• Jacob's Ladder Book Reviews

    JL Book Review: “The Shack” by Wm. Paul Young

    General information about The Shack

    The Shack is a Christian-themed novel by Canadian writer William Paul Young (often referred to as Wm. Paul Young or Paul Young). The book portrays theological topics and explores themes such as redemption and forgiveness through Mack, the protagonist, who spends the weekend with God in an abandoned shack, the crime scene of his youngest daughter’s murder. 

    Wm. Paul Young never actually intended The Shack to be published publicly; he originally printed 15 copies of his book for his friends and family at an Office Depot. When he did make the decision to broaden his reading audience, Young was rejected by Christian and secular publishers alike, until two former pastors formed Windblown Media and self-published the book in 2007.  

    One year after its publication, The Shack sold 1 million copies and made the USA Today Bestseller list.  It was also No. 1 on the New York Times Bestseller list from 2008-2010. The book even received “The Diamond Award” by the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association after it reached sales of over 10 million copies. 

    Since then, The Shack has sold over 20 million copies and has been published in 41 languages. The novel was adapted into a film in 2017. 

    What audience was The Shack originally targetted for?

    Wm. Paul Young originally wrote The Shack as a Christmas present for his 6 children as an expression of his journey of atonement, healing, and transformation through his relationship with God. He once quoted, “I didn’t want my kids growing up with the God that I did—white, distant, unreachable, unknowable, the darkness behind Jesus that needs to be appeased.” 

    Young chose the title The Shack as “a metaphor for the house you build out of your pain.” This makes sense when you consider the plot of the book.  

    The plot of The Shack

    Mackenzie Allen Philip or “Mack” is living under what he calls “The Great Sadness”. Four years previously, his youngest daughter Missy was abducted by a serial killer at a camping site during a family holiday.  

    Though the killer left his signature ladybug pin at the scene of the crime, Missy’s body was never found. However, when the authorities found a blood-stained dress in an abandoned shack in the heart of the Oregon wilderness, Mack identified the dress as belonging to his daughter. 

    One day, to Mack’s surprise, he receives a letter in the mail from God, inviting him to spend the weekend with Him in the same shack where Missy had been brutally murdered.  

    Full of skepticism, and yet curious, Mack makes a trip up to the shack expecting to confront his deepest, darkest pain. Instead, he encounters God and leaves the shack at the end of that weekend filled with peace, forgiveness, and hope for a better future for himself and his family. 

    The core theme of this book is one which all Christians grapple with: Where is God when we experience pain, loss, and suffering? Why do we struggle to feel His presence in this world that is dictated by evil? A second important theme is forgiveness and redemption. 

    The book does challenge the reader from the offset. The topic of child murder is not an easy one to stomach, however William Paul Young continues to keep his readers on their toes with his portrayal of God as an African-American woman named Elousia but who is referred to as Papa, the Holy Spirit as a wiry-built Asian woman named Sarayu, and Jesus as a Middle Eastern labourer.  

    Wm. Paul Young also meets theological topics head-on through pages of dialogue between Mack and the Triune, which are not only relevant to Mack, but affects both Christians and non-believers, such as free will, the Church, and forgiveness. 

    Reader’s reactions to The Shack

    Readers of The Shack appear to be rather polarized in their opinion of the book. Some are touched and uplifted by the message of God’s love, while others are convinced that the book is theologically misrepresented and borders on heresy.   

    Though it may be true that certain topics do raise question marks, what stands out for me is Young’s message that God is inherently good, He loves us and is always with us. He is our Father, our Papa.  

    Yes, the world is full of evil, pain, and suffering. I am no stranger to that, and neither are you, precious reader. However, if we can believe in the goodness of God in a broken world, then we can trust Him no matter what comes upon us.  

    What else has William Paul Young written?

    Other books that Wm. Paul Young has written are Cross Roads and Eve.

    Would l recommend The Shack?

    I read this book ten years ago, when l first gave my life to Christ. A friend of mine, who was strong in her Christian faith, gave it to me to help me understand God’s love, mercy, and grace. It was on her heart for me to know that God seeks a relationship with me and that l can trust Him as my Father.  

    My friend was absolutely right (Thank you, Goose!). Until l read The Shack, l hadn’t experienced what it was like to have a parent-child relationship of love, security, and absolute trust. Reading The Shack opened my eyes to the revelation that God loves me, l am His child and that He is my Father. Since reading this book, l call God Papa.  

    l didn’t get caught up in the theological correctness or lack thereof that has been discussed amongst readers and critics alike when l read The Shack: l approached the storyline from an emotional level. After reading the last page, not only had l found that emotional connection l was looking for, but the book’s message of God’s love had embedded itself deep in my heart that l feel to this day.  

    If you are looking for a reason to trust  God, if you are seeking a relationship with Him,  then l highly recommend this book. It will touch you and enlighten you, and you will receive such a wonderful revelation of the goodness, grace, and love of our Father.  

    Ok, you’ve convinced me to read The Shack. Now, where can l buy it?

    If you would like to purchase the book or any other products related to The Shack, then visit the official Windblown Media website theshackbook.com or Wm. Paul Young’s own website wmpaulyoung.com

    Alternatively, you can purchase The Shack through Amazon.com or Goodreads

    Blog banner photo credit: Image by David Mark from Pixabay 

    Book cover photo credit: Goodreads

  • Articles

    How you can let God fix a broken you

    Life is hard.  

    Now, I’m all about being positive, but as we say in Australia, where l grew up, we call a spade a spade. And the truth is, life is hard.  

    Sometimes we get dealt a bad hand, other times we make foolish decisions. And then there are the times where we make the worst mistakes we could ever make, and spiral down, down, until we feel like we won’t ever know again what it is like to be normal.  

    We’re all searching for a way to make things better for ourselves. It is our nature to want answers to life’s questions. However, in the meantime, we cover the pain of living by self-abusing ourselves:  We spend money we don’t have, we enter abusive relationships, we watch porn. Some of us even turn to drinking and taking drugs because we can’t cope.  

    If you’ve been looking for answers and haven’t found them, maybe it’s because you’ve been looking in the wrong place. 

    God is your answer. 

    Some of you might be thinking now, “Hey, l don’t have time for that religious stuff. You’ll never see me in a church!” or ”God doesn’t exist. If He did, l wouldn’t be in the situation l am right now.” 

    I am here to tell you that God does exist. God isn’t religion, God is love. It is all about having a relationship with Him; a loving, healing relationship.

    And as to why you’re in the situation you’re in right now, l can’t answer that question. But l do know, that God is the only one who can help you out of it.  

    The truth of the matter is, without God, we cannot solve our own problems. We can’t come out of debt on our own. We can’t get out of that abusive relationship on our own. We can’t beat that addiction on our own, no matter how many times we’ve tried.  

    Without God in our lives, we’re broken. 

    The good news is, God loves you and wants a relationship with you. It hurts Him to see you suffering. In fact, you are so important to Him, that He sent His own son Jesus to die for your sins, so that you can be re-united with Him again. Through the blood that Jesus shed for you on the cross, your transgressions are forgiven.  

      “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.”

    John 3:16 (NRSV)

    God’s redemption, by His grace, will heal the brokenness inside of you. You will be saved, living in eternal victory with Him! 

    So, what do you need to do to have a relationship with God?  

    Admit that you are helpless without Him in your life and ask Him for forgiveness for all the sins you’ve committed in the past. Then accept His offer of salvation, His gift to you.  

     All you need to do is speak the words aloud and truly believe in God’s ability to change you. It is an act of faith on your behalf. With the conviction of your sins and a heartfelt desire to have God enter your life, you will be saved by the grace of God. If you don’t know exactly what to say, I have written a Salvation prayer to help you. 

