08 December 2016

What's In a Name? Wonderful Counselor

For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us;
And the government will rest on His shoulders;
And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6)

A child will be born, a son will be given, and this One shall have upon His shoulders the government of all. Indeed, He alone is God’s perfect ruler.

This reality is emphasized by the four-fold name given to Him in Isaiah 9:6. Isaiah packs more names for Christ into this one verse than is seen in any other single verse in Scripture. At the time of the Old Testament especially, a name was far more than a mere identifier, it defined the character of the person. The name was the person. This is why the names of Christ are so significant; they offer great insight into the person and nature of our Lord.

06 December 2016

What's In a Name? A Child Born, A Son Given

For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us;
And the government will rest on His shoulders;
And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6)

Isaiah 9:6 contains more names of Messiah in a single verse than any other in the Bible. The names of Messiah presented in this verse cannot be fully appreciated, however, without an understanding of the broader context of the passage.

As Isaiah prophesies, chapter 8 ends on a note of judgment:
When they say to you, “Consult the mediums and the spiritists who whisper and mutter,” should not a people consult their God? Should they consult the dead on behalf of the living? To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because they have no dawn. They will pass through the land hard-pressed and famished, and it will turn out that when they are hungry, they will be enraged and curse their king and their God as they face upward. Then they will look to the earth, and behold, distress and darkness, the gloom of anguish; and they will be driven away into darkness. (Isaiah 8:19-22)
Indeed, in short order, as history demonstrates, Assyria came and took Israel into captivity. Judgment had come.

04 December 2016

Sunday Morning Christmas Praise

What Child Is This?

Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the descendants of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. And coming in, he said to her, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” But she was very perplexed at this statement, and kept pondering what kind of salutation this was. The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end.” Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” The angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God. And behold, even your relative Elizabeth has also conceived a son in her old age; and she who was called barren is now in her sixth month. For nothing will be impossible with God.” And Mary said, “Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her. (Luke 1:26-38)

What Child Is this?

Infant Holy, Infant Lowly

02 December 2016

This 'n' That

Well, it is officially December. How did that happen?

Chicago's Michigan Avenue; Flickr user Daniel X. O'Neil
I drove into the city last week for the first time since I moved here several years ago.  I wanted to see how this place "does Christmas," if you will. While the ice rink may have been open, the carriage-pulling horses were dressed in holiday garb, and the streets were twinkling with lights, it was mildly disappointing. I decided that whoever is in charge of Christmas-izing the city needs to go spend a weekend in Chicago. There wasn't much I liked about the Windy City (except the Cubs), but that city certainly knows how to dress itself up for the holiday season. From the ice rink in Millennium Park to the Christkindlmarkt, to brightly lit Michigan Avenue, Chicago can certainly help even the most miserly of Scrooges muster up a little worldly-based Christmas cheer. Yet, in spite of my affinity for most things Christmas, I'd much rather be on a quiet farm in the country, with the stars lighting the sky, shimmering down on a layer of freshly fallen snow than in a bustling city.

Of course, neither of these are realities for this blogger. Instead, I call the suburbs home, with its mostly-quiet neighborhoods and sometimes too-festive neighbors. That's okay, too, though, because in the end, "Christmas spirit" has nothing to do with silver bells or Christmas lights.

It is officially December, friends. Are we fretting over the long list of presents we still need to buy? Or are we focused on the celebration of the advent of our Lord?

Ponder that, then come back here and enjoy your week in review (kind of):

01 December 2016

What's In a Name?

Most tend to think of a name as merely an identifier. My name is Erin. Your name might be Susan, Joshua, Abigail, or something else. Names prevent us from having to refer to one another as “Hey, You."

Perhaps you named your child Julie simply because you liked the sound of the name and it blended well with your surname. You likely gave little if any consideration to the actual meaning of the name Julie, which in its French origin, means “downy.”

Today, our names act as a label; a name is rarely chosen as a means of defining our individual character. In days long ago, however, names carried far more significance. In the Bible especially, one can see that names were far more than mere labels. According to S. Lewis Johnson, in the Bible, the concept of a name held the following importance:
  • The name was the person,
  • The name was the person revealed, and
  • The name was the person actively present.1
We see the noteworthiness of names emphasized throughout Scripture. In Genesis 17, God changes Abram’s name to Abraham, even as He established an everlasting covenant with His servant:
Abram fell on his face, and God talked with him, saying,
“As for Me, behold, My covenant is with you,
And you will be the father of a multitude of nations.
“No longer shall your name be called Abram,
But your name shall be Abraham;
For I have made you the father of a multitude of nations.
I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make nations of you, and kings will come forth from you. I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your descendants after you. I will give to you and to your descendants after you, the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.” (Genesis 17:3-8)
God changed Abraham’s name because he was promised to become the “father of a multitude,” or of many nations. This new name reflected God’s promise to Abraham.

