Tuesday, March 6, 2012

What's in a Name?

There are at least a dozen reasons to change your name. Some are valid reasons and others are just a whim. One gentleman I read about changed his name to "Pro-Life". Sounds crazy, but in this case absolutely true. Many change their names because they just don't like their name, still others change it for religious reasons. Whatever the reason for changing first name, middle name or nickname, it is a personal decision that is yours alone. Surnames are a different story. Sometimes they must be changed because of marriage or divorce, but for the most part your given surname stays with you forever, and rightfully so...There is something sacred about your family name. It speaks to your family heritage, your nationality, and in some cases your actual roots, including the location of a particular family group. Family names have represented proud traditions including family values passed on to each succeeding generation all the way back to writing on cave walls. With the breakdown of traditionally structured family units everywhere, it is no wonder that future generations will ignore most traditional value systems, including the importance of our surnames. As disconcerting as this is to me personally, I suppose it's logical that the more the family unit disappears in our society, so will the importance of our individual and combined heritage. The social and spiritual homogenization of all people is the process by which our children's independence, our heritage, and our traditions are being scrapped right in front of our eyes, all in the name of progress. If you stick to the principles with which you were raised, you are no longer a strategic, progressive thinker, you are relic of days gone by and belong in a museum. Denial of individuality results in sameness, and even Machiavelli knew that "Where everyone thinks the same, no one thinks much at all."
I am a Scotsman and quite proud of that heritage. The Clan Monro is alive and well in Scotland today, and I have had the privilege to visit my family "across the pond," to make certain that the Monro's in my family never lose their connection with "the old country." You see, I know my heritage, my wife knows her heritage, and that combination extends all that we hold near and dear...My grandfather taught me respect for the traditions and values of all families. That family history has provided a rock solid foundation for all in the global community. Without those family units and the family names, we would lose our precious, unique identity. 

Hopefully, you can appreciate my heritage preamble...There is little choice for me in this, because it burns in my heart and troubles my soul to see so many giving up or giving in to new age thinking that discounts the importance of our families and their names. Soon, I suspect we will see names completely eradicated and replaced by numbers. You see binary numbers represent the foundation of all computer languages, and yes, they do speak, hand shake and work together. Currently they can process on/off electrical impulses 3.8 gigahertz per second! That's 3,800,000,000 cycles or bits each second, and according to Moore's Law this capacity will double ever two years. Where would we be without our numbers? We have dozens of numbers that control our very ability to eat and sleep. We have checking account numbers, credit card numbers, vin numbers, driver's license numbers, security codes, census codes, voting codes, check cashing numbers, debit card numbers, etc. Even banks today have an ABA code to identify themselves to each other. No name, just a 9 digit code. Now, add to all that GPS coordinates, microscopic chip sets that currently track pets for us and what do you get? The ability to track, and soon to control most of the 8 billion people on this planet in real time. Whether the numerologists are right with "666" or not is not the issue. Today significant chunks of your life have been reduced to numbers and stored for future use. And, the trend line is straight up... 

Back in the non-binary days of the OT, and even with Jewish families today, we can trace the history of the 12 Tribes of Israel over centuries. The Bible records each person's lineage, because they understood the importance. Never give up who you are for anyone, and don't waste time trying to be someone you are not...Believe me I have tried, and it only strains your relationship with God and brings pain to your soul.
                                                Paul the Apostle
The Apostle Paul changed his name and for a great reason. He was not only a Jew, but a Roman citizen during the life of Jesus Christ. Earlier in Paul's life, his given name was Saul of Tarsus, and it signified two very important things. First Saul was an important Hebrew name. Saul was the name of the first King of Israel and Judah. He ruled both the northern and southern kingdoms, as did David and Solomon after him. They are the only three to have done so, because after that the kingdoms split north and south. So Saul of Tarsus was  named after a King. This meant that his name had meaning and decades of history attached to it. Saul meant, "asked for or prayed for," in Hebrew, so it was a fitting name for King Saul. Tarsus was a city in southern Turkey, just inland from the Mediterranean Sea, so when you met Saul of Tarsus, you not only  were presented with his historical surname, but you also knew where he was born. It was very important 1000 years BC, and I maintain that it is just as important today.

Saul was a proud, devout Jewish man and scripture tells us he was a Pharisee or a member of a special political/religious group within the Hebrew nation. The name, Pharisee, actually means, "set apart," in the ancient language, and they definitely thought they were better than everyone else in their own race. Saul's lifetime was approximately from 5 AD to 65 AD, so he was five years younger than another important Jew, Jesus Christ. Saul spent much of his life hating new "Christian" converts and especially the apostles later in his life. In fact, he persecuted the "misguided" Jewish or Gentile believers in the Son of God. He stood with approval and watched Stephen, one of the early apostles, be stoned to death. 

