Thursday, May 28, 2015

Last Night: Protected Together

We don't put much stock in the meaning behind names these days.

When we chose a name for our son, we looked through books full of names, like most modern American parents do. Those books list the meaning of the name - my name, Timothy, means "worshiper of God." But while we take note of the meaning, it's not the most important reason most parents choose a name.

We pick the name that rolls of the tongue best when combined with the last night.

We consider the nicknames the other kids in school will come up with.

We often choose a name because it's popular, perhaps because of a celebrity or a character in a TV show.

We chose Cody as our son's name because we liked western-sounding cowboy names. That was it. We noticed it's an Irish name, meaning "helpful," but that was irrelevant to us. We just liked the sound of Cody.

Our son has made the name Cody mean something, carry some weight, because of who he has become and the things he does in his name.

Simon was given his name by his parents, and he made that name become known as a fisherman. Jesus then renamed him Peter, meaning "the rock," because Peter's actions and his confession called for a new name to represent the rock solid identity he was assuming.

Of most importance in the Bible is the name of God, which Jesus brings to the forefront in His final conversations with the disciples on the last night. And He includes the importance of the name of God in His last prayer.

I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one.  While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me. None has been lost except the one doomed to destruction so that Scripture would be fulfilled. (John 17:11-12)
Several years ago I did something really stupid at work, a poorly chosen moment of self-expression which didn't set well with the top administrators. I kept my job, but only because my boss spoke up for me and protected me. She had a clout of clout in the organization, so they kept me around as a favor to her.

She protected me by the power of her name.

The name of God has even more power.

When we pray in His name, we summon all of His power behind the request. When speak out in His name, our words carry His authority. When we pursue His mission in His name, His power goes before us to accomplish the tadk.

Whatever we do in His name, we don't do it alone.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Last Night: Glorify

We will glorify the King of kings We will glorify the Lamb We will glorify the Lord of lords Who is the great I am 
Those lyrics, from Twila Paris' We Will Glorfiy, are typical of many contemporary worship songs centered on glorifying the Lord.

It's certainly true that God enjoys the songs His people sing to glorify Him. Psalm 22:3 literally says He dwells within the praises of His people.

When Jesus talked about glorifying God, though, He spoke of something beyond singing songs.
After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed: “Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you.  For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him.  Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.  I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do.  And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.  John 17:1-5
Jesus talks about two aspects of glorifying:

First, Jesus glorified the Father by finishing the work God gave Him to do. He was sent to live a life in such a way as to show the world how God intended humans to live, glorifying God in every action, every word, through pursuing His purposes through to the end.

Second, Jesus says God is about to glorify Him.

This is not going to happen by a simple statement like He's previously done: "This is my Son, in whom I am well pleased."

The Father is about to glorify the Son by offering Him up to die, after which He will raise Him from the dead.

If I want to glorify God with more than the songs of praise I sing, I need to be willing to live my life in a way that glorifies Him in every moment. And I need to be willing to lose my life, to take up my cross daily.

Many Christians get a thrill from joining with the worship band and the crowd of voices, singing praises on Sunday morning. But too many worshipers leave the worship hall to go on about the lives they've chosen for themselves.

Are you committed to a moment-by-moment, day-by-day life that glorifies Him? Are you willing to lose your self - and your life - for Him?

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Last Night: Grief to Joy

My mother's funeral included a musical presentation few expected: her son sang at his own mother's funeral.

When people found out I was planning to sing, several asked me if I was sure I wanted to do that. Won't that be hard? We could get someone else to sing the songs you want.

A co-worker I've known for over 30 years was at the funeral. She's a nominal Catholic and I noticed she had a look of amazement on her face while my wife I were up front singing. A few days later, at work, she stopped by my office and told me how much she appreciated our singing.

"I don't know how you did that without losing it in the middle of singing," she said, "but I could tell you really believe what you were singing." We sang Amazing Grace/My Chains Are Gone, I Can Only Imagine, and Trading My Sorrows.

The answer to everyone's questions is simple: In the midst of my grief I was feeling the greatest joy possible. My mother, who had suffered in pain for decades, was no longer confined to the wheelchair that had been her prison for years. She had trading her sorrows and pain and shame for glory and grace. While I played my guitar and sang, I imagined her in heaven's grand ballroom, dancing the jitterbug with my dad.

Such joy in times of grief is only possible because Jesus caused His disciples temporary grief while he turned himself over to be crucified.

Jesus saw that they wanted to ask him about this, so he said to them, “Are you asking one another what I meant when I said, ‘In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me’?  Very truly I tell you, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy.  A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world.  So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy. (John 16:19-22)