The Name of Jesus and Identity

As a believer with a Charismatic background, I am used to hearing prayers, baptism, and healing done “in the name of Jesus.” I’ve linked the expression with the idea of invoking the identity and person of Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit. Though Jesus is with God the Father interceding for us at the moment, the Spirit has been sent to carry on the work of the ministry of reconciliation that has been tasked to his church. When we do anything in the name of Jesus, the Spirit that was at work in the life of Jesus goes to work in the lives of believers.

In the name of Jesus we:

  • Are baptized (Act 3:28)
  • Preach (Act 4:18)
  • Heal (Act 3:6)
  • Cast out demons (Act 16:18)

There is a wrong way to use this expression: via unbelief. To use the name of Jesus without a relationship or fellowship with him invites a bad situation to the potential degree of demon possession, as the sons of Sceva example teaches us (Act 19:13-17)! When we claim this expression, we seem to be taking on proxy for Jesus. We stand in his stead for whatever it is that we are doing. We are acting in his role; carrying out one of his functions.

In Greco-Roman antiquity, it was common to associate deities with several other names and identities. This is called polyonymy. In a recent article by N. Clayton Croy*, he has shown that early Christians avoided associating the name of Jesus with any other god other than YHWH. Though Jesus was associated with different functions such as the Word of God, the Lamb of God, the Son of God, he was never associated with other gods. Jesus was never Neptune, etc.

Even the titles used to describe his functions were taken from Judaism (the Old Testament) and not created outside of Jesus’ “discrete history and tradition” (p. 43). There was no single title that could capture the theological significance of Jesus. Many were then used to capture the rich meaning behind the appearance of Jesus. But the use of any name other than Jesus Christ was eschewed by the early church.

This article by Croy is helpful. I believe it further demonstrates that “the name of Jesus” is associated with his very identity. Croy rightly observed that it is not something the early church ever took lightly, nor should we. In like manner, when we are using the name of Jesus properly it truly is a name more powerful than any other. At his name, every knee bows (Phil 2:10)! With his name sickness, disease, possession, curses, and our sins all become powerless!

* “A God by Any Other Name: Polyonymy in Greco-Roman Antiquity and Early Christianity”, BBR, 24.1, 27-43.

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Ancient Near Eastern Environmental Wisdom

An excellent article came out in the recent issue of BBR (24.3) by Sandra Richter from Wheaton College titled, “Environmental Law: Wisdom from the Ancients.” Sandra presents several counterpoints to the argument that Judaism and Christianity do not have environmental concerns at their core like polytheism and animism do. This is a misnomer because at many points Judeo-Christian values have indeed been guilty of a lack of attention for a proper balance of nature’s resources, but this critique can be said of all religions; especially, ancient Mesopotamian practices that led to the depletion of their resources. Sandra shows that the Old Testament is a rich resource for proper environmental care. It is not until the New Testament, however, that a  lack of the same focus occurs. Perhaps, this is due to the NT focus on the presentation of the new Adam and seeing all else as distractions to that important message. Here are some highlights:

  • Humanity was created to care for creation (Gen 1:26, 2:15) until they rebel and create disorder (Gen 3:6; 17-18, 9:2-4).
  • The land of Israel was considered holy and sacred space (Deut 1:8; 4:40), and YHWH could evict Israel without the proper care of His land (Deut 28:15-68, 29:28).
  • YHWH commanded reserves for the poor out of Israel’s farming so that the poor would have an opportunity to sustain themselves (Deut 24:29; Lev 19:9-10, 23:22).
  • Sustainable farming practices let the land rest from the cycle of sowing and harvesting (Exod 23:10-12).
  • In war, Israel was not to destroy the environment (Deut 20:19, 2 Kgs 3:19).
  • YHWH cares for and commands proper care of his other creatures shown in the flood narrative and elsewhere (Gen 9:10, Deut 5:14-15, Psa 104:10-11).

Among Sandra’s recommendations on how to take action for biblically sound praxis is our buying power. What we choose to buy changes the face of the industry (328). Our involvement in purposeful care of the environment demonstrates our love of the creation God has given to His people’s care.

This helpful article is well worth a read, if you have access to the journal.

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NIV Application Commentary on Kindle Sale

NIV Application Commentary: New Testament (NIVAC) (20 vols.)

NIVAC

The NIV Application Commentary series is a helpful bible commentary. Right now you can buy the collection on Kindle (here) for less than $5 per volume. Take advantage! I’m not sure how long the sale will last. I just discovered it today.