     I gave my life to Christ at a time when l felt very alone. I was battling depression and was struggling to cope every day. I was single and lonely for a partner. I was working as a primary school teacher, and l loved working with the kids and thoroughly enjoyed the company of my colleagues. However, after 10 years of working 12 hour days, on weekends and on holidays, the workload had taken a severe toll on my health. 

    Giving my life to Christ changed my life. God has revealed Himself to me as my true Father, who loves me, who would never hurt me, and on whom l can always rely on. For this reason l call God “Papa”. 

    God has also reignited my desire to be a writer, and l am now living my dream job of writing Christian articles, novels, and being a blogger. Finally, God led me to my wonderful husband Solomon, who is also a Christian. We have been married now for over four years. 

    After reading this article and you’re still not sure whether God is for you, think about this: You’ve tried everything else to make things better, and they haven’t worked out. So, what do you have to lose in giving God a try?  

    You are of the upmost importance to God – you, as an individual, you the person reading this article right now. It doesn’t matter to Him what you have done in the past or what you will do in the future. He knows all that and loves you anyway. You are enough.  

    God doesn’t care if you thought or spoke ill of him until now. He knew you from the moment you were conceived in your mother’s womb and He delights in you (Jeremiah 1:5). 

    You are His child and He loves you. 

    God wants to heal your hurt and pain. He wants to give you a fresh, new start so that you can live the life you deserve to live: full of hope, joy, and happiness. And it is possible to start over, if you give everything over to Him: the debt, the addiction, the fears, the doubt, and allow Him to enter your heart. 

    ‘” For surely I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord, “plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.”‘

    Jeremiah 29:11

    The choice is up to you.  Do you want to start over? 

    Photo credit:  Stanislav Kondratiev on Unsplash

    Would you like to enter into a relationship with God and need someone to talk to? Write us an email with the subject heading “Salvation” or leave a comment below. Your fellow readers and the team at Jacob’s Ladder Blog will be happy to help you!  

  • Devotionals

    A new acquaintance brings a fresh perspective

    Thought of the Day:  I thank God for bringing new acquaintances my way, for they give me a fresh perspective on my life.  

    Iron sharpens iron, 
        and one person sharpens the wits of another.” 

    Proverbs 27:17 NRSV 

    When my husband and l moved to a new city over a year ago, it was hard for me to leave my friends.  Many years of shared joys and tribulations have made us a close-knit group. In particular, l appreciate my friend’s loyalty and support while l convalesce from burnout and depression.   

    Making friends in an unfamiliar environment hasn’t been easy: l have made some acquaintances in the city and in our apartment building, but our initial interactions haven’t blossomed into anything more substantial. Being unable to lay social foundations has negatively affected my ability to acclimatize to my new environment; I have felt socially isolated, leaving me with regret at having made the decision to move.  

    About two months ago, l started group counseling for depression, where I  was delightfully surprised to find the other participants eager to make their acquaintance with me.  

    In a pleasant turn of events, I now go for a weekly coffee with some of the ladies in my therapy group.  Their knowledge of the city and their willingness to show me its cultural highlights have positively influenced my attitude about living here. In turn, they enjoy picking up make-up tips from me based on my experience as a freelance make-up and SFX artist. 

    I am grateful to God for the fresh perspectives of the city that my new acquaintances give me.  Most importantly, l consider myself blessed to have not only my dear lifelong friends but to also have the opportunity to make new friendships.     

    Prayer: 

    Merciful Father, thank You that You have created us to enjoy fellowship with You and our fellow man. We are grateful for the fresh perspective that a new acquaintance brings into our lives. Amen. 

    Delve deeper:

    Is there anyone that you know of — an elderly neighbour, a colleague or even someone at church — who needs someone to talk to, or even a friendly word spoken to them?

    Ask God to show you how you can reach out to them today. Your efforts will be a gateway through which God’s love can flow into their lives and will give you a fresh, new perspective on your own life.

    Photo credit:  Simon Maage on Unsplash

    Published on PresbyCan Daily Devotional on 22nd April 2019

  • Jacob's Ladder Bible Studies

    Part Three: Jacob’s Ladder Bible Study on Genesis 32

    Why being defeated by God can lead to His blessings

    Part Three – Studying God’s Word

    Welcome to the third and last section of our Jacob’s Ladder Bible Study on Genesis 32 “Why being defeated by God can lead to His blessings”. 

    In Part One, which we posted on Monday, we joined Jacob on his journey back to his homeland of Canaan. 20 years previously, Jacob had sought asylum with his uncle Laban, in order to escape the wrath of twin brother Esau, from whom he had stolen the latter’s birthright.  

    On the eve of his reunification with his brother, Jacob wrestles with an angel, who is in fact God.  It is in the throes of combat that God breaks Jacob of his self-dependence and craftiness. Only when Jacob finally concedes defeat that God blesses Jacob with a new identity as well as a new name – Israel. 

    In Part Two, which we posted on Wednesday, we explored the ways that we can apply our understanding of Genesis 32 to our everyday lives. 

    Part Three of our Jacob’s Ladder Bible Study is intended as a study guide for those of you who would like to delve deeper into the biblical and life themes presented in Genesis 32. 

    If you would like to know more about the benefits of studying the Bible, then l recommend that you read our page “Why study the Bible?” 

    The aim of this study section

    This study section of our Jacob’s Ladder Bible Study series is intended as a guide to promote discussion and reflection on Genesis 32.  

    As a start, I suggest that you read Part One and Part Two of the Bible Study on Genesis 32 that l posted this week, in order to fully appreciate the lesson portrayed in this biblical account and to consider the chapter’s themes.  

    Photo credit:  Ben White on Unsplash

    For whom is this study section intended?

    You can apply this section within a group setting, such as a house group, a Bible Study group, or a prayer group. 

    Alternatively, you can also study on your own. If this may be the case, l have written some suggestions below in the section “If you are studying on your own” to assist you in your learning.  

    I encourage you to customize this study preparation by taking out of it what you wish and adding your own ideas and insight. Have fun with it! 

    What you will need:

    • A Bible, preferable a study Bible. I personally use the  “The Everyday Life Bible” from Joyce Meyer Ministries 
    • An exercise book or journal and a pen 
    • As an alternative to pen and paper, you could use a tablet or a similiar electronic device 

    This study section composes of five parts: 

    1. Discussion questions 

    2. Testimony 

    3. Suggested reading  

    4. Journal writing 

    5. Prayer 

    These are just guidelines to help you structure your group time. Feel free to add or take out elements as you see fit!

    Additionally, talk with your group and ask them for suggestions about what they would like to do. The more ideas, the merrier! 

    If you are studying on your own 

    If you are not in a group and you would still like to apply this study section of Genesis 32 to your own private study of the Bible, that is also great! Quiet time with God is valuable time, and you can learn a lot about Him during it.  

    The following are a few suggestions of how you can adapt the 5 sections of this study guide for private study purposes: 

    1. Discussion questions: 

    You could start a journal and write down your thoughts to the listed discussion questions.  

    1. Testimony 

    You could use our suggested topics in the Testimony section as stimulation to write down all the wonderful things God has done in your life by starting a testimony journal or a blessings jar

     3. Suggested reading  

    Applicable in a group setting as well as for private study purposes. 

    4. Journal writing 

    Applicable in a group setting as well as for private study purposes. 

    5.Prayer 

    You can speak the prayer at the end of this section over yourself. Your words have power, especially if you speak them over yourself: 

    “ So shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; 
        it shall not return to me empty, 
    but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, 
        and succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” 

    Isaiah 55:11 

    Let’s look at the 5 sections of our study guide. 

