I wanted to embark on a journey this Spring, leading up to Easter. Most years I stumble through the weeks leading up to it, thinking more about the possibility of Spring Break or all of the birthday celebrations that await my little family in April. It’s not that I’m unaware of Easter or even that we’ve made no attempt to think about it. We read age appropriate books about the cross, try to explain the tomb. For the last two years we’ve made an Easter garden with our kids and actually, it has held great meaning and provided many opportunities for us to have great discussion about Jesus, the cross and the empty tomb. We’ll do it again this year, the kids love it and I do too. But beyond that visual exercise, I really have wanted to do something a little deeper, a little longer to prepare my own heart and to begin impressing on the hearts of our kids . Sort of like Lent, although I don’t feel the need to practice the discipline of giving something up just to jump on the bandwagon with everyone else. There are many who observe Lent with great intention and motives, that's not my point or for me to judge. I'm just not looking to give something up here, I'd rather add something that will help focus my heart on Christ. I've already given up my life and my self-effort in recognition that He is so much greater and able than I am! My aim is to be giving up every day and looking to Jesus to be my everything.
A few years ago our Church published a book, a 40 day spiritual discovery on the names of Christ. I loved it and I’ve always wanted to go back and revisit that list, it was very meaningful to me. So I'm doing it! I've decided this is the perfect year to do it. I’m home a little more than normal right now, sidelined with a lack of energy and waiting for the weather to free us from this eternal state of winter. Why not take the time to write and study my way through those names, really digging in to grasp the depth of what they mean? When I was in college I read a book by Kay Arthur, called “Lord I Want to Know You.” It was a study on the names of God and why they are all significant and how they reveal another glimpse of Who He is, in addition to His character that He wants us to see and know. I loved that title because it echoed exactly how I felt at that stage in my life. I knew so much ABOUT God because I grew up in Church, in a Christian home, went to a Christian school, etc. But my heart was aching for more. There was a hunger inside me that was just starting to grow as I found myself standing alone in California, on my own for really the first time. Life was happening all around me, some huge losses were on the horizon and I just began to understand that this faith I had, it needed to be my own. I needed to know why I believed what I did and I needed to know WHO I believed and called Lord.
I’ve never forgotten that book and can recall some of the names I learned way back then, almost 14 years ago now. But more than that, I can see how only the flicker of a flame in my heart began to grow. Hard days and painful lessons fanned the flame over the years and joys, graces, and the mercy of God added more logs with each passing year. I wanted to know Him then, and I can say with confidence that He took that small desire He gave me and He grew it. He answered the cry of my heart, even though I barely knew to utter it in that season, and He’s stayed faithful to build more of who He is into me. I know more about Him today than I did back then, but I also know I’ve barely scratched the surface. He will always be more than I can fathom, more than I give Him credit for, and understanding the riches of His grace will go on through the ages, Ephesians 2:7 tells us that.
So here I am today, an almost 34 year old mom of two (soon to be three), married to a youth Pastor and still longing to know my Jesus more. I’m excited to be walking this road again, for the next 40 days, and I’m inviting you to walk it with me. I don’t know where you are in your pursuit of Jesus, but even as you read these words on this little blog of mine, I can tell you that it is no accident that He’s led you here. You can be as sure of this as you are of the sun that rises every day: the God who made that sun and hangs it in the sky is ALWAYS in pursuit of you. He longs to reveal more of who He is to you and He wants you to know him and to call him by name. You may not want him but he wants you. So read along with me or don’t, but never forget that. There are many who say he is what he isn’t or who misrepresent him in their humanity, myself included. But I want to look at scripture over these 40 days and I want you to see for yourself what HE says about HIMSELF. I will write a little and explain what I can, but I know that His word speaks for itself and is more powerful and complete than anything I can come up with. So...
-If you need to be reminded of the God you serve, join me?
-If you need to be convinced that this God of the Bible is real, join me?
-If you need to believe that knowing Him matters and changes everything, join me?
-If you’re skeptical and a doubter but you’re willing to consider the possibility of Jesus being who He says He is, than please, please join me? Feel very welcomed here, as you are.
-If you need to call your Jesus by name, join me?
Why 40 Days?
What’s so significant about the 40 days thing? Is there a reason for 40 days verses 30 or 31? Where does it come from? Is this a Lent thing? Glad you asked! It’s a great question and one you should know the answer to. Throughout the Bible there are significant things that happened over the span of 40 days. There is truly nothing “magical” or formula-like about 40 days. God also accomplished huge truths and performed miracles in a single day or a single act. The time isn’t the important part but rather the intention of the heart. This is not Lent. You can read about the history of Lent here, but Lent is not something we are commanded to do or that is even talked about in scripture. I’m not opposed to some aspects or motives behind Lent, but I don’t believe we are obligated to practice it because it’s simply a man-made thing and it has no bearing on our Salvation. We don’t have to earn what God’s already freely given and we don’t have to work to keep it. In the Bible we see several accounts regarding 40 days...
-Moses went up the mountain and spent 40 days and 40 nights with God, while God wrote the Ten Commandments with his very finger. (Exodus 24:18)
-Twelve men spent 40 days exploring Canaan and seeing the provision of God before entering the promised land. (Numbers 13:25)
-Elijah traveled for 40 days to meet with God. (1 Kings 19:8)
-Jesus fasted for 40 days and 40 nights in the desert, being tempted by Satan and overcoming him, before beginning his earthly ministry. (Matthew 4:2)
I’m not after a strict 40 day regimen here. I simply want to do what some of these people did. Take an extended time to seek the Lord. To get out of a daily routine or a rushed time, to intentionally approach Easter with a heart that is stilled and awed after focusing on WHO Jesus is and why the cross and the resurrection changes everything. That’s my aim. I will likely not post every single day, I have to be realistic, I’ve got two kids and I’m pregnant. I may post a couple of names at once or a few days late, but again this isn't about rules and earning or keeping something, this is about our hearts turning toward God. My prayer is that this is refreshing and impactful as we study the attributes of God through the names given to Jesus. And by "we" I mean "me!" I'm doing this regardless of who reads along or doesn't, but I'd love to know if you're interested or when a particular name really speaks to a specific need you have. That's always a blessing for all of us to know because the Lord is so intentional about speaking to us and about answering the deepest cries of our soul.
Why 40 Names?
It is amazing and gracious of our God that He has revealed so much about who He is. We can be sure that we will never be able to grasp all that He is, He is beyond our comprehension and ability, but He has certainly not left us to wonder about His nature or His character. His names reveal His identity, the attributes of His existence, and His heart toward us. We get to know Him based on Who he IS not on who we think He should be or want Him to be. He’s given us countless ways to know Him, to catch a glimpse of Him and to experience Him. There are some 200 names/titles for Jesus in the Bible and I’m only looking at 40 of them. You should know however, that each one is significant and holds incredible meaning. Just as we recognize and identify someone according to their name, every name of Jesus is important in our understanding of who He is. It is a privilege to call our God by His very name. To cry out specifically to Him and to know who it is that we need and we seek.
I'm excited to go through this list again and to blog about it. Spring time and Easter and the Resurrection always help break us out of the cold and dreary winter. Normally that would be a deliverance that is especially sweet in Minnesota, but since the whole country has been experiencing record snow and cold, perhaps it will speak to all of us a little more personally! There is something about the promise of new life on the horizon that makes even the coldest and darkest of nights bearable.
Looking forward to sharing 40 days and 40 names of Jesus with you, blog friends!