Forty Names of Jesus - Day 5 - Light of the World

This is the fifth (and final) preview day of the series of Lenten Devotionals that my wife, Jennifer wrote. If you have found these beneficial, you may consider purchasing the e-book here. We both hope you've enjoyed them and have deepened in your love of Christ through them. There is another free day scheduled for Feb 16, 2016, but we were limited to 5 days free.

5. Light of the World

 John 8:12

 Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

 Optional – John 1:1-9, Matthew 5:14-16

When God created the world, the first thing he made (and the only thing on the first day) was light. Without light, you can’t see anything else! It makes sense that God made light first. Before that, there was no way to see. Do you think that would make you afraid? Being in total darkness without even light from stars in the sky or a neighbor’s house is very scary. Our eyes play tricks on us in the dark, and we think we see sparkles or colors. We lose our sense of direction and fall on something or run into something. So light is one of God’s wonderful creations and a gift to us.

Light is so important and good that it is also a way for Jesus to describe himself. Jesus says he is the “light of life.” He’s not just talking about daylight, or an electric light, to help us see with our eyes. He’s talking about light to guide us in how to live – how NOT to be lost and away from God forever.

When we don’t know what to believe or who to trust, that’s like walking in darkness. Things may seem fine for a while. But there are many dangers we can’t see, and it’s just a matter of time until there’s a big problem. Following Jesus in his light means we will never be totally lost. He will guide us to God in the end, through himself, and we will be saved. No darkness can ever be too much for him.

Jesus also told his disciples that they are lights in the world, and they should let their light shine by doing good deeds. But just like Jesus – the true Light – the disciples are to point people to God and bring glory to him. As Jesus’s followers, we don’t do good works to get other people to praise us. We do them so that others will see Jesus, the light for the nations, offering salvation to the ends of the earth (Isa. 49:6). Let’s praise him that he has made us walk in light!

 Key idea: Helps us to see

Forty Names of Jesus - Day 4 -

4. Immanuel

 Matthew 1:22-23

 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us).

 Optional – Isaiah 7:14, Psalm 139:7-12

 Where does God live? God is everywhere – there is nowhere you can go to escape from God. Anywhere you can go, God is already there. But at times throughout history God has especially revealed himself in certain places. In the Garden of Eden, God used to walk with Adam. God had created a perfect home for the first people, Adam and Eve, and God himself would be there in that place with them. That is amazing, and something none of us have ever experienced.

But you know what happened. Adam and Eve sinned, and they had to leave God’s presence. They had to leave the beautiful, flawless garden, and nothing has ever been completely, totally right since then. Because of Adam’s sin, God said that everything would be cursed. That means things are broken and messed up. Nothing is the way God designed it, with no death or problems. God put this curse on the whole universe and everything in it, including nature, animals, and people. The brokenness reminds us that we need God to send a rescuer. So ever since that time, people have not been able to be with God in the way Adam and Eve could be with him before their sin.

Because people aren’t perfect and sinless anymore, it would kill them to be in God’s perfect and holy presence. It would be dangerous – and deadly! Moses had to be protected from seeing God’s face when God spoke the ten commandments and the rest of the law to him. When God’s glory was with the Israelites, the tabernacle and the temple had to be surrounded by courtyards and walls and curtains. God’s glory was in the center room, called the Holy of Holies, and his holiness would destroy any sinful people who came near unprotected.

Think about how sad it would be, to know there is a wonderful, powerful, awesome God that we have no chance of ever meeting. But we can be with God, because Jesus came to be Immanuel – the name that means “God with us.” He came as God in a human body, to live just like humans, with other people, living the same kind of life. And he promised to someday take all who believe in him to be with God, forever, with no more sin or brokenness or sadness. Immanuel is the name that reminds us God has been with us and will be with us again! Let’s thank him and tell him how we look forward to that.

 Key idea: God with us

To read day five, click here. 


Forty Names of Jesus - Day 3 - Redeemer

Today is the third day of the forty leading up to Resurrection Sunday. Here is another preview of Jennifer's devotional guide on some of the names of Jesus.

3. Redeemer

 Galatians 3:13

 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree.”

