Monthly Archives: February 2009

My Soul has a Name

I’ve always felt a sort of disconnect from my name. My last name is ugly. That’s about as plain as I can put it. It’s hard to spell, hard to pronounce, and hard for other people to read. Sometime that’s funny, like when telemarketers try to call. But it can wear on you after having to explain it to say, all the employees of your new workplace.

I’ve never felt that my name was indicative of who I am.

Do most people feel that way? Maybe I’m the only one, but to me my name, the one I was born with, is nothing more than an odd-sounding identification number, that I’ve trained myself to answer to when needed.

I’d heard about Native American tribes where people got to basically choose a name that fit them when they became an adult. I thought that kind of thing would really help me when I was younger. And there’s plenty of people who “go by” something other than their legal name — a nickname, initials, or a middle name.

But recently, I changed my name. I finally rid myself of the last name that’s been bothering me for so long, and picked one that I really loved, that had special meaning behind it. And you know what? It still doesn’t mesh with my idea of me, of who I am.

Because that’s what this is really all about. We change our names or nicknames because we want something that we identify with, that says who we really are, or at least who we want other people to think we are. When people think of my name, they think of me, so I want it to represent me as well as it can. Which leads me to what I think the problem is:

I don’t really know who I am.

Well, I have a pretty good idea, I think. But I’m not sure it’s possible to truly, totally know yourself, at least not on Earth. And that’s why I can’t find my true name.

But guess what? (And this is why I’m rambling about all this.) God already named me. I was looking at some of the rewards mentioned in the beginning of Revelation (where Jesus is talking to the churches), and one is a white rock with your name on it — your real, true name that God gave you when you were first created. People have thought of all kinds of reasons why this might matter — magicians have talked about the power of someone’s true name, etc — but to me, the point is simple and clear.

God knows you. And what’s great is, He’ll help you know yourself, as you really are. How cool is that?


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Embarrassment a sin?

I was reading an unrelated commentary by David Stern the other day and I came across this thought-provoking aside: “pride, and the reverse-sin of embarrassment”.

Is embarrassment a sin?

I’ve not yet seen it specifically mentioned in a biblical sin-list — “Thou shalt not be embarrassed” for example, or “Those evil-doers who are embarrassed”. A quick check of the NIV doesn’t pull up any results for “embarrass” at all.

But then again, if I switch to The Message, I see Luke 9:26 – (Jesus speaking) “If any of you is embarrassed with me and the way I’m leading you, know that the Son of Man will be far more embarrassed with you when he arrives in all his splendor in company with the Father and the holy angels. This isn’t, you realize, pie in the sky by and by.” (also see Mark 8:38)

Ok, so the pie in the sky bit is a little strange, but I’m interested to see what other versions do with this verse. NIV and NASB both say “ashamed of me” (and no, no mention of pie). Aha! A search for “ashamed” brings up all kinds of verses, most notably 2 Timothy 1:7-9 :

“For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline. So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord, or ashamed of me his prisoner. [Paul is speaking] But join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God, who has saved us and called us to a holy life – not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace.”

(btw, awesome passage talking about the gift of God given to Timothy and what he should do with it now – go read it, it’s great!)

I think I had a wrong image in my head of sin. After all, you put pride on the list (something I know I constantly struggle with) and I start thinking of the 7 deadlys and, obviously, Brad Pitt. Hard to remember sometimes what sin actually is – not just bad things you do, but good things you don’t do, and perhaps even more importantly, your heart’s attitude when you them.

I’ve certainly been too embarrassed of being called a Christian to “testify about our Lord” before, especially in situations where my faith was being mocked. And I’ve been ashamed to be called a Christian because of other Christians too, although I think that’s not all my fault sometimes. (but that’s another discussion)

When my heart isn’t identifying as a follower of Jesus, then there’s something wrong with my heart. Even if I’m afraid, or if I know that the result would be persecution, it doesn’t give me an excuse to lay low and pretend I’m not who I am. That’s denying Him just as much as if I had said it aloud. And therefore, sin.

So is embarrassment sin? In and of itself, I don’t see any biblical backup for that. But when it comes to God, Jesus and other true followers of Jesus – we can’t be ashamed to be identified. Our hearts belong to Him, and as such should always be willing to declare it.


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Making Sense of John’s Craziness

I have never understood why, when someone is looking at the life of Yeshua and wanting to know more, Christians tend to say “Read John.” In my mind, John is the worst way to see the gospel for the first time. There are a lot of reasons for this, but one of the most compelling to me is simply the first few verses:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.

