Wednesday, November 30, 2011

His Name Shall Be

By Brenda Black

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6

Most of us have one given name at birth. Sure, friends might add a nickname as we grow and take on personality traits. We might become “Zoomer” or “Slam Dunk” to those who know us best. Of course, parents may grant us the “I'll be known by this till my death” pet name such as “Tubs” or “Critter” and use it as a term of endearment until we start dating. Then it becomes leverage to insure their teen observes curfew to the minute. Some will change or lengthen their moniker upon marriage. But, for the most part, we legally and socially claim one name.

Jesus, who endured all things and became all things in order that we might receive redemption, also related to all of mankind by being called a host of names. Though God's angel Gabriel instructed Mary and Joseph to give their Son the name Jesus, He was also called the Christ and the Messiah. Those names and many others defined the roles He fulfilled in history and described His divine qualities. This Christmas season, I think it's fitting to take a closer look at the names Isaiah prophesied of His King: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace. When we get to know Him better, we'll want to worship not just the babe in the manger, but the King on the throne.

Wonderful Counselor - The name immediately strikes awe by its very nature. It is the name that best defined the Christ's arrival – miraculous, a marvel. Wonderful indicates something unusual or extraordinary. The Key Word Study Bible explains that, except for one reference in Scripture, every time this word is used it “appears in the context of God's words or deeds.” His name is truly Wonderful. His ways are amazingly Wonderful. His gifts and power and grace and judgment are Wonderful!

“Give thanks to the Lord, call on his name; make known among the nations what he has done. Sing to him, sing praise to him; tell of all his wonderful acts. Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice. Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always. Remember the wonders he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he pronounced.” (1 Chronicles 16:8-12)

Now some might think winning a $254 million Powerball lottery is wonderful. I suppose it sounds pretty grand, but has anyone noticed that the owners of the ticket only took about a 100 million home after taxes. Kind of kicks the marvelous out of the equation a bit. And do those who plunked down hundreds of dollars for their chance at the ticket still think it is so amazing when the wealthy walked away more wealthy and those desperate for a miraculous break more poor for their investment. No, winning a lottery is not all that wonderful in the big scheme of things. It's fleeting. It is financially complicated. It can become a snare and often leaves people worse off than those who never raked in the mega bucks, after they squander their unexpected fortune.

The Wonderful Counselor has much to say about where we place our trust. It's not in money. And that brings us to the second part of this glorious and marvelous name – Counselor. The Psalmist David explains it this way in the lyrics to his thirty-second Psalm. “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you. Do not be like the horse or the mule, which have no understanding but must be controlled by bit and bridle or they will not come to you. Many are the woes of the wicked, but the Lord's unfailing love surrounds the man who trusts in him.” (Psalm 32:8-10)

When you think you don't have the answers, the Wonderful Counselor rises from within and leads the way to profound truth. “...I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever – the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.” How wonderful!

copyright ~The Word's Out - Brenda Black 2011

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

One Deserves Thanks

By Brenda Black

“We often forget the Source from which the blessings of fruitful years and healthful skies come...No human wisdom hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God...I therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United observe the last Thursday of November as a day of thanksgiving and praise to our beneficient Father who dwelleth in the heavens.” – Abraham Lincoln

Political correctness will tolerate a “God bless you” for there are many adherents to generic gods categorized and defined by the men who claim them. But the God of the universe to whom Abraham Lincoln gives credit is more than a man made entity worshiped when convenient. This God of our nation's history and this God of our very existence is the Father of Jesus and the indwelling Holy Spirit. He is the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End. The Source of our salvation and the giver of all things. He is Christ the Lord and Redeemer. This God that answers to no other is Almighty and omniscient. He is holy and just, righteous and perfect. The “Source from which the blessings...come” is God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. This God of blessing is Jesus.

“No one takes this honor upon himself; he must be called by God, just as Aaron was. So Christ also did not take upon himself the glory of becoming a high priest. But God said to him,

'You are my Son; today I have become your Father.'

“And he says in another place, 'You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.'

“During the days of Jesus' life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him and was designated by God to be high priest in the order of Melchizedek.” (Hebrews 5:4-10)

Though perfected in human form through suffering, Jesus already existed in the beginning. You see, God took His only Son, the second slice of His own identity and rendered a flesh-covered offering of Himself for the sake of humanity.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.

“Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it...He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God – children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or of a husbands' will, but born of God.

