And the Wind Died Down

Only when we come to recognize and embrace the sweetness of Christ’s grace in the hard times are we able to rejoice in the richness and depth of His grace in the good times.

As the title of my website might suggest, the story of Peter walking on water in Matthew 14 is my favorite story in the Bible. I have realized over the last couple of years how rich this story is with meaning; with truths of grace and mercy and hope in every word.

We can read a story such as this so many times, year after year, and yet, in a single moment, we can read it again and find new meaning and new significance.

When I first started writing, it was like my ‘walking on water’ moment; the moment I knew God was telling me to step out of my comfort zone and walk in faith; to trust Him with the story that He had given me and surrender all that I had gone through and was learning to the purposes of His good and perfect will.

For it is in Him that we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28).

Unfortunately, as we human beings often do, I got distracted. I started writing for my own purposes; desiring the approval of those around me more than God’s approval, seeking to write and encourage in ways that I saw best, and following the advice of others rather than trusting in God’s perfect wisdom.

This wandering was not just in my writing though, but in my relationships with others, my walk with the Lord, and in my pursuit of joy and peace.

The words of Robert Robinson’s hymn Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing rang so true in my life at that time – prone to wander, Lord I feel it // prone to leave the God I love.

So with eyes averted and devotion divided, when the wind and waves came, I became afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” (Matthew 14:30)

grace upon grace

In perfect wisdom and love, God used Peter’s failure and mine alike to loudly proclaim His infinite grace. As author C.S. Lewis puts it –

God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.

And so it was in those moments when I felt way in over my head; drowning in a storm of my own making filled with lies of disappointment, fear, and failure that God spoke the loudest; where grace became the only solid ground on which I could stand.

I cherish those seasons of pain and uncertainty in my life the most though because it is in those moments that leave us stunned and without words that the Lord speaks the loudest.

It is in the moments when we have no where left to turn that His open arms become a sweet refuge.

It is when we are broken that He mends us and makes us whole.

It is when we are empty that He fills us.

And it is only after we have been through a storm that we are able to look back and recognize His saving grace.

and the wind died down

As I look back on 2018, I see beautiful moments of friendship, growth, joy, and hope, as well as tough seasons of anxiety, fear, and doubt. However, more than all of these, I see the unparalleled grace, mercy, and patience of the Lord.

I see my Savior; my Redeemer; the Rescuer of my soul, who despite my moments of resentment and unfaithfulness, never left my side.

When I was broken, He made me whole again.

When I was empty, He fulfilled my every need.

When I felt alone, He comforted me.

When the silence seemed overwhelming, His voice rang loud and clear.

And now, as I look back on the good and bad of 2018 and embrace the Lord’s goodness in the toil and joys alike, I feel the wind dying down around me and grace and peace in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus my Lord (2 Peter 1:2).

It is important though to remember that these seasons of turmoil and rest; of raging storms and quiet waters, all point to a greater reality.

In the storms of life, God loudly proclaims to our bruised and broken spirits that this is not all that there is; that though these sorrows may be painful, they are light and momentary nonetheless.

Storms remind us that we have the hope of eternal and perfect peace in Christ Jesus still waiting for us.

And in the same way, when we are granted seasons of rest and the storms of life die down around us, we are reminded that the good things in this world are but murmurs of the greater weight of glory that is yet to come.

And it is when we recognize this and embrace it in every season of life that we are truly able to rejoice in Christ Jesus; thanking Him with joy and thanksgiving for His good and perfect gifts and sitting back, beaten and bruised by the storms of life to worship Him still.

One of my favorite quotes by John Owen says that ‘beholding the glory of Christ in this life is preparation—small “dawnings of eternal glory”—for the joys of heaven, where we will see Christ in His glory fully.’