Imagine the Lord watching one of his chosen, from the elite tribe of Benjamin, participating in a stoning of an early Christian apostle. This Pharisee was proud to put an end to the life of a man who bravely professed that Jesus was not only the promised Messiah that rose from the dead, but also that Jesus's death was the beginning of a "New Covenant" with God Almighty. Saul believed him to be a heretic whose teachings had to be stopped.
                                                 Saul Blinded
Sometime after the stoning of Stephen, Saul made a trip to Damascus ostensibly to round up more Christians and take them back to Jerusalem as prisoners. The timing of this trip was not long after the death and subsequent resurrection of our Lord, Jesus Christ. We know that Jesus lived to be 33 years old, so that makes Saul approximately 28, when he made this journey. On the road to Damascus, Jesus appeared to him "in a bright light." All we know about that light is that it was so bright, it blistered and blinded Saul. Our risen Saviour tells Saul to go into Damascus and wait. Imagine being blinded by the Son of God for three days and then obediently waiting by the gate of the city for three days. He obviously had no choice, because his life had been changed forever without sight. No one knows why Jesus took his sight from him, but I believe that nothing God does is by accident, so this is my personal theory. After Jesus revealed Himself to Saul, he (Saul)  could no longer see the external world, so he had to turn his sight inward to his own soul. Imagine the consternation in that man's heart. He had spent most of his adult life exterminating anyone that professed belief in the Son of God. Jesus stopped him in his tracks with blindness and may have left him that way, but somewhere in this man's soul was enough light for God to work with, for His glory. His miraculous conversion from Saul of Tarsus to Paul the Apostle resulted in his blindness being healed and the creation of a new leader for the early Christian church.The Apostle Paul spread the gospel of Jesus for the remainder of his life. 

What is so amazing about how our Lord took a proud Pharisee, and humbled him in an instant? Jesus knocked him off of his self-righteous pedestal by making him blind. God knew exactly how to take the winds of pride out of Saul's sails in a hurry. As you may know,  Ananias did not want to heal Saul. He knew full well the history of Saul of Tarsus. After Jesus laid out his plan for Saul, Ananias put his hands on Saul's eyes, repairing the burned skin and restoring his sight. This is how the infamous persecutor of Christians converted from Judaism to Christianity. To be sure the process was no less than a miracle, but what makes it stand out so vividly, is that once again God peered into the soul of Saul and found the leader he was looking for after the resurrection. He taught an important enemy the "New Covenant," and brought him into the fold. If a devout, honorable, Pharisee could be converted to Christianity, then by this example, both Jews and Gentiles could find the truth. The name change from Saul to Paul was done by Saul himself. No one forced him to become Paul the Apostle. As I mentioned previously, surnames in history have meaning, sometimes deep meaning. Saul was named after King Saul, the first ever King of the entire Hebrew nation. It was a powerful, big name, and he spent many years trying to living up to his namesake's stature. Switching to Paul, which literally means "little," was an outward sign of the inward change that took place in his life. He was no longer Saul, the arrogant, important Pharisee, he was the recently humbled believer in the Lord, Jesus Christ, the fulfillment of his former Messianic prophesy in the OT. The winds of arrogance and pride were taken away by Jesus and replaced with divine wisdom and obedience. 
                                               Ananias and Paul
In my opinion, that's a great reason to change your name. If you are renouncing your former self to make it clear to everyone around you where you stand, then by all means make the change. Saul became Paul, just like Cassius Marcellus Clay became Muhammad Ali as he entered Islam. Lew Alcindor became Kareem Abdul Jabbar. Marion Robert Morrison became John Wayne. Bob Zimmerman became Bob Dylan, and so on and so forth. Regardless, the litmus test for me is asking how this name change will change you now and forever. If it is a result of a life changing event that has a deeper meaning for you and makes you a better person, go for it. Just keep in mind that no matter how many times you change your name, God has the name and address of your soul. This will never change. Also, if you are running from family history, never sacrifice your family name on the alter of expediency. Every experience good or bad, right or wrong is part of a process that God puts all of us through for our own good. No matter your personal cross or crosses to bear, each is to be used to draw you unto Himself. No matter what your personal problems, personal history, or personal sin, God wants you to partake in His plan for mankind. The OT Covenant required a level of perfection not achievable by any race, color, or creed. The life of Jesus as one of us, prepared the way for the NT Covenant. His was the ultimate blood sacrifice stripping away the need for the complex system of laws and sacrifices put in place by Moses years ago. This historic Covenant change was made by God out of nothing but lovingkindess for His creation. To me it means that even the Most Holy, God Almighty, is in complete control and plots a new course when necessary.

Of all of the virtues and strengths of the Trinity I fervently believe in, this ONE is why I believe on the Lord Jesus Christ with my whole heart and whole soul. 

May you see it that way too, or at least, pause and think for yourself  with the spiritual assistance of the Holy Spirit...

The Digital Disciple

1 comment:

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Hearing from you is certainly not a requirement. Consideration of what is researched and written is all I ask of anyone who stumbles upon my writings. I believe that my God will take it from there. With His help I try to separate fact from fiction, sense from nonsense, and ultimately clarity from chaos.


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