Sunday, July 20, 2014

Our God is a Consuming Fire

It's been almost a decade since God changed my name. I say 'God changed my name' because many people still comment on when 'I changed my name', and I most certainly did not. I was not looking into changing my name; it was His idea! I merely obeyed.

Anyway, God keeps bringing fire up lately, causing me to pray and ponder. I thought I'd share the letter I wrote and sent out about my name change 10 years ago :)
August 24, 2004 
Dear family and friends,
Greeting! I pray this letter finds you well and seeking after the LORD with your whole heart. I am writing to you because God has once again moved in a new area of my life and called me to do a new thing this summer. Our Father has given me a new name to go by and be called. The name He has placed on my heart is Aidan, which is Gaelic (old Irish) for fire. First, I’ll explain the story and details behind the name change. Then, I’ll elaborate on the general and specific reasons why God changes names and why my name. 
When I was in Northern Ireland on my mission’s trip in May, God was teaching me a lot about being set apart as holy for Him. Gently, I felt God prodding me to change my name to Aidan. I have never met anyone by this name. It took me a while to process what He was asking me to do and how I would do it and when I would do it and how everyone would react to it and how I would get used to it. I prayed for a while just to be certain I was hearing Him correctly. As days passed, God showed me more and more about His fire when I was not searching. In June I had become certain of His command. I began to pray for confirmation as to when He wanted me to do this, whether it was right now, when the semester began, when I graduated, when I was healed, etc. I ruled out the right now since God was still working on me, and I am a slow lesson learner. Within five days, I had received confirmation twice, and both involved fire. I knew then that my Shepherd was leading me to do this soon, preferably this semester. I proceeded to tell my mom about this, and her first instinct-driven responses are probably similar to your own: “What is wrong with the name we gave you?” “Why don’t you like the name Leslie?” Well, there is absolutely nothing wrong with the name Leslie, and I happen to love it. This name change is not something I want to do. It is not my desire, but my desire is to be obedient to the LORD. I need your support for this because it is not an easy change for me. When I inquired of the LORD whether He wanted me to legally change my name, I did not receive confirmation twice. I still gathered the necessary information, and although it would be a great amount of tedious work, I am willing to obey still. He may want me to do this in the future, but I do not feel led to do so yet. [Update: I did legally change my name a year later during the summer of 2005.]
Concerning, generally, the reasons God asks someone to change his/her name, it usually symbolizes that God has or is going to perform a mighty act or dramatic change in that person’s life (i.e. Jacob to Israel, Abram to Abraham). This does not mean that God always changes people’s names when He moves in a miraculous way. He does not, but actually He only does so in certain circumstances, which I cannot claim to decipher when He will or will not. His ways are far above mine, and I cannot attempt to understand most of them. He may have future plans for the name He is giving me now. I am unsure.
Specifically, God has given me two main causes as to why me and why Aidan (fire). The first is that I have felt, especially the last two years, the LORD putting me through the fire. In 1 Corinthians 3:13, Paul states, “But there is going to come a time of testing at the judgment day to see what kind of work each builder has done. Everyone’s work will be put through the fire to see whether or not it keeps its value.” Just as fire is used to refine precious metals and make them pure, I want to come out of the fire tried and true. This is a sanctification process that my Father is using to set me apart as holy for His purposes. The second reason is that the fire He is using on me is from and of Himself. The fire of God is the Holy Spirit and signifies His Presence. In Exodus 19:18, God descends upon Mount Sinai as fire before Moses. Daniel 7:9-10 is a vision Daniel has where he witnesses God, the Ancient One, sitting on a fiery throne with wheels of fire and surrounded by a river of fire flowing from His Presence. Obviously, God uses fire to show His glory. In Exodus 40:38, God reveals His Presence in the Tabernacle (the LORD’s dwelling place before Jesus came to earth, which is now our bodies) with a fire in the cloud. In Isaiah 30:33, it says, “The breath of the LORD, like fire from a volcano, will set it ablaze.” The Holy Spirit is the breath of God and the fire of God. Just as God is called a consuming fire in Deuteronomy 4:24, so it is when the Holy Spirit comes upon a person. The dearly cherished Spirit of Jesus consumes and spreads until He has taken over the entire person. He burns within me, and I cannot contain Him (nor can any vessel). Since the Spirit is within me and taking over, I cannot help but desire to share it and give it away. In Matthew 3:11, John the Baptist declares that the Messiah will come and baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire! And He still does! In Deuteronomy 5:26, God is known to speak by and through fire. I pray that God can use me to speak for Him as an ambassador of the Christ. Fire shines and gives off light just as God’s children are called to shine the light of the Savior. In Psalm 97:3, it says that fire goes before God. It prepares the way for the LORD to move and show His great and mighty works that are sure to follow. Just as the Spirit draws people to Christ and prepares them for the Gospel before leading them to salvation. Repeatedly in Leviticus, the people are commanded to present offerings to the LORD by fire because that would be pleasing to Him. I am presenting myself as a sacrifice and offering for the King in order to please Him. I am asking Him to consume me just as fire consumes the offerings. Also, in 1 Thessalonians 5:19, Paul commands us to not put out the Spirit’s fire. May I never stifle the Holy Spirit! On a side note, God has given me a fiery personality, which is fitting for the name Aidan. 
Those are some of the insights God has shown me this summer. I hope this does not confuse or grieve any of you. I am simply seeking full compliance to the LORD God. 
I would greatly appreciate it if you tried to start calling me by Aidan. I know it will be hard for some of you and goes against habit. If you call me Leslie, I promise I will not be upset in any way, but I will try to gently remind. 
In His everlasting love,
p.s. Yes, I realize Aidan is a boy's name, but I don't think I need to point that out to God! And yes, it is ironic that God started the whole name change thing (to an Irish name) while I was in Ireland because it's not like I went there and fell in love with the name. I neither met anyone there by that name or even heard that name while there.