The Name of Jesus

The name of Jesus is more than just a nametag to identify who He is.  Throughout Scripture –even beginning in the Old Testament — we note the call to worship His name.

I love how  Steve Hawthorne describes the “name of God” in his article The Story of His Glory.  The Biblical authors use God’s names in three ways:

  1. Name Tag Name (identification)
  2. Window Name (revelation)
  3. Fame Name (reputation)

God’s name is more than just the identification of who He is.  It is the essence of His character and His nature. As we read Scripture and take note of His name, we begin to see truth unfold:

  • He was El Roi, “the God who sees me,” for Hagar (Genesis 16:13)
  • He was El Shaddai, “God Almighty,” to Abraham (Genesis 17:1)
  • He was foretold as Immanuel, “God with us,” by the prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 7:14)
  • David described him as “my shepherd” (Psalm 23:1)
  • Peter proclaimed Him, Messiah, Son of the Living God (Matthew 16:16)

What do you call Him? What is He to you?

We were created to praise His name:

Sing to the LORD a new song;
sing to the LORD, all the earth. Sing to the LORD,
praise his name;
proclaim his salvation day after day.
Declare his glory among the nations,
his marvelous deeds among all peoples.

Psalm 96:1-3

There is power in His name:

“…In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.”
Acts 3:6

And salvation can be found in no other name:

“Salvation is found in no one else,
for there is no other name under heaven
given to men
by which we must saved.”
Acts 4:12

Does today find you praising His name, finding power in His name, and sharing the gospel message: salvation can be found in His name.

You can listen to the entire teaching lecture here:

http://fbcsiloam.podbean.com/e/acts-lesson-5-laura-macfarlan/

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Embracing Divine Interruptions

Now a man who was lame from birth was being carried to the temple gate called Beautiful, where he was put every day to beg from those going into the temple courts.
Acts 3:2

In the first century there was no Welfare Department, no Department of Human Services, no local food bank or organization to help the handicapped or the sick. This man’s situation was chronic. He was lame from birth. He had never walked so his entire life he was dependent upon the generosity and kindness of others.

There was no check in the mail and no meals on wheels being delivered.  If he did not show up to beg and if friends did not show up to carry him to a place to beg and if passersby did not respond to his begging, this man would not eat.

The temple gate location was a good strategy. The Jewish faith encouraged giving to the poor so as folks were going to the temple and coming from the temple, this could catch them at an opportune time.  The temple could be the most profitable place of opportunity for this man in need.

It’s interesting to note the contrasts this scene creates for us:

  • Everyone is busy and walking to the temple, but the crippled man is immobilized.  He has never walked.
  • Everyone has a destination and a focus on getting there. This man can go nowhere unless others take him.
  • The worshipers go every day to give God glory through prayer. This beggar comes every day hoping to receive a hand out.
  • The temple gate is called Beautiful, but the atrophied, crippled legs (and most likely the unbathed and smelly body) would be perceived as anything but beautiful.

The man is placed there, Dr. Luke tells us, every day. Every day.  And every day Peter and John have most likely traveled through that same gate – three times a day –on their way to pray.  It’s possible that before His crucifixion and resurrection Jesus had even been with them as they traveled to the temple to pray.

So why now? Why is this day the day they see him? Only God knows.

In verse 3 we read that the man reaches out to Peter and John as they are heading to their 3 PM prayer appointment:

When he saw Peter and John about to enter,
he asked them for money.

Acts 3:3

He makes his need known. He asks Peter and John for money. And he asks just as they are about to enter the temple. Is the clock chiming 3? Are they late – or about to be late? Would it be easy to just ignore him because they are going to do a holy and spiritual act – going to worship God Almighty? Is that what they have done hundreds of times before? Possibly.  Most likely. But today they embrace the interruption:

Peter looked straight at him, as did John.
Then Peter said, “Look at us!”
Acts 3:4

Peter and John stop.  They make time.  They embrace the interruption. They look straight at the man.

