What’s In a Name?

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The Carolinas’ favorite destination is none other than Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. It’s a beautiful place and is the second fastest growing metropolitan area in the entire country because of its climate and expansive beaches.

How did this place, which was unknown and originally called “New Town” come to be named “Myrtle Beach,” and well-known? Around the turn of the 20th century a man named Franklin Burroughs began to see the potential here for a tourism destination that would rival both the Florida and Northeast beaches. One of the first things needed was a new name for the area. A contest was held to choose one, and Burroughs’ wife suggested naming area after the southern wax myrtle, which grew abundantly here. The name took, and for generations, “Myrtle Beach” has been synonymous with fun and relaxation.

What’s in a name?

“Your name will no longer be Jacob,” the man told him. “From now on you will be called Israel, because you have fought with God and with men and have won.” Genesis 32:28.

Today, many people give their children certain names because they may like the way they sound, but names carried a lot of weight in Bible times. They were given to solidify family ties or to communicate a message. Sometimes God even changed a person’s name if He had a new calling or direction for that person.

Here in Scripture, God gives Jacob a new name. A change had happened in Jacob’s life, giving him a new character. No longer was he a schemer, always looking out for himself. Through the circumstances God had allowed in his life, Jacob had been humbled and had become useful to God. This new name, Israel, held great significance and importance, and it also implied hope. Hope for the future and the rest of Jacob’s days.

God has used Israel mightily over the generations, but it all started with one man who was radically changed by God. Are you willing to be so changed by God that you don’t look like who you were? If so, there’s no limit to what He can do through you. Trust Him, no matter what, and watch what He can do.

The Heart Reflects

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The tidewater reflecting the coastal mountains and sky on Indian Beach was so beautiful the day we visited in the summer of 2015. The characteristics of the trees on the hillside and the clouds in the air were mirrored there in the surf. Water often functions as a looking glass, emulating what is above it.

“As a face is reflected in water, so the heart reflects the real person.” Proverbs 27:19.

In the same way, my heart reflects who I really am. In other words, my external behavior is not an accurate gauge of my character. I can act one way on the outside, and feel entirely different on the inside. But, the thoughts of my heart reveal the truth. Only my conscience and God know the real truth about me. And that is a humbling thought!

I may be able to fake it with other people, but I can never fake it with God and myself. Hopefully that’s enough to motivate me to act in a way in which I can live with myself and live in the light of God’s smile.

That surely doesn’t mean I never sin or make mistakes. But it does mean that I try to live in a way that brings God pleasure, and when I don’t, I ask His forgiveness as soon as possible. If I’ve wronged another person, I must ask their forgiveness also. By living in a way that keeps this at the forefront of my mind, I am able to live victoriously and abundantly through the strength and guidance of the Holy Spirit.

Just as this tidewater accurately portrays what is above it, I want my heart to accurately reflect who I am in Christ- with His attributes and characteristics shining forth, bringing glory to God and encouragement to others. I can’t do this on my own, but by yielding to Him every single day, hopefully I become more like Him moment by moment.

Streams of Water

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Early in the morning, before the sun even rises, the streams of Schwabacher Landing lie still, reflecting the surroundings and sky like a brand new mirror. How refreshing they are to the creatures who depend on them for life. Moose, pronghorn, bald eagles, and deer are often seen here, making this incredible place their home.

“As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God.” Psalm 42:1.

The homeland of the Psalmist was a hot, dry land, and often the deer would actually make a “crying” sound, which the word “pant” means here. According to scholars, there are several reasons deer would yearn for water to this degree. 1) They could be in a desert place, where there is little water. 2) There could be drought conditions, which would lead to extreme thirst. 3) They may be pursued by their enemies, and after running hard and fast, would actually cry for water. No matter the reason, the deer seeks one life-giving source no matter the circumstances it faces.

In this psalm, the writer is in exile and far from the place of worship. It is obvious he is heartsick and desperate for the presence and worship of God. He is not interested in comfort or honor or companionship. In the face of danger, loneliness, and uncertainty, all he desires is communion with God.

Can this be said of us? When we are in dire straits, do we long for God, or are we too busy thinking up solutions to our problems? When we are lonely, do we allow our loneliness to drive us to Him or do we seek companionship of others? Do we seek God in the deserts and droughts of life, or do we attempt to seek comfort?

May our God be who we long for, whether we face deserts, droughts, or enemies.

There’s No Place Like Home

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We have been blessed to be able to see some of the prettiest places in the world while on our travels, and God-willing, we have plenty more we want to see. But I don’t know if there is a more beautiful place to me than home.

This is my favorite view from our neighborhood walks. No matter what time of day or what time of year we see it, it’s always amazing.

Sunrise is glorious; sunset even more so, as color fills the sky. Clouds and storms can be dramatic, and clear days are heavenly. The green of spring and summer, the colors of fall, and the barrenness of winter are each beautiful in their own way. Boats, as well as lakeside homes, entertain our entire community with the best ever impromptu fireworks shows on Independence Day, as well as other holidays.

But maybe I love this view mostly because it’s home.

