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My Every Need

"And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus."  Philippians 4:19

“Dear Lord, before I even put my feet on the floor this morning I want to thank you for meeting all my needs today. I know not all my “wants” may be met but each time I am able to eat a meal, rest easy in my home, drive safely on my errands, pay my bills, find peace in my mind and joy in my heart I thank you and lift you up in glory for the love you have for me.  Amen”

My BSGs recently studied the intricacies of the trinity. Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  It was great getting to know and understand to the best of our human abilities how each of the three interact with each other and with creation.  The foundation of the study was that God is love.  He didn’t need to make us humans because He was already complete within the trinity.  They love each other and are fulfilled by each other.  And glorify each other.  So creating “us” became a pure act of love.  

“It would be wrong to think of ourselves as God’s primary focal point and purpose; that is not the message of Scripture.”  says Christian teacher, Tara-Leigh Cobble.  “He created us and invited us into pre-existing joy.”

Pre-existing joy?  Think about it.  Throughout the gospels Jesus talks about how God loved Him before and how they glorify each other.  They had love and joy and everything they needed before “us.”

“Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world." John 17:24

So given this truth, how much more amazing is it that God cares about us?  About your bills.  About my aches and pains.  About our fears and worries.  There are those who believe that God created the world and then left us alone (deists).  But every single day He answers prayers.  For me, that good night sleep was an answered prayer.  The fact that my husband still has a job and can provide for us is an answered prayer.  That my oldest daughter has yet another day to decide to turn to Him and that my younger daughter already has are answered prayers.  That I have food to eat and a strong body to serve others.  For just having another day to glorify Him before my time is up.

He loves me.  He loves you.  He is providing for us.  So each morning let us lift up our eyes and present ourselves to Him as His servants.  Ready to glorify Him, ready to acknowledge His holy presence in our lives.

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From Why? to What?

Lessons from Cherith

He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? Luke 24:38

During the time in my own land of Cherith, a place where I was separated from my home, my regular way of life and exposed to great sadness, I so needed to rely on the vast promises of God.  Yet each day I battled the “why” of it all.  Why didn’t the cancer doctors see and recognize the increased cancer markers in my beloved mother-in-law’s blood tests?  Why did each visit to the emergency room end without answers?  But more importantly, why would this woman, a shining light for God, an inspiring gift to everyone around her, a woman, as her pastor reflected at her funeral with a beautiful aura surrounding her, be stricken with cancer and taken so soon? Why God, oh why?

How often have we lamented that why question in our lives?  Why are we suffering financially?  Why is my child rebelling?  Why is my marriage on the rocks?  Why did I suffer that abuse?  It seems as Christians we are expected to answer those questions.  I believe many of us avoid speaking the Gospel to our friends, family and neighbors out of fear of being asked those why’s of life.  In fact, as a young college student who was approached one day on my campus by two religious folks, I too asked the big why – why is there suffering?  You see I believed in God but didn’t really know anything about Him.  Unfortunately, neither did these two young proselytizers.

I recently heard the statement: “If we view the world as a Christian, it all makes sense.”  On the surface that’s a real head scratcher since this world seems so upside down especially now.  Broken families, broken lives, so much pain and death abound.  But take a step back, way back to Genesis 3.

To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’ “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life. 18 It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. Genesis 3:17-18

And that’s just a taste of what man’s rebellion wrought.  Creation is currently at odds with God.  And just as cells divide and life moves without our intervention, our world around us is no longer under our full dominion.  So yes, there’s floods and fire and famine and cancer.  And it has absolutely nothing to do with whether we are a good person or not.  In addition to this result of The Fall, we became separated from God, always seemingly looking for ways to buck His system.  And we face the consequences for our actions, both individually and collectively.

