All Things New – Part II

This last weekend I was able to attend the ONE Conference at Cornerstone Berean Church in Ames, Iowa. I hadn’t been to a women’s conference in quite a while, so I was excited for some time to get away, learn, and worship.

Now, after all is said and done, I feel challenged to share with you everything that I took away from this conference. The entirety of this weekend was exceptionally transformational to my walk with God, and I am excited to share that with you.

Session two, October 6

Day two of the ONE Conference began with another session by Jen Wilkin where she discussed the different implications of Revelation 21:5 – “And He who was seated on the throne said “Behold I am making all things new.”

A part of being made new in Christ is that we, like the saints who have gone before us, are given new names.

Having a ‘name’ implies a number of things. Names allow us to establish or demonstrate ownership, authority, affection towards others, association with another person, relationship to someone or something, personality, and most of all, purpose.

I was given a plaque when I was younger with my name printed on it in nice, flowing cursive letters. Below that was a description of the meaning my name had. The English meaning of my name is Follower of Christ; or in its original Greek, The Anointed.

Not only is this really significant for me personally, but it also gives me a deep sense of purpose; of direction and single-mindedness. I want to live up to my name.

There are many Bible heroes who experienced similar affection and deep association with their names, primarily their God-given names which elicited great purpose in their lives. For example…

Simon was given the name Peter, which means the Rock. He would later become the rock on which the church was built.

Abram was given the name Abraham, which means the father of many nations. Through him God would bring forth all the nations of Israel and ultimately, the line of Jesus Christ.

We see another name change in Genesis 32 when God appears before Jacob, the son of Isaac. The name Jacob means he grasps the heel. This makes sense, since a few chapters earlier we read about how Jacob came out of his mother’s womb grasping the heel of his twin brother.

When we look at the entirety of Jacob’s life leading up to this point though, we can see that he was, in fact, a ‘grasper.’ He deceived, he lied, and he manipulated his way through life; having very little faith in the sovereignty of God and constantly trying to make things happen on his own and for his own good.

We eventually find Jacob broken and waiting; wrestling with himself and God as he struggles with his guilt and shame (Genesis 32:24). Jacob recalls all of his mistakes, all of his sinful ways, and every single time that he had ever messed up. He barters with God; wrestling with conviction and trying to negotiate his way through the consequences.

There comes a moment in this passage however when God reaches out and touches Jacob, crippling him and causing him to cease his fighting and struggling. It took but one touch from God for Jacob to stop wrestling and listen to the voice of God.

When asked what his name was, he responds with ‘Jacob’ as if to confess who he really was…a grasper; one who deceives and lies and manipulates.

As Jacob confesses his sins though, God changes him. He takes that which was broken and sinful and refines him into an overcomer. God took Jacob in all of his sin and deceit and changes his name to Israel, which means he struggles with God and that God contends with him; an overcomer.

In this simple act of authority, God establishes ownership, affection, association, and relationship with Jacob. But more significantly, God gives him a new name; a new identity and a new purpose.

Like Jacob, we have been made new. We have been given new names as children of God. This is who we are. We will forever and always be found holy and righteous before God because He who knew no sin became sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21, NIV).

Now, you may be thinking as I was in that moment- “this is all fine and dandy, but I know myself and I know I’m going to slip back into old habits and patterns before too long, despite this ‘new name’ that I’ve been given.”

Perhaps that’s why the next portion of this passage was so powerful for me, because Jacob did exactly that…he backslid. In an attempt to manipulate the situation and exercise some degree of control over God, Jacob asks God to tell him what His name was (Genesis 32:29, NIV).  Remember, names allow us to establish or demonstrate ownership, authority, affection, association, relationship, personality, and purpose.

Jacob returned to his old habit of manipulating a situation and reaching for power and control over another. How often do we do exactly that? We know we are redeemed; renewed and made new and what do we do? We return to our old ways.

We become afraid.

We entertain anxious thoughts.

We gossip.

We judge others.

We blindly follow our perfectionistic tendencies.

But God remains faithful and even though Jacob backslid, He extends a gentle rebuke. “Why do you ask me my name?” He asks. And in that moment God blesses Jacob and leaves (Genesis 32:30, NIV).

God gently reminds us that we are no longer who we once were. We have been given a new name, a new purpose, and a new identity. This doesn’t mean that we will never sin again or that we will never fall into old patterns and habits, but that when we do, God will remain the One who contends with us, prevails, and makes all things new.