“My people will live in peaceful dwelling places, in secure homes, in undisturbed places of rest.” Isaiah 32:18.

When you think of “home,” hopefully you think of good things- peace, rest, security. And although it’s good to feel that way about your earthly home, that doesn’t begin to compare with your security in Christ and your heavenly home.

As we all know, our earthly homes aren’t always places of peace, rest, and security. Bad things happen, and at times, our lives are shattered, leaving us feeling vulnerable no matter where we are.

The only place of true security is in a relationship with Jesus Christ. It is in fellowship with Him that we find true peace and rest, no matter what is happening around us.

We should strive to make our homes as joyful and happy as possible, but sometimes life kicks us and our families in the teeth. However, if Jesus Christ is the center and foundation of our homes, we will find that no matter what happens, security and peace will be found there. I’m thankful that Christ is my everlasting refuge!

When Mountains Shake

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When you see the Rocky Mountains for the first time, prepare to be blown away. Their beauty, diversity, and majesty are unmatched.

One of the most beautiful drives we have ever taken is the San Juan Skyway, in Southwest Colorado, which meanders 233 miles throughout the heart of the gorgeous San Juan Mountains. This All-American Road takes you through great, historic mountain towns like Durango, Silverton, Ouray, and Telluride. Riding through these mountains is a humbling experience and brings to mind the power and glory of God.

“Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,” says the LORD, who has compassion on you.” Isaiah 54:10.

As solid and enduring as the Rocky Mountains are, they won’t last forever. They will pass away. Although everything in life, as enduring and dependable as it may seem, might fall apart, God’s love for us remains unshakable.

Though even the most solid foundations we have come to depend upon may be removed from our lives, God’s peace continues for those who trust Him. His love endures through all the heartache and heartbreak. His mercy and grace fall upon us in spite of our sinfulness. His hope and promise break through the most painful of circumstances.

Throughout all of my life, in good times and bad, God has been with me, never leaving nor forsaking me. People may disappoint us and break our hearts, even the most beloved and dependable people. Circumstances are like the waves of the sea – sometimes taking us up and sometimes crashing down on us. Money comes and money goes. Relationships begin and they end.

But God’s love and peace last forever, even during the times we don’t even sense Him. May we be constantly mindful of our faithful Heavenly Father.

Their Children Will Not Meet with Disaster

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I don’t know that there’s anything more painful in this life than for a parent to have to watch disaster come upon their beloved child. Unfortunately, in this sinful world, it comes too often and in many forms.

When we visited Virginia’s Appomattox National Historic Park in April of 2018, my heart hurt as I looked at these graves. These young soldiers were on different sides of a battle, yet they experienced death together at far too young an age. How their parents probably grieved until their dying day, because they never had the joy of welcoming their sons home, and probably never really even knew what happened to them. It’s heartbreaking to think about.

If you’re a parent, you know all too well of suffering alongside your child. When they hurt, you hurt – and you probably hurt more than they do. Whether it’s disaster brought on by their actions, someone else’s actions, or just part of living in a sinful world, it’s painful.

“Their children will not meet with disaster. I will bless them and their descendants for all time to come.” Isaiah 65:23b.

Parents, be encouraged! It won’t always be this way! Isaiah’s prophecy here tells us there’s a day coming when the days of disaster will be over! For all of us who are in Christ and our children as well!

Disease, death, disaster, destruction, depression will be done away with. A mom will no longer have to say “goodbye” to her sweet little one with cancer. A dad will no longer have to visit his beloved child in prison. Families will not be separated by war or sickness or death. We won’t have to watch our children suffer because of bad decisions or sin. It’s not that way now, but it will be.

What a wonderful promise to read and remember – “I will bless them and their descendants for all time to come.” Until then, let’s love our children unconditionally, pray for them continually, always point them to Christ, and live lives of hope, because a better day IS coming!

You Will Flourish Like the Grass

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The windswept green hills of the Little Missouri National Grassland cover over one million acres of North Dakota prairie. Yes, you read that right. Well over one million acres. Not surprisingly, it is the largest grassland in the United States, containing both long and short grasses. It is a beautiful sight to see, miles and miles of green hills crossed by meandering streams and rivers.

“When you see this, your heart will rejoice and you will flourish like grass.” Isaiah 66:14a.

God’s people often went through hardship, many times because of their own doing, and Isaiah’s words brought warning to them. However, here in this verse, there’s a breath of fresh air. A time of refreshing would come.

What would cause the people’s hearts to rejoice and their lives to flourish like grass? The previous two verses promise peace, provision, security, and comfort. God is with His people, in spite of their sin and wandering, and a day is coming when they will be restored to Him. On hearing the promising future that awaits them, the people thrive, like this beautiful green grass.

We are no different today. Doesn’t good news bring us refreshment? Doesn’t the prospect of peace in a relationship, provision of a need, security in danger, or comfort in a loss cause us to rejoice?

Like the vast Little Missouri National Grassland, we flourish under the right conditions. And the right condition for us is a relationship with God through His Son, Jesus Christ. Everything we could ever need or want is found in Him, and it is through Him that we grow.