or one long one. Armed with statutes and case law, lawyers are prepared to wage a verbal legal battle both against opposing counsel and a well-meaning friend who had the great misfortune to ask one small question.

This tendency of lawyers is well suited to our legal system, as it is purposefully adversarial. The adversarial system ensures a type of fairness that may be otherwise unattainable. Even if a lawyer never sees the inside of a courtroom, they work within a legal framework that is designed to respond to this adversarial system. But is the adversarial system of me vs. you really the only way to resolve a disagreement? Especially if the me vs. you, is really me vs. God?

Despite decades of Law and Order reruns trying to tell us otherwise, there are other ways to resolve legal issues then just inside the courtroom. Just as we are told there is another way to come before God with our spiritual “legal” issues. We are told that there is a mediator that stands between us and God. A mediator is “one that works to effect reconciliation, settlement, or compromise between parties at variance” (Merriam-Webster Dictionary).

Mediation can be a difficult thing, especially when I am prepared to argue my case to the fullest. Mediation is not about arguing to win or lose, it is about finding balance. It requires more than just my best argument, it entails cooperation and understanding. It requires that I think beyond my own wants and needs to work with the other person.

Jesus is our mediator. He is the bridge between us and God. A go-between to ensure that there is neither a winner or a loser but rather an improved relationship between us and our Father. While it requires giving up the arguing, by placing our trust in Jesus he can help us find reconciliation with God. A feat that is impossible if we only approach our relationship with God in an adversarial way.

Names of God: Master and Servant

Jesus: Master & Servant
by Pastor Bert Hitchcock

One has only to look in a thesaurus to realize these titles are opposites. “Master” is listed as an antonym for “servant”; and “servant” is an antonym for “master”. But both of those titles are attributed to Jesus – indeed he uses both to refer to himself. This is surely one of the great paradoxes of God’s Word; but it also unfolds the greatness of the gospel.

In Biblical Greek, there are at least seven words that could be translated “master”; and all but one of them is used in the New Testament to refer to Jesus. But most impressive is the fact that Jesus was called kurios or Lord. That is the word used as a title for the One who exercises supernatural authority over everything. Jesus is not just a master; he is The Master!

But according to Philippians 2,
Though he was God,
he did not think of equality with God
as something to cling to.
Instead, he gave up his divine privileges,
and took the humble position of a slave,
being born as a human being.

And throughout his life on earth, Jesus lived-out that servant attitude. He publicly declared that he had not come to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for us. And serve he did: ministering hope and healing to the sick, the unclean, public sinners, and social outcasts.

Most notably, in the evening before he was betrayed, he washed his disciples feet – a task only a slave would ever be asked to do. But that foot-washing was a token of the ultimate washing he came to accomplish: The next day he was hung on a cross where he was punished for sins he never committed – our sins – in order that we might be made clean, without sin before the Father.

Because of his faithful service, God raised Jesus from the dead and exalted him to his throne, and gave him the name above every name: Jesus Christ the Lord. He is the one we now worship; and he is the pattern of our discipleship – our Servant King.

The Servant King

 

Names of God: Father

Everlasting Father
by Nate Gibson
For a child is born to us,

    a son is given to us.

The government will rest on his shoulders.

    And he will be called:

Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,

    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Isaiah 9:6 (New International Version)
Shortly before my daughter was born in February, a friend told me that becoming a father would profoundly change the way that I understood the image of God as “the Father”. Intellectually, this made sense to me, and I tried to imagine ahead of time what that change might feel like. Nothing could have prepared me for the reality, though.

I will never forget the moment I first held my daughter–the relief, the joy, the excitement and trepidation, all rolled up into one overwhelming wave. I didn’t pause then to reflect on how my understanding of God as Father changed, but such moments have hit with startling clarity many times over the past five weeks.

I know full well my own imperfections and weakness, but my infant daughter is, as all infants are, physically weak; incapable of acting on her own behalf. I am the strong party in the father-infant dynamic, and am reminded of this with every helpless cry, every bath-time, every dirty diaper.

My daughter cannot change herself, bathe herself, feed herself, or even roll over on her own just yet. She is completely reliant on my wife and myself.

Of course, this will change. Soon enough, she’ll be rolling over, then sitting up, then crawling, then walking and talking. Our support will be crucial for her to grow out of her infancy and into maturity, but the day will come when we will no longer be there for her.

Consider, then, the image of Jesus as Everlasting Father. We are the infants in this relationship: weak, helpless, incapable of saving ourselves. As with physical infancy, our spiritual infancy is not something we are able to outgrow on our own. Apart from the Father, we would wither, and our cries would go unheeded.