All Things New – Part III – Now that we have been made new in Christ and been given new names, we are set on a new path and given a new purpose and focus. How do we find that though? How do we go about discovering what God’s will is for our lives? Perhaps it’s not as hard as we often make it out to be…

Dear God, (Are You Sure) You Don’t Mess Up

I could feel the pain radiating off of her as I moved closer, putting my arm around her slumped shoulders.

“It just doesn’t make sense,” she muttered. “Why did it have to happen this way? What’s the point of hoping; of trying at all if God already has His master plan in place?”

My mind scrambled for an answer. Surely there was an answer that could satisfy her questioning; that would help her see that God was still good, even when the world hurt so bad.

“I don’t really know,” I said.

That’s it!? That’s the best you can come up with? My own thoughts betrayed me now as insecurity and doubt flooded my mind. You’re no help at all.

I shuddered, as if trying to shake free from the lies and accusations.

I could offer no answer. Even after years of studying and growing, I still did not know why life had to hurt so much; why God allowed certain things to happen; why He made us the way that He did – fragile and vulnerable and weak.

As we kept talking, I felt the old question simmering beneath all the theology and doctrine and ‘right’ answers – ‘oh God, are you sure you don’t mess up?’

I recently heard a song that explored this same line of questioning. In an interview, artist Hunter Hayes explains that ‘we wouldn’t honestly ask this question if we weren’t already certain of the answer. We know that God doesn’t mess up. If the opposite were even remotely possible, it would be a reality far too frightening to even consider.’ (Dear God, 2018)

So we ask the question as if to remind ourselves that He doesn’t mess up; that He didn’t mess us on us or His plans.

Doubt still overwhelms us though, doesn’t it? We still have unanswered questions. There are still doors that we’ve knocked on for years that remain closed; open-ended prayers that have yet to receive their ‘amen.’

I could see her disassociating herself now; drawing back into her autonomy and retreating deep into the recesses of her own mind. Fear and pain and the lack of answers has a way of convincing us that we’re better off on our own.

She didn’t draw back out of anger though. It wasn’t even out of pride or arrogance. She wasn’t shaking her fist at God, she was shaking her fist at herself. She was humiliated.

How could she ask such accusing questions of the One she loved? How could she be hurt by the One she trusted? Who was she to question the Perfect One?

You see, we don’t ask such a question to examine the character of God. No, we ask a question like this in examination of ourselves; knowing deep down that we have not lived up to the indescribable glory and perfection of the One who made us and calls us His own and that we never will.

Maybe that’s why we become so confused and frustrated by the way God created us. He made us this way after all, didn’t he? ‘He made us fragile. He made a heart that could break. He set us on the road less travelled knowing full well that we would run away.’ (Dear God, 2018)

Why, oh why God did you make me this way? Are you sure there’s nothing wrong with me?

I wish I could offer some kind of resolution to these questions; writing with conviction about how everything happens for a reason. The thing is though, these questions and doubts are not incompatible with faith like we might think they are. We don’t have to distance ourselves from God and faith just because we’re hurting and confused.

Consider the father in Mark 9:22-24 (NIV), pleading with Jesus to heal his son.

“But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.”

“‘If you can’?” Jesus said. “Everything is possible for the one who believes.”

This father knew that Jesus could rescue his son. Why else would he have travelled as far as he did and fought to gain and audience with Him? He still questioned Jesus’ goodness though; he still struggled with doubt and uncertainty.

The father in this story, much like us all, found himself stuck in doubt even when in the presence of Jesus himself. In response to Jesus’ gentle rebuke, the boy’s father immediately exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”

Are you stuck in doubt? Do you still find yourself asking that question; wondering if there might be something wrong with you, even though you know that God doesn’t mess up?

Do you believe, yet still struggle with unbelief?

Cry out to God! He hears you and He loves you. Don’t let those questions and doubts keep you from pressing into Him; into His truth and His love that does not weaken in the presence of unbelief.

This father wrestled with unbelief, but he came running nonetheless. He ran into the arms of his Father despite the doubts and fears that tried to keep him away.

Even when you don’t understand, run to Him, your loving Father and trust that He remains true to His character and does not mess up.

Confessions of a Tortured Perfectionist

My jaw slacked slightly as I continued reading the results of this particular personality test.

