Monday, March 26, 2007

The Holy Name of the Lord

The Bible shows us that God is in an "other" category. He is unique, with no predecessor or follower or rival (Isaiah 43:10). His thoughts are infinitely above ours. Thus, we should not be surprised that His priorities differ radically from ours as well.

We see an example of this as we reflect upon the Lord's Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13) .We find that immediately after calling upon God as Father, the first request concerns the Name of God: "hallowed be your name" (Matthew 6:9 ESV). This is a solid reminder that in light of our day-to-day needs, many of which are real and some are imagined, the asking of God for those needs is not His first priority. The reverencing of the name of God, rather than our need, is understood as primary. Like His glory, God's Name, in Christ, is above all other names (Philippians 2:9). Like His glory, God must logically promote the honoring of His Name above all other things since nothing is greater.

An interesting term for prayer can be found early on in the text of the Bible. In Genesis 4:26, we find prayer being described in relational terms as the time when "men began to call upon the name of the LORD." In the Proverbs, God's Name is likened to a strong tower to which we may flee for refuge (Proverbs 18:10). In the Psalms, there are around 110 references in which all but a handful refer to the Name of the Lord. This brief section from Psalm 86 demonstrates this so clearly:

There is none like you among the gods, O Lord,
nor are there any works like yours.
All the nations you have made shall come and worship before you, O Lord,
and shall glorify your name.
For you are great and do wondrous things;
you alone are God.
Teach me your way, O LORD, that I may walk in your truth;
unite my heart to fear your name.
I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart,
and I will glorify your name forever.

Understanding the Lord's priority in having His Name reverenced and regarded as holy may give us a new perspective on how our culture mistreats the Name of the Lord God. Unfortunately, there is much in our culture which violates God's known will. Numerous examples from the media can be presented which we know are offensive to God. Consider that we live in an age in which images which would have been considered pornographic a generation ago are now used in everyday commercials and advertising. Without diminishing that measure of a moral slide downward, I do wonder if the common misuse of God's Name and that of Christ, in swearing or even simple exclamations, offend God more than the raciest images found in television, movies and magazines of today. Even in television programs that could be considered family viewing, how many times does the even mindless uttering of "Oh my God" cross the lips of so many.

As you read through this entry, reflect on what it means to call upon the Name of the Lord and to honor His Name as holy. It may be a topic to which we've given little thought. To the Lord God, it is a vastly and infinitely important priority. It must be ours as well.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Following a Pattern of Prayer from the past

On Monday, our church began a monthly time of prayer for revival in the United States. We took our cue for this from a call to prayer issued by British minister John Sutcliff in 1784. (There is a link to a text of this prayer call which can be found on the sidebar of this blog or here). It was Sutcliff's desire for churches in the United Kingdom to pray for revival and not only within their own churches (denominations) but within other Christian churches as well.

We will be meeting on the second Monday of the month at 7:30pm Eastern time for the purpose of such prayer. Please pray that God will honor this time of prayer and stir the hearts and minds of His people to pray that they can pray.

(The photo is old Walpole Chapel in England. It was in use during the 1780s)

Thursday, March 1, 2007

Prayers To the Dead?

Ideas have implications. That is particularly noticeable in the realm of theology. While this might seem theoretical to most of us, we continue to live with the implications of ideas in our day-to-day lives. One example can be found in the media attention currently being given to "The Lost Tomb of Jesus." On Sunday, the Discovery Channel will air a program that will make the claim that Jesus' ossuary (a burial bone box) and that of other members of His family has been found in an archaelogical site in suburban Jerusalem.

Think of the implications if this happened to be true. If this were true, it means that Christ's bodily resurrection, attested to so strongly in the Gospels, would have never happened. The remains of His dead body would have been in a burial site in Jerusalem for over the last 1900 or more years. It would mean that somehow the well-attested historical accounts in the New Testament would have never happened. How, also, could the rise of Christianity be explained? If Jesus died and stayed dead, what could possibly have motivated His followers to travel great distances and often give their lives to spread the testimony of the death and resurrection of Christ, the very core of the Christian faith (see 1 Corinthians 15:1-4).

Also, if Christ had died and stayed dead, Christians over the centuries have been offering prayers to the dead man by praying to Jesus. Yet, we know better as we read in the book of Hebrews:

He is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them. (Hebrews 7:25 ESV) (Emphasis added)

Our prayers to Christ do not fall on deaf or even dead ears. Christ's bones are not in Jerusalem. They haven't been since the first century. Rather, the bones of Christ are still attached to Him because He is alive and is currently in heaven, at the right hand of God the Father, in resurrected glory. (see Hebrews 1:1-3)

This latest attempt to blaspheme Christ and destroy the core of the Christian faith will collapse as all other attempts before this have collapsed. History stands against it. Logic stands against it. Most importantly, the living Christ stands against it.

If you want some well thought out responses to the "Lost Tomb", I suggest the website site of Dr. James White at Alpha Omega Ministry under "Tomb Issues." I also recommend reading the blog of New Testament scholar Ben Witherington III found at (I think highly of his teaching and writings. I was fortunate enough to have Ben Witherington as my New Testament Gospels professor when I was in seminary back in the 1990s and thus have followed his further career with interest).

Christian, take heart. A mere assertion that Christ's bones were found in Jerusalem in 1980 is not true merely because the assertion was made. Once these old claims are re-examined in the light of known reliable history, they will become a mere footnote in the history of failed attempts to discredit the Gospel.

(The picture included here is that of an ossuary found at the same site as that of the alleged Jesus ossuary)