|“And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up, and saw him, and said unto him, Zacchaeus, make haste, and come down; for to day I must abide at thy house.” Luke 19:5|
Many of us are bad at remembering names, yet one of the greatest things we can do for someone is properly acknowledge his or her name, especially within the first few times meeting them. Whether famous or obscure, it builds ties with people when we remember and use their names. It makes people feel good, recognized and loved when others know who they are and call them by name.
Think how Zacchaeus must have felt. He knew Jesus’ name and had heard of Him, but they had never met and he never would have thought that Jesus would know who he was. Yet, how amazed and shocked he must have felt when Jesus stopped right under the tree he was perched in, looked up, and called him personally by name. It’s almost surprising that he didn’t fall out of the tree right then and there.
Consider how Saul must have felt, when he was stopped on the road to Damascus by a blinding light and heard a voice calling his name. Notice the first thing that Saul says to the voice – “Who are you Lord?” He rightly assumed that this voice was God’s, but he certainly wasn’t expecting this voice to be that of Jesus of Nazareth, whose followers he was pursuing and persecuting. The Bible records Saul’s response to this revelation by Jesus as trembling and astonished (literally stupefied or astounded). Everything that Saul was doing, working and fighting for was completely wrong and contrary to God, even though he was utterly convinced that he was in the right. You can almost imagine over the next few days as he blindly waited, how often he kept repeating to himself, “Jesus. Jesus is really God’s Son. I can’t believe that I have been fighting against God’s Son.”
How wonderful that God knows our names. Have you ever noticed how often Jesus called people by their names in the Gospels: Martha, Martha … Go and tell John … Blessed are you, Simon Barjonah … Lazarus, come forth! Even more wonderful a thought is that God not only knows our name, but He knows every part of us intimately. He knows more about us than we know about ourselves. That’s why His love is so intimate, personal, perfect and wonderful, because in spite of knowing our imperfection and sin, He still loves us.
God knows your name; it’s written on His heart, and He loves you. Take the time today to be still and quiet and talk to Him in prayer. Call Him by His names – Yahweh, Jehovah, Father, Creator, Jesus, Lord, King – and listen for Him calling your name. God is calling you by name to fellowship, communion and a personal, intimate relationship. Listen for Him calling your name, then make haste and answer Him, for today He wants to abide in your heart.
|Copyright © 2021, Mark Varga, All rights reserved.|
|“And it came to pass, as her soul was in departing (for she died) that she called his name Benoni: but his father called him Benjamin.” Genesis 35:18|
Many children are being saddled with strange names nowadays, such as the boy whose sports-minded parents named him Espn. Or the boy whose famous parents named him X Æ A-Xii. It seems like parents are in a contest of finding the strangest name for their child to out-do one another. In colonial times, parents sometimes opened the Bible at random and selected the first word they saw, which led one child to be named Notwithstanding Griswold.
There are some strange names in the Old Testament, too. Most of the time, names had a special meaning, either indicating something special that happened or describing a characteristic of the person or a hope or prayer for the child. In Genesis 35, as Rachel struggled in childbirth, she named her son Ben-Oni, which means “Son of My Sorrow.” Imagine having a name that would constantly remind you that your birth had caused your mother’s death! Graciously, the boy’s father, Jacob, discarded that name and called him Benjamin, which means “Son of My Right Hand” – a designation of honour in the home.
Often we struggle and suffer in life. Times of trouble can leave us bitter and feeling defeated, and we can go through life with negative emotions. But we shouldn’t let those situations define the outcome or our character. Too often, we let external events and experiences shape our thinking, personality and character, instead of allowing God to use our mind, personality and character to shape how we experience those external events. We need to remember and put an effort forth to trust the Lord to bring honour out of suffering and triumph out of tears. That’s when we walk by faith and by faith see things in a different light. Jacob had that perspective. Instead of letting the sorrow of the moment (his wife’s death) shape his view towards his son and life in general, he focused on the hope of the Lord in giving him a young son to be at his right hand and to carry on her legacy and life. Faith always sees things differently.
And faith in God’s promises is a winning strategy – it was the tribe of Benjamin that later produced Israel’s first king and the great apostle Paul. Do you know what your name means? Does it refer to something special that happened in your parents’ life? Does it describe one of your characteristics or personality? Is it a hope or prayer for you by your parents? Were you named after a special person or Biblical character? Has your perception of your name (dull, common, embarrassing, important, meaningful, unique) shaped who you are and how you view life? Do you have a nickname that has influenced you and your attitude toward life? Most importantly, have you received a new, special and royal name – one named after the Saviour Jesus Christ? Are you called “Christian”? If so, what does that convey to you and to those around you? Has it shaped your thinking, behaviour, actions and attitudes? It should have and it better be. You carry a most important name – follower of Christ or Christ-one. Consider that today and strive to live accordingly.
|Copyright © 2021, Mark Varga, All rights reserved.|
|“And this is love, that we walk after his commandments.” 2 John 1:8|
Bible teacher Donald Grey Barnhouse told the story of a young son of a missionary couple in Zaire who was playing in the yard when suddenly he heard his father’s voice ring out, “Philip, obey me instantly! Drop to your stomach!” The boy did so immediately. “Now crawl to me as fast as you can!” The boy obeyed. “Now stand up and run to me!” Philip ran into his father’s arms. When the young boy looked back at the tree he had been playing near, he saw a large deadly snake hanging from one of the branches. His instant obedience had saved his life.
