New Hope Notes
What's In A Name?
Pastor Pat McFall
In regards to our Christian faith, what are we able to say and do at our schools, and at our work places? We should strive to walk into a room carrying the presence of Jesus Christ, because this will enable Jesus to impact the lives of people around us. I pray that I would draw near to Jesus so much that people will sense the spirit of Jesus in me and be in awe.
During the Fall, I visited Seattle’s Starbucks Reserve Roastery, & saw CEO Howard Shultz being interviewed. Seeing him reminded me of a story I heard about in February 2008, when 7100 national Starbucks stores closed for three hours. Starbucks gave the reason that they were taking the time to perfect their espresso drink, and said “Great espresso requires practice. That’s why we are dedicating ourselves to honing our craft.” This was done so that employees would remember why they were doing what they were doing – the reason Starbucks was thriving. Starbucks sells many food products; however, as customers walk through their doors, the coffee aroma should overwhelm them to the point that customers know that they are at Starbucks.
If Starbucks and companies at staff meetings and in their vision statements are asking these questions, then we must ask these same questions. Big Idea: The only way I will navigate the changing values and culture of our day is to ask myself two critical questions: “Who am I?” and “What am I doing here?”
The only way to successfully navigate the storms in life, and the changing values and definitions of our culture is to address within ourselves these two critical questions.
Let’s refer to the context of Chapter 1 in the book of Daniel. The nation collapsed under the weight of its moral depravity. Babylon was judging and correcting an entire nation due to decades of disobedience. The King ordered young men who were handsome and without any physical defect, and who showed an aptitude for much learning and influence to be prepared to serve the king. The King prepared them by rigorously teaching them Babylonian literature, culture, the art of divination, and occult practice for three years. The king believed that assimilating them would enable the Babylonians to have an easier time managing the conquered people. “Among those who were chosen were some from Judah: Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. The chief official gave them new names: to Daniel, the name Belteshazzar; to Hananiah, Shadrach; to Mishael, Meshach; and to Azariah, Abednego.” Daniel 1:6-7 Daniel could have learned a life style that was directly contrary to his upbringing as a Jewish man.
It is our God identity that enables us to accurately see things, and not be afraid of what is happening around us, because God is in control.
Daniel was in exile and a slave. He could have easily forgotten his true name and identity. Daniels name meant “God is my judge”. But now it was changed to “Keeper of the hidden secrets of Bel”, a foreign god he did not know. Hananiah meant, “God is gracious”. His name was changed to Shadrach, which was a variation of a god named Marduk. Mishael’s name refers to the question “Who is like God?” His new name was a variation of the god Venus. Azariah means, “God has helped”. His new name Abednego meant, “Servant of the god Nebo”, whom he did not know.
These young men stood confident in their identity and were able to navigate turbulent waters by staying close to God. Daniel spent time in the presence of God three times a day through prayer and devotion.
The way Babylon operated is similar to the spirit of Babylon that has operated in every age of human history. There has always been the desire to want to elevate ourselves above others, and to worship other things and become like them.
In 2015 a biologically born Caucasian identified with the Black culture, and was afforded many scholarships that were meant for students of color. When the news outlets got a hold of her story, she admitted that she was Caucasian, but said she identified with the Black experience. Imagine the confusion people had when she said this. To avoid confusion, we need to start with God.
This is why devotions are so important.
How do you know what God is calling you to be? Find out by spending time with Him. You got to spend time with Him. You need to obtain the familiarity of being in the presence of God. Get out your life journal. Write down your observations, bring it to application, solidify it in prayer, and watch your heart become transformed, because Jesus is working in you and through you,
We need to participate in collective identity and not hyper-individualism, or the Me-ethic which will only distance ourselves from relationships that we desire. If I brought the Me-ethic into my marriage, I might have been divorced. I want to see God a little bit more each day in my marriage. Having this attitude will allow treasure or fruit to be seen. I also want my kids to see this attitude, because this is not just about me, but about that identity being passed down from generation to generation. This is something that Daniel did not forget.
The church is comprised of God’s presence, as lived out by God’s people through relationships - not because we have gathered in a room.