“This is so me,” I thought to myself in astonishment.

Despite the many personality tests that I have taken in the past, I still get excited about seeing my results. I find these kinds of tests incredibly interesting.

However, upon completing this most recent personality test, I experienced a slightly different response.

I was discouraged; maybe a little hopeless.

After finishing the Enneagram Personality Test, I got my results and it was exactly what everyone had anticipated…

I’m a One and a Six.

What does that mean? Well, here’s a brief description…

Enneagram Type 1, The Reformer – Perfectionist, responsible, fixated on improvement.

People of this personality type are essentially looking to make things better, as they think nothing is ever quite good enough. This makes them perfectionists who desire to reform and improve, idealists who strive to make order out of the omnipresent chaos.

Ones have a fine eye for detail. They are always aware of the flaws in themselves, others and the situations in which they find themselves. This triggers their need to improve, which can be beneficial for all concerned, but which can also prove to be burdensome to both the One and those who are on the receiving end of the One’s reform efforts.

Enneagram Type 6, The Loyalist – Conflicted between trust and distrust.

People of this personality type essentially feel insecure, as though there is nothing quite steady enough to hold onto. At the core of the type Six personality is a kind of fear and anxiety. This anxiety has a very deep source and can manifest in a variety of different styles, making Sixes somewhat difficult to describe and to type.

What all Sixes have in common however is the fear rooted at the center of their personality, which manifests in worrying, the restless imaginings of everything that might go wrong.

Ask anyone who knows me well and they will tell you that these results are very accurate.

As I continued reading the description, I noticed a sinking feeling in my spirit. The perfectionist in me saw only the negative aspects of these personality traits; the responsible part of me started fixating on all the ways I could improve myself based on these results.

And as I started writing this article, a sudden war broke out between trusting God as I confessed my shortcomings and wanting to hide for fear of exposing my flaws.

Yep, I’m definitely a One and a Six.

After finishing all the different descriptions and associated articles, I realized why I had begun to feel so discouraged…

I am not what I ought to be – ah, how imperfect and deficient! I am not what I wish to be – I abhor what is evil, and I want to cleave to what is good! I am not what I hope to be – soon, soon shall I put off mortality, and with mortality all sin and imperfection (John Newton, 1772).

I realized that the personality described on the screen in front of me was that of a person who was nothing like Jesus Christ.

A tortured perfectionist … ‘to all perfection there is a limit,’ (Psalm 119:96) so why are you even trying?

An impulsive ‘goody two shoes’ fixated on constant improvement … ‘apart from Christ you have no good thing within yourself after all.’ (Psalm 16:2) You will never be good enough.

A conflicted soul caught between a desire to trust and inherent suspicion … ‘you’re supposed to trust in the Lord with all your heart you know.’ (Proverbs 3:5) You must not really trust God. You’re such a hypocrite.

Ah, how painful the war between flesh and spirit is. My thoughts continued to spin on this carrousel of internal conflict and desire.

This was everything I didn’t want to be; it was nothing of what I wished to be; and it was everything I hoped I wouldn’t be tomorrow.

But then the still small voice of Love and Truth broke through the chaos:

‘I AM your perfection. Remember that you are not who you were yesterday because of my grace.’

John Newton went on to say that yet, though I am not what I ought to be, nor what I wish to be, nor what I hope to be, I can truly say, I am not what I once was; a slave to sin and Satan; and I can heartily join with the apostle, and acknowledge that, “By the grace of God I am what I am.”

Because of my perfectionist tendencies, by the grace of God it doesn’t take much for me to realize that this imperfect world is not my home; that I have a perfect eternity waiting for me. It’s not difficult for me to tap into that sense of eternity that He has placed in my heart. (Ecclesiastes 3:11)

By His grace, I desire to be holy because He is holy. (1 Peter 1:16)

Through my internal conflict between trusting and being inherently suspicious, God graciously reminds me to depend on Him as the only steadfast One in this life and the next.

Indeed, to all perfection I see a limit, but praise God that His perfect Word is limitless. (Psalm 19:7; 119:96)

It is true that without God I would have no good thing, but how joyful it is to know that I will never have to live a day apart from His goodness. (Psalm 16:2; Deuteronomy 31:6)

Yes, I know that I need to trust in God, but my heart is assured that when I don’t, I will not be alone. The Holy Spirit will help me in my weakness. (Proverbs 3:5; Romans 8:26)

So remember that despite what you lack; regardless of your good qualities and bad habits, all that you are is because of Him and everything that you’re not, He is.