Afterward Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and said, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘Let my people go, so that they may hold a festival to me in the wilderness.’” Pharaoh said, “Who is the Lord, that I should obey him and let Israel go? I do not know the Lord and I will not let Israel go.”  Exodus 5:1-2

And we know how well that went for Pharoah.  But what was Moses’ first reaction after Pharoah knuckled down and made the Israelites work harder?  “Why?”  He asked God why did He have to make things worse and why did Moses have to be the brunt of everything?  From a Christian point of view, we should say, “There’s consequences in this world when anyone chooses to not submit – whether you choose to believe in God or not.”  This is not “Karma,” it’s simply a cause and effect of acting outside God’s desires for us.  

And while we may cry out, “why?!” in the moment whether in situations of our own making or of those in which we have no power, we need to remember the “what.”  What is God doing in me or even in the world?  What is God expecting of me as a believer? What is the promise I can hold on to?  The early Israelites had a decent excuse.  They didn’t know God as well as we do now.  They didn’t have all the stories of how He has rescued and protected His people.  They didn’t have Jesus’ brother James telling them there will be trials and in them they need to seek the lessons of God.  They didn’t have Jesus come to earth and die for their sins.  They didn’t have the Book of Revelation.  But we do.

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

So, each day as I sat beside Bev’s bed as her body succumbed not to cancer but to an infection, I battled the “why” demon. I wanted someone punished.  I wanted someone to suffer like I was now suffering.  Then I heard a whisper, “She gets to come home to me.  And you need to see what I am teaching you.”

You see even in her suffering, on her death bed, this Christian called Bev was a conduit for Jesus.  A teacher and a comforter.  I finally realized it didn’t matter the “why.”  For one, there really were no answers that fully satisfied.  At times like that we just need to submit to God’s sovereignty and say, “I don’t know but He does.”  The only real answers that I continued to come back to were the “what.”

What did I truly believe about God?  And what was He trying to teach me?

Christian Friend, if you earnestly believe the Bible, believe that God is the Creator of the Heavens and the Earth and all it’s inhabitants, if you believe He is sovereign and He sent His Son to die for our sins, if you believe that there is a place greater than Eden awaiting us then you could understand why Bev wasn’t worried.  Why she could make us all laugh at her darkest hour.  Why, in the middle of a conversation she looked over my shoulder, waved and with a child-like voice exclaimed in joy, “Hi Jesus!”

My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? John 14:2

You see I didn’t need to know the answers to my worldly questions and I definitely didn’t need retribution.  I needed to remember that Jesus hates death because it’s a sign of our broken world.  And He is right now preparing a room more beautiful than I can imagine for even me.  When He comes back we will all be raised up to live forever in a beautiful place that has no suffering, no death, no pain, no war, no hate, no fear.  And that is just what I needed to learn.

Are you asking “why” in your difficult time when you should be asking “what?”

What is the Lord teaching or asking you right now?  

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New Beginnings

Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. Genesis 1:2

Before Christmas I was listening to an episode of White Horse Inn, a podcast by reformed theologians and pastors.  The episode, titled O’ Holy Night, focused on the beauty and glory of what happened that first Christmas night.  They started by explaining how Mary was, in effect, barren, empty.  God used her barrenness like He did the universe to create something new, something out of nothing.  It was the reason a virgin was selected to show how God is the great Creator.  

“How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”  The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.  Luke 1:34-35

Each time I hear or read of a connection that weaves through the Bible from the beginning to the middle and to the end I find myself having an “ah, ha moment.”  Barring heading off to theology school and learning about all these connections in a short time span,  I hope to keep hearing about the Grand Story and all its connectedness throughout my days.  It’s like coming upon a complete sand dollar at the beach or a beautiful, out of place flower in an otherwise barren landscape.  You, at first can’t believe your eyes; then you stoop down to look closer.  And then you pop up looking around to tell someone – because it might not be true unless you can verify it.   You want to share the moment, the beauty, the awesomeness of it all.  Meanwhile others pass by seemingly uninterested or unseeing.