It’s not comfortable to look at poverty or sickness or racial discrimination. It’s  not comfortable to get involved with abuse or hunger or mental illness.

It’s draining. It’s overwhelming.  It’s exhausting.

But you must look at it first and acknowledge it before you can do anything about it.

Peter and John didn’t look the other way. They didn’t glance and keep their pace.  They stopped. They looked.  They got involved. They made time. They embraced the divine interruption.

They interrupted their plans.  They had an important appointment with the creator of the universe. They were going to pray.

You and I have important appointments.  The more important the appointment, perhaps the greater the sacrifice it is to embrace an interruption.

The woman of God embraces divine interruptions.

You can listen to the complete teaching lecture for Acts Lesson 4 here:

http://fbcsiloam.podbean.com/e/acts-lesson-4-laura-macfarlan/

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Peter: Coward to Courageous

“Salvation is found in no one else,
for there is no other name under heaven given to men
by which we must be saved.”
Acts 4:12

This is essentially the message preached by Peter at Pentecost. It was used by the Holy Spirit working through Peter and it brought 3000 souls into the Kingdom!

Through the power of the Holy spirit, Peter begins to fulfill the prophesy by Jesus in Acts 1:8.  Peter received the Holy spirit and he became an immediate witness in Jerusalem.

Cowardly Peter – the before-Holy-Spirit-Peter — had denied Jesus three times. But through the indwelling of the Holy spirit, he has become courageous Peter. And the result is clear: 3000 souls redeemed!

How very interesting that all those people who gathered at Pentecost that day were there for a harvest celebration.  Jewish believers traveled to Jerusalem to worship and bring first fruits from the wheat harvest.

Sometimes when we hear the word Pentecost or Pentecostal we are distracted and we think about speaking in tongues.  Yes, there were different languages heard that day and the gospel was heard in all these different languages, but Pentecost, the reason they were coming, was to celebrate the harvest provided by God.  They were celebrating God’s provision, but as they came to wave their sheath of wheat and to celebrate God’s provision, look at the greater harvest that is taking place.  When we hear the word Pentecost, we should think harvest and we should think 3,000 souls.  We should celebrate the harvest of souls and the lives changed with the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Acts Chapter 2 is only the beginning.  On that day 3,000 lives were changed — unmistakable evidence of the moving and working and power of the Holy Spirit.  As the book of Acts unfolds, the gospel continues to spread through the world.

We celebrate those 3000 and we also celebrate the change in Peter’s life.

You know it is so easy to pledge our faithfulness and loyalty to Jesus, and yet it is so difficult to remain loyal and committed when situations arise that could cost us something.

As we study Peter’s life and we celebrate the cowardly Peter that became courageous Peter, it offers opportunity for self examination.

We can ask ourselves, “Am I loyal to Jesus at Bible study,  but am I a traitor to Him at work or at Wal-Mart?

“Do I readily speak out in Sunday School but remain strangely quiet at the family reunion?”

“Do I allow that Facebook post that degrades Christ or His followers to go unanswered?”

The circumstances that unfolded with Peter’s betrayal did not surprise Jesus.  In fact, He predicted it.  It also did not disqualify Peter from future service.  Aren’t we glad?

I am so grateful for the grace that comes with knowing Jesus and that there is a place for everyone to serve in his kingdom regardless of what we have done in our past.  Perhaps He delights especially in using the most unlikely because it ensures that He gets all the glory for the work that is done — and look at the work done by Peter in Acts 2.

He addresses the crowd with boldness and power.  The rough fisherman has a smooth and powerful delivery.  His message is not only well articulated and logical, it is effective.  Three thousand people come to know Jesus that day.

Peter the betrayer becomes Peter the bold.

Peter the denier is Peter the disciple of Jesus, delivering a message that draws 3,000 into the kingdom.

The transformation in Peter’s life is all Jesus.  It is the Holy Spirit.  Peter has been with Jesus, but in Acts 2 he has Jesus indwelling and enabling him through the power of the Holy Spirit.  What an amazing transformation.