    1.Discussions questions

    The following are some discussion topics l have thought of to assist you in delving deeper into the themes of Genesis 32. There is no right or wrong answer; these topics are merely suggestions to stimulate conversation and an exchange of views within your group. Also, feel free to ask others if they have themes regarding this topic that they would like to discuss and go with it! 

    As each person experiences a different walk with God, it is interesting to hear other people’s perspectives and thereby learn from each other and grow together as a Christian community. Happy talking! 

    Possible discussion topics on Genesis 32

    1. Have you experienced a situation in your life where you tried to fix it yourself, yet only made it worse? Did you finally ask God for help? How did His intervention make your situation easier? 
    1. Are there areas in your life that aren’t serving you, such as fear, pride, or unforgiveness that you are finding difficult to let go of? Why do you think you are holding on to them (e.g. fear of change, conflict aversion). 

    Note: This might a be sensitive topic for people to address, so introduce it into a group situation at your discretion. 

    Photo credit: mentatdgt from Pexels

    2.Testimony

    Sharing your life experiences and the victories that God has vouchsafed you, is a verbal expression of your gratitude. It gives not only our Father glory, but it encourages fellow Christians who may be going through the same trial that you have undergone.  

     I will declare your name to my people; 
        in the assembly I will praise you.” 

    Psalm 22:22  

    Jacob’s testimony after his struggle with God was the acquirement of a new identity and a new name – Israel. With God by His side, Jacob could embrace a happy reunification with his brother (Genesis 33).  

    Possible testimony topics on Genesis 32

    1. Do you have a testimony of how God wrestled you free of something that you were holding onto, like a poor mindset, a toxic relationship, or even an addiction? How has He blessed you since?  
    1. Have you learned to lean more and more on God in your life? How has your quality of life improved by relinquishing your self-dependence and instead, putting your trust and reliance in God’s hands? 
    1. Share a testimony with your group of a blessing that God has given you this week. 

    Photo credit:  Jason Hogan on Unsplash

    3. Suggested reading

    Reading the Word of God teaches us about how much God loves us and gives us guidelines on how to live the life He wants us to live – a life of victory and joy.

    Scriptures: 

    Bible chapters about God blessing broken people 

    • Job 42 – God blessed Job twofold for what he had lost  
    • Acts 2 – Peter, who had renounced Jesus three times, was baptized in the Holy Spirit at Pentecost and preached to the crowd, which commenced the movement of Christianity 
    • 2 Samuel 7 – After about 15 years of exile and persecution, God made David King of a united Israel and blessed him, his kingdom, and his progeny with love, rest from their enemies, and prosperity. 

    Interesting online articles relating to Genesis 32: 

    Crosswalk.com, “How wrestling with God will change you forever,” Dena Johnson Martin. 

    Desiring God, “Will you wrestle with God?” Jon Bloom 

    Inspirational quotes relating to Genesis 32: 

    “God is not looking for brilliant men, is not depending upon eloquent men, is not shut up to the use of talented men in sending His Gospel out in the world. God is looking for the broken men who have judged themselves in the light of the Cross of Christ. When He wants anything done, He takes up men who have come to the end of themselves, whose confidence is not in themselves, but in God!” – H.A. Ironside 

    “Whenever God means to make a man great, He always breaks him in pieces first.” – Charles Spurgeon 

    “God uses broken things. It takes broken soil to produce a crop, broken clouds to give rain, broken grain to give bread, broken bread to give strength. It is the broken alabaster box that gives forth perfume. It is Peter, weeping bitterly, who returns to greater power than ever.” Vance Havner 

    Photo credit:  Bethany Laird on Unsplash

    4. Journal writing

    Writing down all the good things that God has done in your life is a very powerful tool for a Christian. Not only does it help us to remember what God has done for us; reading over God’s past victories and blessings over you provides encouragement and empowerment in times of trouble. All you need to start is an empty exercise book and a pen. Alternatively, you can keep a digital journal. 

    There are a number of forms of journals, where regular writing in it will strengthen you in your walk with God: 

    •  A testimony journal 
    •  A dreams and visions journal 
    •  A blessings journal 
    •  My favourite –  a gratitude journal 

    Try to write optimally once a day. All you need is 5-10 min to jot down everything good that has happened to you during the course of your day, no matter how trivial.  

    Meditate upon what you wrote and acknowledge that it is God who was responsible for these good things happening today, and not you or your own works.  

     ‘”Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,” says the Lord Almighty.’ 

    Zechariah 4:6 (NIV) 

    Journaling in your group: 

    You can e.g. allot 10-15min for journaling in your group, and afterwards share your written thoughts with each other. 

    An alternate suggestion is to incorporate journal writing as part of your quiet time with God, then discuss your results when you meet as a group. 

    Journaling on the Bible Chapter Genesis 32

    1. Are there mindsets, people, or situations that you need to separate yourself from, but you can’t seem to do it? Write them all down in your journal, and pray for God to break you free of these things that are holding you back. 
    1. Write down in your journal three great ways that God has blessed you this week. 

    As an extension, consider starting a gratitude journal, where you write down the great things God is doing in your life every day. I personally love using the Five Minute Journal from Intelligent Change.  

    Photo credit:  Hannah Olinger on Unsplash

    5.Prayer 

    If you wish, you can read the following prayer aloud as a group, or one person can read it aloud on behalf of the others.  

    Prayer: 

    Sovereign Lord, thank you that we can come before You today with our imperfections and weakness and lay them before You at the Cross.  

    Please expose the thoughts and purposes of our hearts to us.  Give us the humility to hand those things over to You which aren’t serving us in order that You can create a clean heart in us and renew a right spirit within us.  

    For only then when our spirits are contrite and our entire being is reliant on You, can we walk in the fulfillment of Your wonderful purpose for our lives.  

    Thank You Lord that Your ways are always good, for You are a good Father who will never fail us, nor forsake us.  

    In Jesus’ name, 

    Amen 

    Photo credit:  Ben White on Unsplash

    We hope that you enjoyed our first Bible study on Genesis 32 in our series Jacob’s Ladder Bible Studies

    In July, we will be studying  Ephesians 1. We would love for you to join us! 

    Until then, my friends, be safe and may God’s love and blessings be upon you! 

    Madeline

    Sources:

    1. Bible.org , “Lesson 59: Broken, But Blessed (Genesis 32:22-32).”
    2. Blue Letter Bible, “Study Guide for Genesis 32.”
    3. StudyLight.org, “Spurgeon’s Verse Expositions of the Bible – Genesis 32.”

  • Jacob's Ladder Bible Studies

    Part Two: Jacob’s Ladder Bible Study on Genesis 32

    Why being defeated by God can lead to His blessings

    Part Two: Living God’s word  

    Applying Genesis 32 to everyday life

    On Monday, we started Part One of our Bible Study of Genesis 32, where Jacob wrestles with an angel all night, only to find out that the angel is God.   

    Jacob, who for all of his life has schemed and been dependent on his wiliness, struggles to relinquish these qualities, which is demonstrated symbolically through his wrestling match with God. However, it is only when Jacob realizes that God is stronger than he is, can he let go of his past and allow God to bless him with a new name “Israel” and the identity and life that he deserves. 

    Not only reading and studying the Bible is an integral part of every Christian’s God walk; we should also try and apply its messages to our daily life. Luke states aptly in his gospel: 

    “’Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.’” 

