The Amazing Thing About Your Name

In ancient times they thought that names were special. That’s why they took great care in selecting a baby’s name. They weren’t so concerned with cool or popular the name was, or how it sounded. More than all those things, they wanted to make sure that the name had a special meaning. Most often, the meaning of their baby’s name was the parents’ prayer for their child.

I love my name, and I’m so grateful to my mother, who chose it. I love it because it has a beautiful and powerful meaning.

My name is “Eliezer.” “El” is the Hebrew root word for “God.” The “i” that follows it is the possessive in Hebrew. The final part of my name “ezer” means “help.” So, the meaning of my name is “God is my help.”

My name appears many times throughout the Bible, but it also appears in other ways, as in this verse that is very special for me:

Surely God is my help; the Lord is the one who sustainsme (Psalm 54:4, NIV).

I can’t share my name with you; it’s mine. My name has the name of God in it. He is with me wherever I go.

In the Bible, God loves to reveal himself through the name, “I am.” (John 8:58; Ex 3:14).

Every one of God’s names points to something about his nature and his love for you. The name “I am” reminds you of everything that God has promised to be in your life.

“Are you my light?” “I am.”

“Are you my good shepherd?” “I am.”

“Are you my resurrection?” “I am”

“Are you my life? “I am.”

God is always present with you, being to you all that you need.

“I am” is an amazing name because it is ungrammatical on purpose. When God seems to make a mistake, it’s never a mistake.

The name “I am” reminds you that God is ever-present. He doesn’t live as some memory in your past, or some vague hope for the future.  Instead “I am” is right here with you today.

Whenever or wherever you may be in life, the name “I am” reminds you that your ever-present Saviour is with you:

Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you(Isa 41:10, NIV). (By the way, there is my name again!)

I am with you and will save you (Jer 42:11, NIV).

I am with you always, even unto the end of the world(Matt 28:20, KJV).

So, what about you?

You have a name too, and you should never think that it’s just a boring, standard name. Whatever it may be, it’s a powerful and magnificent name.

You see, if I ask you who you are, you’d normally start by saying, “I am…” and then your name.

Think about that for a moment. God has designed it so that whenever you say your name, you’ll say his name too. He is with you wherever you are. God is always present with you, being to you all that you need.

Wherever you are, “I am.”

– Eliezer Gonzalez

Courage Behind Your Convictions

Daniel 1:1-21

Today we live in a society that is convinced there are no absolute moral truths. It not only considers the Bible outdated and irrelevant to contemporary problems but also sees each person as free to decide what is right. As a result, our culture is ungodly, immoral, violent, and self-centered. How are we as Christians supposed to live in such an environment?

We need look no further than the example of a teenage boy named Daniel, who had the courage to stand for his convictions in the midst of the depraved atmosphere of Babylon. Despite his immersion in Babylonian culture, he committed to following the Lord faithfully, even if doing so would cost him his life. The issue of diet may seem trivial to us, but Jewish people of his day believed eating meat that had been offered to idols was an abomination to God. 

In the modern Western world, we may find it hard to relate to Daniel’s example. Few of us are willing to take such a bold stand even though we have no fear of losing our life. It’s the threat of rejection, ridicule, or being seen as narrow-minded or judgmental that keeps us silent. Or worse, it may be that we don’t have any strong convictions because we haven’t let God’s Word develop them within us. Ignorance of Scripture may let us live comfortably in a sinful culture, but it will never please the Lord. 

God is looking for people like Daniel—followers of Christ who will stand by their convictions, regardless of threats or the temptation to compromise for the sake of profit or acceptance. Are you such a person?

Praying God’s Desires

Colossians 1:9-12

As Christians, we all long to make necessary changes in our life so we’ll become more like Jesus. And we’re also concerned about the spiritual growth of fellow believers—especially our loved ones. But transformation doesn’t come about by trying harder or putting Bible verses on sticky notes in hopes that family members will read them and shape up. The most powerful resource we have is prayer, and Paul has given us a pattern that is Christ-centered and specific.

Too often, believers pray without giving much thought to what God wants to do in a person’s life. Instead, we focus on our own ideas regarding what He should do. How much more effective our prayers would be if we prayed according to God’s will by using His Word as our source for requests. 