About a month ago I had the opportunity to attend a weekend workshop by Nancy Guthrie on biblical theology.  For those unfamiliar with the term, it’s taking a theme found in the Bible and tracing its path from Creation to Consummation (typically Revelation).  It helps us to see the Grand Story of God and all the tiny threads that create one massive character profile of our Creator.  And how all stories lead us to Jesus.

I decided for this next series to take up the challenge Mrs. Guthrie gave us that weekend.  To start looking at chapters in this thousands-year old story as one through various themes.  And who could resist starting the new year with the theme of New Beginnings?  

We live out our own lives through a long series of new beginnings.  From the creation of our very being to our entry into society and from there taking on new challenges whether school or jobs, a marriage or even a marriage to the church we look toward tomorrow for that new step.  

If we are blessed to live a long life, we will find ourselves with new beginnings in our families and as we reach retirement.  And for some, new beginnings may be what it takes to remove ourselves from addiction, abusive relationships, broken marriages, and even criminal behavior.

In the next few months, we will walk through a number of new beginnings found in the Bible.  Beginnings, like Noah that needed just one small family to see the entire Earth be reborn.  Beginnings like Rahab’s that started out of selfish need and God turned to good.  And beginnings like Jonah who ran as fast as he could from starting new but God, when He selects you for change won’t let go.  And quiet new beginnings like that of Onesimus who sits in the background of the letter by Paul to Philemon.

We will see how the character of God shows up each time – from beginning to middle and end.  How He keeps His promise to never leave us, to never forsake us even when we feel so alone.  And we will see how His will is always done and it is good.

"You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds;" Ephesians 4:22-23

My friend, you might be right on the cusp of a new beginning.  It might look terrifying.  It might look exciting.  You might not even realize it at all until you are in the thick of it.  Some of you are longing for a new beginning.  I can promise you this, God’s plan is at work.   He’s right there watching and guiding.  So as this new year begins let’s say a prayer to the Creator.  To help us hear and see what new things He wants of us.  And what old things He wants cast off.  He has a story to tell with you.  Let’s help Him publish it for all the world to see.

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Fiery Trials

Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 1 Peter 4:12

There’s a famous line in the movie Animal House, “Thank you, Sir!  May I have another!” which the college students must say as they receive a paddling in order to become members of the fraternity house.  This scene always comes to mind when I read about the trials and tribulations we most certainly will face as followers of Jesus.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. James 1:2-3

James especially brings this message home – not only will we endure trials but we should enjoy them!  Of all the lessons and directives in the Bible I think I find this one of the most difficult.  In my more “infant” Christian stage it could take me months or years to see the blessings from a fiery trial.  But as I have progressed in my faith journey I’m working to shorten that time span.  My goal? To be in the moment of trials asking God to show me the lesson and blessing.  And not only that, to try and be a blessing to others while things aren’t going so well for me.

The dark moments of our life will last only so long as is necessary for God to accomplish His purpose in us.  

Charles Stanley, 30 Life Principles

I  don’t know about you but I’m taking this to heart these days.  I want to accept the lesson as quickly as possible.  And while I’m not begging for trials, I know for certain they will come.  I’m so thankful He has given us opportunities to improve our hearts and minds, our relationships with other people, and with the Creator Himself.  I heard Joyce Meyer say the other day, “When we are in the midst of a trial we get thrown at God.”  And I’m thankful when we are thrown into the midst of the fire He is right there reaching for us.

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Salvation

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:23

It seems there’s a lot of talk these days about “end times.”  Since the world received the words of Christ about eternal salvation and His return, people of all centuries have determined “this is it.”  And although I do agree with Christian teacher Joyce Meyer that “we are closer to the return than we were yesterday,” we can never know when that day  will actually arrive.   We can only prepare.  

During the last year I’ve enjoyed digging deeper into what the gift of salvation really means for us and what it doesn’t.  It isn’t something we can earn but it is something we must take action on to receive.   It isn’t something we can lose but it is something we are expected to behave like we have received.  It was given in blood by Jesus yet He gives us forgiveness and grace for having to shed it.  

Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. The Lord, the Lord himself, is my strength and my defense; he has become my salvation.  Isaiah 12:2

When we recount the scene of Jesus’ crucifixion, we can easily imagine the dirt and grime and blood. The sweat and the tears.  The pain and sadness.  A perfect man, our God clothed in flesh without blemish torn apart by the sins of those past, present and future. And as God always likes to do, He suddenly flips the script.  At Jesus’ last breath the veil between earth and heaven is torn wide open.  We who actively seek out the Lord and place Him as king of our lives now have an intercessor to present our dirty souls cleansed.  Not just our hands but our hearts will be spit shined for when we meet the King.   Sparkling creations meeting the glorious Creator.  Thank you, Jesus.

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The God Spark

So God created mankind in his own image in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. Genesis 1:27

Recently, an archeological site in Jordan was determined to be the site of the ancient city of Sodom – destroyed by a meteor of fire.  That fact is now added to the 1000s upon 1000s of texts and archeological finds supporting details found within the Holy Bible.  As author Eric Metaxas explains in his new book,  Is Atheism Dead? , science, rather than moving us farther away from proving God’s existence, is actually moving us closer.

The desire by scientists to prove or disprove God does prove something else – our human desire to be connected to something greater than ourselves.  In fact you could argue there is really no such thing as atheism.  If we haven’t submitted ourselves to the one and only God and savior then we have most likely submitted our lives to something else.  In our yearning for connection some turn their job into their worship.  While for others it is nature, money, self-improvement, the mystical, and all other manner of things the Creator has created.

Where then are the gods you made for yourselves? Let them come if they can save you when you are in trouble! For you, Judah, have as many gods as you have towns. Jeremiah. 2:28

Since the beginning of time we humans have sought not just the answers to the universe but a connection to it.  I’ve heard it called the “God spark.”  Something within us that seeks Him, not always knowing who or what we seek.  It’s the work of the Holy Spirit moving in and out and around us whispering to us to look heavenward.  Far too many turn a deaf ear and instead seek the world for this connection and are never fully satisfied.

I was recently asked why I started going to church.  About 25 years ago my oldest daughter, then around 4 years old, started drawing angels.  And singing about angels and asking about angels.  We didn’t attend any church or even talk about God.  It wasn’t during Christmas season.  Her questions were so innocent and yet deeply yearning for answers.  It sparked me to start asking those same questions.  Mind you, even though I came from an atheist household, I always believed God existed.  I just didn’t know anything about Him.  But with that innocent child’s questions our family began a journey.

I am so thankful that God put some of Himself in each and every one of us so that we would have that yearning to be re-connected with Him one day.  So many of us just need to be directed to the Creator instead of His creations.

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The Great I Am

God said to Moses, “I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you.’”  Exodus 3:14

This week I’ve been reading a lot about going ahead of God.  Thinking I know the right way, the right answer, and moving forward on that path without first seeking God.  I was reminded of when I was asked to be our elementary school’s PTA president.  At the time, the elementary school was the largest in the district with over 1,000 students.  And it was about to undergo a major construction program to build more classrooms.  That meant a lot of turmoil with the way kids were dropped off at school, where classes would be held and how many of our PTA programs would take place.  I told the committee I could do the job but I didn’t think they would want my style of leadership.  I wasn’t an “insider” and didn’t have any qualms about squashing old ways of doing things.  Yet they returned to me multiple times asking me to take the job.  And I did.  

You’ll notice in this story, like we do in so many Biblical stories of failed leaders, that I haven’t mentioned consulting God.  Because I didn’t.  That is, until after I said, “yes.”  I believe it was the next day after I agreed to the job that I had my first of many conversations with the Almighty about this decision.  It went like this, “Lord, I’ve done this thing.  Please help it not be the wrong decision.”  In other words, I went ahead of Him and now wanted Him to fix my mess.