    Luke 11:28 (NRSV)  

    Now that we understand the message behind Genesis 32, let us explore in Part Two of our Jacob’s Ladder Bible Study serieshow we can learn to let go of qualities, habits, and ways of thinking that aren’t serving us and instead learn to rely on God as our source of strength, salvation, and refuge. 

    Like Jacob, how can l learn to rely on God in my daily life?

    All of us have blemishes and imperfections – after all, we aren’t perfect.  They might be small foibles such as being untidy, not being able to align your shirt buttons to its corresponding buttonhole (that’s me) or always forgetting to check whether the stove is off before you run out the door.  

    Or, they could be more serious character flaws such as pride, selfishness, or an unwillingness to forgive others.  

    The first few examples are mere eccentricities: They may make our lives a tad more difficult, but they are not a reflection of our moral or spiritual fiber. The latter examples, however, can hold us back spiritually from being able to receive the blessings that God has spoken over our lives.  

    How? Because they lead us to focus on ourselves and keep our egos and our needs as the motivating force of our lives, instead of fixing our eyes on God and having Him as the nucleus of our existence. We become self-dependent, thinking that we can handle life ourselves, when in reality, we can’t. 

    This is the lesson that Jacob painfully learned and one that we would do well to keep in mind ourselves.  

    So, how do let go of those qualities that keep us from having a more intimate relationship with God? What do we have to do to become dependent on Him? 

    Photo credit:  Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

    Learn to trust God every day – not just when you’re in trouble 

    When we face difficulties, our nature is to try and figure out everything out for ourselves. We lay awake at night tossing and turning, churning out possibilities. Only when we have run out of options, do we turn to God for help. 

    However, God wants us to rely on Him in our daily life and not just when we’re in trouble. So, whether it’s deciding on what to buy in the supermarket to leaning on Him while you or a family member goes through a serious illness, learn to trust God in the mundane things and the life-changing events of your life.  

    “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, 
        and do not rely on your own insight.” 

    Proverbs 3:5 

    If you’re going through a difficult period in your life, and you’re struggling with making that leap of faith to trust God, try speaking to Him today about what is on your mind. God will meet you where you are at, and He will help you. All you have to do is seek Him.  

    “Do not fear, for I am with you, 
        do not be afraid, for I am your God; 
    I will strengthen you, I will help you, 
        I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.” 

    Isaiah 41:10 

    Photo credit: Japheth Mast on Unsplash

    God should be your source of strength

    Life is tough and there are many hard lessons that we learn from it. Having survived hard times, we tell ourselves that we’re stronger as a result of what we’ve gone through. We wear our experiences like metaphorical medals of valor, grittily proud that we have survived warfare. We take the pain that we endured during those battles, and we tap into it as our source of strength. 

    However, our real source of strength should be God, not the resilience of our hearts and bodies to take life’s knocks. 

    “My flesh and my heart may fail, 
        but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” 

    Psalm 73:26 (NRSV) 

    By relying on God as our source of strength, we are already in His presence when challenges and adversity come. We can take refuge, knowing that we are where we should be – safe in the hands of our Lord who protects us. 

    “God is our refuge and strength, 
        a very present help in trouble.” 

    Psalm 46:1 

    Photo credit: Amar Yashlaha on Unsplash

    Allow God to change and refine you

    It is not an uncommon belief, even amongst Christians, that God punishes us when we do something wrong. That could be farther from the truth. Though we are sinners, God loves us and has forgiven us for all of our transgressions – past, present, and future – through the blood of Jesus Christ. 

    “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace.” 

    Ephesians 1:7 

    That doesn’t mean that God won’t sometimes allow us to go through seasons of adversity. However, these times are not designed to ruin us, but as in Jacob’s case, it is God’s way of refining us and breaking us free of qualities, habits, and attitudes that are not serving us.  

    “So that the genuineness of your faith—being more precious than gold that, though perishable, is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.” 

    1 Peter 1:7 

    Thus, when God allows us to experience difficulties, He does so because He loves us. He wants the best for us and wants us to live the joyful, abundant life He has planned for us. However, He knows that we can only do that when we let go of those things that hold us back. Therefore, allow God to change and refine you, for it comes from a place of love, not wrath. 

    Photo credit: Hannah Gibbs on Unsplash

    What can l do this week to rely on God more?

    Here are three things you can do this week to help you to rely on God more: 

    • Surrender yourself to God 
    • Give yourself grace in the process 
    • Seek God in prayer 

    Let’s look at these three points in some detail.

    Photo credit: Noah Silliman on Unsplash

    Surrender yourself to God

    There is a difference in saying to God, “Change me and refine me, Lord!” and actually surrendering yourself fully to Him.  

    After praying and asking God for help, Jacob still sent Esau a portion of his livestock as a present to appease him. Jacob was able to surrender his possessions, however, he wasn’t able to surrender himself to God and allow Him to do His will in Jacob’s situation. 

    Open yourself to God during your quiet time, or even when you’re going about your day, and tell Him you are ready to give yourself, your situation, and your family into His loving Hands. Don’t be afraid, for He will make all things come together for your good. 

    “We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” 

    Romans 8:28 

    Photo credit: Jeremy Perkins on Unsplash

    Give yourself grace in the process

    Learning to surrender and trust God completely isn’t going to necessarily happen overnight, so don’t give yourself a hard time over it.  

    Strengthening yourself in the Lord is a gradual thing, and we can be thankful for the grace that He shows us as we become more like Him, from one degree of glory to another. (2 Corinthians 3:18

    Therefore, give yourself some grace during the process of completely trusting God. Joyce Meyers, the co-founder of Joyce Meyers Ministries, sums it up so aptly when she says, “I may not be where I want to be, but thank God I am not where I used to be.” 

    Photo credit: Ben White on Unsplash 

    Seek God in prayer

    God likes it when we communicate with Him. Whatever is bothering you, whatever you know is weighing you down and preventing you from receiving God’s blessings of a joyful life, know that you can lay it all before Him in prayer. 

    “Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” 

    Philippians 4:6 

    Thank God for all the wonderful things He has done for you, and ask Him to show you the areas in your life where you still need to let go of those things that aren’t serving you. God hears your prayers and will always help you because He loves you!  

    “And this is the boldness we have in him, that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.” 

    1 John 5:14 

    Sometimes we make the mistake of thinking that God is a little old benevolent man who is watching us from the lofty heights of Heaven, just lingering around until we need Him. 

    However, God is not like that at all. He is Emmanuel – God with us. He is Yahweh – the Great I AM. God wants to not be just on the outskirts of our lives, He wants to be the center of our existence. He is the Almighty, the Creator of the Universe, the One who sees all and knows all. 

    God wants a relationship with us. He wants the best for us because He loves us. And sometimes, that means He has to refine us by helping us relinquish those things that are damaging us. Instead of wrestling with God to hold onto those things that aren’t serving us, let us start from today to surrender ourselves to God and allow Him to change and refine us. Let us put our trust and confident reliance in God, for He is always good! 

    Photo credit: Ben White on Unsplash

    This concludes the second part of our Jacob’s Ladder Bible Study series on Genesis 32 “Why being defeated by God can lead to His blessings”. 

    To see Part One of our Bible study of Genesis 32, click here.

     If you have enjoyed the series so far, we would love to have you join us on Friday, when l will post the third and final part of our series. 

    Until then my friends, take care and God bless! 

    Madeline

    Sources:

    1. Bible.org , “Lesson 59: Broken, But Blessed (Genesis 32:22-32).”
    2. Blue Letter Bible, “Study Guide for Genesis 32.”
    3. StudyLight.org, “Spurgeon’s Verse Expositions of the Bible – Genesis 32.”