Instead, we are cared for by the Father whose constancy infinitely surpasses my own, or that of any other earthly father; the Father who paradoxically became an infant, weak and helpless, so that He could die for our sins; the Father who sanctifies us, not only for a few short decades, but eternally.

Names of God: Advocate

Name of God: Advocate
by Dan Gibson

I John 2: 1, 2 — My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father — Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.

For about thirty-five years, I have served as a prosecutor.  The first ten years of that time I spent in criminal prosecution, seeking the conviction of persons guilty of committing crimes.  Most often, my counterpart in the process was a public defender.  I had no desire to be a public defender, and often had pondered the especially difficult task that they had, defending those whom I deemed to be guilty of the crimes with which they were charged, whose excuses frequently ran counter to reason and truth.

So it is a challenge for me to realize and digest the nature of Christ’s work as set forth in the text above.  He is here portrayed for us as the great Public Defender, who pleads our case for us in the courts of heaven, before the perfect judge, his Father.  We are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.  We deserve the ultimate punishment, even if we have managed to fool ourselves about our status.  There is no fooling the Judge of earth and heaven, who sees through us to the very heart of our being.  If we stand alone, on our own, we are doomed.  But we have one who stands with us, making our case to the Father.  He doesn’t seek to put a pretty face on our behavior.  Instead he pleads his own righteousness for us.  He can do this with utter conviction because he himself has both perfectly satisfied the Father and borne the penalty for us through his own death.  The Dutch word for lawyer is “advocaat.”  That is the word picture that these verses  from John’s first epistle paint for us.

Before the throne of God above
I have a strong and perfect plea
A great High Priest whose name is love
Who ever lives and pleads for me
My name is graven on His hands
My name is written on His heart
I know that while in heav’n He stands
No tongue can bid me thence depart
No tongue can bid me thence depart

VERSE 2
When Satan tempts me to despair
And tells me of the guilt within
Upward I look and see Him there
Who made an end of all my sin
Because the sinless Savior died
My sinful soul is counted free
For God the Just is satisfied
To look on Him and pardon me
To look on Him and pardon me

VERSE 3
Behold Him there, the risen Lamb
My perfect, spotless Righteousness
The great unchangeable I AM
The King of glory and of grace
One with Himself, I cannot die
My soul is purchased by His blood
My life is hid with Christ on high
With Christ my Savior and my God
With Christ my Savior and my God
Original words by Charitie Lees Bancroft (1841-1892), music and alt. words by Vikki Cook. © 1997

Names of God: Jesus the Righteousness

JEHOVAH TSIDKENU “The Lord our Righteousness “[yah-way- tzid-kay- noo]
from Nick and Diana Laninga

 

God from the very beginning saw our desperate need when our parents Adam and Eve sinned and tried to cover their nakedness with self-effort, they covered themselves with leaves.

How inadequate; yet God in His mercy provided for them by killing an animal and covering Adam & Eve. His doing, His provision. Like Adam & Eve we can never do enough to cover our sins and be right before a Holy God.. We need the robe of Christ’s righteousness.

Let us look to Scripture.

Jeremiah 23: 5-6. “Behold, the days are coming,” says the Lord, “that I will raise to David a Branch of righteousness; A King shall reign and prosper, and execute judgment and righteousness in the earth, In His days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell safely; now this is His name[ not an attribute] by which He will be called: THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.

Isaiah 61:10 tells us of our new condition in Christ.

“I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, My soul shall be joyful in my God; for He has clothed me with the garments of salvation, He has covered me with the robe of righteousness.” {Put off the old man of self & put on Christ. Eph. 4: 25-42.]

Zechariah 3 gives us a great picture of this.

“Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the Angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right hand to oppose him. And the Lord said to Satan. “The Lord rebuke you, Satan! The Lord who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is this not a brand plucked from the fire?” Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments, and was standing before the Angel. Then He answered and spoke to those who stood before Him saying, “Take away the filthy garments from him.” And to him He said, “See, I have removed your iniquity from you, and I will clothe you with rich robes.” — — So they put a clean turban on his head, and they put clothes on him.
8 “Hear, O Joshua, the high priest, You and your companions who sit before you, For they are a wondrous sign; For behold, I am bringing forth My Servant the branch. 9b. and I will remove the iniquity of that land in one day.

{God will take away His people’s sin through the Branch. The priestly system could not do this it pointed to Christ who would truly deal with man’s sin.]

