My ten-year-old is a cheeky one. She recently overheard me on the phone, telling my mother that my husband had taken two of our kids to the store while I stayed home with "the other two."
"What--we don't have names anymore?" my daughter quipped.
She shot me a pretend look of indignance, and I chuckled, which was her goal. But her joke immediately reminded me of something I'd recently studied, about three characters from the Bible whom some refer to as "the three Hebrew children.”
Shadrack, Meshack, and Abednego are often referred to in this generic way, in story books and songs, as if the young men who refused to bow to King Nebuchadnezzer's golden statue in the book of Daniel didn't each have a name. But the interesting thing is, Shadrack, Meshack, and Abednego aren't even their real names. Those are only their slave names.
Daniel 1:6,7 tells us, "Now among these were of the children of Judah, Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah: Unto whom the prince of the eunuchs gave names: for he gave unto Daniel the name of Belteshazzar; and to Hananiah, of Shadrach; and to Mishael, of Meshach; and to Azariah, of Abednego".
From a transcribed sermon from the late Rev. Chuck Smith, I learned that Hananiah means "Beloved of the Lord", but his Babylonian captors changed his name to Shadrack, meaning "Illumined by the sun god." Mishael means "Who is as God?", but it was changed to Meshack, meaning "Who is like Shak?" Shak was a false Babylonian deity. Azariah means "the Lord is my help." They changed it to Abednedgo, which means "the servant of Nego", another false god of the region. (Along the same lines, Daniel means "God is judge" while Belteshazzar means "Baal's prince.")
Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah had beautiful names that spoke of the goodness of God, but they were given names that meant much the opposite. Their new names paid tribute to idols. What a heavy weight that must have been for "the three Hebrew children" who served the true God! But, even though history remembers them mostly by these slave names, their stories prove that they never forgot who they really where.
When these three young men were threatened with death but still refused to bow, it was because they knew that no one else can take the place of God (Mishael), and that they could be brave in the face of danger because God was their help (Azariah). They trusted that God loved them (Hananiah). Their slave names did not define them. They remembered who they were in God.
Like the Babylonian captors, our enemy assigns labels in an attempt to break us. The world calls us things far removed from the truth, and people spin words to cause discord and tear us down. If you claim to be a patriot, they'll say you're a nationalist. If you stand up as pro-life, they'll call you anti-choice. If you love someone but don't agree with all their choices, they'll declare that you're a bigot. If you're a traditionalist, they'll call you old-fashioned. If you're a Creationist, they'll call you anti-science. If you're in love with Jesus, they'll call you an extremist. But the world's labels don't define us; we don't have to accept them. If you're a child of God, that's the only title that matters.
Some of the names people should reject might be related to their circumstances, rather than their beliefs. Minority doesn't mean victim. Adopted doesn't translate to damaged. Broken doesn't mean worthless. Hurting doesn't mean hopeless. Don't buy what the devil is selling. He may try to give you a name, but it doesn't mean that's who you are.
Since the days of the early church, followers of Jesus have born the name. Acts 11:26 says, "And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch." That's who we are. We're Christians, followers of Christ. When the world calls you something you're not, don't let it get you down. Keep following. Keep trusting. Remember who you are.
The television had been off for two days. Behavior issues called for drastic measures. But when the two youngest woke me up before daylight on a Saturday, I gave in. I was too tired to engage and keep them quiet enough to not wake the rest of the house. Not without the help of a little electronic intervention. Still, I set a standard. I would choose the program, and it had to at least be educational. The kids, just happy to have television back, didn't complain.
I started the show then shuffled to the kitchen to drop frozen waffles in the toaster. While they cooked, I stumbled around like a zombie, picking up random things that had been strewn about the night before. The boys were happily watching the PBS cartoon. I heard the teacher character tell the students how a microscope works. "Magnify means to makes things bigger," she said. Instantly, God cleared the sleepy fog from my brain and began to grow an idea in my spirit. "Magnify means to make things bigger."
Magnify in Scripture means to praise. Psalm 35:3 says, "O magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt his name together." But how might the common definition also apply? How can we magnify the Lord to make Him bigger? (The Greek word for magnify comes from the root megas, where we get the word mega.)
God is already all-powerful, so there is nothing bigger than Him in that sense. But we need to continually make Him bigger in our lives, of greater importance. We need to give him a bigger space to operate through us, by eliminating worldly distractions. We need to use spiritual eyes to see Him as bigger. It doesn't take a microscope. It takes removing the blinders of the flesh to see Him for what He is.