The prayer from Colossians 1 focuses on the heavenly Father’s desires for His children. When we go before the Lord and substitute our own name or the name of a friend or family member for “you” in verses 9 and 10, we are praying His specific will for that person. The Lord delights in responding to requests that someone be filled with knowledge of His will and walk in a manner pleasing to Him.

However, we must be careful not to think of this prayer as a magic charm. It doesn’t work that way. These godly qualities take time to develop in a life. And if we are praying these things for ourselves, we must avail ourselves of the means God has provided for our sanctification or transformation—namely, His Word. If we want to know and understand God’s will, we should ask Him and search the Bible.

An Ever-Present Help

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.”

Psalm 46:1

Facing heart surgery, Doug spoke with the surgeon before the procedure. “You might encounter some depression while you’re healing,” the doctor said. “It’s common among heart patients.” Doug, who hardly ever had a down day, didn’t think so. Even so, after surgery, a deep depression did descend.

One day as he was walking around the block with his walker, he stopped and prayed, “God, please lift this depression from me. I need Your help right now.” He took four steps when a car suddenly pulled over. It was his neighbor, who’d heard about the surgery and handed Doug some flowers. “These are for you,” the man said and drove away. Now, Doug wasn’t all that big on flowers, but from that moment on, the depression melted away. God is our “ever-present help in trouble.” If you are troubled, stop where you are and call out to Him. He is present, and He will hear.

Father, You have shown Yourself strong time after time in my life. I have called, and You have come. Sometimes it’s with relief for my pain. Sometimes, it’s with strength to persevere. And sometimes You send one of Your people through a phone call, a note, an e-mail, or a visit. Praise You, Lord, for hearing my weakest cry.

Praying To A Friend

Tell God all that is in your heart, as one unloads one’s heart, its pleasures and its pain, to a dear friend. Tell Him your troubles, that He may comfort you; tell Him your joys, that He may sober them; tell Him your longings, that He may purify them; tell Him your dislikes, that He may help you to conquer them; talk to Him of your temptations, that He may shield you from them; show Him the wounds of your heart, that He may heal them; lay bare your indifference to good, your depraved tastes for evil, your instability. Tell Him how self-love makes you unjust to others, how vanity tempts you to be insincere, how pride disguises you to yourself and others.

If you thus pour out all your weaknesses, needs, troubles, there will be no lack of what to say. You will never exhaust the subject. It is continually being renewed. People who have no secrets from each other never want for subject of conversation. They do not weigh their words, for there is nothing to be held back; neither do they seek for something to say. They talk out of the abundance of the heart, without consideration they say just what they think.

What Makes A Church Powerful?

1 Corinthians 1:26-31; 1 Corinthians 2:1-5

What factors determine whether a church is powerful or weak? Oftentimes people make such evaluations based on appearances and human reasoning rather than on God’s Word.

For instance, large congregations with dynamic worship services and programs for every age and interest group look impressive. Or a church could be viewed as powerful because of its prominent location, a big budget, or the pastor with a magnetic personality. In contrast, small churches—especially those with few members, a rural setting, and little money—are often considered lesser.

The point is that we can’t judge a church’s strength or weakness based on outward factors like size, location, prosperity, or prominence. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians points out that a strong church is one that is founded on the message of the cross and grounded in God’s wisdom rather than the world’s.

God’s power is given to the church for His purposes, not for human agendas. And it isn’t a persuasive sermon but the gospel of Christ that can save souls. Some pastors may be able to manipulate people, but only God’s Spirit brings the genuine conviction of sin that leads to repentance and salvation.

For divine power to flow into and through a local body, that church must hold firmly to Scripture. What’s more, it cannot use techniques derived from worldly thinking but must rely on God’s direction.

A faith community cannot be powerful unless the people within it are individually submitted to Christ and empowered by Him. This means our commitment to Jesus affects our churches for better or for worse.

Worth Your Time

It was Ernest Hemingway who once said, “Time is the least thing we have of.” And he was right. How quickly time passes—and how often we lament this. If only we could tack an extra twenty-five or thirty years on to the usual span. There is so much more we want to see, to celebrate, to do. So many places to go, so much to enjoy, to feel, to read, to talk about, to participate in, to encounter. Yet, for each of us, this thing called time is in such short supply.