Well that sounds pretty and enlightening and all, but what is it supposed to mean? If you grew up in the church, chances are good that you know that somehow, the “Word” mentioned means “Jesus”, and this passage establishes that He is God and at the same time God is more than one part, as He was also “with God”.

But why the Word? Why not just come out and say, “Jesus is God”? If it were my first time reading this I’d probably stop right here. If I don’t understand the first few verses, what luck will I have with the rest of the book?

My explanation when I was younger was pretty much “Well, John wrote Revelations too. He’s just used to acting all mystical.” and I wrote it off at that. But that’s not really a satisfying answer. After all, the book of John settles down a lot after that point and if you plug along, things do start to make sense.

So here’s my take on it now: John knew his audience. A lot better than we do now. Remember, he’s writing to Jews of that era, who would look at the language and at once realize what he was referencing. It’s basically a culture thing — if I was describing someone and said he laughed with a “Ho ho ho!” most Americans would start thinking about Santa and of the person I was describing in terms of Santa.

It’s the same way here. When John said “In the beginning…”, the Jews started thinking about Genesis 1:1:

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

Now for the cool part. In the creation story at Genesis 1, God makes Earth and everything in it. How? Through His word. Or I should say, Word. He speaks and creates. John is trying to show how, even from the very beginning, Jesus was with God and creating — He was God!

Why go to all the trouble? Jews in that culture knew that one of the fundamental parts of God is that He is one — it’s the first Commandment in the Ten Commandments. So the whole idea of Jesus being fully God and fully man (and being called therefore the “Son of God”) was difficult to get across — it sounded to them as if God was being split in two, which wasn’t possible because, like I said, God is one. But John shows here that even in the very first verse of the scriptures God talks about Himself in parts – His Word accomplishes His will. It’s still God creating, but now you have a separate part of God that is still Him. (it’s a really neat study to look at how the Trinity is represented in the Tanakh, I highly recommend it!)

Still think that’s a stretch? Well actually, God talks about himself and His Word as being separate yet one very specifically in Isaiah 55:11:

…so shall my word be that goes out of my mouth: it shall not return to me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in that for which I sent it.

With the background we just talked about, that verse becomes a clear description of the Messiah, who, as we discover if we read more of John (1:14), eventually became the Word made flesh — that is, Jesus.

So, I still think John is a bad book to start with (I usually say Mark as it’s quick and to the point, then maybe Romans to lay it all on the line), but I like the first chapter of it a whole lot more now that I understand it better. It’s actually a really neat thought.

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Re-post: Don’t Worry

(This post was originally posted in my other blog in March.   –Sarah)

I struggle a lot with death.

That was a much more morbid way of introducing this post than I had originally intended, but it’s something that’s on my heart right now.

When I say I struggle, I don’t mean that I don’t understand the point of it, or why God allows it to happen. I’m actually ok with that.

My problem is, I don’t want to die.

And now you’re saying, um, duh? No one wants to die. Kinda a normal human thing, not really what people call a problem.

Well to me, it’s a problem. Because I believe that when I die, I get to be with God. I also believe that is the best thing that could possibly happen to anyone, ever — getting to be with your creator for eternity. It’s fantastic, to finally know that what you’re doing is what you were always meant to do. That your life mattered, and your reward is what you’ve always wanted, even if you didn’t always know it.

And when I think of it that way, even just writing the above, I’m ok with death. I get this little bubble of joy inside me from thinking about being with Him and how awesome that’s going to be. (That’s actually the meaning of the Greek for “delight”, if I recall correctly, the hope of things unseen that are to come.)

But most of the time I forget all that. I think about how much I hate fear. I look at worldly things and even people with the thought in my mind that it really doesn’t matter — it’s not going to last.

I’m about to go on a trip. A plane trip. Now, both my parents are pilots. I’ve been flying since before I was born.

But something about giving up control of my life to a pilot I’ve never met just scares the hell out of me.

And it shouldn’t. If I’m not afraid of what happens after death, and I know that nothing’s going to last anyway, I should just accept it, trust that God knows what He’s doing, and move on. “Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” And also “Do not fear, for fear has to do with punishment. Perfect love drives out fear.”

I guess this is just further proof then that I am not perfect.

But I am a Christian. I want to believe. I want to drive out my fear with a perfect, complete love. So I’m going on this trip, and I’m not going to let my fear stop me. And meanwhile, I’m going to remember to live a life that matters while I’m here.

For now, that’s the best I can do. Help me Lord.

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Decided I really needed a place to put all my blogging together, hopefully in a vaguely interesting way.  I’m planning on possibly turning a few of these feeds into podcasts at some point, but no time table on that yet, so breath holding=probably not a good idea.

Welcome!  Seems this is up and working.  Next step: content.

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