Christianity 201

June 15, 2021

The Renamed Version of You

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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In today’s high tech world many of us have user names, social media handles and avatars which are different from the name we were borh with, and possibly don’t resemble the real us. None of those options existed in Bible times. You had one given name, and that was always your name. Unless…

We return to the site Discovering the Bible, written by Deborah, a retired doctor in Wales. There’s also a short bonus article at the end from a series she’s doing on the armor of God. Click the headers to read these at her site.

A New Name

The naming of a new baby can be a desperately difficult task. You have to pick something not too old-fashioned, not too common (there were five Catherines in my senior school class of 30, which caused a lot of confusion until we sorted them out into Kate, Katy, Kath, Cathy, and Kathryn), but not too outlandish either. Something that fits with the surname and doesn’t create an awkward or embarrassing combination of initials. Something that will please (or at least won’t upset) the grandparents. And then both parents have to agree!

But in ancient times, all names had meaning. A child’s name might commemorate an event (e.g. Moses – Exodus 2:10), an experience (e.g. Jabez – I Chronicles 4:9), or answered prayer (e.g. Samuel – I Samuel 1:20). Jesus, of course, was given a name that summarized His mission (Matthew 1:21). And the name was generally believed to reflect on its owner’s character as well. Jacob’s name was a constant reminder that he was born “grasping the heel” of his twin brother (Genesis 25:26) – but it also carried the idiomatic meaning of “deceiver”. And deception duly became his chosen strategy for getting where he wanted to go in life…

If you don’t like the name that your parents have saddled you with, you can change it by deed poll (or simply ask your friends to call you by a different one). Sometimes nicknames stick more firmly than a person’s official name – my mother had a cousin who had only ever been called “Bunny” for so long that she couldn’t remember what his ‘real’ name was!

God is in the business of renaming people. He began with Abram and Sarai – who became Abraham and Sarah (Genesis 17:5,15). Their new names were prophetic – names that would be a witness to everyone they met of God’s promise to make them the founders of a nation. And their grandson Jacob was given a new name after his encounter with God beside the River Jabbok – a name that put his character into a new light. Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.” (Genesis 32:28) In the New Testament, Simon became Peter (John 1:42) and Saul became known as Paul (Acts 13:9). And since we become (in a very real sense) “new people” in Christ, what could be more appropriate than to have a new name?

"The nations will see your vindication,
and all kings your glory.
You will be called by a new name
that the mouth of the LORD will bestow." (Isaiah 62:2)

In the letter to the church at Pergamum, Jesus promises that this will indeed happen to all those who, like Jacob, have “overcome”. “I will give that person a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to the one who receives it.” (Revelation 2:17) Because of the touch of God, both my character and my life story have been changed – in ways that only He and I are aware of. My Father will therefore bestow on His child a new name – but it will, nevertheless, be one that I recognize as being truly my own.

The Shield of Faith

In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil. – Eph.6.16.NLT

The Roman shield was large enough for its owner to crouch behind, thus protecting his whole body from spears and arrows. Modern soldiers don’t carry shields; instead, they move around the battlefield in tanks and armoured cars, similarly protected against bullets and bombs.

Our ‘shield’ is our faith in God’s promises, power and love. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.” (I John 5:4) Whether we picture ourselves as carrying it or travelling around in it, we need to keep it with us wherever we go – ready to defend ourselves against sudden attack. Without it, we shall be vulnerable to the devil’s missiles of doubt, fear and temptation. Of course, Satan will try to persuade us to drop our shields, by lulling us into a false sense of security. As soon as we think that we can manage on our own, without God’s help, we are laying ourselves wide open to spiritual attack!

This is one reason why God allows believers to go through so many difficulties and problems. These situations are like military exercises, by which our faith is stimulated and we get practice in deploying it.

August 8, 2019

When People Hear Your Name

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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by Clarke Dixon

When people hear your name, what is their first response? Is it a negative reaction like “ewww,” or “uck,” or something better, like “yay!”? Another way of asking it, is “how will your name be remembered?” Names are a big part of the Book of Ruth which begins and ends with names. Thanks to the Book of Ruth the names of Naomi and Ruth have been remembered for generations. Will your name be remembered? For the right reasons?

