Week 17: God Who Renames Us

Monday: Genesis 17

Tuesday: Matthew 17

Wednesday: Nehemiah 7

Thursday: Acts 17

Friday: Genesis 17, Matthew 17, Nehemiah 7, Acts 17

Reflections

Monday, Genesis 17: 

Can you even handle this grace? God always coming for us, always choosing us, always renaming us. Always giving us His promises. And in the renaming, God asks Abraham to mark himself, to set himself apart. And though not through circumcision, He asks it of us, too, to mark ourselves as His by the testimony of our love.

As He sets Abraham apart, God promises Him that the whole land Abraham and his family inhabit now as foreigners will one day be their everlasting possession and it rings true for me, too, that this world that often feels foreign, this world with its problems and its trials where we can feel so displaced, is not our permanent home. He promises us an everlasting possession, a new Heaven and a new Earth where we will be at home with Him forever.

And if you need any more proof that God is not done writing your story, read it right there in verse 24, “Abraham was 99 years old when He was circumcised.” Our faithful God is never done working, never done coming for us, never done keeping His promises.

Are you living His love in a way that marks you, sets you apart from the world? Will people watching your life know that you are His by the way that you love?

Spend some time today praising Him for the promise of Heaven. We are foreigners here, and it has never been more apparent. But one day we will be at home with Him forever in his beautiful world made new.

Tuesday, Matthew 17:

            I love the intimacy Jesus shares with His disciples as He tenderly reaches out to touch them. “Do not be afraid,” He says. They have heard the voice of God, they have seen the glory of God shining from the cloud, and instead of being afraid they are invited to get up, to come near.

            Jesus is concerned with the “big stuff” – fulfilling all the prophecies and restoring all things. And He is concerned with the “small stuff” – a young boy with seizures, even a four-drachma coin to pay tax. And He says that all we need to draw near is faith as small as a mustard seed and I don’t know about you, but sometimes my faith does feel this small.

            Gracious, merciful Jesus says, “Get up. Do not be afraid. With me, with me, nothing will be impossible for you.”

What feels impossible today? Maybe it feels too small for God to even really notice or care about?

Nothing is too big or too small for Him. He sees you and He is gently calling you near, to take your tiny faith and put all of it in His hands, allowing Him to do the impossible in your heart.

Wednesday, Nehemiah 7:

            Tempted to skip another list of names? I know, me too. But as I slow down to really look at the words and ask God what He might be trying to teach us, even with yet another list, verse 5 catches my eye. “He put it into my heart to assemble the [people].” God put it into Nehemiah’s heart to know the people that he was doing life with, that he was doing community with. And it made me ask myself, beyond just loving my neighbor, am I really taking time to know my neighbor?

            We all long to be known, to have our name on someone’s list of people they care about and count among close friends. It occurs to me that on the surface I can be kind and “loving” without being intentional. But real love, God’s love, the love that Jesus exemplified isn’t just surfacy kindness, it’s knowing people deeply. Knowing their hurts, their joys, their failures, their successes and sticking with them through thick and thin. These few words got me asking myself about my relationships, and begging the Lord that He would put it in my heart not just to be nice to my neighbors but to truly know them, and out of that knowing, love them deeper.

Do you truly know the people you are in community with, or are you content to let the relationships remain on the surface?

Sometimes, a true, knowing relationship starts with our own vulnerability. Who can you share some deep heart stuff with this week? Who can you ask about their own deep heart stuff?

How can you spend some time this week moving your relationships from just loving to truly knowing?

As we answer these questions, let’s take our cue from Nehemiah’s words and ask God to put it into our hearts to know and love people well.

Thursday, Acts 17:

            There is so much in this chapter that we could discuss, but I am going to start with the part that most convicted my own heart – Paul’s teaching at the Areopagus. I read these words over and over this morning, “I see that you are very religious… but you are ignorant of what you worship.”

Oh, Lord, save us from meaningless religiosity! There is so much around me that I am tempted to worship: my own plans, my own dreams, my own security, my own comfort. Success. Achievement. Other people’s opinions. Myself. Lord, free us from these “unknown gods.” Reveal to us where we have put things before You, where we have been religious, but not Christ-like.

            Lord, make us like the Bereans, eager to receive Your message, eager to examine the Scriptures, eager to seek You every day of our lives. Gracious Father, we repent of our ignorance. Forgive us for the times we have not worshiped You the way You alone deserve. Thank You for life and breath. Thank You that You are not far from any one of us. Be near to us today, Lord. Amen.

Would you pray this with me, today?

Friday reflections

            Abraham fell facedown.

           The disciples fell facedown.

           Holy God is worthy of our adoration, our awe, our complete reverence.

And yet, though sin would make it so that we should not be able to come into His divine presence, we see it in all of our Scriptures this week – Holy God desires to commune with His people, with us. See how He extends His promise, this seemingly impossible promise to Abraham, that he whose wife is barren, he who is childless in his old age, will be called the father of many nations. See how Jesus extends His hand, lovingly, gently, “Jesus came and touched them” and instructs them, “do not be afraid.” Abraham, Peter, James, John… they have heard the voice of the Living God, the Holy God and instead of being afraid, instead of burying their faces in the ground, they are invited to come near. To participate in the promises of God.

            And doesn’t it seem like an impossible promise – the salvation of me, the worst of sinners, life eternal with this loving, Holy Father? Doesn’t it seem near impossible in a world that spins crazy, to take Him at His word and really, truly not be afraid?

            But friend, our Holy God, the one who deserves us to fall on our faces at His feet, to worship Him in all reverence, He comes for us. He came for us.

            He came so we could lift up our faces to His throne, so we could grab ahold of His promises to us, so we could live unafraid and unashamed. So that we could live renamed.

That we would no longer be called sinner, but Righteous.

That we would no longer be named cast-out, but Loved.

That we would no longer be unbelieving and perverse, but Believing and Pure.

That we would no longer be called doubting, but Certain.

…That even though some days my faith feels as small as a mustard seed, it would be enough, because He makes it enough. He renames me Strong, Brave, Faithful, Beloved.

And do you see it there, in Acts 17:27? The very reason God created us, the very reason He gave us all life and breath and everything else is “so that they would seek Him and perhaps reach out and find Him though He is not far off from any one of us.”

Yes! He designed us so that as He reaches out to us, we, too, might reach out to Him. We, too, might seek Him and find Him and know our true identity, our true name in Him – Beloved.

God is worthy or our reverence and adoration. Spend some time on your knees, face to the ground if you can, worshipping Him today.

In what ways has God “renamed” you because of your salvation? I think of “taking off the old self and putting on the new” (see Ephesians 4:22-24). What is He calling you to take off today? What is He calling you to put on?

What are you afraid of? Spend some time surrendering these fears to Him. Hear His voice say to you, “Chin up, Beloved. Do not be afraid.”

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