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For the City

For the City: Proclaiming and Living Out the Gospel by Darin Patrick and Matt Carter

For the City: Proclaiming and Living Out the Gospel by Darin Patrick and Matt Carter

This book is written well. The styles of both authors blend together smoothly. In the Foreword, the aim of their writing is plain. They know that the church is about God and sometimes leadership worries more about what the congregation thinks. They challenge anyone seeking to live, share, or promote the gospel to keep in mind that “no one is keeping score” (12). It is “not about getting it perfectly right.” This resonates with my own understanding and experience in my research as a student and minister. Perfection has never been the aim, but rather faith seeking understanding. The authors reiterate this later in the book as well.

In the Preface, the authors share what they believe church is all about. What ultimately makes a great church? One in which “Jesus Christ is found in word and deed” (13).

The first part of this book is a drawing and engaging read. I couldn’t put it down. Patrick and Carter share their experiences starting out life and early ministry. Though the stories are concise, they do not leave out the experiences we all have with those less-than-great choices we’ve made. Both authors share in a way that is heartfelt and humorous.

Carter shares the differences between models of doing Church that are IN the city, AGAINST the city, OF the city, or FOR the city. In the latter perspective, the church’s focus is seeking shalom for the city in which they live; utilizing all resources, gifts, time, and money. Patrick shares how bringing church to those who felt more spiritual than religious garnered criticism from all sides but yet brought the gospel in an effective way to those who desired the truth.

The next section has the meat of both their experience and model for ministry. An important discussion is centered on contextualization. This is maintaining a balance of sharing a culturally relevant gospel, but staying clear of a gospel of relativism or sectarianism. It is one that communicates the gospel in a way the local culture can understand without watering it down to appease or seclude the church by extremely conservative views. I loved the comment that the internal problem with all of us is “the heart’s worship of anything other than God” (79).

Something else very helpful was their discussion of community. “The perfect model that meets our longing for relationship…is found by looking vertically” (86). They share that God created us for relationship. Foremost, a relationship with him, and secondly, and also important, a relationship with others. The example they use is that after Adam was created, God gave him a helper equal with him. It was not good for Adam to be alone. He was incomplete. They advised not to “go it alone” or separate from the culture (99): two important take aways from this very good chapter.

No missional or church-planting book would be complete without a chapter dedicated to equipping leaders to go out and minister, and outlining the different ways they have experienced meeting the needs of the community. This was good information and practical advise. But the section that followed was empowering. The idea is of suffering.

How would we have responded to some of the horrific ways in which early Christians suffered? Some were strewn up on poles and burned as torches for Emperor Nero’s pleasure. They were made examples of for those who would dare to go against the emperor. But yet another part of suffering is the hurtful experiences and twists in the lives of those coming in the church doors. Jesus is our model for suffering well and if we will follow him it means denying self (143). The authors included examples of godly suffering and how the church lovingly and sacrificially responded.

True to form, both authors again allow the reader to peer into their hearts when they share failures and expose sin they were struggling with. Great leaders have discovered this: being real and open leads to followers who are real and open. As difficult as this is to do, sharing such stories motivates others to overcome areas in their own lives and trust that their leaders are actually human. They mess up like the rest of us! Who would have thought? There is credibility that comes out of sharing one’s struggles because those who listen can resonate and feel more comfortable exposing their own.

The book concludes with some remarks about Jonah. He too was called into a difficult place and a ministry he otherwise would have thought was never going to succeed. But he ultimately went where God called him, however imperfectly, and was more successful than he thought possible because there was a move of God. It wasn’t about Jonah.

I recommend this book. It is not only for church planters or leaders. It is written well, thoughtful, and helpful on many levels. I will leave you with one quote from the end:

“A church for its city is willing to dream big and take scary risks because the God who began a good work in and through the church is the God who will use the church to bless cities, nations, and the entire world” (177).

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For the Love of Family

Trena Bolden Fields

For Love: Memoirs by Trena Bolden Fields

This is an encouraging piece of writing that reveals intimate stories that express love and life lessons learned. All the stories are enjoyable and resonate with some aspect from our own up-bringing. One particular story moved me, called “For Love.” In it Trena Bolden Fields tells of when she hurt her ankle while receiving what we used to call a “buck” ride on our bicycles. At the doctor, she had to receive treatment by alcohol being poured on her wound. Her mom told her to grab her hand and squeeze when it hurts. At the end of the story, Trena said that she “squeezed her hand so hard that [she] could see [her mom] wincing in pain” (14).

It made me think about real friendship; those who share the pain of life with us and make such lasting impressions. As a Christian, this reminds me of when God sent his son who suffered in the same way as we do. He took on the life of a servant in order that he might be a friend to many. He took the nails at the cross in order that mankind may be redeemed. Our suffering is cut short because he took the pain. Many of the author’s stories demonstrate this kind of love and intimacy such as going through life together.

When we go through life truly loving others it will cost us a little pain in order to take away some of theirs. Trena’s story of her mother taking some of the pain with her daughter is exemplary. We need more stories like her’s to encourage us that love never fails when it endures. I thank Mrs. Bolden Fields for taking the time to share her stories. It’s a short piece that is well worthy of a read.