What might God accomplish in and through you and me as we are empowered by the Holy Spirit and as we yield to the Holy Spirit?

Like Peter we are rough around the edges.  We don’t get it, and at the first sign of danger we often take whatever steps necessary to protect our hides or our reputation.  We may have long since given up on ourselves, but God never gives up on us.  There is nothing that you and I can do that disqualifies us from serving Him.  God enables and equips us to make Him known.

I pray that He would recycle whatever experiences from our past that bring shame and disqualification – – that he would transform our messes into our message.  That He would use us and give us new fresh opportunities to connect those dots in our lives and to speak up boldly, lovingly and powerfully to those around our “campfire”in our hometown…because

The woman of God is courageous. 

You can listen to the complete teaching lecture for Acts Lesson 3 here: http://fbcsiloam.podbean.com/e/acts-lesson-3-laura-macfarlan/

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A Job To Do and the Power To Do It

How extraordinary to receive the assignment to evangelize the world.  But how even more extraordinary to receive the power to do the job.

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you;
and you will be my witnesses
in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria,
and to the ends of the earth.
Acts 1:8

It is the POWER of the Holy Spirit that makes it possible to complete the Great Commission.  Only with the power of the Spirit can the message go forth.  In fact, I believe this verse makes the case that world evangelism is the primary purpose for the giving of the Holy Spirit. God calls us to be witnesses to the world and He equips us through His Spirit to do it.

The Greek word translated POWER is dunamis.  Our English word dynamite comes from this word! Consequently, it carries the idea of getting the job done — the meaning of being capable or able.  Its opposite would be incapable or impossible. Clearly, with the Holy Spirit, we are equipped and able to reach the world for Christ.  Apart from Him, we are toast as far as the assignment is concerned.

Coming of the Holy Spirit

The giving of the Holy Spirit brought power. As the Holy Spirit descended, He made His presence known in three ways:

  1. blowing of a violent wind
  2. tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each one of the believers
  3. believers could speak in other languages that were understood by those in Jerusalem for Pentecost

Pentecost was one of three religious feasts that required Jewish males to travel to Jerusalem. They came from 15 countries, as shown on this map, found in my NIV Study Bible:

The gospel was heard immediately by representatives from 15 nations surrounding Jerusalem. Amazing. The initial launch of the Acts 1:8 assignment happened without the first believers leaving town. God brought the nations to them.

And the nations are coming to our “Jerusalem” today, too.

Look around. College students, business travelers, resident aliens? Who has God brought into your path that needs to hear the gospel? Are you ready and willing to accept your Acts 1:8 assignment? Are you ready to the trust the Holy Spirit to put His thoughts in your mind, His love in your heart, and His words on your tongue?

You can listen to this week’s teaching from Acts, Lesson 2 here: http://fbcsiloam.podbean.com/e/acts-lesson-2-laura-macfarlan/

 

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Last Words: Wait and Go

This daddy whispers into his daughter’s ear before walking her down the aisle.  We may not know what he said to her, but I’m confident the words this father spoke to his daughter are remembered by her and treasured for the rest of her life.

When the phrase “last words” is uttered, what comes to your mind?

  • Maybe the last words shared  by a dear friend before she moved far away.
  • Perhaps those shared by a mother, a father or a grandparent as they breathed their last breath before stepping into eternity.
  • They may be the last words of your beloved spouse when goodbye was said way too soon.
  • Some have even suffered through the unfathomable loss of losing a precious child.  Those last actions, memories, and words are precious.

Last words matter.  They carry weight.

The last words of Jesus were shared with His disciples just before His ascension. They are recorded here in Acts 1. Verses 4 and 8 say this:

Do not leave Jerusalem,
but wait for the gift my Father promised…

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you;
and you will be my witnesses
in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria,
and to the ends of the earth.
Acts 1:4, 8

I see two commands given that day to the disciples and  I believe they can be summed up in two words:

  1. Wait
  2. Go

He told them to WAIT in Jerusalem for the gift of the Holy Spirit

The GO assignment meant that after they received the Holy Spirit, they would go – they would go out in concentric circles from where they were in Jerusalem…to Judea, to Samaria, and all the way to the ends of the earth.

