Tuesday, April 20, 2010

What's in a Name?

I remember Thanksgiving Day of 1999 pretty well. However, it’s not for reasons you may think. My wife and I were watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and getting ready to visit family. As I passed by the television screen, I heard the announcer mention something about the next marching band was Silver Bluff High School from Petticoat Junction, SC. I was stunned. I thought I had heard of all the towns in South Carolina, but I had never heard of Petticoat Junction.

I loved the television show, Petticoat Junction as a kid, but had no idea there was a real place with such a name. I also had no idea that just a few years later, I would be living pretty close to it. You never know where God will lead you!!

If you travel much in the state of South Carolina, you are bound to notice some other odd names of towns. I attended college and seminary in a little town called Due West. There are bumper stickers and t-shirts available at the school bookstore that read, “Due West of what?” As far as names that give directions, there is also North, South Carolina.

Perhaps you would like the simplicity of having a number for a town name like, Ninety Six or Sixty Six. You can make people think you are a world traveler if you visit Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Norway. All of these are about an hour and a half from Edgefield and you can visit them all in one afternoon.

I read an article this week about some other funny, small-town names in America. Some of the examples were: Truth or Consequences, New Mexico; Boring, Oregon; Cool, California; Uncertain, Texas; Last Chance, Idaho; Accident, Maryland; and Normal, Illinois. The article included some of the theories on how those town names came into being.

What is truly in a name? Sometimes a name describes a person, place or thing. Sometimes the name is not very descriptive at all. Many times the name of something simply doesn’t match it at all. For example, when Erik the Red was exiled from Iceland for murder in the 10th century, he sailed to a large island that was largely inhabited by Eskimo-type people and a few Icelanders and Norwegians. He decided to call the new country Groenland, or as we know it Greenland, in order to attract more settlers, although it is far from being “green”.

In Acts 11:25-26 we read, “Then Barnabas departed for Tarsus to seek Saul. And when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. So it was that for a whole year they assembled with the church and taught a great many people. And the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.” We may read this and think, “Wow, That’s great. They finally got identified with Jesus.” However, the term “Christian” was not a term of endearment. It was coined by non-Christians, who were in essence labeling and making fun of those who were followers of Jesus.

When someone refers to you as a Christian, does the label match up with your life? Does the name fit? Could someone observe the way you behave, the way you read your Bible, the way you pray and discern on their own that you are a Christian?
As I stated before, sometimes names do not always reflect the item they are labeling. Many times one must dig a little to find the origin of the name. We as Christians must live so that there is no doubt who we serve, and how we live that service out. We are God’s children and we are called by His name.

Let’s do all we can to uphold the family name. I love the following poem. You may have read it before. It was written for children and fathers. However, this time I want you to read it as the father being your Heavenly Father. I think you will find that it takes on a brand-new meaning.

You got it from your father. It was all he had to give.
So it's yours to use and cherish. For as long as you may live.
If you lost the watch he gave you, it can always be replaced;
But a black mark on your name, can never be erased.
It was clean the day you took it, and a worthy name to bear.
When he got it from his father, there was no dishonor there.
So make sure you guard it wisely, after all is said and done;
You'll be glad the name is spotless, when you give it to your son.

Thus says the LORD, who created you, O Jacob, And He who formed you, O Israel: Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; You are Mine. (Isaiah 43:1 NKJV)

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