“The Word became flesh and lived for a while among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:1-14)

As Lincoln said, “No human wisdom hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God.” And as the 16th President of the United States implored the citizens of this great nation to give thanks, I exhort this generation to do the same. Go back to the Source! Remember the Savior! Give Thanks to the Father!

Thanksgiving is not a generic holiday to celebrate false gods and acknowledge all religions. It is a day set apart to worship and revere the One True God who created all we have, provides all we need and loved us to death on the cross by giving up all of Himself. We worship One who conquered enemies in the spiritual realm and enemies on the earth that we might be blessed.

God alone deserves our thanks.

All rights reserved © Copyright 2011

Jesus on a Jersey

By Brenda Black

What would Jesus do? That is the question. Would He be okay with his name initialized in the acronym “WWJD” on the front of a black t-shirt, but intolerant of His name spelled out in block letters on the back of an orange jersey? Some folks think it's irreverent that die hard Tim Tebow Bronco fans have placed “Jesus” above Tebow's No. 15 on their fan apparel. But what does Jesus think?

We could speculate the Lord's take on several ways His name has been linked to otherwise non-religious, worldly goods. Does He think it's cool to see plastered on billboards the dairy council's catch phrase by inserting His own moniker “Got Jesus?” I wonder if the Lord of All is surprised that there are no new ideas on ways to tout His name, it just keeps getting recycled through borrowed ad campaigns.

I've seen Jesus written in yellow cursive like a Peanut Butter cup. “Jesus is my King” takes center stage in the middle of Burger King's logo. Oh, and did you know: “He's the Real Thing.” It's not Coke, after all.

Though some of these may verge on disrespect, I don't think God or Jesus or the Holy Spirit is offended. In fact, weren't the marching orders made to His followers: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I will be with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20)

And the Lord instructed in Deuteronomy: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.” (Dt. 6:5-9)

What better way to bring up the name! Women wear cross necklaces, men carry cross keychains. Kids where rubberized bracelets etched with the name of Jesus. Those symbols may just speak to someone searching for The Answer to life's questions.

Just let me say, I'd much rather see the name of Jesus emblazoned on cotton than a million other ugly gestures, profane expressions or hideous pictures of skulls and cross bones. I don't believe the fans of Tim Tebow actually think him to be The Jesus. Instead, isn't it refreshing to think our youth have a sports hero who identifies himself with holiness instead of heroine or steroids or wine, women and jail time!

Jesus, Jesus, Jesus. There's just something about that name. Master, Savior, Jesus...Oh that the world would believe on His name. Oh that we would be unashamed to proclaim the name. Oh that we would talk about Him, share Him, and do what He would do no matter what we're wearing.

There is one caution to those who desire to be branded with Jesus' appellation: Walk worthy! I do think God takes His name seriously and expects it to be revered by our thoughts and deeds. So if your t-shirt reads “Jesus is my BFF,” act like it. When you are wearing a tank splattered in paint that boldly states “Jesus Loves You,” show it! And if you happen to be in a football stand draped in an NFL jersey with “Jesus” emblazoned across your shoulders, remember he carried a cross to Calvary so that you could bear the name into eternity.


*Thanks to for spotting Jesus in a football stadium.

copyright 2011 - The Word's Out

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

In Honor of the Human Spirit

By Brenda Black

I watched the little brunette perch twenty feet in the air atop a tower of human spirit. Sturdy men and steady ladies pyramided their way center court to the cheers of college sports fans. The stack of flesh and school pride was even more impressive when I watched the diminutive dare devil flipped down to land on two feet and triumphantly lift one and a half arms into the air! All I could think was that beautiful little lady must have been loved by incredible parents who never allowed a birth defect to stand in the way of anything their daughter wanted to accomplish. Her spirit was never suppressed.

There is a story of a school teacher who asked her first graders to draw a picture of something they were thankful for. She thought of how little these children from poor neighborhoods actually had for which to give thanks. She reasoned that most of them would no doubt sketch pictures of turkeys on tables with lots of other food. She was surprised with the paper that one small boy handed in. It was the picture of a human hand, crudely drawn. The other children tried to guess whose hand their classmate had scribbled. One said it was the hand of God because He brings the food to us. Another said it was the hand of a farmer because he raises and grows the food. Finally, when the others were back at their work, the teacher bent over the child’s desk and asked whose hand it was. "Why, its your hand, teacher," he mumbled. Then she recalled how frequently at recess she had taken this scrubby, forlorn child by the hand. She did it with many of the children and never thought much about it. But that little boy did. You see, she refreshed his spirit and he never forgot it.

