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Posts in Carin Thompson
The I AM God

“Hi, what’s your name?”  You meet someone for the first time and the first thing you ask or are told is their name.  The expression “we’re on a first-name basis” has some truth in it.  And then there’s nicknames, where a lot of times they can be endearing or fun and kind of a cue how close you are with that person.  My best friend's name is Kimberly.  She usually goes by “Kim” and a few of us close friends get to affectionately call her “Kimmy”. You see where I’m going with this right? There’s some level of legitimacy in your relationship when you know someone’s name.

I had a professor in my first year psychology class that made a goal to learn everyone’s names.  There was about 250 people in just one of his classes.  After each student would complete their multiple-choice, scantron exam he would say “goodbye Johnny [insert name]” to each one of us.  I’m not sure if he was conducting research on this or something but it did prevent me from falling asleep in his class after realizing he could call me out by name in front of the whole auditorium.  

Most everyone or everything is given a name, except for the Giver, the Creator Himself.  This is how He describes Himself, how he functions and how He wants to be known, and even how He will be known in the future.  I’ve found knowing the names of God has helped me connect with Him more intimately.  When I was in a pivotal point in my faith journey, I decided to check into the names of God. I was thinking - if I’m really going to know God, I should know His names.  It  helped teach me how to relate to God, pray and have faith in His character.

In our culture, a name sets someone apart. In the first part of the Bible, God is mostly interacting with Hebrew people and in this culture a name has great significance to the destiny and character of that person

In Exodus we read about Moses, a Hebrew by ethnicity, raised Egyptian.  When Moses meets God for the first time, God introduces Himself as “I AM who I AM”.   At this point it’s been about 430 years since the Hebrews have had revelation from God.  So God has been seemingly “quiet” for a long time! 

I know I have times where God seems more present and active in my life than other times. Can anyone else relate to not feeling the presence of God for a while?  We first meet God as the I AM in the Sinai wilderness where God literally calls out to Moses. Let me set the scene...

Moses is in a mountainous region and walks by a burning bush. Now hold on… let me geek-out here and surprise you with this fact:  apparently thorn bushes can and still do spontaneously burst into flames in the Sinai region so initially the thing that may have been the most alarming to Moses wasn’t that the bush was on fire but that it was not being burned up!  Let’s dive in right here - I think we all have times when the heat-is-on. You know when things are tough, or it  feels like you may be burned up, parched.  But from this place, God reveals Himself, His character, His attention and care for His people and His rescue plan for His beloveds.  If we know and have faith in the I AM God, He will preserve us, we will be just like the bush, on fire but not scorched.  

So right back in Sinai. God speaks to Moses from this burning, not burning up bush, and tells Moses He has come down to deliver His people who are in bondage.  And that God is sending him to lobby for freedom for His people.  Moses responds to God:  “"Who am I to appear before Pharaoh? Who am I to lead the people of Israel out of Egypt?" A fair question from Moses but God promises His presence!  In response to Moses, God introduces and declares Himself as I AM who I AM.   At times we may relate to Moses here, when we are responding to a nudge from God, His conviction, or prompting it’s easy to think “Yeah, but God who am I to do that, go there, say that, give grace there…”  I love how the name God answers Moses' question and redeems the self-focused question. God flips the question on it’s head. Moses asks "Who am I?” but God is I AM and He is with Moses and He is more than sufficient.   

 

This God is truly Holy, Mighty, and I AM is concerned with His people and enters into our world despite His magnificence that He is with us.  This name signifies authority.  He is not just a being but a God who acts powerfully.  "To the Hebrew 'to be' does not just mean to exist as all other beings and things do as well—but to be active, to express oneself in active being…”   Our God is actively working, involved in our lives, and will always be exerting His plans and authority.  He is and was, and is to come, always.  The repetition of I AM conveys God’s ongoing continuity. I AM cannot be changed or altered.  God’s name, I AM who I AM, reminds me that I believe He is active and powerful even if I don’t see this displayed right now in my life the way I’m wanting to or expecting to.  

In light of our I AM God,  I will think of myself connected to the One who is present and powerful, whose being is so grand it cannot easily be grappled with and comprehended.  I have a feeling I AM wants to meet with you today, you may feel like you’re walking through the wilderness but I know God wants to  convey His concern for you and show that He is present with you.  Our being is wrapped up in His being and His being with us, who He is will be sufficient for all our needs and bring us victory over anything weighing us down.  