This life will be filled with good and bad; with joys and toil, happiness and sorrow. This is simply the reality of our human condition. However, as we learn to recognize and embrace the sweetness of God’s grace in our joys and sorrows on earth, we are preparing our hearts for the day of rejoicing when we will fully behold His glory; when the dawning turns to day, the storm [sin] is silenced forever, and we enter into ‘the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. We will come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. We will come to God, the Judge of all, to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel’ (Hebrews 12:22-24).

We will be Home, where joys abound and the wind is no more.

Let Love Fill You With Christmas Joy This Year

Here we are, just about a week away from Christmas. Dreams of mistletoe and presents tickle the mind as wafting smells of Christmas baking and sounds of holiday singing mingle through the air. The thought of a couple days off from work build with excitement as plans to head home for the holidays receive their final instruction.

For some however, in fact, most, there can be some anxious thoughts surrounding the holidays as well. While this might not be the case for everyone, I think if we’re honest with ourselves, we all experience a degree of anxiety when approaching the many family reunions around Christmas time. Because of this, it can be hard to feel the joy of the season; to rejoice as the shepherds did with great delight when the very first Christmas had finally arrived.

As we search for and try to maintain the essence of joy this holiday season, we would be wise to consider the role that love plays in bringing about such season’s greetings. In order to address love as a means of Christmas joy, we must look at Love itself and His first appearance on that oh so holy night.

Based on the December 13, 2018 article by David Mathis, here are three truths to keep in mind this Christmas season.

the first Christmas.

Philippians 2:6-7 says that Christ, ‘being in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of man.’

We don’t often consider this passage as one to be read during the holidays, but Philippians 2:6-7 is probably one of the most ‘Christmas-y’ passages in the Bible. Not only is this an account of Jesus’ birth, thus reminding us of the true meaning of Christmas, but it also gives us a look at the heart behind Christmas; at the actual essence of that which we are celebrating.

It was not Christ’s impulse to maintain his own rights and privileges as God that brought about the first Christmas, but rather it was His humbled mindset to inconvenience himself and sacrifice his own comfort for the greater gain of mankind (David Mathis).

Instead of grasping for privilege, Christ emptied himself of his own rights.

Therefore, if we are to be of the same ‘mind’ or ‘disposition’ as Christ, we must start by ‘looking not only to our own interests, but also to the interests of others’ (Philippians 2:4-5).

The call to love begins here, for love does not insist on its own way (1 Corinthians 13:5), but desires to serve, love, and benefit those around them. This kind of love then, when grounded in Christ Jesus who is the true centerfold of Christmas, is displayed in us when we get outside of our own interests, comforts, desires, frustrations, rights, and/or preferences and look beyond ourselves to the interests of others, thus sparking the truest kind of Christmas joy in our hearts.

spend and be spent…joyfully.

2 Corinthians 12:15 says that ‘I [Paul] will most gladly spend and be spent for your souls. If I love you more, am I to be loved less?’

In this passage and in his ministry to the people of Corinth, Paul is gladly displaying his love for them by spending and being spent on their behalf.

Do you ever feel spent? Do the holidays leave you feeling utterly exhausted and in need of a vacation from your vacation? Are there times when you wonder if it is all truly worth it; worth the stress, the exhaustion, the irritation, the effort…?

Such feelings of exhaustion and ‘being spent’ are in fact precious in God’s sight and honoring to Him as we image forth His Son, but only when we do so out of a strength and love grounded in Him. It is when we start serving and striving out of our own strength and for our own self-glorification that we draw the attention away from Christ and dishonor Him.

If we look not only at Paul’s ministry, but at the ministry of Christ as well which Paul was imitating, we see such an example of how we are to embrace costly and inconvenient personal losses of time, energy, attention, possessions, money, comfort, and peace of mind for the sake of others. We can only do this well and in a way that pleases the Lord if we do so out of a deep love for Him and an understanding of His sufficient love for us.

This made me think of an article by Bonnie McKernan that reminds us of what it means to look like Christ. ‘It might be letting others lead when I feel the most equipped, or leading when I feel most unable, because God’s power is perfected in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). It might be keeping quiet when I feel like shouting, or loudly proclaiming when I feel too timid to even whisper. It might be serving others when I most want to be served; it might be resting when serving draws people to me rather than to Christ…’ all of this to the glory of Christ and for the benefit of those around us, including those that are hard to love.