 Optional – Isaiah 43:14-15, Titus 2:11-14, Leviticus 25:47-49

 Did you know that God’s people were slaves at one time? You probably do, if you know about Moses and how God sent him to lead the people out of Egypt. The Israelites were slaves in Egypt. That means they could not choose how to live their own lives, and they were treated cruelly by the Egyptian masters. The Israelites felt hopeless, because they could not defeat the Egyptians themselves. In Exodus 6:6, God tells Moses, “I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from slavery to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great acts of judgment.” Redeem means to buy someone out of slavery. The Israelites needed this, and God rescued his people using the plagues he sent on Egypt. Throughout the Bible, God is called Israel’s redeemer.

Another example of someone who was redeemed is Ruth. She wasn’t a slave, but she was poor. People who were poor were in danger of losing their family’s land and inheritance, and so very poor people could be redeemed as well. That is what Boaz did for Ruth – he redeemed the land of her husband who had died, and married Ruth, rescuing her from poverty. Ruth could not have done this for herself, and until Boaz redeemed her she was not free to live how she wanted because of her need.

Do you see what was similar in the stories? People who couldn’t help themselves and were not free to do what they wanted: these are the ones who need a redeemer. We are people who need a redeemer too. We aren’t slaves to another person, but we are slaves to sin and we can’t help ourselves. Our hearts are not free to do what we please but are full of sinful desires that we act on. This sin has us captive to it, and we keep on doing it even if we know it’s wrong and wish we could stop. Because we are sin’s captives, we are also facing the penalty of our sin – God’s judgment. A price had to be paid, to redeem us – to get us out from under the power of sin, and get us out from under the punishment for sin. Jesus died for us, in our place, to redeem us from sin and sin’s curse! The Bible tells us that he was rich, but for our sakes he became poor (2 Cor. 8:9). We can never thank him enough for this. We should worship him every day for giving up his riches and paying our price! Let’s do that now.

 Key idea: Pays the price to get us out of slavery

To read day four, click here. 

Forty Names of Jesus - Day 2 - Christ

This is the second of five preview days of Jennifer's e-book, Forty Names of Jesus. You can read Day 1 here. The idea is to allow folks to read it and use if with their families before they purchase it. 

The bigger idea is to get families into the Bible in this time leading up to Easter considering the person and the work of Jesus Christ as he is represented throughout Scripture.

This is a Lenten devotional in the sense that it can be particularly useful in building up excitement for Resurrection Sunday, not in the sense that it is a special means of grace or part of a religious duty driven by adherence to tradition. Use this anytime with your family. But when better than in the days before Easter?


2. Christ

 Matthew 16:15-17

 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.”

 Optional – Luke 2:11, John 1:41, Luke 24:44-49

 When people teach, or preach, or pray, have you ever noticed how many ways they can use Jesus’s name? “Our Lord Jesus Christ”, “Christ Jesus the Lord”, “Christ Jesus”, “Jesus Christ” or simply “Christ” are some of the ways people say his name. The reason that the word “Christ” can move around before or after Jesus is that “Christ” is a title. It’s not his last name, or his first name, but a title like King or Commander. That’s why people called him “the Christ” – Christ is the Greek word with the same meaning as Messiah. It means Anointed One, and to anoint someone meant to choose him for a special purpose, a special role.

God had promised through his prophets, like Isaiah, David, and Micah, that he was going to send his Chosen Messenger to rescue his people. By using the name “Christ” or “the Christ”, the disciples, angels, and Jesus himself were saying they believed God had kept his word – Jesus was the Promised One whom God sent. And we can worship him now and praise him for that – we recognize he is the fulfillment of God’s promises. He came once, to live among us, die, and rise again. He will come again to rule forever. We love and adore and serve him because he is God’s chosen one – He is Christ! Let’s worship him in prayer now.

 Key idea: Anointed one, chosen one (Greek)

To read day three, click here. 

Forty Names of Jesus - Day 1

As some of you may know, my wife Jennifer has put together an e-book of forty devotionals for families with children. I posted about it earlier on the blog to announce the book launch.

A sample of five days will be posted to give everyone a chance to try before they buy. Additionally, there will be some free and discounted days in the mix.  

You'll find the first entry below, and a link to the second day at the end. 

1. Jesus

 Matthew 1:21

 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.

 Optional – Luke 2:21, Matthew 1:18-25.