  • Devotionals

    A little cloud of hope

    Thought of the day: During trials, l will wait expectantly on God for a sign that He is working in my situation.

    “At the seventh time he said, ‘Look, a little cloud no bigger than a person’s hand is rising out of the sea.’”
    1 Kings 18:44 (NRSV)

    Three years ago, l was diagnosed with burnout, anxiety and severe depression. Formerly a full-time teacher, my days suddenly revolved around doctor’s and psychiatrist’s visits, taking medication and trying to cope with mental lows and fears.


    I felt weak and frustrated, yet I was determined to make a full recovery. I prayed and praised God for my deliverance. I believed that l would get well. Yet months went by and l saw little progress.


    Did l get discouraged? Yes. Did l wonder secretly in my heart if things would ever get better? Sometimes. However, l remained insistent that God would heal me.


    Furthermore, I started to get severe headaches. In response, I delved into scripture, l fasted and kept on praying. I concentrated on keeping my eyes on Jesus and thanked him for healing me. I imagined myself being well and whole again.


    Then, one day, the headaches suddenly stopped.


    It was my little cloud of hope, a small but significant sign that carried a loving assurance from God, that more healing was coming. Since then, l have been making continuous improvement in my recovery.
    God pours out great blessings from small beginnings. And it all starts with a little cloud of hope.

    Prayer: Wonderful Lord, thank you that when we wait on you in faith, you will send us a little cloud of hope: the beginning of a great outpouring of your blessings. Amen.

    Delve deeper: Friends, if you are deep in the midst of strife and don’t see any end in sight, ask God in prayer to show you His presence. Let Him guide you to that little cloud of hope, that assurance that He is moving in your situation.

    Published on PresbyCan Daily Devotional on the 8th May.

    Photo by Dallas Reedy on Unsplash


  • Jacob's Ladder Bible Studies

    Part One: Jacob’s Ladder Bible Study on Genesis 32

    Why being defeated by God can lead to His blessings

    Part One: Understanding God’s word  Bible commentary on Genesis 32

    Brokenness is the path to blessings

    As l was deciding on which Bible chapter l should choose in order to kick of our Bible study series, l wanted to focus on a biblical account that portrayed how the power of God can transform us.

    You see, God will change our situation, but He is more interested in changing us first. However, we as humans resist God’s attempts to change us, for it is our nature to trust ourselves. We take pride in our self-dependence and hold our ability to make our own decisions in high regard.

    However, God knows that it is only when we submit to Him that we can receive His blessings. For that reason, He at times need to break us, for it is only when we lose to God, that He can bless us as we cling to Him in recognition of our need for Him.

    Brokenness is the path to blessings.

    This is the powerful lesson that Jacob learned in Genesis 32. Over the course of this week, we will be studying how Jacob changed in one night from a self-dependent opportunist to experiencing God’s blessings, power, and a new identity. He did this by losing in a contest of wills against God Himself. 

    This bible commentary is part one of three in our Jacob’s Ladder Bible Study series on Genesis 32. Part Two will come out on Wednesday and Part Three on Friday. 

    Before we delve into Genesis 32, let us form a brief character analysis of Jacob.

    Photo credit: by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

    Jacob the supplanter

    All of his life, Jacob had schemed and stolen to gain favor.  

    Jacob came into the world grabbing his twin brother Esau’s heel (Genesis 25:26) . Years later, he tricked Esau into exchanging his birthright for a bowl of soup (Genesis 25:29-34). As a consequence, Jacob received his father’s blessings, a great honor that was reserved for the first-born son and which was essentially Esau’s to claim.

    Jacob also tricked his uncle Laban into giving him the goats and sheep of his choice from Laban’s vast flocks (Genesis 30:25-43).  It is no wonder that Jacob’s name meant “Supplanter” or “Usurper”.

    Photo credit:  KEEM IBARRA on Unsplash

    God sends His angels ahead of us (Genesis 32:1-2)

    After working for his uncle Laban in Haran for 20 years, Jacob is returning to his homeland of Canaan. 20 years previously, Jacob had entered his uncle’s household in order to find himself a wife and to escape the wrath of his brother Esau, who had threatened to kill Jacob for stealing his birthright.

    Now, Jacob is coming home, with two wives, 11 children, and vast herds of livestock and servants. He is the epitome of the self-made man.

    However, despite his success, Jacob is still apprehensive about entering the land of Canaan, as he remembers his twin brother’s death threat against him. Jacob presumes that Esau still carries vengeance in his heart against him and is dreading a reunification.

    We see in Genesis 32:1, that angels meet Jacob as he is on his way home. Jacob recognizes and is comforted by them, for he calls them “God’s army” and names the place of his encounter with them Mahanaim (two armies). It is good to know that God is with us to comfort us and provide for us, as we go through difficult situations.

    Photo credit: Raychan on Unsplash

    Jacob prays to God for help but essentially relies on himself (Genesis 32: 3-20)

    Jacob sends messengers ahead to Esau, who lives in Edom, which is a land south of Canaan. This is the news that he sends with them:

    Thus you shall say to my lord Esau: Thus says your servant Jacob, ‘I have lived with Laban as an alien, and stayed until now and I have oxendonkeysflocks, male and female slaves; and I have sent to tell my lord, in order that I may find favor in your sight.’” 

    Genesis 32:4-5 (NRSV) 

    Jacob’s motivation in informing his brother of his good fortune is not intended as bragging. Jacob wants Esau to know that he has not come to take anything from him, like he had done in the past – he has more than enough. Instead, Jacob hopes to lower his brother’s defenses by letting Esau know in advance that he, Jacob, poses as no threat to him.

    However, when messengers return with the information that Esau is already underway to meet Jacob and that he has 400 men with him, Jacob becomes very afraid (Genesis 32:6-7). 

    As a man of faith, Jacob prays to God for deliverance from Esau’s wrath. (Genesis 32:9-12). However, it is interesting to see what Jacob does both before and after he prays to God for help.

    Prior to praying: Prior to praying, Jacob divides his company, including the animals, into two groups (Genesis 32:7-8).  Where he has two God-blessed, superior armies at the beginning of this chapter to support him, Jacob now carves two human parties consisting of women, children, and livestock, who are dependent on him.

    Following his prayer: After he prays, Jacob sends Esau droves of livestock as gifts ahead of himself (Genesis 32:13-20).  

    Jacob’s action before praying to God is a defense tactic, a way to preserve at least a part of his hard-earned acquirements if Esau is indeed intent on attack his party. His action after praying is an appeasement tactic.

    Though Jacob loves and trust God enough to ask Him for help, his default setting is to be reliant upon his own strategies and scheming.

    Photo credit: Zoltan Tasi on Unsplash 

    Jacob fights God and loses (Genesis 32:21-30)

    Sending his brother Esau gifts does not make Jacob feel any more at ease about is impending meeting with his brother: He spends the night in his camp but sleep eludes him. He gets up in the middle of the night and sends his entire family, including his two wives, eleven sons, and servants over the ford of the Jabbok, where they will be safer. 

    Jacob is left alone in his camp, but not for long. An angel comes and wrestles with him until dawn (Genesis 32:24). 

    Jacob, having fought for everything he considered of value in his life, fights for his life against the angel. In fact, Jacob fights so resolutely that he and the angel are locked in a wrestling stance the entire night until daybreak. It is only when the angel touches Jacob’s hip and injures him, does Jacob finally concede defeat (Genesis 32:25). 

    Although God refused to reveal His name to Jacob, Jacob is very aware that he has wrestled with the Almighty and has been defeated by Him (Genesis 32:29). Jacob calls the location of his encounter with God  Peniel, meaning “the face of God” (Genesis 32:30). 