Let's look at three uses of the word magnify in Scripture that describe different ways in which God is magnified.
Psalm 69:30 says, "I will praise the name of God with a song, and will magnify him with thanksgiving." Being thankful makes God bigger in our lives. When we stop to recognize every good thing as a gift from him, we see him as greater--not some distant force, but an up-close-and-personal sovereign who is worthy of worship. He is literally all-encompassing, acting on our behalf in every facet of our lives.
Another well-known usage of the word comes from Mary, the mother of Jesus. Luke 1:46 (KJV) says, "And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord." Mary said this in response to Elisabeth's proclamation in verse 45 (NKJV): "Blessed is she who believed, for there will be fulfillment of those things which were told her from the Lord.” We can magnify God by trusting Him and believing in His promises. Take Him at His word. Even when you can't see the end from the beginning, and even when the road set before you is difficult--as surely it was for Mary--believe He will fulfill His promise to be faithful.
In another New Testament reference, when the Holy Spirit was poured out on a group of Gentiles, the Bible says, "For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God..." (Acts 10:46 KJV.) Yes, they were praising God, but they made God bigger in their lives by exercising spiritual gifts. They put His greatness on display by operating in the power of the Holy Spirit.
It's interesting how all this study started with a line in a children's show, on a Saturday morning when I didn't want to be awake yet. It makes me wonder if the break we had from television for a couple of days helped prepare me to hear God better. Maybe my mind and spirit had a bigger space for Him to work. However it happened, I'm grateful for the message. I need God to be bigger in my life. I want to magnify Him through thankfulness, faith, and spiritual gifts.
Maybe a microscope isn't the best metaphor. Sometimes what I need is to view God like a word on a screen, with the web browser zoomed to 1,000%, and everything else pushed out of view except Him. (That's as high as the zoom will go; I tried.) That's what we all need sometimes. May God be made bigger in our lives today.
"O magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt his name together." (Psalm 35:3 KJV)
You open the mailbox and there's a card addressed to you. Someone's throwing the party of the century, and you're invited to attend! Whether you can make it or not, an invitation has been extended, and the sender deserves a response.
Jesus has extended many different kinds of invitations. Some of them even believers ignore. What will you do with your invitations? Respond affirmatively; say no thank you; or, ignore them?
Let's look at just a few of the things He invites us to "come" and do, from the examples of Scripture:
Jesus invites us to come and be saved, rest and be satisfied in Him, fellowship with Him, and inherit eternal life. What is your response? Please be polite. Don't ignore the invitations.
This devotion was adapted from notes for "Come Unto Me", a sermon by my father, Bobby W. Norman. He preached this great sermon at Central Full Gospel Church in State Road, NC on 9/16/18. I have consolidated and condensed several points from the message.
What is the essence of a person?
The dictionary defines "essence" as "the properties or attributes by means of which something can be placed in its proper class or identified as being what it is" and "the most significant element, quality, or aspect of a thing or person".
In the book of Matthew, we find a familiar story that describes the essence of Jesus:
And, behold, a woman, which was diseased with an issue of blood twelve years, came behind him, and touched the hem of his garment: For she said within herself, If I may but touch his garment, I shall be whole. But Jesus turned him about, and when he saw her, he said, Daughter, be of good comfort; thy faith hath made thee whole. And the woman was made whole from that hour. Matthew 9:20-22
A significant part of Jesus' essence is His power. His miracles help us identify Him as God. Certainly, the healing virtue didn't come from the garment. Jesus didn't wear a magical cloak, neither do I believe that his power was actually transferred to the fabric. I believe if the woman had reached out and come up ten feet short of touching the hem of his garment, she still would have been made whole. Because what she grabbed wasn't just the hem of His garment, it was the "Him" of his garment. Her faith wasn’t in the clothes. It was in who Jesus’ was, His identity as God in flesh. And her faith resulted in a miracle.
This story displays not only Jesus' power, but two other traits that describe his essence: He is omniscient and compassionate. People pressed in from all sides, yet He knew who had reached out in faith. He picked her out of the mob. And He had compassion on her, encouraging her to "be of good comfort". He reassured her that her faith had worked.
We may be reaching for His garment, for something that we need from Him, but we first need to grab hold of who Jesus really is. Meditate on his essence. Trust in his power, rely on his omniscience, and rest in his compassion.