What Is Your Name?

I was given a gift when I was younger.

This gift was a framed document with my name spelled out in beautiful cursive letters at the very top. Immediately below that was an explanation of what my name meant.

The English meaning of my name is Follower of Christ, or in its original Greek, The Anointed.

I’ve always loved my name for this very reason.

The intent, or the purpose of my name has made it precious to me; a name I can strive to live up to.

We find many moments in Scripture where God changes a name. Consider Abram (Genesis 17:5), Sarai (Genesis 17:15-16), and Jacob (Genesis 32:28). Even consider Peter (Matthew 16:18), to whom Christ assigned several names.

Genesis 17:5 – No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations.

A father of many nations…

Abram means the high father. Yet in light of God’s plan for his nation Israel, He changed Abram’s name from the high father to a father of many nations in order to align with his God given purpose.

Genesis 17:15-16 – God also said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you are no longer to call her Sarai; her name will be Sarah. I will bless her and will surely give you a son by her. I will bless her so that she will be the mother of nations; kings of people will come from her.”

The mother of nations…

Sarai means my lady or my princess. Yet we find once again that in light of God’s will, He changed Sarai’s name from my princess to the mother of nations to match her God given purpose.

Generations later we can look back and see how these name changes aligned perfectly with the plan God had already set in motion.

Abraham really was the father of many nations and his wife Sarah really was the mother of nations; bearing kings of many peoples.

So my name might have a meaning that I hold dear, but when it really comes down to it, Kristin is just the name my parents gave me.

I have a different name.

I have a God given name of which will align with my God given purpose.

You have a different name than what you go by here on earth.

You have a God ordained name to match your God ordained purpose.

Now it is up to us to live, breath, and respond in a way that will allow God to shape our hearts in order that they might align with His holy and perfect will.

Perhaps you don’t feel worthy though.

Perhaps the idea of actually having a God ordained name is a scary thought.

It was for me for quite some time.

To think that God would or could actually use me in any context to further His Kingdom was rather intimidating – but only because I was looking within myself.

An awareness of our shortcomings is healthy to some extent. A heightened awareness of where we fall short has the potential to reveal the magnificence of Christ’s sufficiency.

It also has the potential to make us self-focused and self-absorbed.

Consider Peter.

He was blinded to the eternal glory and divine purpose for which Christ was sent to earth due to his self-obsession.

We find Jesus prophesying his death in Matthew 16:21-28 and like most of us would, Peter immediately denies what was soon to come.

Jesus rebukes him, renouncing him by saying, “get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men” (vs. 23).

Peter was self-absorbed; focused only on what he could see and not on who Jesus was.

Later on in the book of Matthew we read how Peter denied Christ three times (Matthew 26:69-75); focusing only on himself and his own well-being.

Believe it or not, we do these exact same things every day.

Sure, they may not be in the same manner or context as Peter, but we do them nonetheless; having in mind only the things of men rather than the things of God.

We discourage a friend who feels led by God to do something that seems radical in the eyes of man.

We indulge in behaviors and humor that mock the name of Christ.

We deny being changed by the Holy Spirit in the way that we speak and act.

We contradict the driving love of Christ in our apathy.

We, along with Peter, are sinful and unworthy of any calling as great as the one God has given us.

That’s the beautiful thing about grace though, isn’t it? It’s not about the one who receives, but rather about the One who gives.

God’s grace; God’s purpose for your life hinges not on what you do, but rather on what He has done.

Peter messed up big time, yet God still gave him a new name; a name that would have eternal impact.

Matthew 16:18 – And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church…

Peter was the rock on which Christ built His church.

That’s quite the divine purpose.

God used the man who denied him (Matthew 26:69-75), doubted him (Matthew 14:29), was a hindrance to him (Matthew 16:23), and the man of little faith (Matthew 14:29) and made him the foundation on which He built His Kingdom; His very nation.

So don’t you think for a second that God doesn’t have a new name for you.

What you’ve done is not your name.

What He has done, what He is doing, and what He will do through you is your God given name; your God ordained purpose, for it is only in relation to Jesus Christ that our name has any purpose here on earth and in Heaven above.