    Although God refused to reveal His name to Jacob, the latter is very aware that he has wrestled with the Almighty and has been defeated by Him (Genesis 32:29). Jacob calls the place where his encounter with God took place Peniel, meaning “the face of God” (Genesis 32:30). 

    Photo credit: Ian Espinosa on Unsplash 

    Why being defeated by God meant that Jacob could be blessed (Genesis 32:24-26)

    Jacob believes that his biggest adversary is his brother Esau. However, God wrestles with Jacob to show him that it is actually himself, who poses as his greatest opponent.  

    Jacob fights his inner man when he fights God. He fights the self-dependent schemer who seeks to take advantage over everyone under ever circumstance, instead of trusting God and handing the situation over to Him. 

    God knows that Jacob cannot enter into a proper relationship with Him until the young man realizes his own weaknesses. However, God allows Jacob to grapple with Him the entire night, in order to show Jacob the power of his own self-will.

    God wants to see whether Jacob will surrender himself to Him. However, when Jacob refuses to yield, God breaks his will with just the slightest touch on Jacob’s hip (Genesis 32:25). It is in this moment, that Jacob realizes that he is defeated.

    Broken and weak, Jacob clings to God, but this time in desperation. He recognizes his own weakness in the presence of God’s greatness. He is made meek by the revelation of how easily God has humbled him when he thought the fight had been evenly matched.  

    Though God asks Jacob to let go of him, he refuses. Being delivered of his own self-will and self-reliance has given Jacob a revelation of his need to keep God first and foremost in his life. He knows that he cannot face Esau without God by his side, especially as God has now crippled him.  Therefore, Jacob calls out, “I will not let you go, unless you bless me” (Genesis 32:26).  

    Photo credit: Ravi Roshan on Unsplash 

    Jacob is given a new name and a new identity (Genesis 32:27-32)

    God wants to bless Jacob, but before He does that, He wants to make sure that Jacob can admit who he really is. God asks Jacob to state his own name (Genesis 32:27) in order that Jacob acknowledges who he is, with all his weaknesses, and with all that his name stands for.

    It is after this confession that God gives Jacob a new name and with it, a new identity. In Genesis 32:28, He says to Jacob, “’You shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with humans, and have prevailed.’” Consequently, God blesses Jacob.  

    As a reminder of his life-changing encounter with God, Jacob has the memorial at Peniel, as well as a permanent limp. 

    Jacob is ready to meet Esau (Genesis 33). He may be limping, but Jacob is now approaching his brother with God’s strength and in acknowledgment of his own weakness, which is more powerful than had he gone to his brother based on the strength of his meager self-reliance and craftiness.  

    As a reminder of Jacob’s life-changing encounter, many Jewish people to this day abstain from eating the area of the thigh where Jacob obtained his permanent injury (Genesis 32:32). 

    Photo credit; Sammie Vasquez on Unsplash 

    Be aware of falling back into old patterns

    Jacob in turn, asks God His name. However, God refuses to answer Him. Maybe God refuses to grant Jacob this request, because the question is being asked out of a fleeting curiosity. Alternatively, maybe God sees that Jacob is in danger of falling into old patterns of manipulation: By asking God for His name, Jacob could be trying to create an opportunity to try and control God for his own advantage in future. God wants to prevent Jacob from falling into the temptation of reverting back to his old self.   

    This situation shows us, that even when we have been humbled at God’s hands, we still need to be aware of our need to continue to submit to Him, rather than use Him as and when we need Him. The apostle Peter states:

    Discipline yourselveskeep alert. Like a roaring lion your adversary the devil prowls aroundlooking for someone to devour.” 

    1 Peter 5:8 

    Coming into the presence of God means being confronted with our personal weaknesses. Because our flesh is resistant to change, God needs to wrestle with us at times to make us see that we need to let go of those characteristics which aren’t serving us.

    Only then, when we cling to God in acknowledgment that He is our source of strength, our salvation, and our refuge, can we be in a position for Him to bless us with the wonderful plans He has for us to live a life of abundance. 

    Photo credit:  NeONBRAND on Unsplash

    This concludes the first part of our Jacob’s Ladder Bible Study series on Genesis 32 – “Why being defeated by God can lead to His blessings”.  

    I hope you have enjoyed reading about Jacob’s journey of self-discovery and revelation of God. 

     If so, feel free to join us on Wednesday, when l post the second part of our series. 

    Until then friends, be blessed! 

    Madeline

    Sources:

    1. Bible.org , “Lesson 59: Broken, But Blessed (Genesis 32:22-32).”
    2. Blue Letter Bible, “Study Guide for Genesis 32.”
    3. StudyLight.org, “Spurgeon’s Verse Expositions of the Bible – Genesis 32.”
  • Personal testimonies

    Can you see the presence of God in my life?

    Written my Marilyn McAvoy Clark

    I was born in 1947 in Niagara Falls, New York. My mom and dad were 40 and 45 years old respectively when I was born. I have two much older siblings and then my brother who is 4 years older than me.


    My God is an awesome God, and He is always with me and you. However, I didn’t really know that when I was growing up – l only realized it later.


    My family was Catholic, and we went to church every Sunday morning for 7:30 am Mass. Later, we changed to the 5.00 pm mass that took place on a Saturday evening. In the summer we stood for the sermon, as it was 3 minutes long, so we were in and out of church in 20 minutes. I also attended a Catholic grade school.


    My earliest impressions of God the Father was that He was to be feared, because of a very large painting of Him that was on the front of our church. It was maybe 20 feet high, and the Father was portrayed as an old man with a long white beard and looked quite stern. Below the Father in this painting was Jesus on the cross, and below Him was the white dove portrayed as the Spirit.


    Though l was afraid of God the Father, I did, however, love Jesus. What I loved about Him was the feeling I had when l thought of Him – l felt warm, fuzzy, and safe. I still feel these feelings and more now. I finally came to know the Holy Spirit about 15 years ago.

    Can you see how God first touched my life?

    My childhood was a difficult one. By the time l was 5 years old, l had gotten myself into quite a bit of trouble. When I was 2 years old, I climbed up an advertising billboard that had a latticework backing (you won’t see that style anymore). I thought it would be grand to walk across the top, until I fell off and broke my left hip. I spent my third birthday in the hospital because of the injury to my hip, which led to a further complication of a bowel obstruction from the break.


    I used to constantly get lost trying to follow my brother to school, and at least twice l was brought home by the police after searching for pollywogs* in the creek a few blocks from home. You see, my Dad had to work a lot, my brother was at school, and my mother was busy sewing in the basement in order to supplement our family’s income. I have also fallen into empty tar bins, walked through cement and have been brought home by a kind-hearted truancy officer after finding me in a bar.

    Can you see how God preserved me, despite my mishaps?

    When l was 9 years old, everything went further downhill. My mother started going out to work, and my brother started a paper route. l was left alone in the house a lot, so my brother-in-law used to come and visit me. I was 10 years old when he molested me for the first time. He often told me not to tell anyone about his visits or I would be sorry. However, I knew what he was doing wasn’t right.


    Therefore, in defiance, I told my mother. She responded by saying that I would have to learn to protect myself from my brother-in-law’s advances. She didn’t want to tell my dad, as she was afraid that he would kill my brother-in-law. I will never forget how let down I felt from her: It was such a sinking feeling and sense of loss.


    So, in an attempt to defend myself, I took the spare key from its hiding spot so that my brother-in-law couldn’t get in the house, and I listened to him as he pounded on the door. It was totally nerve-racking for me. Therefore, in order to get away from him, I did something else. Our church used to have 7:30 am mass on Saturday’s and that’s where I went. I stayed in church until I thought it was safe to go home. I did this for 2 years.