As we look to the glory of God and the interests of others, we imitate the humility of Christ, which in infinite wisdom and love, was displayed for us on the very first Christmas. As we gladly spend and be spent for others, we can remind ourselves of the truth and encouraging words found in Acts 20:35 – ‘for it is more blessed to give than to receive.’

remember your great and eternal possession

Hebrews 10:34 says that ‘we know that we ourselves have a better possession and an abiding one.’ Abiding in this passage is synonymous with ‘lasting’ or ‘eternal.’

When God is our heavenly treasure, the foundation on which our ‘right’ as His sons and daughters rest; when our source of love, energy, compassion, provision, comfort, and peace of mind are in Him, our wells will never run dry and we will be enabled to love without fearing being loved any less, because His love is perfect, unfailing, and sufficient (Jeremiah 31:3, 1 John 3:1).

So often the reason we fail to love others well is because we feel violated in some way; we feel wronged, misjudged, unfairly critiqued, and the victim of malicious intent. However, when we boil these feelings down to their truest belief, what we will often find is fear. We fear exposure. We fear being loved less because of what someone might rightly or wrongly believe about us. We fear the pain of feeling like a failure or a disappointment, and we fear humiliation.

There is no fear in love though, because perfect love drives out fear (1 John 4:18). And there is no love that is perfect apart from the love of Christ Jesus who did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself on our behalf by taking the form of a servant and being born in the likeness of man.

When our love for others is found in, grounded upon, and sustained by the love we receive from the Father, we will be enabled and strengthened to endure beyond the point where we’ve just about had enough, and love others from a place of true Christmas joy.

The Supremacy of God’s Word – Part II

This is the second part of a two-part series on the supremacy of God’s Word. After seeing a new resource for young adults called The Bible Study by Zach Windahl, I recognized four fundamental errors regarding our approach to reading God’s Word.

In the first part of this series, I addressed the areas of Presumed Authority and our Fear of Discomfort. In this article – The Supremacy of God’s Word, Part II – I will be discussing the issues surrounding our tendency to add to the Bible remedies of euphoria and mountain top experiences, exciting encounters, and spiritual highs as well as our growing propensity towards ‘the Instagram bible.’

the bible and…

Windahl decided to move to Australia to spend time only in God’s Word; reading the Bible for 70 hours every week!  As he explains his decision to move to Australia and the impact that it had on his life and faith, he makes the point very clear that it was in fact, life changing.

I greatly appreciate and applaud Windahl’s dedication to the study of Scripture and I think it is incredible that he utilized the resources, time, and opportunities that he had to pursue deep, personal study and understanding of the Bible. However, there is something that I wish he would have made more clear.

When it comes to true change, there is no ‘and…’ The Word of God which reveals the glory of Jesus Christ stands alone, for the Lord is exalted over all nations, his glory above the heavens. Who is like the Lord our God, the One who sits enthroned on high, who stoops down to look on the heavens and the earth (Psalm 113:4-6, NIV)?

The Bible drives this point over and over again throughout the entirety of Scripture. There is no one and no thing like our God. The holy Word of God stands alone when it comes to true, deep heart change (ref. Jeremiah 10:6; 1 Samuel 2:2; Deuteronomy 33:26, 3:24, NIV).

Ezekiel 36:25-27 says that it is the Lord who will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; He will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. He will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; He will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And He will put His Spirit in you and move you to follow His decrees and be careful to keep His laws.

So often we feel it necessary to add to Scripture the remedies and euphoria of mountain top experiences, exciting encounters, and spiritual highs. Experiencing God and encountering his glory are good things, however they are not what actually change our hearts.