And God was with me throughout the two years of my term.  He was there when I cried myself to sleep.  He was there when I had parents screaming at me over the phone.  And He was there when people who I thought were friends turned their backs on me.  But He didn’t take away the consequences of my decision.  

Thank God that most of the time when I’ve failed to let God lead my life it hasn’t resulted in some horrible final outcome.  He has picked me up and dusted me off.  And after too many times of being on that same wheel I’ve decided to take a different path.  To trust that God is the Great I Am.  The One who has the best laid plans.  Who can make my path much more smooth if I just consult Him first.  If I release my need to be the most knowledgeable, not just about my life but other’s.   

I praise God today, on this final 30th day, for being I Am.  For being the Lord Almighty.  The God of our fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac,  and the God of Jacob.  

If you’ve ever seen the Jim Carrey movie Bruce Almighty you’ll see a man who takes this idea of control to the extreme.  He wants to be in charge of his life and no one knows better than him.  So God sort of turns over His powers to him.  And what a mess he makes of it.  At first he thinks answering prayers is so cool and then when he becomes inundated with millions of prayers he just gives everyone what they ask.  And as we know, God doesn’t give us all we ask.  He gives us what we need.  The movie is hilarious to be sure but it speaks to our innate need to be in control.  To take over the job of I Am.  

We can shake our heads at characters like Saul who stop seeking God’s direction and make every mistake possible.  But how many of us today will do the same?  How many of us yesterday forgot to place God at the top of our consultant list and instead called our friends or family for advice?  And then probably did what we originally wanted to do anyway?

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.” Isaiah 55:8

Friends, God is God and we are not, thankfully.  His thoughts and ways are so much better than ours.  If we truly believe this and accept Him as our creator, as an active participant in our lives, then we need to seek His plans for us.  Let’s all start right now by thanking Him for being the Great I Am.


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Our Elegant World

The Lord God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  Genesis 2:9

Some time ago I set about trying to change myself completely.  I told my friends I wanted to be more “sparkly.” What that meant to me was someone who, when they enter a room, people instantly want to be around.  Someone who’s laughter draws others in to their sphere.  Someone who seems so light of heart and lacking in any strife.  Someone who, I said once, practically poops out glitter.  Well shock of shocks, I realized that I’m just not ever going to be that person.  So, I decided if I’m not “sparkly” then maybe I should try to be “elegant.”  

I absolutely love Pinterest.  You can ask it how to do anything and up pops a bazillion articles on how to do it.  So, as I was scrolling through one day, I kept getting all these “Traits of an Elegant Woman” posts.  However, after a recent theology night at my church I decided “elegant” wasn’t my ballywig either.  After making some goofy jokes and embarrassing myself in front of complete strangers I realized I had failed just about every point on the “elegant woman” list.  So maybe God just wants me to be a better version of who He made me to be?  Now there’s a thought!

But in my short-lived quest of elegance, I noticed that God, Himself, has created so much elegance in our world.  The Merriam Webster dictionary defines elegance this way:

  1. Refined grace
  2. Tasteful richness of design
  3. Restrained beauty
  4. Scientific precision

Today I praise God for His elegant creations and His elegant ways.  But what do I mean by that?  In looking at that list what comes to mind are the everyday sunrises and sunsets of which He blesses our earth.  A glorious butterfly that languishes on a leaf.  A smooth and quiet breeze.  A gentle pattering of rain.

There’s so much to our world that really isn’t necessary for sustaining life.  Yet God not only made things good, He made them very good.

God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.  Genesis 1:31

God is so elegant in the big things like sunsets but also in the behind-the-scenes system of how everything works seamlessly.  Think about the entire process of our water cycle: water evaporates from the ocean, creates condensation and is stored in the atmosphere, ice and snow drop, water comes down through rivers and groundwater, and the run-off goes back into the original source.  So cool.  