You can almost feel the intensity of this father’s love as he asks his son for complete trust and obedience in order to avoid impending danger. It is no different with God. He sees what we cannot; He knows what the end result is of the direction we are headed; and when our life is headed for peril, heartache or trouble, He cries out to us with the intense love of a Father trying to save His child’s life. And He longs for and expects His children to obey Him. Obedience is of utmost importance to Him. “Hath the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry” (1 Sam. 15:22-23).
Time and time again, obedience and love are linked together. The Father loves us and asks us to obey Him. And if we trust God, we will love and obey Him. Jesus Christ was the perfect example of this in His obedience to the Father and also commanded us to do likewise. “If ye love me, keep my commandments … If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him. He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings” (John 14:15,23-24). Our love for Jesus is evident in the level of our trust and obedience to the Holy Spirit’s direction, guidance and leading in our life.
So when you read God’s Word or hear the Spirit’s voice commanding you to obey, remember, it is the loving, caring voice of your heavenly Father who only wants the very best for you. Do we not trust that He knows everything and has the best in mind for us? Do we not believe that He knows better than we do what is good for us? Adrian Rogers once said, “To know Him is to love Him. To love Him is to trust Him. To trust Him is to obey Him. And to obey Him is to be blessed by Him.”
One of the classic hymns of faith helps us put these three concepts of love, obedience and trust together – “When we walk with the Lord in the light of His Word, What a glory He sheds on our way! While we do His good will, He abides with us still, And with all who will trust and obey. Trust and obey, for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey. But we never can prove the delights of His love, Until all on the altar we lay; For the favor He shows, for the joy He bestows, Are for them who will trust and obey. Then in fellowship sweet we will sit at His feet, Or we’ll walk by His side in the way; What He says we will do, where He sends we will go; Never fear, only trust and obey.” How do you fare in the areas of love, trust and obedience to the Father?
|Copyright © 2021, Mark Varga, All rights reserved. – Copied by permission|
|“And as Jesus passed forth from thence, he saw a man, named Matthew, sitting at the receipt of custom: and he saith unto him, Follow me. And he arose and followed him.” Matthew 9:9|
Matthew was an unlikely convert. As a covetous tax collector, he betrayed Jewish ideals by working for the Romans, and he defrauded his countrymen by overcharging them on their taxes. He was undoubtedly hardened and cynical in his dealings with everyone. But Jesus changed him.
Jesus specializes in unlikely converts. Look at His followers throughout the New Testament – fishermen like Peter, tax collectors like Matthew and Zacchaeus, Pharisees like Nicodemus, members of the Sanhedrin like Joseph of Arimathea, Roman centurions like Cornelius, religious zealots like Saul/Paul, prostitutes, demon-possessed, outcasts of society, handicapped, and even runaway slaves like Onesimus. Jesus specializes in unlikely converts, so we should never give up on those He places on our hearts. He loves to draw and bring people to Himself whom we’d never expect.
When Robert Moffat arrived in South Africa, he heard horrifying stories about a notorious outlaw named Jager Afrikaner. Hearing a rumour that Afrikaner was interested in Christ, Moffat determined to contact him, even though authorities warned Moffat that the outlaw would “make a drinking cup out of your skull.” But the power of Jesus Christ transformed Afrikaner’s heart, and the news of his conversion opened doors for Moffat throughout South Africa and paved the way for the Gospel.
Don’t give up, discount or neglect the hard cases, the ones who don’t fit the mold, those who everyone assumes are too far gone or the ones who seem dead set against the gospel and Christianity. God has a special affinity for these types of converts – He specializes in them. The apostle Paul said it this way, “For ye see your calling brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: but God hath chosen the foolish (Gr: dull, stupid, blockhead) things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak (Gr: strengthless – literally & morally, feeble, impotent) things of the world to confound the things that are mighty; and base (Gr: without family, worthless, not honourable) things of the world, and things which are despised (Gr: despicable, vile, deserving scorn), hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are” (1 Cor. 1:26-28).
Do you know any unlikely converts? Were you one? Has God laid one on your heart? Don’t ever give up, just keep praying and trust in the power of the cross and Jesus’ blood to draw all men unto Himself (John 12:32). George Muller, the English Evangelist and head of the Ashley Downs orphanages, was well-known for his prayer life. Referring to those unlikely converts, he said, “I hope in God, I pray on, and look yet for the answer: They are not converted yet, but they will be.” Do we have that same faith? Do we have that same desire and concern for unlikely converts that we keep fervently praying for their salvation? Even though we may have given up hope for them, God may not be finished working on their hearts.
|Copyright © 2021, Mark Varga, All rights reserved. – Copied with permission|