2 Corinthians chapter three reminds us that it is only when we turn to the Lord that the veil over our hearts and minds is removed and we are able to, with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory; being transformed into his image with an ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit (2 Corinthians 3:12-18, NIV).

It is the glory of Jesus Christ which stands above all else that saves us, changes us, sanctifies us, and refines us. No experience can add to or subtract from the God of the Scriptures.

So whether it is a trip to Australia or to your living room; whether it is 70 hours per week or half an hour a day…the Word of our God on high is what reveals the glory of Jesus Christ, reaches into our muck and mire, removes from us our heart of stone and gives us a heart of flesh that is sensitive to the Holy Spirit and daily refines us into the image of Christ.

the instagram bible.

I first stumbled across this concept of ‘the Instagram bible’ as I read through some of Jen Wilkin’s writings not too long ago.

In her October 2, 2016 article, Jen Wilkin explains that what is often presented as gospel truth according to Instagram ‘comforts but rarely convicts; emotes but rarely exhorts; warms but rarely warns; promises but rarely prompts; moves but does not mortify; builds self-assurance but balks at self-examination; chooses brevity over breadth, inspiration over intellect, and devotion over doctrine.’

This is dangerous and Jen Wilkin persistently warns us against the pomp of ‘relatability’ and encourages us to be devoted followers of Christ and students of the Bible who daily affirm and submit to the supremacy and entirety of God’s Word, which means even the parts that don’t leave us feeling all warm and fuzzy inside.

As he encourages his audience to check out this new Bible study, Windahl excitedly describes his Bible study as being ‘super instagramable, because hello…its 2018 and things need to look good.’

I understand the need to market to one’s audience, but it is concerning that this component of his Bible study is held in higher regard than the actual, life-giving truth of Scripture. While I have not actually utilized this resource on my own, the fact that it’s ‘instagramability’ finds a place in the promotional videos before there’s anything mentioned of God, Jesus Christ, and the true life-changing reality of Christ crucified and raised to life raises several red flags.

Where does our worship and devotion lie?

What do we consider as having upmost importance?

What is it that attracts our attention and devotion?

I fear a resource that is described as being ‘super instagramable’ might fall severely short of helping its readers understand the fullness of God’s Word.

I so often see this in young adult groups, ministries, and Bible studies and have caught myself several times pondering the external factors that are likely to draw an audience rather than the deep, foundational  truths of God’s Word on which we base our relationships, our discipleship, our gatherings, and our worship; the foundational truths that bring about deep change.

There is nothing wrong with posting an encouraging Instagram post with a verse or a passage. There is nothing wrong with double-tapping that image with Jeremiah 29:11 on it.

But, brothers and sisters, let’s not neglect the very breath of God for that which temporarily satisfies our self-bent desires for approval and affirmation. Let’s be men and women who know what we believe, why we believe it, grounded in the very Word of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

As followers of Christ and students of Scripture, we must daily return to and submit to the entirety and supremacy of God’s Word.

The Supremacy of God’s Word – Part I

I’ve seen a number of promotions on Facebook lately for a new Bible study by Zach Windahl. This study caught my attention because a) I’m a book hoarder; and b) I love seeing new Bible studies and resources come out that help people deepen their faith and strengthen their pursuit of the Lord.

However, as I considered this new addition to my personal library and watched a couple promo videos for this product, there were a few things that seemed fundamentally out of place.

I have not actually utilized this Bible study yet, therefore my opinion of it is solely based on how it was marketed to it’s audience. However, there were some overarching themes that stood out to me which I’ve noticed more and more frequently, primarily among young adult groups.

presumed authority.

As he describes his new Bible study, Windahl explains that it is “a one-year Bible Study that focuses on how each book relates to your life.”

With a primary focus of revealing how the Bible relates to our lives – 21st century American millennials – I fear this study might fall severely short of the purpose for which the Bible was originally intended, which is to reveal the glory of Jesus Christ crucified, buried, and raised to life by the infinite wisdom and loving power of God Almighty.