27 November 2016

Sunday Morning Christmas Praise

The Promised One

The Lord God said, "And I will put enmity
Between you and the woman,
And between your seed and her seed;
He shall bruise you on the head,
And you shall bruise him on the heel." (Genesis 3:15)

Moses said, ‘THE LORD GOD WILL RAISE UP FOR YOU A PROPHET LIKE ME FROM YOUR BRETHREN; TO HIM YOU SHALL GIVE HEED to everything He says to you. And it will be that every soul that does not heed that prophet shall be utterly destroyed from among the people.’ And likewise, all the prophets who have spoken, from Samuel and his successors onward, also announced these days. It is you who are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant which God made with your fathers, saying to Abraham, ‘AND IN YOUR SEED ALL THE FAMILIES OF THE EARTH SHALL BE BLESSED.’ For you first, God raised up His Servant and sent Him to bless you by turning every one of you from your wicked ways.” (Acts 3:22-26)

The scepter shall not depart from Judah,
Nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet,
Until Shiloh comes,
And to him shall be the obedience of the peoples. (Genesis 49:10)

A star shall come forth from Jacob,
A scepter shall rise from Israel. (Numbers 24:17b)

Then a shoot will spring from the stem of Jesse,
And a branch from his roots will bear fruit. (Isaiah 11:1)

But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
Too little to be among the clans of Judah,
From you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel.
His goings forth are from long ago,
From the days of eternity. (Micah 5:2)

26 November 2016

Equipping Eve: More Sad Church Signs

It's unlikely that anyone actually gleans their theology from a church sign. Church signs are notoriously cheesy and oftentimes the churches that display them are theologically unsound. Erin drives by lots of church signs everyday, and finally realized that they can make a great teaching tool—of what not to believe, think, or teach. Open your Bible as we seek to debunk some of these sad church signs.

Click here to listen to this latest episode of Equipping Eve.

Further Listening
Equipping Eve: Sad Church Signs
Equipping Eve: Stickers in My Bible
Equipping Eve: A Victim of Spontaneous Baptism

25 November 2016

This 'n' That

Well, I hope all of my American readers had a pleasant Thanksgiving yesterday! Ours was relaxing and pie-filled, just as it should be, and it was wonderful to spend the time away from the busyness and stress of work to think on something other than clients and deadlines.

We have a tradition in my house to complete a jigsaw puzzle on Thanksgiving Day. So, yesterday morning began with pie and coffee for breakfast (because, well, what else are you supposed to do when there's pie in the house?) and we quickly settled in at the kitchen table for our annual puzzle attempt. As is also my habit on this day, I turned on the television to view a bit of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. I'm not sure why I still tune in each year, other than the mere fact that it was always tradition to watch it when I was young.

Snoopy is one of the few tame elements of the parade.
photo: AndrewDallos Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade via photopin (license) 
Each year that I watch the parade, I cringe a little bit more than the year before, and 2016's extravaganza did not disappoint. Glancing up now and then to glimpse the television from the table, I found myself wondering why this debacle continues. No longer do the television cameras focus on the marching bands and the balloons. No, instead we get to see multiple alleged "music sensations" lip-syncing their most popular song. And, while I hate to sound like that crotchety old woman who thinks all music is awful and evil, I have to ask: why do we consider these songs to be music? Every song sounded the same and had the same sensual beat and rote, mindless lyrics. In fact, sadly, it wasn't much different from the contemporary so-called "Christian" music we hear today. The lesson? Don't tune in to the Macy's Parade unless you're looking to watch a really bad concert.

As always, the parade ended with the entrance of Santa Claus, a theme which saddens me as it should every Christian. The way in which the world exalts this mythical figure in the eyes of children is indeed shameful. Even more perverse were the shenanigans that accompanied the Macy's Santa Claus. Dancing around the North Pole float were women dressed as candy canes, and let's just say that they were not wearing modest costumes. Here, then, is an entire event originally designed for children, that has been sensualized in order that those children might become desensitized to such lasciviousness. It is no surprise to those of us who know Christ, of course, but it nevertheless should grieve us.

At some point during the morning, I said, "Watching this parade makes me thankful that God has saved me out of the world." Further, it makes me long for that eternal home that He has promised He is preparing for us. Finally, it makes me all the more eager to proclaim His gospel so that others may also be plucked from the clutches of the world and placed firmly in the palm of His hand.

With Thanksgiving now behind us, we march forward all too quickly toward Christmas. But before you do that, why not take a few moments to relax while you enjoy some pie and your week in review (kind of):

24 November 2016

Eternally Thankful

Family and friends will gather today to reflect on their thankfulness for the gifts they have been given. Yet, the great majority of these individuals will ultimately "give thanks" to an unknown, unacknowledged being. They do not know the true One from whom all good things flow.
Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow. (James 1:17)
And while they ought to be thankful for His mercy, for it has kept them from thus far being destroyed, in truth, they hate this God because they do not know Him.
For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. (Romans 1:21)
By contrast, Christians ought to be mindful this day—and every day—to thank their Lord for far more than a warm home, a food-filled table, and the laughter of friends. God has indeed promised to provide for His children's daily needs (Matthew 6:25-34), and it is right and good to thank Him for this; however, in a world that is only thankful for the tangible things of life, the Christian has hope that peers far beyond those fleeting, failing mementos and memories
The Christian is thankful for his salvation, an eternal gift that he could never obtain or attain on his own.
And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. (Revelation 5:9)
The Christian is thankful for his undeserved, eternal inheritance, which is a promised treasure to be enjoyed for eternity.
In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will, to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ would be to the praise of His glory. In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation--having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory. (Ephesians 1:11-14)
Above these great, immeasurable gifts is God the Father; God the Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, who purchased His own in order that they might enjoy that salvation and eternal inheritance; and God the Holy Spirit, who is granted to believers at the moment of their salvation so that they might grow, learn, and walk in holiness.

Yes, above all, the Christian is thankful not simply for what God has given him, but for who God is.