 

Carin

Lent: More than a Goodbye to Candy

Some of you may be familiar with practicing lent and to others it may be something new.  I didn't grow up practicing lent so the whole thing is relatively new to me. I think my first exposure to lent was from the movie Au Chocolate… anyone? An un-churched lady opens a chocolate shop during lent in a traditional, small town in France and anyone walking by is teased by the sights and smells of the exquisite chocolate,  the whole thing is very enticing… and watching it made me want to indulge in some fine chocolate, buuuuut let’s be real here...I want dark chocolate every day.

No knock on the movie but I’ve been thinking I need to delve into what lent is a little more thoroughly. And although lent is not in the bible, christians have been practicing lent forever...circa 325 AD   So there’s got to be something worthy of consideration here.  So with the help of google, I’ve been looking into the who, what, when and why of lent.  To cut to the point, pretty much I found out Lent is a lot more than just staying away from candy for 40 days. But yes, definitely big props to all of you giving up sweets right now!

Apparently it’s pretty standard for older catholics to associate lent with giving something up, one Catholic Online writer says that for a child that thing would be candy.  The writer says that the reward for the lapse in candy eating would be all the Easter candy- how convenient right?  Another story goes that a devout catholic parent urged his children to move beyond the default of giving up candy but to give up a sinful habit during lent.  One of the sons chose to give up fighting with his siblings during lent and his dad asked him how it was going.  The boy answered “pretty good Dad -- but boy I can’t wait until Easter! Giving something up for a time, food, sweets, entertainment, social media, fasting, these things are a godly practice and for good reason.  But I don't want to do lent like those kiddos, seemingly without a heart change and merely return to my old ways after 40 days.  As I’ve been grappling through all this lenten stuff I’ve been wanting to take things a step deeper, an inward change that moves me closer to the cross. Living out the gospel takes a continual renewal and for me that is what lent is about.  A time set aside to look upon our Jesus and allow him to renew us to become more like Him. Hinds Feet for Hindes Places - an allegorical novel by Hannah Hurnard is about a young woman, Much Afraid and her journey away from her Fearing family and into the High Places with the Shepherd.  The Shepherd gives her two companions for the challenging journey:  Suffering and Sorrow.  Lent is often referred to as a journey.  And in true Hannah Hurnard style, I would choose the characters Humility and Reflection for my Lenten journey of renewal towards the cross of Jesus Christ. Humility - a character Jesus embraces and embodies perfectly.  The New Testament shows Jesus possessing a strong, undiluted form of humility as he makes his journey to the cross. His humility is vital to the whole thing.  Philippians 2 shows us Jesus’ humility:  In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.  And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!

In his book, Humility, True Greatness, C.J, Mahaney defines humility like this: "Humility is honestly assessing ourselves in the light of God’s holiness and our sinfulness.  That's the twin reality that all genuines humility is rooted in:  God’s holiness and our sinfulness."  God gives grace to the humble (James 4:6) and man, do I need need grace!  Humility is a pursuit and like Jesus, I need to embrace humility to allow God to renew and transform me to be more like Him.  I like how John Stott  puts it: “At every stage of our Christian development and in every sphere of our Christian discipleship, pride is the greatest enemy and humility our greatest friend.” I believe without humility we are both blind and lame.  We can’t see where the danger is and we don’t have the ability to move to safety because we’re thinking too much of ourselves.

Reflection - in our fast-paced, go-get-em world reflection is a square peg in a round hole.  Reflection is necessary to be aware of what is distracting me from Jesus.  I need to make some soul space for humility and reflection so that God can bring awareness of what sin needs to be rooted up completely.

And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory are being transformed into His image with ever increasing glory which comes from the Lord, who is Spirit.  2 Corinthians 3:18

To be honest, reflection is not my strong point so this verse is a relief for me.  As I reflect on Jesus and the cross, He transforms me.  God’s Spirit will come and guide, counsel, and convict me.

As we look to and reflect on Jesus, we will see only He is worthy! Only God can hold the weight of our souls longings, everything else our soul strives for will eat us up! (Timothy Keller sermon)   Lent may be a time to scrutinize how much of our soul, our sense of value, our justification is misplaced in our accomplishments, our image, our relationships, and how much of our mental real estate may be wrapped up in a misplaced value.

Where I find humility and reflection converge is in prayer.  I’m going for more continual and vibrant times of prayer.  I’m asking that He will renew me, help me focus on who God is as my pen scribbles out a prayer, my fingers type out some thoughts, or I talk with Him as I wash some dishes, whether it’s on my knees, or in the car, on the go...prayer.  The simple act of communicating with God is powerful.