Let us consider Naomi whose name literally means “pleasant.” However, Naomi herself asked to be renamed “Mara” in chapter one which means “bitter.” However, by the end of the book, Naomi can be known as pleasant again. This change for Naomi is something available to us as well. We don’t need to be saddled with an identity we started with, or one we picked up along the way. What our names bring to mind can be changed.

Let us also consider Ruth. People might immediately think of Ruth as being a Moabite. She therefore bore the label “disliked-foreigner,” since Moabites were not particularly liked in that day and place. However, by chapter two, we find that Ruth has a different reputation:

Ruth fell at his feet and thanked him warmly. “What have I done to deserve such kindness?” she asked. “I am only a foreigner.”

“Yes, I know,” Boaz replied. “But I also know about everything you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband. I have heard how you left your father and mother and your own land to live here among complete strangers. Ruth 2:10-11 (NLT)

Boaz saw in Ruth something more than a Moabite!

By the end of the book the women of Bethlehem know Ruth, not as a Moabite, but as “your daughter-in-law who loves you and has been better to you than seven sons!” (Ruth 4:15 NLT). She has also come to be known as the great-grandmother of David, and ancestor of Jesus. Not only is she welcomed into the people of God as a foreigner, she is part of the family tree of God-the-Son! The label “Moabite” still fits, but there are other labels.

What your name brings to mind can be challenged, like Ruth. For Ruth, the first thing, and only thing coming to someone’s mind might be “ug, a Moabite.” But later it is a kind and good woman, who happens to be a Moabite. Moabite would always be part of her identity, appropriately so. However, “disliked foreigner” does not become the main part of her identity. It does not define how people relate to her.

Have you had a label stuck on you? Might it be something that may always be true? Like Ruth, you can open minds to a different perception, a different starting place for relationship. Whatever happens to be true about us need not be the only thing others perceive. For the early part of my life I wore the label “extremely shy.” I may as well have had that label on my forehead, or worse, on the inside of my glasses, where I would be reminded constantly of my shy identity. However, over the years I have been able to move that label. It still fits me, and I still wear it, but not on my forehead, or on the inside of my glasses. If you are an alcoholic or addict, that label may stick with you the rest of your life. But it need not be the first thing people see you as. Our labels can be moved. People’s perception of our identity can be challenged. What labels might we be wearing that need to move?

Now let us consider the genealogies of the the Book of Ruth which begins with the names of Elimelech, Naomi, Mahlon, Kilion, Orpah, and Ruth. It begins with names that had little significance as the story begins. However, their names become associated later in the book with Obed, Jessie, David, and eventually later in the Bible, Jesus. The Book ends with names that evoke fame and fond remembrance for many generations.

Your name may not bring to mind a great and famous family. There are rumours within our family that my great-grandfather was a quite-famous English nobleman, a very accomplished and well known individual. However, if true, then he was not very noble! I’ll stick with the not-at-all-famous “Dixon” name thank you very much. However our names can bring to mind a great family, with a great inheritance:

But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God. They are reborn—not with a physical birth resulting from human passion or plan, but a birth that comes from God. John 1:12-13 (NLT)

In Jesus we are given the right to be children of God, to be in God’s family. What a family!

What does your name bring to mind? Whatever your name evokes right now, it can be a name which is honourable and honoured. You can be God’s child and so become marked and moved by the Holy Spirit, maturing into a family resemblance:

But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. . . Galatians 5:22-23 (NLT)

When people hear your name, is their first response “I know him, he is loving!”?  Or, “I know her, she is joyful!”? Or, “That person is peaceable, patient, kind, good, faithful, gentle, or self-controlled.”? When people hear your name, what is their first response?

Travel schedule forced me to have to interrupt this four part series on the Book of Ruth of which this is part four. To read everything in continuity, visit Clarke’s blog at this link.