There are some big promises in the Word of God, and sometimes I think we miss them. Maybe we just get so caught up trying to fill our scripture quota that we miss the truth of what God is saying to us. But I found a really big promise this week, wrapped up in two itty-bitty words: All things. Through His word, I want to look at how God has promised us EVERYTHING (all things) we will ever need.
One of my favorite verses has always been Romans 8:28, which assures us that “all things” work together for good to those who love God. But my study on our sufficiency in God came from 2 Peter 1:3. Here we find that God has “given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness” through the knowledge of Jesus. He has given us all things! That’s a big thought! When we know Jesus, we are fully equipped with everything we need, not only to live, but to live godly lives.
The promise of total sufficiency through God began in the Garden of Eden. Genesis 9:3 says, “Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you; even as the green herb have I given you all things.” This is an example of God not holding any good thing back. He provided completely.
This idea of abundance in Christ has nothing to do with a “prosperity gospel”. That’s a very narrow way to look at the blessings of God. The Bible says, “Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy;"(1 Timothy 6:17) What does “all things” mean? What exactly do we have? I believe it means literally everything. We have access to everything we could possibly need or want, according to His will. The sky is the limit...if God wills it. And if He doesn’t will it, I don’t want it!
Another of my favorite passages is this beautiful sermon from the Apostle Paul found in Acts 17: "God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands; Neither is worshipped with men's hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things; And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation; That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us: For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring." (Acts 17:24 – 28)
He made everything, he owns everything, and he gives everything to us as his children. Bottom line—when you have Jesus, you have everything.
Check out these other applicable “all things” verses: Psalm 8:6; Philippians 4:13; Matthew 19:26; Matthew 6:33; 1 Corinthians 3:21
What do they mean to you? I'd love for you to share in the comments!
Have you ever been praying and realized your words were actually from His Word? We know God speaks to us through the scripture, but we can use the scripture in our communication to Him as well.
We are given the model prayer by Our Lord in Matthew 6 and in Luke 11, and there is power in reciting this prayer (sincerely and not out of vain repetition) every day. Indeed, all our prayers should center around four words from the Lord's Prayer: "Thy will be done."
But I'd like to present you with some other verses that can be used in prayer. From the Old Testament, I like to use the words from the heart of King David in the book of Psalms as my own plea to God. There are so many we can reference, but for today, these are the verses I've connected together as my personal prayer. This is what is on my heart:
"Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer. (Psalms 19:14) Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. (Psalms 51:10) Teach me to do thy will; for thou art my God: thy spirit is good; lead me into the land of uprightness. (Psalms 143:10) From the end of the earth will I cry unto thee, when my heart is overwhelmed: lead me to the rock that is higher than I. (Psalms 61:2)"
The words from Psalms need no editing, because they are already directed to God. From the New Testament, I've taken the prayer of the Apostle Paul for the church at Phillipi and personalized it.
This prayer is based on Philippians 1:9-11:
"May my love abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment,that I may approve the things that are excellent, that I may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ, being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God."
What more can we ask for in life than to grow in love, for the glory of God? This is my sincere prayer.
The Word is full of examples of righteous requests we can make. Thankfully, we also have the Holy Spirit to guide us in our communication with God, we have Jesus as our intercessor with the Father, and there is no required formula or specific liturgy needed.
1 John 5:14,15 says:
And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us: And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him.
Whatever format you use, take time to talk to God today.
What scriptures do you pray? Do you have specific verses for praying for others, for our leaders, or for certain situations? Please share them with me in the Comments!
It is often said that money is the root of all evil. Indeed the scriptures tell us (1 Timothy 6:10) that specifically the “love of money” is the root of all evil. But we understand there are many sins that have nothing to do with money, so we have to look at the verse in context.
“For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.” Here we see money was the root of all the evils of those who coveted after it and allowed it to compromise the tenets of their faith.
There is, however, another portion of scripture in the New Testament that I believe provides us an explanation of the cause of ALL evil in the world. It seems too simple that there is a singular problem with mankind that causes us to sin, but I believe the first chapter of Romans does provide us with a powerful and concise explanation.
"Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things. Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves: Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen."
I underlined the parts of the passage I want to bring out as key points.
There is no such thing as an atheist. I find it hard to believe that anyone could look at the beauty and majesty of creation and arrive at the conclusion that it is all a serendipitous result of cosmic happenstance. We have the evidence of God the creator right in front of us, so there is no excuse for unbelief.