    Can you see how God rescued me?

    I still had to see my brother-in-law, as he and my sister, as well as their 3 sons, came to visit us every Sunday. Another time, l was left alone with him during a 30-mile car journey. I was terrified the entire time and clung onto the car door handle for dear life. I was determined to jump out of the car if need be, but God kept me safe.

    Finally, when I was 12 years old, l managed to be completely free of my brother-in-law. l became a stock girl at my mother’s place of work, as she needed my help. The job was 30 miles away from home, and l went there every Thursday after school and spent all day Saturday there as well.

    Can you see how God looked after me?

    In my late teens, my life continued spiraling downwards. I discovered how good alcohol made me feel. By the time I was 27, I had cirrhosis of the liver, and I was on the verge of having “wet brain”, which is a form of brain damage that is caused by repetitive and heavy exposure to alcohol.


    Finally, I was hospitalized for 3 weeks in a general hospital and then immediately taken to an alcoholic rehabilitation floor in a psychiatric hospital, where I discovered Alcoholics Anonymous. I got sober and actually celebrated my 43rd anniversary of sobriety this May. While l was in that program l renewed my belief in God.

    Can you see how God freed me from my chains and gave me a new life?

    However, despite my faith, it has been a long road for me to travel spiritually, especially between the ages of 27 and 69. I tried going back to church but it was difficult for me.


    15 years ago, l joined a course which guides you into an introduction of the Christian faith. I asked a few people I knew about this course and since signing up, l have not looked back.

    Can you see how God never forsakes me?

    I have an amazing relationship with my God now. He has picked up this lost sheep, and He has carried me on His shoulders to a new life filled with His joy. He has been with me when I broke my neck and fractured my jaw. He has been with me when my l broke my leg, and I was in a wheelchair for 18 months. He has been with me through 2 alcoholic husbands and the birth of my wonderful son. He has been with me through back surgery on my spine. He has been my refuge and my strength.

    “God is our refuge and strength,
    a very present help in trouble.”
    Psalm 46:1 (NRSV)

    Can you see how good God has been to me all my life?

    He has blessed me with gratitude, peace, patience, and joy. I have a smile on my face now when I greet people – all because God loves me. My hope comes from Him, for He alone is my rock and my salvation.

    “For God alone my soul waits in silence,
    for my hope is from him.
    He alone is my rock and my salvation,
    my fortress; I shall not be shaken.
    On God rests my deliverance and my honor;
    my mighty rock, my refuge is in God.
    Trust in him at all times, O people;
    pour out your heart before him;
    God is a refuge for us.”
    Psalm 62:5-8

    I would like to tell you today, that you too can have all this – and more. Just ask God or like in my case, beg Him for help. God hears you, He walks beside you, and He cries with you. I trust God for everything now. I know I will still face problems but I am not alone. I am His child, and He will never leave me!

    “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
    all the days of my life,
    And l shall dwell in the house of the Lord
    my whole life long.”
    Psalm 23:6

    *tadpoles

    About the author:

    Marilyn McAvoy Clark is a reformed Christian who has an intense love for the Lord. She lives in Ontario, Canada, although she is technically American-Canadian, as she was born in Niagara Falls, New York. She attends Bethel Christian Reformed Church in Ontario and has a son. If you would like to get in contact with Marilyn, you can write to her at marilynjclark1947@gmail.com.

  • Articles

    9 mighty names of God and how their meanings are relevant for us today

    God is not revealed to us in the Bible as being called just God. He is referred to by other names, each which reveal a certain aspect of His character.  

    In the Old Testament, names held significance as they did not only fulfill the purpose of identity, they explained characteristics and even occupations. 

    Therefore, God reveals not only who He is by His many names, but also who He is to us as we learn more about the different aspects of His nature.  

    Though most of these names may have been revealed to God’s people in the Old Testament, the meaning behind them denotes God’s power, love, and mercy that is just as relevant for us today as it was for believers of the ancient world.  

    Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever 

    Hebrews 13:8 

    Here are 9 of the most well-known names of God and what they mean. 

    1.Yahweh 

    Meaning: “The Lord”, “God”

    These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created.  In the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens.”         

    Genesis 2:4

    Yahweh is found in the Hebrew Bible and holds particular significance in Jewish tradition as a covenant name of God, the holiest of names, and it is held in the highest esteem. In fact, it is considered to be too holy to be even spoken aloud (Exodus 20:7 NRSV). It is derived from the Hebrew word “I am”. 

    With that in mind, Yahweh first appears in Genesis 2:4. However, God first revealed His covenant name to humans, Moses specifically, in Exodus 3:14-15, when Moses was commanded to tell the Israelites the name of the One who had sent him to lead God’s people out of Egypt. On recognizing the ultimate power and authority behind the name Yahweh, the Israelites would know immediately that Moses had the blessings and strength of God behind him. 

    The spelling of Yahweh is modern, as it includes vowels to aid with its pronunciation. Yahweh is actually the transliteration of the Hebrew word YHWH, which is known as the Tetragrammaton, meaning 4 letters. 

    The word Adonai (Lord) is sometimes used as a substitute for YHWH. As a consequence, early English translations of the Bible have amalgamated the two words into Jehovah, which is in common usage even today. 

    2. Adonai

    Meaning: “Lord God”, “Master” 

    “Three times in the year all your males shall appear before the Lord God, the God of Israel.” 

    Exodus 34:23 

    Adonai comes from the plural form of adon (Lord). Hence, Adonai is a reference to the Trinity, as well as a reference to God. When the singular form adon is used, it is usually referring to humans in a position of power, such as King David (2 Samuel 3:21) or the prophet Elisha (2 Kings 2:19). 

    As a remnant of their tradition of esteemed reverence for the covenant name Yahweh, modern Jewish believers will substitute the word Adonai when reading the scriptures aloud. For that reason, most English versions of the Bible might translate YHWH as “Lord”.  

     3.Elohim

    MeaningFather God / God the Creator 

        “In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth,” 

    Genesis 1:1 

     Elohim reflects the sovereignty and absolute power of God. He is the God who created heaven and earth, He is the Almighty and ruler of all. He omnipotent decree is declared in the first verse of the Bible and occurs a total of 2000 times in the scriptures.  

    The name Elohim is a glorification of the awesome power of God that is displayed through nature. He is mightier than any other gods or false idols that govern the world today, such as consumerism and self-advancement. He is the one true God under which every star, animal, rock, and human must bow to. 

    So, the next time you watch a sunset or even see a beautiful flower in full bloom, remember the One who created all things.  

    4. Abba

    Meaning: “Father” 

    “He said, “Abba, Father, for you all things are possible; remove this cup from me; yet, not what I want, but what you want.”’ 

    Mark 14:36 

    The name Abba was vocalized by both Jesus and Paul in Aramaic in the New Testament, which reflected their deep and personal relationships with God. It is actually mentioned only three times in the Bible – by Paul in Romans 8:15 and Galatians 4:6 as well as by Jesus in Mark 14:36 in the garden of Gethsemane on the eve of His crucifixion.  

    However, despite its minimal representation in the scriptures, the name Abba is widely acknowledged as being one of the most intimate names for God.  

    Through this name, we can see how God cares for us as a father cares for a small child. It is a name that we can call upon when we are in need of assurance, comfort, and protection, knowing in childlike faith that our Father will hear us and look after us. 

      5. Jehovah Jireh 

    Meaning: “The Lord will provide 

    ‘“So Abraham called that place “The Lord will provide”; as it is said to this day, “On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided.”’ 

