What’s Your Name?

sunrise-invitation-1431868-mAlmost every Christian on the planet can rattle off, “I’m saved by grace through faith.”

Almost every Christian on the planet gets up each day with fresh resolutions—and a better arsenal of excuses.

A familiar Old Testament character can empathize with you. He was full of excuses, little white lies and a few big, old whoppers. Ashamed of who he was, Jacob tried to make himself sound better, feel better, look better than he actually was. Follow his story with me:

Jacob had tried to come out first. As Rachel gave her last anguished push, he thrust forward his tiny pink hand. But just before he could claim the birthright, Esau, big and red, shouldered his way out first. Jacob was shortly behind him, gripping Esau’s heel with all his might.

Their young years were rife with tension. Sure, there were good days when the boys enjoyed camaraderie, but their parents’ divided loyalties kept them both on edge. Ruddy Esau was Isaac’s choice, but Rachel favored Jacob. Maybe she felt sorry for him, the underdog, the sweet little boy who wanted desperately to make his mark on the world.

At birth, Jacob had been labeled, “deceiver,” or, “crafty one,” (the meaning of his Hebrew name) in recollection of his attempt to claim the honor of first born. Living up to his name, twice the Bible tells specific stories of him deceiving his family members in order to claim blessings that were not his. Then, one final, colossal mistake left him running for his life—Jacob lied about his name.

He told his blind father, Isaac, that he was Esau. He convinced Isaac to bless him with the honors of a firstborn. “I am Esau.” Three little words.

There is oh, so much more to the story! But let’s move forward, the privilege of a Bible scholar, to survey the entire landscape of Scripture and consider each story in context and in its minutia.

Years later, Jacob lay restless on the ground trying to sleep. For days, his family had been traveling, a monster caravan of livestock, servants, women and children. As they neared their destination, Jacob’s home in Canaan, word came that Esau had learned of their arrival and was coming to meet them. In fear, Jacob sent gifts ahead of him to pacify his brother. That night, in a fitful sleep, he had a visitor.

Initially, the Bible only tells us that a man wrestled with Jacob all night long. Later, we come to understand that this was a pre-incarnate Christ, a theophany. As day broke, Jacob lost the match but still clung fiercely to the stranger. “I will not let you go until you bless me!” he said.

Then, God asked Jacob a most ordinary, and ironic question: “What is your name?”

Did God not know? Did the Creator who knit this man together in his mother’ womb, not also know his name? Why do you think God asked?

God wanted Jacob to admit who he really was. Long ago, when Jacob claimed to be Esau, he pretended to be someone he was not. He pretended to be worthy of his father’s blessing; he pretended to be the rightful heir. Jacob believed he need to be better, older, more worthy in his father’s eyes to receive the blessing.

The last time Jacob had been asked to give his name, he lied, “I am Esau.” In other words, “Father, I am who you want me to be.”

Now, God asked Jacob not to redeem himself, not to prove his worth for the blessing, but instead to admit who he was—a liar, a cheat, a deceiver.

Humbled, Jacob told the truth, “I am Deceiver.” And in the wake of his truthfulness, God, Himself, redeemed Jacob.

“Then the man said, ‘Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome’ … Then he blessed him there.”
Genesis 32:28-29b

What do you have to do receive the blessing of Christ’s righteousness, the favor of God for salvation?

God does not ask you to become someone you are not. It is vain to cover your flaws, change your name, mask your scars, hide your weaknesses and sins. Your salvation is in admitting who you are—all failures and mistakes included. In the wake of your confession, when you understand your need for the Savior, God Himself will change you, redeem you, clothe you in righteousness and bless you.

Isaiah 61:10
Isaiah 30:15
Isaiah 43:1

Stay in the Moment

Be present! Stay in the moment!

It might well be the mantra of the decade. It is hummed from the yoga mat, preached from the pulpit and scribbled in the margins of self-help books. I warrant, it’s true. There is little worth in worrying about tomorrow, as it will happen exactly as God intended it to happen without the assistance of human agony. And fretting about yesterday only gives me indigestion and entices me to break open old wounds in an effort to right past wrongs.

The humans live in time but our Enemy destines them to eternity. He therefore, I believe, wants them to attend chiefly to two things, to eternity itself, and to that point of time which they call the Present. For the Present is the point at which time touches eternity. Of the present moment, and of it only, humans have an experience analogous to the experience which our Enemy has of reality as a whole; in it alone freedom and actuality are offered them.  ~Screwtape in C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters

I can see the wisdom of his words. I have felt the lingering, nagging, splinter-like pain of regret. I have felt the heart-stopping, immobilizing fret of the future. The great lie is that by attending to either one, I do some good. Perhaps, guilt and regret are part of paying the penalty. Do I think I am earning God’s sympathy or forgiveness through my groveling? Do I think that by making all kinds of logical suggestions about the future I can change God’s course for eternity?