Our frustration is only compounded by the numerous unimportant, dumb things that steal our minutes and siphon the significance out of our hours. You know what I mean. Stuff like getting gas or a haircut, standing in the eternal line at the DMV, doing the laundry, washing all the dishes after every meal, mowing the lawn, and a dozen other time-consuming things that have to be done but keep you from doing the things that make life so invigorating and fulfilling.

Since “time is the least thing we have of” and since there is no way we’re going to escape all the stupid time-traps that accompany our earthly existence, seems to me that we’re left with two choices: Either we can fuss and whine about not having enough time, or we can take the time we’ve got left and spend it wisely. I mean really wisely, with our priorities in the right order.

Speaking of that, what are you doing with the rest of your life? I’m talking about cultivating relationships, building memories that will help lift the load of future trials, and the deliberate pursuit of activities that will yield eternal dividends.

Do you have a family? Rather than leaving them the leftovers and crumbs and giving your job your best hours and your most creative ideas, how about rethinking the value of strengthening those ties? And while we’re at it, let’s not leave out necessary time for quietness, for personal reflection and refreshment.

You say you don’t have time to add another week to your squirrel-cage lifestyle. Don’t kid yourself. You keep blowin’ and goin’ like you’ve been doing most of your adult life, and you’ll wind up mumbling to yourself in the twilight years, wondering how you could have stayed so busy yet accomplished so little.

Hey, maybe Hemingway wasn’t right after all. You and I have more time than we realize . . . once we get our priority ducks in a row.

Have you ever wondered how you can stay so busy yet accomplish so little? Think seriously about how you can reorder those priorities.

Reveal What Should Be Pruned

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”

John 15:1-5

The art of growing wildly productive tomato plants requires attentive daily care. Once the main branches are healthy and producing fruit, the wise gardener will pinch off any of the sucker shoots growing up from the bottom of the plant. Left alone, these shoots will grow tall and spindly, with plenty of leaves but no blossoms or fruit to show for it. These suckers will siphon off the life-giving sap on its way from the vine to the branches. The result? Fewer and smaller tomatoes.

In today’s Scripture, Jesus speaks of His Father as the vinedresser who prunes His vines so that they will produce even more fruit. But we can participate by pruning ourselves! Ask the Holy Spirit to show you what needs to be pared back in your life—the activities, habits, or preoccupations that are draining away your life energies from the Lord’s good plan for your life. Pinch them off!

Holy Spirit, search my heart and life today. Show me where I am distracted from Your desire for me. Reveal to me what needs to be pruned. I don’t want to miss Your best! I will prune my life as best as I know how, but I need Your insight and wisdom.

Be Careful How You Walk

Matthew 18:1-7

We might think our sins affect no one but ourselves, yet that’s not true. What we do impacts others whether we know it or not. And Jesus used strong terms to warn us: He said causing another person to sin would leave us worse off than if we were “drowned in the depth of the sea” with a millstone around our neck (Matt. 18:6).  

People observe what we do, and who of us is without sin? We may try to excuse ourselves by claiming that most of our sin is trivial—hardly a blip on the screen—so such small indiscretions will not be noticed by others, let alone be damaging to them. But let’s consider how some of our common sins can lead others down the wrong path.  

Our lack of forgiveness towards someone could cause a close friend or family member to take up our cause and feel resentful too.

Anger that flares up in us at regular intervals may be copied by our children, who then think they, too, have the right to express their tempers whenever they want.

Lies we tell to get out of tight situations send a message—especially to children—that truth is optional, depending on the circumstances.

Conversations rife with gossip can severely damage the reputations of other people and cause listeners to sin by spreading the rumors.

The Lord’s warning should be taken seriously. We should consider the consequences of our actions and attitudes and then turn toward Jesus in confession and repentance. When we ask, He will give us the grace and strength to walk in His ways and influence others toward righteousness.

Not Good Enough

People go through many doors which do not lead to the Kingdom of God. Some try the door of good works. They say, “I can get to heaven if I only do enough good things, because God will honor all the good things I do.” It’s wonderful to do good things, but we cannot do enough good things to satisfy God. God demands perfection, and we’re not perfect. If we’re going to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, we have to be absolutely perfect. You ask, “Well, how will I ever be perfect?” We need to be clothed in the righteousness of the Lord Jesus. There is one door to the Kingdom and it’s Jesus. And we will never get to heaven unless we go His way.