 Soon it will be springtime, and we will celebrate Easter. As we get close to Easter, each day we are going to spend some time thinking about who the Bible says Jesus is, and what we should know about him, and why we should worship and love him.

Easter, or Resurrection Day, is a very important day because we celebrate how Jesus died and rose again! That’s the best news ever, in all of history, and the best news we can ever share with other people. But something else happened first – something called the Incarnation. That word means Jesus was born as a baby, and lived as a man, for about 33 years before he died. We hear about this most often at Christmas. But before we get into all the names of Jesus – names the Bible uses in the Old Testament and in the New Testament, and what those names teach us about him – we’re going to find out how he got the name everybody called him, every day. His whole life, from the time he was a baby, and a child like you, to a grown-up adult like me, his family and friends and anybody talking to him called him “Jesus.”

Now, you know Jesus was special from the time he was born – you know how it happened with angels in the sky, and shepherds, and wise men. But actually it begins before then. He was given a special name before he was even born! It was unusual because an angel told Joseph in a dream that Mary, his promised wife, was going to have a baby, and the baby’s name was to be JESUS. The angel gave Joseph God’s message to call the baby Jesus because the name meant something. The words and sounds that the name Jesus comes from mean “God saves.” The angel told Joseph that that was Jesus’s name, because for him, it meant, “He will save his people from their sins.” So while Jesus’s resurrection is the biggest news, and the most important thing to remember, the importance started a long time before that. Even before he was born, Jesus had a name that told what he would do when he grew up. He would save his people from their sin. And he does! Let’s pray.

 Key idea: Saves his people from their sins

To read day two, click here.

Are You Ready for Lent?

It’s nearly the start of Lent. For many Protestants, that doesn’t traditionally mean much. However, similar to Advent, Lent was established as a way to intentionally build up anticipation for Resurrection Sunday.

If you are looking for family activities to help celebrate the coming of Christmas, Advent has dozens of products from a Protestant perspective, but there aren't as many options for Lent.

I’ve always thought that Easter is just as significant as Christmas. However, in the low church tradition and in culture in general, Christmas gets a lot more attention. A lot of this has to do with the commercialization of Christmas.

We’ve picked up the Jesse Tree tradition and other intentional lead-ups to Christmas in order to focus the kids’ minds on Christ. Everyone is talking about it, so simple traditions that build on Scripture and focus on the nature and purpose of the incarnation and show how the whole biblical narrative points toward the coming of Christ are invaluable. They take the anticipation of the countdown and emphasize the hope that is the foundation of the holiday.

There are fewer options for Lent from a Protestant perspective to raise the anticipation of that important holiday.

That is why my lovely wife, Jennifer, wrote a series of Lenten devotionals for children. Each one highlights a name of Christ in Scripture. Each one takes about 5 minutes to read. They are focused at children ages 5-10. Additionally, Jennifer has recommended some basic activities (like building a chain), that can be fun for the family and lead to a visible reminder of the approach of Easter.

It’s not just for the kids, though. Parents, too, benefit from going through thoughtful preparation for Resurrection Sunday. After all, which one of us couldn’t do with a little more time seeking to understand and honor Christ?

As Jennifer writes in her introduction:

One of the books that greatly influenced me as a student was Knowing God, by J. I. Packer. In Chapter 1, he says, “Our concern must be to enlarge our acquaintance, not simply with the doctrine of God’s attributes, but with the living God whose attributes they are. As he is the subject of our study, and our helper in it, so he must himself be the end of it. We must seek, in studying God, to be led to God. It was for this purpose that revelation was given, and it is to this use that we must put it.” In writing this book, my hope was that I would use these discussions not only to inform my children about Jesus, but to lead them to him. Packer goes on to say that “…we turn each truth that we learn about God into matter for meditation before God, leading to prayer and praise to God.” Reviewing these names and preparing to explain them to others is meditation, but I encourage you not to stop there. Take what you are thinking about and turn it towards Christ himself. Praise him along with your children as you allow these names and discussions to be a part of your life for 40 days.

Obviously, I’m a big fan of the project. So this isn’t a review, but a post to let you know that the devotional is out there on the market and available for purchase. It’s not about the money, but Amazon is a fairly universal platform and they make you charge.

In case you want to try it out, five days’ worth of posts will be made available online here at Ethics & Culture. There will be some free days coordinated in there.