When the soloist began to sing during our Sunday service, the congregation gave him full, hushed attention. His mellow bass-baritone voice brought them the soul-touching words of an old song by Gordon Jensen. The song’s title expresses a truth that grows more precious the older we become: “He’s as Close as the Mention of His Name.”
We’ve all experienced times of separation from our loved ones. A child marries and moves far away. Parents are separated from us because of career or health. A child goes off to school in another state or country. True, we have texting and Skype. But we are here and they are there. And then there is the separation of death.
But as believers in Christ, we have His promise that we are never alone. Though we may feel alone, He hasn’t gone anywhere. He’s right here, right now, always and forever. When He left this earth, He told His followers, “Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matt. 28:20). He also promised us, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you” (Heb. 13:5).
The silent plea, the whispered mention of His name, even the very thought of Him brings us solace and reassurance. “He’s as close as the mention of His name.”
An old Native American story tells of a young boy who was sent into the woods alone on an autumn night to prove his courage. Soon the sky darkened and the sounds of night filled the air. Trees creaked and groaned, an owl screeched, and a coyote howled. Even though he was frightened, the boy remained in the woods all night, as the test of courage required. Finally morning came, and he saw a solitary figure nearby. It was his grandfather, who had been watching over him all night long.
When Moses went deep into the desert, he saw a burning bush that didn’t burn up. Then God began talking to him from the bush, commissioning him to go back to Egypt and lead the Israelites out of cruel slavery to freedom. A reluctant Moses began to ask questions: “Who am I that I should go?”
God simply answered, “I will be with you.”
“Suppose I . . . say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?”
God replied, “I am who I am. . . . [Say to them,] I am has sent me to you’ ” (Ex. 3:11-14). The phrase “I am who I am” can be interpreted, “I will be who I will be” and reveals God’s eternal and all-sufficient character.
God has promised always to be present with those who believe in Jesus. No matter how dark the night, the unseen God is ready to respond appropriately to our need.
I was fishing quietly on the clear, still waters of Piatt Lake, casting next to a lush weedbed. I watched a large smallmouth bass sneak out of the thick vegetation to investigate. He approached the tempting night crawler on the end of my line, stared at it, and backed into the weeds. This happened several times until he spotted the hook. Then he whipped his tail and disappeared into his lair, never to come out again.
Satan dangles temptation, like a fishhook, right in front of us. It looks tasty. It promises gratification. But Satan’s power ends there. He cannot force us to take the hook. His power stops at the edge of our will—at our decision point. When we are warned by the Holy Spirit and decide to say no, Satan can do no more. James says he runs away (4:7).
As believers, we can receive great comfort from the words of the apostle Peter, who himself experienced great temptation (Matt. 26:33-35). In later life he wrote, “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion . . . . Resist him, standing firm in the faith” (1 Peter 5:8-9).
Just as that big old bass ignored my hook, we can in God’s strength successfully resist Satan’s most enticing tactics!
My friend Ed was telling me a story about his little son. He was standing in a mud puddle, so Ed told him to get out. But instead, his son began running through the puddle. “No running through it either,” he said. So the boy began walking through the water. When Ed told him, “No walking!” the boy stood with just his toes in the water, looking defiantly at his dad. The child knew what his father wanted, but he didn’t want to do it.
British pastor Joseph Parker was asked, “Why did Jesus choose Judas to be one of His disciples?” He thought deeply about the question for a while but could not come up with an answer. He said that he kept running into an even more baffling question: “Why did He choose me?”
In Istanbul, Turkey, in 2005, one sheep jumped off a cliff and then nearly 1,500 others followed! In the end, about one-third of them died. Not knowing which way to go, sheep mindlessly follow other members of the flock.
Try as we might—tossing, turning, fluffing the pillow, pounding the pillow—sometimes we just can’t fall asleep. After offering some good suggestions on how to get a better night’s sleep, a news article concluded that there really is no “right way” to sleep.
Frank, Ted, and I were fishing for bluegill on Rice Lake in Ontario, Canada. We were on a pontoon boat, and the fish were really biting. Busy baiting and hooking, we slowly became aware that the action had slacked off. Then we realized why: The boat was no longer sitting where we had put it. A strong wind had come up and pushed it across the water. The anchor could not hold us and was sliding across the lake bottom. We hauled it up, returned to our hot spot, and re-anchored. We were moved away again. After a third try, we went back to shore. We could not get our anchor to grab and stick.