They were to wait and then they were to go.

The Holy Spirit would be needed – He would empower them to go. Clearly, the second could not happen without the first. But why didn’t the filling of the Holy Spirit and the ascension of Jesus happen simultaneously? Why not have the Holy Spirit come down as Jesus ascended up?

Do you wait well?

If you’re like me, you like the GO part of an assignment. Give me the list. I’ll grab a clipboard and start checking it off.

Was there purpose to the waiting?

In verse 14 we learn how they occupied themselves during the wait:

They all joined together
constantly in prayer,
along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus,
and with his brothers.
Acts 1:14

Constantly in prayer. A good challenge for us. In His sovereignty, God ordained that waiting time for a purpose. The unity of the church, the single-minded focus, the coming together and praying together – that time together worked to stir up their hearts to be focused, expectant, and united.

There’s much to be gleaned here for us corporately.  I believe there’s also application to us individually.  Waiting time can be praying time.

Does “constantly in prayer” describe your daily life?  I’ve got a long way to go in cultivating a lifestyle that could be described as constantly in prayer.  I am better than I used to be, but I am not where I want to be.

  • Our driving time – waiting to get there– can become praying time.
  • Our walking time – waiting to finish our exercise – can become praying time.
  • Our scrubbing/cleaning/washing time – -waiting to finish our chores – can become praying time.
  • Our sitting in the carpool time – waiting to collect the children – can become praying time.

The woman of God transforms waiting time into praying time. 

You can find the entire teaching lecture for Acts Lesson 1 here:

http://fbcsiloam.podbean.com/e/acts-lesson-1-laura-macfarlan/

 

Photo Attribution:  http://www.bridalstylesboutique.com/tag/swarovski-crystal-headpiece/page/2/

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What Jesus Began, We Get to Continue

In my former book, Theophilus,
I wrote about all that
Jesus began to do and to teach
until the day he was taken up to heaven…
Acts 1:1-2a

 

Luke’s former book is the gospel of Luke. The book of Acts is essentially Luke, Part 2. It picks up where the gospel of Luke ends – -with the final days of Jesus on earth.

The earthly ministry of Jesus lasted three years.  During those three years, He invested in the disciples.  He taught them.  He lived the truth because He was the truth.  And the work that He began to do and to teach continued on– through the work and ministry of the disciples.

The book of Acts records the launch of the church.  As Jesus ascends into heaven, the gospel message exploded across the known world. It spread rapidly and in spite of persecution. They had no resources, no buildings, and no education. But they had the Holy Spirit. You and I are here today because of their faithfulness and the faithfulness of each generation since.  For 2000 years, the work that Jesus began has continued.

Dr. Ronnie Floyd has said, “The church is not a gathering place, but a launching pad.” We see that clearly as we study through the book of Acts. In just 30 years, the church radiates out from Jerusalem to Judea, on to Samaria, and eventually all the way to Rome.

The Acts 1:8 call is not yet complete. There is work left to be done. The gospel must continue to go forth.

What about us?

How are you and I to be part of that today– in our community, in our “Jerusalem?”

The baton of truth — the gospel — has been passed down from generation to generation.  The work of his physical body continues through His spiritual body, the church.

Acts 4:12 says, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”

That’s the gospel. The good news.

And that gospel spread like wildfire in the first century following the resurrection and ascension of Jesus. The book of Acts chronicles the growth of the early church as people responded to the message of salvation.

To whom are you and I to carry that baton of truth in our sphere of influence? How is what Jesus began going to continue on through and me?