Trena has a website with her work and her life coaching here.

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Why Do We Sin After Baptism? The Response of Methodius

Methodius is praised by many ancient Christian writers. He was bishop of Olympus and Patara. He removed to Phoenicia during the latest great persecutions of the Church and was martyred in Greece.

I happened upon his view of why we sin after baptism and thought it was worthy of sharing. It is found in the Latin original, “De Resurrectio” in Migne Patrologia Graeca or in the English translation, “The Resurrection,” in The Ante-Nicene Fathers

So why do we sin after baptism if at baptism and the receiving of the Holy Spirit we are regenerated? Isn’t it at that time that we repent and become washed anew in Christ? Why do we still struggle with sin?

“For while the body still lives, before it has passed through death, sin must also live with it, as it has its roots concealed within us, even though it be externally checked by the wounds inflicted by corrections and warnings; since, otherwise, it would not happen that we do wrong after baptism, as we should be entirely and absolutely free from sin.” I.V.

Methodius argued that sin is rooted in our bodies. Until death, sin remains in our flesh. We struggle against it each day. As times goes on, sin becomes more and more lulled to sleep by our faith. That is if we restrain its sprouts and evil imaginations to choke out those roots of bitterness.

An example he gives is that of the potter in Jeremiah 18:2-4. The original pot was broken and refashioned into a new pot without blemish. This, Jeremiah wrote, is what God is doing with Israel. The pot that has blemishes must be broken in order that it may be restored to perfection.

Paul tells believers to consider themselves dead (Rom 6). It is by this means that we put to sleep the works of the flesh. By considering it dead, we put to death its deeds. Though sin will rear its ugly head, we march on in victory against it until the day of the final consummation of all believers: the day we are renewed and resurrected over it forever.

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When I Rise

When I rise, take me over
I have nothing else to do
My planners open
A few loose leafs too

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It’s Yours

To be in Your kingdom evermore
Please accept my life it’s Yours
Dedicated to be
A faithful, praising type of breed

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He Knows The Way

Don’t you worry, He knows the way
Don’t be afraid, He’s been here before
If we don’t rush, we’ll see the way
Don’t be afraid, He knows the way

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Fullness of Joy from Anselm

I was reading Helmut Thielicke’s, A Little Exercise for Young Theologians. Theilicke mentioned the medition and prayer of Anselm at the end of his, Proslogion: 

I pray, 0 God, to know you, to love you, that I may rejoice in you. And if I cannot attain to full joy in this life may I at least advance from day to day, until that joy shall come to the full. Let the knowledge of you advance in me here, and there be made full. Let the love of you increase, and there let it be full, that here my joy may be great in hope, and there full in truth. Lord, through your Son you do command, nay, you do counsel us to ask; and you do promise that we shall receive, that our joy may be full. I ask, O Lord, as you do counsel through our wonderful Counsellor. I will receive what you do promise by virtue of your truth, that my joy may be full. Faithful God, I ask. I will receive, that my joy may be full. Meanwhile, let my mind meditate upon it; let my tongue speak of it. Let my heart love it; let my mouth talk of it. Let my soul hunger for it; let my flesh thirst for it; let my whole being desire it, until I enter into your joy, O Lord, who are the Three and the One God, blessed for ever and ever. Amen.

*Translation taken from Fordham University, XXVI


Anselm’s prayer reminds me of the emphasis Pastor John Piper makes regarding our complete satisfaction as we are satisfied in Christ or Pastor Greg Boyd’s emphasis on satisfaction progressing in this life but truly reaching its fulfillment in the next.

The Lord not only invited us to come to Him, but also empowered us to do so; that our joy may be complete. We do not hunger to simply be hungry. We hunger that we may eat! To remain hungry is not a God-given design. If we then hunger and thirst for righteousness, we will eat and drink it in! He who has the full supply of righteousness is not reluctant to give it to us.

What then do we eat at a feast of righteousness?

He will grow our compassion for the poor and needy, to vindicate the afflicted, to deliver them from oppressors (Psalm 72). To give without expecting a return, to walk blamelessly, speak truthfully, stay committed to our oaths, and do no evil toward our neighbor (Psalm 15). We will become a father to those who have none and look into the case of strangers (Job 29:11-17). These are the attributes of the righteous because they have the righteousness of God. What loving acts of kindness are these! When we realize we are loved by Him, we become free to direct that same type of love outwardly. Like a child, one doesn’t know how to love without an example. One can’t love if one doesn’t know what love is. How can you love without being loved? So then we draw near to the God of love and His righteousness that we may become proper image-bearers of our creator.

I think if we take the type of perspective shown in Anselm’s writing and incorporate into our own walk of faith, we will realize those things we desire. That to know Him is the beginning and completion of all satisfaction.

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