It is the human nature to be self-consumed and self-aware, even as we read the Bible.  We presume upon an authority that does not belong to us; that is, we believe that we have the right and the ability to alter, change, or redefine something, in this case, the Word of God, to fit our preferences.

If we approach the infallible Word of God in this manner, it is near unavoidable that our self-bent nature will attempt to alter, change, and/or redefine the truths of Scripture to justify our cause rather than convict and to only encourage rather than challenge.

Ben Schapiro discerningly points out during a political debate that “facts are often being trumped by what we wish were facts in order to push certain [political] agendas.” 

Though this point was made to address a political debate, I think it is relatable to all facets of life, including faith and Christianity. We presume upon the Word of God, disregarding truths that make us uncomfortable and believing that in order for the Bible to be considered valid, it must first and foremost relate to us…today…in 21st century America…as if that were its primary objective.

It is important that we approach the Bible in an appropriate manner and handle it responsibly. The Word of God is not something that shifts and changes over time. Rather, it remains timeless; enduring forever despite the ever-changing, ever-elusive nature of society (ref. Numbers 23:19; Hebrews 13:8; James 1:17, NIV).

“The Bible, from beginning to end, is a shameless and glorious declaration of the nature and character of God before it says anything about who we are.”  – Jen Wilkin

I have nothing against resources and supplemental guides that help us study the Bible. While the Bible is first and foremost a book about God, it is also a book that reveals God’s love for us. Therefore it is important to see how such a love relates to and changes us. However, when our desire for personal revelation and ‘relatability’ trumps our desire to know the God of our fathers, we have just identified the Bible as a means to our own self-awareness.

fear of discomfort.

As he continues promoting his new resource, Windahl addresses the issue of how difficult the Bible is to read, especially for younger generations.

“A lot of people struggle reading the Bible,” Windahl says, “because let’s be honest, it can be tough reading such a big book; especially if you don’t know how to make it personal.”

Yes! To be quite honest, I can relate to this and say that I struggle reading the Bible for these exact reasons. It’s tough; it’s a big book; what’s up with Leviticus; and seriously, is KJV even English?

However, it is the struggle that often yields the greatest reward.

Something that I believe this generation has lost is the ability to sit in the struggle; to dwell in the uncertainty; to be at peace in the questioning. Simply put, we hate not knowing.

But it’s the moments of struggle; the seasons of uncertainty; and the times where we seem to have so many questions that ultimately yield the strongest resolve; the deepest trust; and the most profound answers when it comes to faith in Jesus Christ.

And so it should be when reading the Bible.

Yes – you might read through the book of Deuteronomy for the first time and wonder what on earth it has to do with anything, but if we truly believe that ‘all Scripture is God-breathed and useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness…’ (2 Timothy 3:16, NIV), then we know that even the laws of Deuteronomy, the genealogies of Leviticus, the judgment of Judges, the beauty of Genesis, and the astounding love of the Gospels all speak to the glory of Jesus Christ and are profitable for our growth, refinement, and sanctification.

Yet, we run from this. We set aside the incredible opportunity to grow from the struggle and discomfort for the immediate yet temporary remedy of quick answers and supplemental materials.

Now please, don’t hear me wrong…Bible studies are not a bad thing. In fact, they are incredibly good and certainly beneficial.

They are not, however, foundational.

We lose a sense of the raw, ‘brick and mortar,’ foundational truths of the Bible when we lather them with topical studies and additional resources before first allowing ourselves to get lost and confused in His Word, which will eventually allow us to experience the grace of revelation by the Holy Spirit as His Word comes to life (ref. Hebrews 4:12; Isaiah 40:8; Psalm 119:130; Proverbs 3:2, NIV).

As followers of Christ and students of Scripture, we must daily return to the Supremacy of God’s Word.

*               *               *

The Supremacy of God’s Word -Part II, Coming Monday, November 12.