Far better to rest in the finished, past and continuing work of Christ on my behalf. And far better to trust the Creator of the world to be sufficiently wise to sustain me.

-for the past is frozen and no longer flows, and the Present is all lit up with eternal rays. Hence nearly all vices are rooted in the future.

Running and Resting

I have never known such rest and peace

As shedding tears and here I weep.

Flay my heart, lay bare my guilt

Let all my pride and hot fear wilt.

Destroy the “me” that kicked the goads,

Stubbornly stumbled down lonely roads.

How I loved my companions: myself, my beauty, the wisdom of my mind,

But anguish overtook me, a loneliness I thought would kill

When I ran hard from you to chase my will.

But I fell.

Landed alone in a wasted hell.

If not for you, if you had not been on my side…

Oh Savior of those who take refuge in you.

In this pleasant place I will rest in you .

The Holy Spirit, Numbness, and the Hole in My Lip

Whew, I survived today. There are still seven hours to go, few of them daylight, but the hard part of today is over.

Doesn’t everyone dread the dentist? It’s a shame. A dentist really never stands a chance, because no matter how good they are, the smell of a dental clinic is enough to turn the strongest stomach and the sound of a drill is enough to melt the sturdiest knees. Such was my lot today. I tried to conjure up some legitimate reason to cancel my appointment, but as I had already rescheduled it once, I figured I should just get it over with.

I was lucky, the lady dentist that I saw last time is on maternity leave. So I got to see Dr. B….. I can’t begin to pronounce his last name. The poor guy was spinning like the Tasmanian Devil trying to see all the patients and keep up with his three assistants. He was about 30 minutes late getting to me and I had nearly decided that was enough of a reason to skip the appointment.

But I didn’t.

I lived through it. Dr. B numbed my left jaw as locally as possible so I can still speak pretty well. My smile looks terribly lopsided and I’ve already drooled coffee and water down my chin. The tingles are now returning, so I’m on the mend.  However, along with the tingles, I just realized that I apparently viciously bit my lip while I was numb.

Now my lip is still swollen – because of the chomp and not the medicine. This pain is going to last a while longer too.

I’ve described living in ignorance of the Holy Spirit as feeling numb. When a Christian has experienced walking daily with the Holy Spirit, speaking to him and being spoken to, His sudden distance is more than lonely. It feels like I’ve lost touch with myself. Without the Holy Spirit informing my every thought and enabling my prayers, all my senses seem dull. My head feels stuffed with cotton. I can’t concentrate, and I flit from one vain pursuit to the other – completely ineffective.

In those numb moments it’s easy to sin. Just as it was easy to bite a near hole in my lip and not even notice it right away – when we are estranged from the Holy Spirit, it’s easy to slip inattentively into sin. We don’t even know it right away.

But the pain will come. Sin always has consequences. The Holy Spirit won’t leave us to ourselves. He will bring conviction, the distinct return of feeling, awareness and conscience. Suddenly, the pain is real – the reality of our offense and the repercussions of pride, unbelief, judgement, adultery, greed, lust or other sin.

This pain won’t last forever. As it heals, a Christian whose heart is fully devoted to God will repent and return to the Lord. His pain will be a poignant reminder of his sin and God’s overwhelming mercy. 2 Cor. 7:10

Guilty as Charged?

If hell had water, I’d think I was drowning.

The contents of my head are pounding.

Tears swell up and overflow,

Satan whispers, “I told you so.”

If only I’d done a better job,

At obeying God.

This wouldn’t happen if I were good,

If I would be the Christian I should.

The Lie exposed in chapter 4 of “Ten Things Jesus Never Said,” is: If you really loved God, you’d be good.  Obviously, you don’t love him.  Why do you keep falling into the same sin over and over again?  Why do you keep falling like you do?  You must not be a very serious Christian.  (pg 62-62)

John 9:1-7 “As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’ ‘Neither this man nor his parents sinned,’ said Jesus, ‘but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life. As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.’
Having said this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes. ‘Go,’ he told him, ‘wash in the Pool of Siloam’ (this word means Sent). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing.”

That pretty much cinches the whole argument.  The blind man had lived his entire life in dismal circumstances.  Obviously, the world around him, assumed that either he or his parents had sinned, causing his blindness.  But Jesus, dispelled that lie.  I imagine the blind man was as much relieved by the public declaration of his innocence, as he was to instantly see his reflection in the Pool of Siloam.  And his parents, perhaps they had been ostracized by their neighbors for their imagined sin.  Suddenly, Jesus had declared His own glory to be the cause of their son’s blindness – and then He had healed him!  What a relief to know that our shortcomings have always had a place in God’s sovereign plan.

On page 70, Davis asks, “Guilt or God?”  There he explains the difference between a guilty conscience and convicted one:

Guilt condemns; conviction calls you to something better

Guilt tears down; conviction builds you up

Guilt seeks to destroy; conviction seeks to restore 

“Guilt isn’t from God.  Grace is.” (pg. 75)