More Than a Name

More Than a Name

Proclaiming Why God’s Name Matters to the Nation

By Charles Kelley, BBI Founder and President

RIGA, Latvia – As I write these lines from somewhere high above the Atlantic, my heart is filled with anticipation. You see, I have special plans in Riga on Sunday evening. But, before I tell you more about that, I’d like to share something important:

The festival tradition continued even in Displaced Person camps during the post World War II era, mostly in West Germany, but also in the United States, Australia and Canada. Official photo of the Latvian Song and Dance Festival (© XXVI Vispārējie latviesu Dziesmu un XVI Deju svētki)

Latvia is a singing nation. This cultural distinction has played a pivotal role in her survival over the course of years and even decades of oppression and occupation. Even through the most painful spans of history, Latvians have come together, united in a common joy of music, song, and dance.

2018 is a special year for both the residents of Latvia and for Latvians throughout the world—one hundred years have passed since Latvia was proclaimed an independent Republic.

 The Centennial Song and Dance Festival – the largest gathering of choirs in the history of the world – will open on July 1st2018 with a sacred music concert at the Riga Cathedral. This concert is a brand-new oratorio based on the Name of God; it is titled ES ESMU  – That is Latvian for “I AM.”

When God revealed Himself to Moses, He said His name was I AM. When Jesus spoke to His disciples and the masses, many times He referred to Himself as I AM… I AM the Bread of Life; I AM the Living Water, etc.

Each of these metaphors illuminates a different dimension of the Gospel and of God’s character.

The Festival will open with a very special Oratorio in the majestic Riga Cathedral

In between each song of the Oratorio, a narrator will introduce the next “I AM.” It was my honor and privilege to be asked to author these narrations. I’d like to share them with you now.

I am, that I am… Exodus 3:14

The name of God is important.  God identified Himself to Moses with a most unusual name. He called Himself “I AM”. This is surprising because “I AM” is a statement of essence rather than a mere moniker of identification. This name for God is used more than 7,000 times in the Bible and is a reminder of all that God is: He has no beginning and no end, He is absolute reality and completeness. He doesn’t simply set the standard; He IS the standard of truth, goodness and beauty.  When God tells us… “I AM…” our hearts are to hear: I AM life, I AM love, I AM hope, I AM with you, I AM everything you need. The name of God is important.


I am the Good Shepherd… John 10:14

The love of God is important. The son of God, Jesus, also called Himself I AM. This shocked the religious leaders of His time. He said two things: He claimed His divinity, while establishing a profoundly personal relationship with His people. Shepherds love and protect their sheep, twenty-four hours a day, every day of the year. Even more, shepherds know their sheep individually and intimately. They are not anonymous, lost in the flock. There is no greater honor than to be known personally, intimately by the Good Shepherd. The love of God is important.


I am the Light of the World… John 8:12

The light of God is important: The brightest light in the universe is Christ. We are in darkness without Him and apart from Him, darkness prevails. But when the light of Jesus shines in our hearts, revealing His very self to us, He gives us new eyes to see as God sees, seeing our sins and needs and the needs of the world. The light of Jesus illumines everything with its genuine and native beauty. This light doesn’t just passively shine, but in fact will one day banish all darkness out of the world. The light of God is important.


I am the Way, the Truth and the Life… John 14;26

The invitation of God is important.  Jesus said that He is the way to the Father. He is more than the absence of untruth…He is true truth and absolute reality. He invites us to believe in Himself. He said that He is the life and that life enables us to die to sin and live for Christ. Jesus was the only person in history who was born to die … so that you and I may have the opportunity to live. He invites us to come to Himself and not only to understand and experience truth, but to share His very life. When God says what He is… I AM… He implicitly conveys what we are not, and therefore what we need. We need the love of God, the light of God and the life of God. The invitation of God is important.

ES ESMU is Latvian for I AM

I’d like to ask for your prayers over this event. Not only will 2,000 Latvians be in attendance and listen to this message live, it will be nationally televised and shown again and again. Further, it will be live-streamed on Sunday, July 1st, 8:30am PDST. Follow this link to access the livestream footage.

Friends, what an opportunity this is for God’s Word to be proclaimed to the nation we love and serve!

Let us pray for the seeds of the Word to bear great fruit in the hearts of those who hear.


Photographs are available to the media free of charge; photo credit (visible on each photo) and copyright information (Latvian National Centre for Culture Archive) must be given for each photo.

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