 

You can listen to the Introductory Teaching lecture for Acts: The Growth of the Early Church, here: http://fbcsiloam.podbean.com/e/acts-introduction-laura-macfarlan/

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Rights and Responsibilities

As Americans, we love our rights. We like to quote them. We enjoy living them.

It’s been that way from the beginning. To get the Constitution passed, our Founders even had to concurrently adopt the Bill of Rights.

The right to free speech, free press, bear arms, and a host of others are dear to us. We would fight – -and we have fought – -to preserve these freedoms. Each generation has stepped up, sent men and women into harm’s way, to ensure our freedoms are preserved.

But with a right also comes a responsibility. The right to free speech does not mean we can yell “Fire!” in a movie theater if there is no fire. The right to a free press does not mean falsehood can be published. The right to bear arms does not mean we can recklessly take the life of another.

In a sense rights are really privileges – ones many of us hold dear, while others take for granted.

As followers of Christ and Americans, we enjoy dual citizenship: we are citizens of both heaven and the United States. Both come with privileges and responsibilities. Do we take those seriously? What is the practical application of exercising both?

Psalm 33:12 says:
Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD….

I’ve often heard this quoted, as followers lament how America has fallen. We no longer follow God or the Christian principles on which we were founded, many say.

But who is the nation? Is it not the people making it up? All Americans are United States citizens, but not all United States citizens are also citizens of heaven. Only those with dual citizenship follow God and call Him LORD. How can we, as followers of Christ, expect unbelievers to behave as believers? The better question is: Do we behave as citizens of heaven? Do we do our part individually to live out Psalm 33:12? Is God Almighty the LORD of my life and yours?

As I listen to the news, read the headlines, and see the chasm growing wider between those who call Him Lord and those who don’t, the thought comes to me: It’s on us. We, as believers, bear the responsibility for what we see happening. Here are some challenging questions I’m wrestling with this Independence Day:

  • Does my life – my thoughts, words, attitudes, actions – reveal that God is the LORD?
  • Is anger and criticism my first response to legislation and legislators?
  • Do I pray for those in authority over me?
  • What have I done to promote dual citizenship – am I praying, sharing the gospel, loving on those who do not know Jesus?

When Benjamin Franklin stepped outside the Philadelphia courthouse during the Constitutional Convention, a woman asked, “What kind of government have you given us, Mr. Franklin?”

His response: “A republic madam. If you can keep it.”

America is 241 years old today and that truth still rings true. Can we keep it? Can we continue to exist as a democratic republic? I believe that hinges on accepting the responsibilities that come with our rights.

And for those of us with dual citizenship, we have additional responsibilities. As we fly our flags, enjoy our fireworks, and grill our burgers today, let’s also be challenged to step up our commitment to behave like we believe: Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord.

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Book Review: Start With Amen

I first met Allen and Ruth Ewing when my husband Kevin and I (young marrieds at the time) were part of the small group they were leading at our church. Ruth was a special mentor to me. Her quiet, gentle spirit, ever-ready smile, and love for our Lord and His Word drew me in and made her a safe go-to person for questions young moms have. Her success as a mom was clear to me then and is even more evident now as I devour this book written by her now-grown-up daughter, Beth (Ewing) Guckenberger.

Beth drew me in right away with this dedication:

To my mom, Ruth Ewing:
I have a thousand memories of your Bible open on
our kitchen table. Thank you for teaching me about
the rock from which I was cut. After a lifetime of
your influence, I know for sure: presence matters.

Well done, Beth. And well done, Ruth!

The Word of God is powerful. A mother’s faithful devotion to God’s Word does not return void.  I hope that spurs you on as it does me. And we haven’t even gotten to the book yet!

Start With Amen, was a treasure and a delight. Beth is a master storyteller and weaves in firsthand experiences as she unpacks biblical truth. Her unique way of praying is the thread woven throughout. She flips our rote prayers on end – and begins with amen.

Amen means,  So be it. By starting with amen, Beth teaches us to begin our prayers by agreeing with God. We are essentially affirming who He is, aligning ourselves with His plan, His way, and His will.