If my identity anchors me in reality, then
Sometimes we think that our jobs are who we are. This is not so. God gave us our jobs to earn provision. Our ultimate vocation is being fully equipped and passionate sons and daughters of Jesus. Live out your calling at work. Live out your calling wherever you are, and watch God do some amazing things.
Daniel lived out his ultimate vocation and identity, by refusing to worship the king’s idol, and by pressing into prayer with God – his true identity.
If we are not careful, we will create subcultures around us, and we will create walls that divide us from the very people we have been called to serve, or from places that don’t feel Christian enough. Living out our true vocation will take us further from brokenness. We need to stand in the middle of brokenness and be representatives of healing. This is the “What we are doing here?” part of this message.
We forgot that Daniel was under a lot of pressure. We forgot that Esther had an entire nation on her shoulders. We forget that we are called, destined, and commanded to not only survive, but to be strong, successful, and thrive in that place of Babylon in our lives.
Some of us want to have the influence of Esther, but are unwilling to deal with the tension of the enemy. In all of your trials, rejoice, because God is victorious.
Let’s analyze the posture of Jesus in the context of Mathew 9. Jesus is reclining at a table where many tax collectors, and politicians are seated. This context shows that Jesus is not trying to distance Himself from them; instead He is trying to communicate with them and heal them. His character was not compromised, because He was doing exactly what he was supposed to do- heal them.
A while ago I was officiating over a wedding for a couple who did not come from a religious background. During pre-marital counseling, the bride handed me a paper that explained how she wanted me to pray for them during the ceremony. The prayer sounded something like this, “Summon the winds of the East, and the North spirit to come.” I said okay, but I am a man of Jesus, and don’t want to summon the spirit, because I do not like that guy. So she agreed, and said just do something like that. When I got home, I had second thoughts about doing their service and told my wife about this. She said, “If this couple invited you to do their service, and Jesus is in your heart, then I am pretty sure that they invited Jesus to their wedding, too.”
They had an awesome wedding and I got to share about Jesus. When reception time came, my wife and I were seated next to a woman that did not want to be seated next to me. When I said “Hey, how are you doing?” The woman said, “Oh hi.” as if she couldn’t be bothered. We tried to involve her in conversation, but she showed no interest. When the dance floor opened up, and my wife and I had a blast dancing it up. In the middle of our dancing, this lady comes up to me holding a beer in her hand and says, “Hey! What is it with you? I don’t know what it is, but there is something in you, and I want it, so what is it?” I replied, “I love and I follow Jesus.” Now this is 2008, and this woman had never heard of the gospel of Jesus Christ. So in the middle of the dance floor, I got to share about Jesus who came to earth as a man and who died for her sins. She heard that she was not a disappointment, and that she would experience the fullness of her inheritance in Heaven if she embraced the love of Jesus. Upon hearing these things, she began to weep.
We need to
Don’t sit around gathering calories of spiritual insight without any activity and service.
There is a story about a one legged school teacher from Scotland named George Scott, who approached Hudson Taylor and offered his services as a missionary to China. George did this because Hudson was a man who had pioneered missions to China. When Hudson asked him why he wanted to do this, George looked at him and replied, “I do not see any people with two legs going.” Well, immediately, he was hired. This is a man who was limited in some respects, but in his heart, knew who he was and what he was here to do. If we believe that we are business people, before we are a son or a daughter, then we may be holding on to some Babylonian titles of which we need to let go.
If I function in my true identity, then I can confidently represent God in my job.
So what is your name? God calls you His child, His workmanship, holy, blameless, blessed and redeemed. He calls you a creator and not just a consumer. He calls you healed and not broken. He calls you friend.
No matter what your circumstances are, remain true to your identity – this is the only way to navigate the waters that surround you. Instead of being distracted by the trinkets of Babylon, be obsessed with the treasure of God’s kingdom which is Jesus Christ. You will come to a point in life, where your other desires will be lessened because you will see the holes that are in them. Then you will look at Jesus and say, “I don’t care what I have to do because I want what Jesus has, and that is all that matters.”