In Part II of this two-part series on the Supremacy of God’s Word, I will be addressing the issue of having a mindset of ‘The Bible and…’; a mindset that believes that the Bible can only change your life if it is coupled with other experiences and encounters. Additionally, I’ll be addressing the rising tendency towards The Instagram Bible; believing that the Bible only consists of passages that are ‘instagramable.’

All Things New – Part III

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 three, October 6

James 1:5 says that ‘if any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.’

This is an amazing verse, but one that is quite often misinterpreted. We read James 1:5 and convince ourselves that all we must do is ask, and God will deliver. Rarely does it actually happen this way though, and not due to a lack on God’s part, but because we’re asking the wrong question.

As human beings, we are notorious for asking the wrong question. We want to know exactly what to do; how to do it, and when. Because of this, we start to believe that this is how we must discern God’s will for our lives and follow it. However, asking God to tell us what to do, how to do it, and when is not wisdom as James 1:5 describes it.

Wisdom is an internal mechanism to make decisions. Knowledge is just facts.

So often when we kneel to pray and ask God for wisdom about any decision we may be facing, rather than asking for the humble discernment we need to make a wise decision with the information we have, we ask God to tell us what only God knows – facts, details, and outcomes of the future.

With this kind of approach, we mistreat, misuse, and abuse the Word of God by viewing it as more of a ‘how to’ manual for our lives rather than the glorious, shameless, infallible declaration of the glory and majesty of God Almighty. We miss the real purpose and process of sanctification and start believing that the decisions in life – where to live, who to marry, where to work, etc. – are the main focus.

We convince ourselves that ‘if only we could make better decisions, then we’ll be better people’ right?

I’ll admit it, I’ve spent years believing this and striving for this. If I could just train myself to make better decisions, then I would become that gentle and quiet, godly, wise woman described in Proverbs 31.

What does this actually do though? Eventually, with this kind of approach to discovering God’s will, my success, my obedience, my faithfulness, my righteousness, my everything —it is all left up to me. I don’t know about you, but I don’t think that’s good news…at all!

Because failure is in our nature, we become a nervous wreck when trying to discern God’s will because if it is in fact left up to our own decision making whether we stay within God’s will or not, we know that we’ll eventually fall to the wayside.

So rather than asking God and trying to discern what to do, where to go, and when, perhaps there’s a better question that we could be asking.

Rather than inquiring of God to show us what to do, let’s be men and women who daily seek to discover who He wants us to be, because…

God is always more concerned with the decision-maker than He is with the decision itself.   -Jen Wilkin

And when you start asking this question, I promise that you will be pleasantly surprised to find that it is quite clear what the will of God is.

It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable…for God did not call us to be impure but to live a holy life (1 Thessalonians 4:3-7).

God’s will for our lives is to be holy, because He is holy’ (Leviticus 11:44-45, 19:1-2, 20:26, 1 Peter 1:15-16).

Haven’t we already been made holy though? Doesn’t it say in Hebrews 10:10 that ‘we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all’?

This is true, as we have been given positional holiness in and through Jesus – we have been delivered from the penalty of sin and granted righteousness before God by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21).

However, we are directed to pursue practical holiness in a life of faith, trust, and righteousness before God; working out our salvation with fear and trembling, trusting that it is God who works in us to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose (Philippians 2:12).

When Jesus instructed us to ‘ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you,’ he was not talking about the daily decisions that we face throughout our lifetime.

Rather, God was saying that the answer will be given; the secret will be found; and the door will be opened to the one asking, seeking, and pursuing holiness. What good is the ‘right decision’ if I’m still the ‘wrong person?’

As believers, we have the power to choose rightly; the wisdom to credit God with those right decisions; and wonderful grace for when we get it wrong.

The will of God for our lives is to be holy, because He is holy, and we have been given the power, wisdom, and grace to do just that through Jesus Christ. Through the amazing grace of Jesus Christ, we have been justified through faith and reconciled to God. We have been granted new names and a new purpose for which we are to live. And finally, we have been set on a new path; on the path of God’s will which is to be holy, because He is holy.

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…