What’s in a Name?

“I really want to make a name for myself!”

How many times have you or someone you know used this line to describe what you want to do in life?  How many times have you felt you were living in the shadows of the ones who have come before us; whether it be a parent or a predecessor, you seem to be following in the footsteps of someone who has blazed the trail ahead of you.

Many of us spend most of our time trying to get out of the shadows and make our own name, because we don’t want to be seen as a “chip off the old block” or “so-and-so’s family member”.  I’m not going to lie, I went through a phase myself where I wanted to make a name for myself, to get out of the limelight left in the shadow of my dad…but through that struggle to find my identity with those around me, I found that my name was made, and I had nothing to do with making my own name…and most importantly, I realized I didn’t mind the connotation.

You see, when we become Christians our identity is made…we no longer live for ourselves, because we are to live up to a name.  The disciples wanted others to know that they were different…and by calling ourselves Christians, we accept the role as a follower of Christ.  That role is one in which we are no longer conformed to the world…we are no longer slaves to sin…we no longer live in the shadows.

When you become a Christian, you take on the name and identity of Christ…the old passes away and the new comes to take its place.  By taking on the name and identity of Christ, you tell the world, “Hey! I’m different! I’m a follower of Christ!”  The question is, do you show them you are different?

Actions speak louder than words, so what are your actions saying about you?  Are you living your life the way you want and proclaiming the name of Christ with your lips?

Well-known American Priest, Brennan Manning said, “The greatest single cause of Atheism in the world today is Christians, who acknowledge Jesus with their lips, and walk out the door and deny him by their lifestyle.  That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.”

Mahatmas Gandhi once made the statement, “I like your Christ, but I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are nothing like your Christ.”

Think about it…what are you saying about the name Christian with the way that you are living your life?   Are you like Christ? Or are you part of the group Gandhi was talking about…make the choices that show you are a follower of Christ…or are you becoming a part of the ever growing trend of Christianity – a trend that is devastating the Church.  A trend that has torn our Country apart…we must get back to Christ!

Ordinary People, Extraordinary God

17Elijah was a man just like us. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. 18Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops.”

— James 5:17-18

“Elijah was a man just like us…”

The writer of James surely wanted this point made, or else he would have simply said Elijah’s name.  Something about this story is important, something about this story relates to the Spiritual Life of a Christian; but what is it?  What is so important that James classifies Elijah as a man just like us?

James made it a point to show that God uses ordinary men in carrying out His extra-ordinary work.  Elijah was a prime example of this, nothing special, nothing unique, nothing different from you and I – that is except he was in touch with his Lord.  God uses people who are willing to get out of the way and allow Him to work through them, not to say He can’t use someone who doesn’t; but, as we all know, it is easier to get work done when everyone is working for the same cause.  God uses ordinary people!

Not only does God use ordinary men and women, but He is always out to accomplish His purpose, not ours.  It may seem that our purpose is being fulfilled, but when you are in tune with God, His purpose is your purpose.  Look at Moses for a moment and you’ll see a man who was able to accomplish God’s purpose, only after learning that God wasn’t out to help Moses unless Moses was in tune with God.  Moses wanted to see the Hebrew Nation freed from Egyptian captivity, and he tried to take the matter into his own hands, killing an Egyptian guard.  All this got Moses was 40 years of exile to think about what he had done, but those 40 years were used for teaching and preparing for the plan that God had already laid forward in His will. Moses may have delayed the process, but God still won the war in the life of Moses.

This brings us back to Elijah, a man who was willing to go against the odds to pursue the will of God.  In 1 Kings 18, we find Elijah on the mountain debating with the followers of Ba’al over who is the greatest; God or Ba’al.  Elijah was outnumbered 450 to 1, but he knew that God plus 1 equals a majority.  Elijah took the opportunity to not only show that God uses ordinary people, but that God is an extraordinary God by dousing the alter three times, filling a trench to the brim that encircled the alter, basically making the offering impossible to burn; at least for man to burn.  Elijah’s commitment to God was shown that day when the Fire of God not only burnt the offering, but consumed the alter and everything that had been poured on top; proving that God can make possible the things that seem impossible.