In one day, Christ, on a single day [Good Friday ] once for all made atonement for the sins of God’s people.

II Corinthians 5:21- For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.The question must be asked, am I, are you, in Him. We need to be dressed in the righteousness of Christ alone.

Matthew 22: 11-12 tells the parable of the wedding feast and how one of the guests was found without a wedding garment and was thrown into hell. Not good!

Horatius Bonar wrote these words in verse 4 of “THY WORKS, NOT MINE, O CHRIST.”

Thy righteousness, O Christ, alone can cover me;
no righteousness avails save that which is of thee.
[ Chorus]
To whom, save thee,
who alone for sin atones,
Lord, shall I flee?

A close friend of Horatius Bonar was Robert Murray M’Cheyne. who wrote the following poem:

I once was a stranger to grace and to God,
I knew not my danger, and felt not my load;
Though friends spoke in rapture of Christ on the tree,
JEHOVAH TSIDKENU was nothing to me.

I oft read with pleasure, to soothe or engage,
Isaiah’s wild measure and John’s simple page;
But e’en when they pictured the blood-sprinkled tree J
EHOVAH TSIDKENU seemed nothing to me.

Like tears from the daughters of Zion that roll,
I wept when the waters went over His soul;
Yet thought not my sins had nailed to the tree
JEHOVAH TSIDKENU—‘twas nothing to me.

When free grace awoke me, by light from on high,
Then legal fears shook me, I trembled to die;
No refuge, no safety in self could I see—
JEHOVAH TSIDKENU my Saviour must be.

My terrors all vanished before the sweet name;
My guilty fears banished, with boldness I came
To drink at the fountain, life-giving and free—
JEHOVAH TSIDKENU is all things to me.

JEHOVAH TSIDKENU ! my treasure and boast,
JEHOVAH TSIDKENU ! I ne’er can be lost.
In Thee I shall conquer by flood and by field—
My cable my anchor, my breastplate and shield. !

Even treading the valley, the shadow of death,
This” WATCHWORD” shall rally my faltering breath;
For while from life’s fever my God sets me free,
JEHOVAH TSIDKENU my death-song shall be.

AND THOSE WHO KNOW YOUR NAME WILL PUT THEIR TRUST IN YOU;
FOR YOU, LORD, HAVE NOT FORSAKEN THOSE WHO SEEK YOU. Psalm 9:10

 

Blessings from the Laninga’s.

 

Names of God: Tender Shoot

Tender Shoot
by Katlyn Heck

 

He grew up before him like a tender shoot,
and like a root out of dry ground.
He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,
    nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
-Isaiah 53:2

 

When I read this verse and think about my Savior, there are two things that stand out to me. First, the inconspicuous and humble nature of a seed, and secondly, the apparent lack of strength and power of a tender shoot. It makes me hesitant, at first blush, to compare these things to Jesus.

Every spring I have the same struggle, maybe some of you out there have a suggestion or two for me, I cannot evenly space my carrot seeds. I fight with their size and I fight with their ability to blend into the soil around them or float away on a breeze. Unlike the bright orange and crisp carrots I am able to pull out of the ground once they have reached their maturity, I am not attracted to any beauty or majesty in those seeds. Their appearance does not make me desire them and their humble beginning does little to predict their future as a life giving plant. Similar maybe to the man many thought was a simple son of a carpenter laying claim to a heavenly heritage and then offering up His life to save the world.

Then it happens, those tiny unassuming seeds germinate and I can see my row of future carrots! It is beautiful and it is hopeful seeing those tiny green tender shoots. They become precious and their appearance starts to reflect their life-giving nature. Sadly, the growth of these life-giving tender shoots often exposes the carelessness and impatience that plagued my planting of the seemingly less gratifying seeds as oftentimes my rows are full of clumps and gaps. I then vow to be a better gardener and I throw myself into protecting these tiny vulnerable shoots of green. They seem like a breath away from being eaten, trampled, choked out or dried up (Matthew: 13). They seem so new and full of life, new life, yet so powerless. Speaking as a new mom, NOTHING has changed my day-to-day more than a seemingly powerless new life. What is it that God tells us about the least of these? He says that they will become the greatest. How many times have we seen those little green leaves pushing up through and cracking concrete?

Jesus, our Tender Shoot, our life-giving Savior with a tender love and humble beginning, our POWERFUL New Life every day.

I came upon a crack today
In my cement foundation,
Your love was fighting to get in
And break my isolation.
Hammers and the like abound,
Who knew tender was the key.
In awe I pray these two small leaves
Will grow into a tree.
~Katlyn Heck