So, what is the cause of evil? Not glorifying God as God and not being thankful. (I suppose that really is two causes, but I believe they go together.) Along with that comes worshipping and serving the creature more than the Creator (which brings us back to the love of money- a “thing” that people have created and tried to elevate above God).
In this same chapter, verses 26 and 27 specifically address homosexuality; then verses 29-31 give us a list of some of the other problems in the world, all prompted by the failure to honor God as God- the Omnipotent, Omniscient, Omnipresent Creator- and to be thankful for His perfect design: “fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, without understanding, covenant breakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful”.
It is easy to understand that sin is disobedience, but we disobey whenever we fail to recognize His creative power and His authority over all creation. I believe that much of the moral decline of our society can be attributed to the theory of evolution being widely embraced as scientific fact. People have bent and stretched the definition of science for the express purpose of denying the Creator.
Not honoring God as Creator is the starting point of sin for many, while others may espouse the idea of Intelligent Design and still fail to honor God as God in other areas by simply not following His divine instructions outlined for us in the Bible.
Now that we understand the cause of sin, at a base level, what is the antithesis of a sinful life? Romans 1 gives us the answer for that, too!
Verse 16 says: "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek." And verse 17 delivers the final answer: "For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith." (For further study, the last part of verse 17 is a reference to Habakkuk 2:4.)
How beautifully the Word of God fits together! It doesn't condemn and just point out all the weaknesses of man. It mercifully gives us instruction for how not to fail. The antithesis of a sinful life- one of wickedness, deceitfulness, envy, pride, etc.- is one of faith in Jesus and the redemption that comes from Him alone.
After a recent church service, I walked up on a conversation that really provided some food for thought. The discussion was about advice from women in the Bible. A gentleman asked me if I could name any instances in the scripture where a woman gave good advice. I have to admit, I drew a blank. But this gentleman already had the answer, and I was pretty impressed with his insight, although there was a slight undertone of a joke about being surprised that a woman had given good advice. So the commentary that follows is based on two verses that he shared with me, and I hope you will find this advice as inspiring as I do.
The first piece of advice comes from a women whose name we aren't given. She is commonly referred to as "the woman at the well". After an encounter with Jesus where she recognizes him as the Christ, the bible says this woman made her way into the city and then said to the men, "Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ?" (John 4:29) This woman's advice sounds simple, yet the heart of her message is the most important of directives in all of human experience: Meet Jesus.
Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me." (John 14:6) Without a real, personal encounter with Christ, one cannot know or understand truth, experience authentic joy or peace, or have any assurance of heaven. When the knowledge of the power of a relationship with Jesus was revealed to the woman that met Him at the well, she couldn't keep that revelation to herself. She had to share Him with others. If you haven't taken the woman's advice to meet Him, please take a moment now to consider her words.
For those of us that have met the Christ, we should follow the woman's example and use our energies to make His name famous. Our lives should make others want to meet Him. The joy that we carry should speak for itself, saying, "Come, see! Come, see! Come, see!" And we should always be ready to tell others how we came to know the Christ, and what He has done for us. (But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear. 1 Peter 3:5)
The second piece of good advice comes from a much more popular biblical figure- Mary, the mother of Jesus. I had never stopped to reflect on Mary's words to the servants at the wedding in Cana. Just before the Lord performed His first earthly miracle by turning the water into wine, his mother said to the servants, "Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it." (John 2:5) What more can I add? Straightforward. Simple. Life-changing. In obedience to the Lord, all the questions of life are resolved. Of course, we have to search the Word to know His commandments, but Proverbs 3:6 says, "In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths." Whatever He says to do, we should do it.
The servants that filled the water pots and drew from them to serve the governor of the feast witnessed a surprising miracle! We can likewise see miraculous things in our lives, when we are obedient to what Jesus says to do in His Word.
I'm so glad the words of these two wise women of history were presented to me for further reflection. May we all take their advice to heart.
Sometimes I get a thought about which I want to write, and I search the scriptures for help with that topic. Sometimes I search out the scriptures for help finding something to write about. This devotion was born of the latter method.
In my searching of the scriptures today, I “found” 1 Thessalonians, Chapters 4 and 5, and in these chapters, practical instruction for sanctified Christian living. I was struck by how plainly many of the exhortations are outlined.
