What’s In a Name

There is a new disease sweeping the country among young parents. Psychologists say it comes from having too many choices. It’s Baby Name Regret. Parents are beginning to regret the names they are choosing for their little ones. Evidence suggests names can influence a child later in life and so parents are under more pressure than ever to choose the perfect name. We have seen many actors give their children unusual names such as Apple, Pilot Inspektor , and Audio Science. Parents who give their child unusual names often get frustrated because their unique baby name keeps getting mispronounced. But most parents who suffer from Baby Name Regret simply feel that another choice on their list would have fit their baby better.

My mother once told me that she had picked out the name Glenda for me. However, when I was born she discovered to her surprise that I was a twin. She and my dad then named their newborn twin son and daughter, Randy and Sandy. What can I say? It was the 50s. I have always liked my name and, no offense to all the Glendas out there, but I prefer Sandra.

Names and their meanings have always been significant throughout history, and you see that clearly in the Old Testament. Names often foretold what the person’s character or life was going to be like.

Isaac’s name means laughter, for it was Sarah who laughed at God. And it is significant because it means that Sarah can now laugh or delight in the future. One of the twin boys born to Abraham’s son Isaac was named Jacob which means “heal grabber”. He came out of the womb grabbing the heal of his brother. But Jacob also means schemer, twister, and liar. Jacob’s life was marred by the schemes and lies he told in order to obtain blessing and favor.

Jacob’s wife, Leah was not loved by Jacob. As she began to give birth to Jacob’s sons, she gave each one a name that stated her emotion at the time. First there was Reuben which means “see” and she states, “The Lord has seen my affliction.” Simeon came next which means “hearing”: “the Lord has heard that I am unloved.” The next son born was Levi which means “attached” and she says, “Now my husband will become attached to me.” Leah finally stops focusing on her husband and turns her eyes to the Lord. Her next son is named Judah which means “Yahweh be praised” and she states, “Now I will praise Yahweh.” (Genesis 29:32-35)

I don’t think any of these parents suffered from Baby Name Regret, although perhaps their children did. We do find some examples in the scriptures, however, where God changed the name of some of his followers.

In Genesis 17 God changes the name of Abram (exalted father) to Abraham, the father of multitudes. God then promises Abraham that he will indeed be a father of multitudes even though at this time he was childless. In the same chapter, God says that Abraham’s wife, Sarai (princess), will now be called Sarah which in Arabic word means “to became great in number”. God then blesses Sarah and declares that she will become the “mother of nations.”

Jacob, the “heal grabber”, “twister”, “schemer” becomes Israel in Genesis 32. Israel means “to prevail” and also “to become great in number”. Jacob doesn’t live to see his family become great in number but God does keep that promise through Jacob’s sons.

There is one other name change that many are familiar with in the New Testament, Simon Peter. Peter was passionate, profound, yet impetuous. He was a fisherman, the equivalent of a blue-collar working man. Yet Jesus saw in Peter the making of a great disciple and evangelist. Upon their first meeting, Jesus bestows on Simon a new name, Peter or Cephas, which means “rock”. It does not describe what Simon is but what he will become.
All of these name changes were not Baby Name Regret for God. God bestowed on these individuals a name of promise; the name of the person they were going to become as a result of the transforming power of the Gospel. Peter was not a rock when Jesus changed his name. In fact his other name, Simon, meant “obedient.” He wasn’t exactly that either. But God knew the future of all these individuals (he had planned it after all) and I can’t help but think that He wanted to encourage them all to live up to the calling to which He had called them.

“ To the one who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it.’ (Revelation 2:17 ESV)

If you belong to Jesus as Peter did, then the Lord has a new name for you as well. There will come a day when that name will be revealed to you written on a white stone; a symbol of a debt forgiven. It is the name God has given you at your new birth, a name of promise, a name that describes who you are becoming. Perhaps my new name will be “Glenda” which means “holy and good”, or it may stay Sandra, which means “defender of men”. Whatever it is I know that it will wonderfully describe the woman I have become as a result of transforming power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. How thrilling it will be to hear that name for the first time spoken by my Lord and Savior, the name above all names, Jesus.