I came across this gem of a prayer, not my normal prayer style but so much richness to it, here’s a few lines from The Litany of the Sacred Heart of Jesus:

Heart of Jesus, our life and resurrection,

Heart of Jesus, full of goodness and love,

Heart of Jesus, bruised for our offenses

Make our hearts like to Thine.

I’m anticipating some challenges during these 40 days as I try to “companion” with humility and reflection but I think we can all find comfort in unity knowing that countless people around the world for centuries upon centuries have choosen to refocus in on God during this time.  I have a couple resources in my back pocket to help along the way that may be a resource for some of you too.  One is a Lenten devotion and another is a list of questions to help point to anything that is vying for a higher place than God in my life.

However you choose to practise lent, as we approach Easter may we find ourselves at the heart of lent, which is the heart of God, which we see through Jesus’ humble and powerful act of love on the cross. It is only here where we can find ourselves renewed and experience new life.

Questioning Worth

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What questions do you have? I heard this week: -its hard to get answers to questions you don’t have.

One time in my life when I had so many questions is when I came back from 15 months outside of North America. I had questions that rattled my mind about everything. Like why do I have to buy a pack of 4 batteries when I only need 1 battery?

What I’ve been questioning recently- woolly worms! We went to Stone Mountain this past weekend and I saw a posy of woolly worms wiggling across the path. They’re supposed to predict the weather or something? What’s up with that? Is this legit?

But this week I want to highlight a question that I think I find myself suppressing. A few years ago a friend of mine was attending seminary and we were talking through what was going on in her classes. She was telling me about a question one of her professors posed: are you living for something that you would die for?

Gut check.

I want my answer to be yes, Jesus is worth the most and I want my life to depict that. But when pressed, I know I can have the propensity to be like Peter - when questioned, denied Jesus. But I’m thankful Jesus gave Peter grace and other chances because I know I need it.

So I’m thinking about our brothers and sisters who are persecuted and face this question head-on daily and how their powerful testimony sings out their answer. Some friends of ours gave us “the voice of the martys book” a few months ago. Full-disclosure – haven’t cracked it until this week.

As I’ve been reading testimonies of people who remain faithful despite persecution and loss I am moved. It’s as though the strength of their devotion moves the heart of God and jumps off the pages to my heart. A testimony of faithful endurance speaks of eternity, this seemingly foolish devotion speaks of a soul that is truly living for something worth everything.

There is something inside our souls that cannot be stomped out, intimidated, something that no degree of hatred and fear can overpower. It is the very heart of God inside of us, it is our connection to our Jesus, a chord of love that cannot be broken.

I’m provoked to share Cheng Jie’s story. I’ve actually never met her. But she shares some of her story on the voice on the martyrs website. Her story speaks of what she’s living for. Here is some snip-bits of it:

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"Cheng Jie — a young mother, a pastor’s wife, and a former kindergarten director — never anticipated her 2014 arrest. With a husband who was a pastor in China where religion is tightly controlled, she and her husband, Du Hongbo, had prepared for his possible arrest, but never hers. In the end, it was her role as the director of the Hualin Foreign Language Experimental Kindergarten that took her to prison for two years. Chinese authorities charged the school and its administration of “illegal business operations,” due to the use of what the authorities called religious curriculum. The school was closed, and four people associated with it, including Cheng Jie, were arrested.

But God provided her with a copy of His Word another way. Another prisoner had one, and she traded it to Cheng Jie for some other items. Despite the long work hours, Cheng read the Bible faithfully every night and found encouragement in God’s Word. She also taught her cellmates songs, hymns, and Bible stories. Her faith and trustworthiness made her stand out to prison authorities. “God is great! It makes me think of Joseph in the Old Testament. After six months, they let me manage all these cells,” she told us. She was also thankful for a good lawyer who advised her on how to address the charges against her. She pled not guilty; if she had said she was guilty, she may have gotten a longer sentence. She said she often felt anxious, but she learned to trust God for each day during her imprisonment.

Another thing that provided encouragement was all the letters she received containing hymns, Bible verses and encouraging notes from VOM readers using Prisoner Alert. As letters poured in from the United States, she thought, “Really, I can’t go through this, but because of the encouragement from all over the world, it makes my faith strong. That is why I can go through my difficulties.”

Though our circumstances and challenges may be different, we are united by God’s presence. And the same question faces us – are we living for something worth dying for? Jesus’ presence with us in the midst of our suffering and trails is what gives us strength to press on. There are many stories of faithful witnesses we can be encouraged from. Lets draw strength from one another’s victories.

You can read the rest of Cheng’s story here:

Carin Thompson

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