    Genesis 22:14 

    The name Jehovah Jireh is only found once in the Bible – in the Book of Genesis. It is used by Abraham to name the place on Mount Moriah where God provided him with a ram to sacrifice as a replacement for his son, Isaac.  

    This is a beautiful name for God because it reflects His faithfulness and how He keeps His promise that all things will work out for His good (Romans 8:28).  

    God knows exactly what is going on in our lives – the good and the bad.  As in Abraham’s case, He will never fail us nor forsake us when we are in need (Hebrews 13:5-6). His help comes with perfect timing. 

    6. Jehovah Rapha

    Meaning: “The God who heals” 

    “He heals the brokenhearted, 
        and binds up their wounds.” 

    Psalm 147:3 

    The name Jehovah Rapha is a particular favorite of mine and one which l call upon when l need God’s hand of healing over my life.  

     It is a name that not only reveals the power of God to heal, repair, and rejuvenate the areas of our lives that are not working in His perfect timing, calling upon the name Jehovah Rapha gives incredible comfort in the knowledge that it is God’s intent to make us whole.  

    Therefore, if you are waiting on healing, call upon the name of Jehovah Rapha “The God who heals” in your quiet time with the Lord, today. 

    7. Jehovah Nissi

    Meaning: “The Lord is my banner” 

    “And Moses built an altar and called it, The Lord is my banner.” 

    Exodus 17:15 

    There are numerous instances where God spread His hand of protection over His people and kept them safe from their enemies: 

    • In Exodus 14:26-29 when God caused the parted waters of the Red Sea to return and drown the armies of Pharoah, however, the Israelites crossed over safely on a dry river bed. 
    • In Judges 7:16-23 God kept Gideon and his 300 men safe, who were armed only with trumpets and torches inside empty pitchers, as they attacked the Midianite camp numbering 135,000 men.  
    • In 1 Samuel 17:37 God protects David, a shepherd boy, from the prowess of the giant Goliath of Gath, who is a seasoned warrior and the fear of the entire Israelite army. 

    Jehovah Nissi is a name that proclaims God’s declaration and promise to always protect His children and to deliver them from their foes. 

    In 2 Corinthians 10:4-5, it states that our adversities do not come in the form of flesh and blood but are spiritual.  

    That means, the issues that rise against us today, such as financial lack, health, and relationship issues all have spiritual roots that can be addressed by calling out to God in prayer and declaring Him as our protector and deliverer – Jehovah Nissi.  

    8.Jehovah Shalom

    Meaning: “The Lord is peace” 

    Then Gideon built an altar there to the Lord, and called it, The Lord is peace 

    Judges 6:24 

     Gideon, a Judge from the Old Testament, learned a lot about being in the peace of God as he led a military campaign of 300 hundred faith-filled Israelites against a Midianite army of 135,000 soldiers with no military experience.   

    The name Jehovah Shalom appears only once in the Bible in Judges 6:24. And yet, this characteristic of God is both powerful and essential to our daily existence.  

    Where the world is urging us to hurry, as we set our routine to the rhythm of alarm clocks, deadlines, and 40+ hour work weeks, it is important to know that God is not only peace, He has already given us this peace through Jesus Christ. 

    Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.” 

    John 14:27

      9. Quanna 

    For you shall worship no other god, because the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.” 

    Exodus 34:14 

    It’s incomprehensible for us to think that God could get jealous, right? But He does!  He is the One who breathed life into us and who promises to never fail us, nor forsake us, neither loosen His hold on us (Hebrews13:5-6).   

    Whereas we see jealousy as a negative characteristic, God’s jealousy for us is based purely on His encompassing love for us. He sees the broken world in which we live in and knows that there are forces at work to distract us and lead us away from His love and protection.  

    For that reason, God sent His only son to pay the bond price for our sins in order that we may be reunited with Him and be in eternal fellowship with Him. 

    Considering all that God has done for you in your life up until this point, isn’t it understandable that He gets jealous? Doesn’t He deserve our praise and adoration? 

    I have listed 9 names of God, however, there are many more. For example: 

    If you are interested in learning about more names that God is known by, l believe the links that l have provided at the end of this article will help you. 

    God’s propensity to love us is addressed by many names. He really is everything we need – His many names prove that. 

     Whatever you are going through in your life today, l recommend that you call upon the name of the Lord in supplication: Jehovah Rapha if you are waiting on healing, Jehovah Shalom if you are desperately needing peace over a situation. 

    Though the names that God is known by may be different, they all explain one thing: God is always powerful, always unchanging, and always good. His presence is an unwavering banner in a world that is constantly bowing down to ephemeral trends, transient movements, and shifting expectations. For greater is He that is in us, that He that is in the world (1 John 4:4).  

    God and His name – all of His names – and what they stand for, are as relevant for us today than ever before. And thank goodness for that, for what would we be without Him? 

    The Sunday School Network has published this article on their website. Also, check out their vast array of biblical-based teaching resources designed to help children to get to know Jesus.

    Sources: 

    1. Blue Letter Bible, “The Names of God in the Old Testament”

    2. God TV, “Do you know these 14 Hebrew names of God?”

    3. iBelieve.com, “10 powerful names of God (And what they mean for us today)

    4. Bible Study Tools, “The Wonderful Implications of God being Our Abba Father” 

    5. Active Christianity, ”Why God has to be a jealous God”

  • Devotionals

    Not my way, but God’s way

    Thought of the day: Rather than struggle to find solutions in my own strength, I will follow God’s purpose for my life.

    “The human mind may devise many plans,
    but it is the purpose of the Lord that will be established.”
    Proverbs 19:21 (NRSV)

    Since l was a child, it has been a dream of mine to be a writer. I wrote my first poem at age ten and continued writing throughout my teens. During my university studies, some of my work was published in one of the campus’s magazines.
    After graduating, l started writing a novel while l drifted from job to job. When the opportunity presented itself to teach at a private school, l accepted the position without much thought.
    I was optimistic that l would be able to write in my free time, however, my career took over my life. I worked 80 hours a week, on weekends and in the school holidays. My half-finished manuscript lay forgotten and started to accumulate dust, along with my childhood aspirations.
    When a diagnosis of burnout forced me to leave the teaching profession, l knew that l had to make a lifestyle change. This time, l consciously sought God’s advice through prayer and petition. In response, He put it in my heart that l should become a Christian writer and blogger.
    To be honest, this was not the answer l was expecting to hear. However, with the gift of hindsight, l realized that making decisions independent from God hadn’t worked out well for me in the past. In Hebrews 13:5, it states that God will never fail us nor forsake us. Maybe, the time had now come for me to act in faith and follow God’s way.
    Fast forward to today, l am currently sitting in my favorite café enjoying a steaming cup of coffee while l write an article for a Christian magazine on my laptop. Choosing to trust God and launch a new career as a Christian writer and blogger has changed my life. I relish being my own boss and being a creator invigorates me. Stress and drudgery are things of the past.
    I am so grateful to God for revealing His purpose for my life. It has taught me that His way is always designed with our well-being in mind, because He loves us and knows what’s best for us.


    Prayer:
    Sovereign Lord, You are the Way, the Truth and the Life. Teach us to not rely on our own understanding, but to trust in the wonderful plan You have for our lives, for only You know what is best for us.

    Delve deeper:
    If making your own decisions hasn’t worked out well for you in the past, maybe it’s now time to choose God’s way. God is able to do exceedingly and abundantly over all that we ask or think, so trust in Him and trust in His process of doing things. He will always keep your best interest at heart and make all things beautiful.

    Published on PresbyCan Daily Devotional on 13.06.2019.