The human spirit is remarkable, capable of overcoming all odds to rise to great heights! But the human spirit is impressionable. It can be deeply stirred by simple acts of kindness or just as easily crushed from lack of love. I admire those who model this human quality and those who empower it with love and sacrifice.

That's why I get weepy when our nation's heroes go off to war or return home to the welcoming arms of loving family and friends. I wonder what kind of grit and how much courage dwells in the heart of a soldier. Who challenged them to be all they could be? How do those young, left-behind wives continue to patiently uplift their brave husbands and embolden the children who don't understand why daddy is half way around the world. That amazing human spirit that fights for freedom and lives for others and dies for country astounds me! They deserve my greatest respect, my cheers and my thanks. Yet, I fear that simple gratitude will never be enough compensation for their sacrifices and service. But this Friday we can still try. As individuals, as communities, as a nation, we can pay tribute to the American human spirit at its best on Veterans Day, 2011.

“Today, our Nation comes together to honor our veterans and commemorate the legacy of profound service and sacrifice they have upheld in pursuit of a more perfect Union. Through their steadfast defense of America’s ideals, our service members have ensured our country still stands strong, our founding principles still shine, and nations around the world know the blessings of freedom. As we offer our sincere appreciation and respect to our veterans, to their families, to those who are still in harm’s way, and to those we have laid to rest, let us rededicate ourselves to serving them as well as they have served the United States of America.” (Veterans Day 2011 Proclamation)

Some of these noble warriors began as scared little boys in need of a guiding and loving hand to encourage them. Some have returned home with scars and handicaps they've had to overcome in order to stand proud again. But all give us reason to cheer and look upon them in amazement for the human spirit that dwells within them.

May God protect our troops. May we never forget how blessed we are because of their courage, strength and willingness to go into battle. This Veterans Day, please take the time to express due honor. It will do your own spirit good.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Trust is a Must

By Brenda Black

“In God We Trust” is not just a motto. It's a mindset. It's an action. Over 97% of the House thought voting on a resolution Tuesday reaffirming the statement as the official motto of the United States was important. But unless that motto becomes more than just words engraved on government buildings, their resolution is nothing but worthless lip service to a Holy God that deserves complete obedience and longs for sincere relationship. We better heed the words of God himself, recorded in Numbers 20:12. “But the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, 'Because you did not trust in me enough to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them.'”

Trust is defined as 1. reliance on the integrity, strength, ability, surety, etc., of a person or thing; confidence. 2. confident expectation of something; hope. 3. confidence in …

TV host Brian Tracy says “The glue that holds all relationships together - including the relationship between the leader and the led is trust, and trust is based on integrity.”

Lip service or lives of service? Indifference or integrity? What will your motto be? And where will the United States be if we don't rely on the strength, ability and surety of God Almighty? We're toast without His blessing! Said another way, Rep. Trent Franks declared during the 35-minute floor debate over the motto that if the House doesn't believe in God, then “we should just let anarchy prevail because, after all, we are just worm food.”

Indeed we are made of dust and to dust we shall return, but in the mean time, we represent a King here on earth and our duties demand loyalty and love.

“The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates...Fear the Lord your God, serve him only and take your oaths in his name. Do not follow other gods, the gods of the peoples around you; for the Lord you God, who is among you, is a jealous god and his anger will burn against you, and he will destroy you from the face of the land. Do not test the Lord your God...Be sure to keep the commands of the Lord your God and the stipulations and decrees he has given you. Do what is right and good in the Lord's sight, so that it may go well with you...The Lord commanded us to obey all these decrees and to fear the Lord our God, so that we might always prosper and be kept alive, as is the case today. And if we are careful to obey all this law before the Lord our God, as he has commanded us, that will be our righteousness.” (Deuteronomy 6 selected)

Though we are but a vapor, God has made us eternal. What we do in our breath of life matters forever. I'd rather go down on the side of the Lord than go down in history as one of His enemies. I don't want to be the generation that invited God's wrath on America! I don't want to be counted among the foolish and impetuous people that thumb their nose at a Holy God and tell Him, “We don't need you anymore; we can do this on our own.”

Praise the Lord, He works through remnants – sometimes they number 395. Sometimes they amount to only one. And I, as one, want to stand with those who will trust in the Lord with all my heart and lean not on my own understanding. I will in all my ways acknowledge Him so that He will make my paths straight (Proverbs 3:5-6). That's my motto and I'm sticking to it!

I will love the Lord with all my heart and with all my soul and with all my strength and with all my mind (Luke 10:27). That's my mindset and I'm thinking it!

In God I trust! That's my action and I'm living it!