What are you willing to let God do today through you?  Have you been struggling to understand why everything for you seems so ordinary?  If you are feeling like nothing special, God is looking for you!  God uses those who have humbled themselves and stepped aside to make an impact for His kingdom, because pride no longer gets in the way.  Be the one God can use today!  Let go of the past, let go of the pain, and let go of selfish ambition…so that you can put on the armor of God and become the man or woman God is calling you to be!  Don’t feel like being ordinary is a bad thing; remember that the Lord uses ordinary people to accomplish the extraordinary every day!

 

 

A Piece of Cake

I came across a little story from TJ Malone; it struck a chord with me as I feel it is a good way for us to look at things. It is called “A Piece of Cake.”

“A little boy is telling his Grandma how everything is going wrong, school, family problems, severe health problems, etc. Meanwhile, Grandma is baking a cake. She asks her grandson if he would like a snack, which, of course, He does. “Here, have some cooking oil.”

“Yuck” says the boy.

“How about a couple raw eggs?”

“Gross, Grandma!”

“Would you like some flour then? Or maybe baking soda?”

“Grandma, those are all yucky!”

To which Grandma replies: “Yes, all those things seem bad all by themselves. But when they are put together in the right way, they make a wonderfully delicious cake!

God works the same way. Many times we wonder why He would let us go through such bad and difficult times. But God knows that when He puts these things all in His order, they always work for good! We just have to trust Him and, eventually, they will all make something wonderful!” God is crazy about you! He sends you flowers every spring and a sunrise every morning. Whenever you want to talk, He’ll listen. He can live anywhere in the universe, and He chose your heart. Hope your day is a “piece of cake!””

I feel this is how the church is today. We are all ingredients in the larger recipe that the Lord is trying to bake, but the problem is that each one of us on our own is “yucky” as the little boy put it.

This is also addressed in scripture when we look at the many parts of the body of Christ. We all have a job, a taste so to speak; we are all part of something greater. Today, embrace your role as an ingredient in a greater plan.

When Life Hands You Lemons

Many times in life you’ve heard the old cliché, “When life hands you lemons…make lemonade”.

Here is something I think about when I hear that statement.  Being involved in sports throughout my life, one thing that continues to enter my mind each time I hear that is another sports cliché…”When life throws you a curveball…”  My thoughts on that statement vary, but one thing that always triggers in making the best of a bad situation.

The curveball is one of the hardest pitches to hit in baseball, that is, unless you’re ready for it.  The Curve has movement, it’s not a straight pitch, and is one that is often swung on and missed in baseball.  The Curve also has an effect on the batter…that effect is one that is visible in buckled knees, diving out of the way and completes surprise.  An effective curve starts headed at the batter in many cases, breaking near the plate and crossing through the strike zone…other versions start above the batter’s head and break down through the zone…either way, a very effective pitch if thrown correctly.

Life throws effective curveballs at us daily, it is our job to recognize the pitch…we have to see what is coming and be ready to counteract with the proper swing.  Are there situations that are bringing you down? Situations that you would dub “curveballs” or “lemons”?  Now is the time for you to step up and knock the pitch out of the park….now is the time to make lemonade.

There are many things in life that will cause us pain, but we have a promise through the sacrifice of Jesus that tells us life is going to be ok.  He promised His disciples with the same promise that rings true to us today, “I’ll never leave or forsake you.”  Jesus is always with us, even when we can’t sense Him…think about the footprints poem and the statement at the end that says, “Those were the times I carried you”.

Are you willing to be carried today?  Are you willing to realize that the times when we feel the farthest from God are the times when He is carrying us in His arms because we can’t do it on our own?  You have friends that can help, and if you feel all alone, you have strength in knowing that there is a friend who is closer than a brother….

Today – Make Lemonade!!