For me, praying this way has brought on a spiritual re-alignment. As I’ve cultivated this new way of praying, it has settled and redirected me. My prayer life has been transformed in many ways:

  1. Opening with amen reminds me of who He is and who I am not! God is still very personal, but this brings on a heightened sense of reverence as I approach God.
  2. Opening with amen has changed the content of my prayers. It’s prompted me to pray less selfishly and more eternally.
  3. Opening with amen stirs my heart to be open to answers different than what I wanted or expected.
  4. Opening with amen helps me end on a personal level: Dear Jesus.

Beth and her husband Todd served for several years on the mission field in Mexico. They have fostered/given birth to/adopted ten children! Many of her joys and challenges are interspersed. Her transparency is refreshing and her passion for Jesus inspiring.  She makes scripture come alive and demonstrates what it looks like lived out loud.

I highly recommend this remarkable book!

You can order your copy here:  Start With Amen

 

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Write the Word: REST

REST.

Are you in need of it? Do you make it a priority?

What does it look like in your life? Does the word REST bring to mind an afternoon nap or a week to bake at the beach?

I’ve been blogging at AReasonForHomeschool.com and I think my Cross My Heart readers might enjoy my Sunday Soaking blog posts. The topic for June is REST.

You can also download a free printable bookmark here: http://areasonforhomeschool.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/WritetheWord_bookmark.pdf

It’s part of my first monthly series called, Write the Word. Each month a different key word is chosen and a month of daily verses is provided that include the word for that month. Hope you will consider using these daily verses to prompt some thinking/praying/journaling on God’s Word.

And, as an added bonus, leave a comment on the AReasonForHomeschool blog post and be entered into a drawing for a free Dayspring journal.

Hope this summer finds you pressing into Jesus for soul rest, sabbath rest, and physical rest.

If you know Christ, you’ve found the ultimate REST that will bring eternal reward!

 

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He Has Risen!

It was the women who showed up first thing Sunday morning. They were rewarded by being the first to hear the news:

He is not here;
He is risen, just as he said.
Matthew 28:6

The angel made it clear: He called it and He did it. The body was not stolen or moved.  He is no longer dead. He is alive!

We serve a risen Savior!

Friday’s death brought mourning, but Sunday’s resurrection is part of the “mystery of Christ” referred to by Paul:

  • Incarnation:        God became man
  • Substitution:      God paid our bill
  • Salvation:            We trade up – -our junk for His glory
  • Resurrection:     He is alive!

The words of Matthew 28:6 prompted Alfred Henry Ackley to pen these worshipful lyrics:

He lives, He lives, Christ Jesus lives today!
He walks with me and talks with me along life’s narrow way.
He lives, He lives, salvation to impart!
You ask me how I know He lives?
He lives within my heart.

The reality that He lives changes everything.

  • Christianity is not just a club of happy smilers encouraging each other to play nice.
  • Christianity is not just about changing behavior to be a good person today.
  • Christianity is not just about being the best you can be.

It’s about truth. Life. Eternity.

We may indeed play nice, change our behavior, and transform into a better person – but it’s all the result of a heart change from the inside out. It’s not a manufactured, buckle-down-and-do-it outer change. It’s an overflow.  It’s a natural by-product of a transformed heart. And it all happens because He is risen!

  • Because He is risen, the tables are turned. Death is not the end. Death does not win.
  • Because He is risen, Friday’s dirge becomes Sunday’s party.
  • Because He is risen, I have confident assurance for eternity.
  • Because He is risen, I choose Him. I live for Him. I am His.

Why serve a dead god when you can serve a risen Savior?

Because He is risen, I celebrate Him. Forget 1999 – let’s party like it’s Easter morning.

He has risen indeed!

Photo attribution: http://static.kidspot.com.au/cm_assets/73309/istock_000056892658_medium-20160114154603.jpg~q75,dx720y432u1r1gg,c–.jpg

Posted in Easter | 2 Comments