This God elegance isn’t always what we might call beautiful.  Sometimes it seems terribly violent.  A wildfire rips through a forest causing destruction.  And yet that fire was also made by God.  A necessary step in another elegantly crafted eco-system. 

As inhabitants of this world, it’s so easy to not see the minutiae or even the bigger picture.  We get trapped in our small, daily lives of running errands, paying bills, raising kids, etc.  We should all take time on a regular basis to stop and admire this elegantly crafted world.  Lay on your back and contemplate the clouds.  Roll over and feel the life giving dirt beneath the grass.  Be amazed how the seed from that dandelion blows and lands to bury into the ground to create new life.  And marvel about how very, very good it all is.


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The Everlasting God

Day and night they never stop saying: “‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty,’ who was, and is, and is to come.” Revelation 4:8

I don’t know about you but as a “baby Christian” I would go entire days if not weeks without thinking about God.  Without making any decision based on what God wanted of me.  As my journey has progressed that “forgetting about God” can be counted in minutes and hours.  And with that I have seen so many changes in my life.

The verse today takes place as the end times draw near.  Creatures in heaven praising God “day and night” simply because of his everlasting holiness. As I’ve studied the Bible, I’ve seen so often how God wants a close relationship with us.  Here in this verse the creatures never forget about God.  But you’ll notice that God is also a constant.  He was and is and is to come. 

Since the 1970s, one group or another has played “chicken little” screaming from the rooftops about the world ending due to either overpopulation, nuclear war, economic collapse, global warming, etc.  At one point a politician even posted a countdown to Earth’s destruction — which ran out about 8 years ago.  And according to a current politician we have about 10 years left before the Earth implodes apparently.  

But here’s the thing, when you study the Book of Revelation it’s not the Earth or God that is destroyed, it’s sin.  God is the Alpha and Omega.  He created the beginning and will be with us throughout eternity.

Today I praise the everlasting God.  We cannot destroy God, Jesus or the Holy Spirit.  We can only, through our sin-filled, unrepentant lives destroy ourselves.  My earthly goal is to serve God as best I can with Jesus as my guidebook and the Holy Spirit as my tour guide.  That way I can join with the creatures in heaven continuously praising His name.


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He Knows My Name

I will not forget you!  See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands;  Isaiah 49:15-16

The other day my Bible study girls (or BSGs as I like to call them) were once again talking about praise versus thanksgiving.  I had already been pondering over my praise life when we started talking about how we so often thank God in our prayers for things He has fixed or doors He has opened in our lives.  But how often do we simply herald the Creator for being well, the Creator?  For being the Holy King of our lives?

As I’ve prayed these last few weeks for direction after completing the Jesus Mindset series, I kept being drawn to this topic of praise.  God speaks to us when we ask Him for direction.  And throughout the last few weeks He has placed numerous psalms and Bible verses in front of me related to praise.  So, it didn’t come as a surprise yesterday when our church’s guest pastor highlighted the following verses in the book of Luke:

"However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” Luke 10:20

And so today I praise God for remembering my name.  I praise Jesus that if you look closely at His battered hands, you can see my name tattooed there.  And if you have confessed that Christ is your Lord and Savior, that God is our Great Creator, you’ll find your name there too.  It cannot be erased.

When we remember someone’s name it also brings to mind the details about their life.

Pastor Joel Fitzpatrick

God knows exactly who we are.  What we have done.  What we will do.  And He still won’t erase our name from His hands.  There’s no other relationship we could ever turn to which offers us so much love and forgiveness.

Knowing our name doesn’t take away trials and tribulations.  Knowing our name doesn’t make our outer life easy street.  Knowing our name brings us inner “settledness.”  The knowledge that when the Book of Life is opened our names are carved there for all eternity.  When this short life is done, we will rejoice in the heavens with the angels.  And that, my friends is something worthy of praise.