While we are only saved through faith in Christ, and not by our works, we are compelled by the Holy Spirit to strive to be more like Christ in our actions. The word “sanctified” means “set apart”, which is to say, markedly different from the non-believer in thought and practice.
Please note, the title of this devotion is not "21 Steps to Sanctified Christian Living". I am not trying to present a comprehensive list here. I'm sure there are additional ways in which we should conduct ourselves to demonstrate sanctification. Please also note, this list is not my own invention! The ideas are taken directly from scripture, but I have paraphrased them in a list format.
So, let's look at 1 Thessalonians. In Chapter 4, verse 3, it says: "For this is the will of God, your sanctification:" Well, that seems pretty clear! It could be interpreted that the idea of sanctification here pertains mainly to the exhortation immediately following (which is number one on the list below). But, I read that statement as an introduction to all the contents of Chapters 4 and 5, as the end of Chapter 5 seems to be a summary of the instructions in Paul's letter.
21 Steps Toward Sanctified Christian Living
Yes, this a list of "Dos" and "Dont's". But as with all biblical instruction, the purpose is not to restrict or burden, but is to improve the spiritual health of the believer. This list contains actions and practices that set us apart from those outside of the faith.
At the end of Chapter 5 we are left with some great encouragement! "Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it." (5:23-24) Commit to serving Him and He will take care of the sanctification process.
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My head has been swirling with questions for the last two days, and the Lord has been helping me work through some faith issues. I have peace now, if not concrete answers, about all my recent questions, but not the liberty or leading to write about what I’ve learned except for my conclusions on one specific situation. I have five half-written articles to prove it! Now, on to our topic…
I’ve been very troubled lately by the dogmatic nature in which a preacher I know addresses a non-doctrinal issue. For the sake of being discreet, I’m not even going to name the issue. Let’s pretend the issue is "traditional versus casual dress" in worship services. That’s not what it is, but it’s a similar type of non-doctrinal debate. Let’s say that on social media this pastor is constantly commenting about how sinful it is for people to show up to worship service in casual attire, and he regularly decries any church that condones such. I feel this pastor’s arguments are “profane and vain babblings” (2 Timothy 2:16) and the manner in which his opinions are delivered, regardless of whether he’s right or wrong, is contrary to the command of 2 Timothy 2:24 (“And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient.”) However, that’s not even the point of this article. The point of this article is to answer the questions, “Can I trust a preacher with whom I strongly disagree about one topic?” and “Is the anointed of God perfect in his understanding?”
I feel like God answered these questions for me through a recent real-life incident. My husband and I have been trying to give our oldest child more responsibilities, little tests of maturity to gauge how she handles certain situations. Recently, he let her go into a gas station to make a purchase on her own (he was parked where he could watch her through the window). He told her to buy two Slushees- one for her and one for her sister. She came back with three Slushees and a pack of gummy bears. My husband wasn’t angry with her, especially since she had brought him a treat too, but he encouraged her to only buy what she was told the next time.
In this situation, my daughter was sent to do a job, which she did, but she overstepped the instructions she was given. In the same way, I think a minister can be truly called and anointed of God, yet at times be erroneous in their teaching or delivery. Sometimes God picks a messenger, God gives them clear instructions, the messenger delivers the message, but because the messenger is human, they add unnecessarily to the original communication. It doesn't mean that person wasn't sent of God. It doesn't mean they are a false teacher. It means they are human.
In the scripture we find where Peter, upon whom the Lord declared He would build the church, was called out by Paul because he was wrong in separating himself from the Gentile believers (Galatians 2:11). Even the early church leaders made mistakes! I don’t believe the mistake of the Apostle Peter nullified his ministry. Believers need to be discerning enough themselves to not “throw the baby out with the bathwater”, as the idiom goes. In truth, there’s probably no preacher or teacher with whom I agree on every single point of scripture or practice.
I’m thankful God has allowed me to come to a personal resolution on this matter. Obviously, I will not sit under any teaching that is contrary to the primary tenets of my faith, but in this situation, I will try to maintain respect for this pastor with whom I disagree. I will on occasion listen to his messages. I will pray for God to deal with him about his handling of non-doctrinal issues. And, I will rest in the fact that God’s ministers are human, “nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure” (2 Timothy 2:19).
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Thank you for visiting my blog. I share devotional articles and musings about life, parenting, and the writing journey, as well as important news about my books. I hope you find something of interest here!