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The Strangest Story of All

C.S.Lewiscalls the Resurrection of Christ “The strangest story of all.” To Jesus’ followers it was the strangest story. Even though Jesus had told them he would rise on the third day, the disciples did not believe it.Mary Magdalene and the disciples at Emmaus testified to seeing the risen Christ and still the disciples did not believe. When Jesus finally appears to the 11 in the Upper Room, Mark says He rebukes them for their unbelief and hardness of heart.

Not much has changed in 2000 years. It is still difficult for people to believe that a man could rise from the dead. Many believe that Jesus was a good man, a moral teacher, someone who left us a good example to follow. But believing in Him as God, in the flesh, who conquered death it too difficult a leap.

One can certainly see this attitude in how the world celebrates Easter. Christmas is still somewhat about a baby’s birth, but Easter is now about bunnies and eggs. We celebrate the “Christmas season” but barely give Easter one day.  Yet it is Easter- the Crucifixion and the Resurrection-that sets Christianity apart.

The Resurrection changed everything-past, present, and future. Death has been robbed of its stronghold on us. Jesus walked into the jaws of that final, fierce enemy and conquered it.  The resurrection proves that Jesus was who he said he was. We can live today in the joy and power of a living Savior.  It is because of the Resurrection that we have hope and the promise of heaven. Death is no longer something to fear. We know that our bodies will be raised like Jesus’ was raised. We may close our eyes to life here but we open them to life forever. The Resurrection propels us into a life of courage and assurance.

What great assurance it is to know that we need not fear death for our loved ones who know Christ or fear death for ourselves. The Resurrection has left us with the sweet scent of heaven and the promise of a grand reunion with Christ and our loved ones.

There is a country song titled “Live Like You Are Dying, which speaks of living for today. As Christians we should live not like we are dying but fearless and free because of the power of the Resurrection.

“Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?”  Hosea 13:14

“It strengthens our faith to revisit the Resurrection of Christ. We follow him not only because of his sinless life, matchless teaching and atoning death. We also follow him because he is the only religious leader in history with an empty grave. Little did Joseph of Arimathea know that the Lord was only going to borrow his tomb for three days. Someone ought to write on the grave of every Christian, “Borrowed only until He comes.” God has promised to do for us what he did for Jesus, and he expects us to live like it.”WayneE.Shaw

For The Joy that Was Set Before Him

“Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”      Hebrews 12:1:2.

The writer of Hebrews tells us that Christ endured the cross and the shame for the “joy that was set before him.” He knew what God’s plan was for his life. He knew that he would have to endure the suffering and shame of the cross. Yet he chose to follow God’s plan. Because of his trust and    obedience to His heavenly Father, Christ was able to go to the cross. But he also did for the joy which would be his. He suffered for the joy of being seated at the right hand of the Father, and he suffered for the greatest joy of all —- saving you and I.

He suffered for the joy of imparting His righteousness to you and I; for giving us a mansion in heaven, or as C. H. Spurgeon says, “ for the joy of finding mansions in heaven for homeless souls.”

If Christ can endure the shame, suffering, and agony of the cross for our homeless souls, shouldn’t we be able to endure suffering for His sake?

Yet send even a little suffering our way and God will find us crying out for relief. He will find us praying, “It is too much, Lord!” or “It is not fair, God!” Our suffering in this world pales in comparison to him who was “tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.”

This Easter season, take a fresh look at the cross. Stand there at the feet of your suffering Savior and worship Him anew. Marvel at His great love for you.

Do not turn away from His suffering, for it is that suffering that you were healed. Worship Jesus Christ, your Savior and pray as William Gadsby did,

Now, for the love I bear His Name,

What was my gain I count my loss;

My former pride I call my shame,

And nail my glory to His cross.

Grant, O Lord, that in your wounds I may find my safety, in your stripes my cure, in your pain my peace, in your cross my victory, in your resurrection my triumph, and a crown of righteousness in the glories of your eternal kingdom.

Jeremy Taylor, in The Westminster Collection of Christian Prayers, compiled by Dorothy M. Stewart