John Markum

Curious thought on the Name of God…

Recently I’ve been preaching a message series at Edgewood’s Sunday night service on The Patriarchs: Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Specifically, I’ve been focusing on the implications of God referring to Himself through the Scriptures as the God of Abraham, Issac, and Jacob. Last night I preached on a particularly favorite story of mine among the patriarchs: Jacob wrestling with God in Genesis 32. Yes, God. Not an angel, but the pre-incarnate Jesus Christ Himself, in this preachers humble opinion (Gen. 32:30).

In order for Jacob to receive the blessing from this peculiar visitor that he had so desperately been seeking his whole life, really, the “Man” asks Jacob, “What is your name?”

For real?!? Don’t you know who you’ve been wrestling with all night? Of course He does. When God asks us a question, it isn’t because He doesn’t know the answer, it’s because He wants us to think about something. Jacob had to relive the last time he asked a different man for a blessing… his father, 20 years earlier. Only, that time He lied to his father and duped him into thinking that He was his older brother, Esau – who under normal circumstances would receive his fathers blessing, not Jacob.

But as Jacob confesses his true identity, simultaneously admitting to being the “heal-cather,” or “trickster” that his name implies, God tells him that he will no longer be called Jacob, but Israel. God gave Jacob a new name. This one exchange alone changes the rest of the Bible! Israel would become the name of God’s people, Jacob’s descendents – ironically, of whom Christ would be incarnated into.

Then Jacob – very humbled and curious, I believe – returns the question, “Tell me your name, I pray.” And the Man, a.k.a. Christ, simply says, “Why is it that you ask about my name?” and then He blessed him.

Interestingly, God would later reveal Himself as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob… Not the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel. Why? Is it even important? I think so. Though God took away Jacob’s old identity as the “heal-catcher” which would have betrayed his past life, and gave him a new name, representing his new identity in Christ, He kept the name of Jacob’s past for Himself. But why?

I believe that as Romans 5:8 tells us that, “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us,” this name exchange is a beautiful portrayal of Gods love toward all “Jacobs”. By identifying Himself as the God of Jacob, It’s as if God is declaring His love for us in our imperfect, broken, sinful state. He is not just the God of the forgiven, healed, and whole. He doesn’t just love us once we’ve come to His Son in faith. He loves us when we are lost in our sin, held hostage by our past, and empty on the inside… just like Jacob.

God took for Himself the name of Jacob’s past and gave Jacob a new name representing his future. Just like Christ took our old life with Him to the grave, rising again to give us a new life, a new future, and a new identity. And one day, He will give us a new name as well. Jacob just got his early – a promise to all of us who confess to God our brokenness in sin and our need for Him who can change us.

I’m grateful that He is not just the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, but the God of other sinners, too. Like me.

Teach Us to Pray

Matthew 6:5-13

6 things to include every time you pray, based on the model prayer that Jesus gives here in Matthew 6:

  1. Praise: “Hallowed be Your name.” The Bible tells us in Psalms that God “inhabits” the praises of His people. Always take the opportunity to thank God for who He is and what He’s done.
  2. Submission: “Your will be done.” This is not the last time we hear Christ praying this to the Father. God does His greatest, most intimate work through those who are broken before Him.
  3. Needs: “Give us this day our daily bread.” Interestingly, Christ does not encourage us to pray for material abundance, but rather only for our “daily” needs. In other words, living paycheck-to-paycheck is a gift from God and something to be desired!
  4. Forgiveness/Repentance: “Forgive us…” Demonstrates humility and a desire to remove all things that impair our fellowship with our Heavenly Father.
  5. Others: “as we forgive those who have trespassed against us.” It’s good to pray for yourself, but there is more power when we pray for each other.
  6. Submission: Christ ends His model prayer much as He began it, in acknowledging and anticipating God’s will, and praising Him. “Amen” literally means “so be it” or, “let it be so.”

I’ve also recently heard from one of my leaders that he grew up learning the acronym PRAY: Praise, Repentance, Ask for others, Yourself. I thought that was pretty good also!



Choose to be an Optimist

We typically categorize people’s overall perspective into one of three point-of-views: Optimist, Pessimist, and Realist. You get the idea, “The pessimist says the glass is half empty, the optimist says the glass is half full…” and so on. My observation is that people generally look down on being a pessimist (which is in itself, a pessimistic statement), think the optimist is naive, and that the realist is generally the best perspective to maintain because this is objective and factual. Someone who is “a realist” sounds more intelligent somehow.

The truth I have wrestled with concerning this, is that there appears to be far more Biblical instruction to be an optimist (Phil. 4:8, James 1:19-20, Pro. 17:22, Phil. 4:13, John 15:11, Psalms 31:24, etc…), than a pessimist, or even a “realist.” And by the way, I also notice that most people who say “I’m not a pessimist, I’m a realist,” are actually just pessimists with a fact to support their negative outlook.

Now, it’s important for me to say that I’m not advocating a mindset that sees the world through rose-colored glasses. I do not believe that we are suppose to ignore known facts. A true optimist, and I argue a mature follower of Jesus, sees the good, bad, and the ugly, and decides to keep a positive perspective anyway. Isn’t this what Jesus meant when He told us, “In this world you will have troubles. But be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33, emphasis mine)? We’ve got plenty to be optimistic about…

We serve a world-creating, light-speaking, water-walking, grave-robbing, sin-forgiving, hurt-healing, life-giving God! Yes, it might be Friday, and Jesus has died a humiliating death on public display. But Sunday’s coming, and He’s about to blow the doors open on a borrowed tomb and show His glory.

Don’t lose heart over your circumstances. Believe God is going to come through even if you can’t understand how right now. Believe the BEST! Choose to be an optimist. It’s less stressful anyway.



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