Remembering a Birthday.

Reminiscing on moments in history is not foreign to the US citizen.  In fact, of 20 major holidays, 13 of them have origins of just that: remembrance.

Today is a bit different for me.

Yes, I know it’s Memorial Day, and while I have already begun recognizing and remembering the sacrifices that many have made so that I, and my family, can enjoy our “American freedoms,” something else distracts my mind today.  Something else won’t escape and won’t allow me to give my undivided attention to another.

That “thing” is my brother’s birthday.  Today he would have 27 candles on his cake — wow, that’s hard to believe!  I wonder what he’d be like at 27.  Would he have “settled down” and married?

Nah, probably not.

Would he have a house?  Probably not.  He preferred the migrant lifestyle.

Would he have a greater love for this land?  Yes, definitely.  In fact, just a week ago I was traveling up the North Fork Road in the North-western corner of Columbia Falls, Montana (a very scenic route) thinking of him.  Thinking he left too early.

Four years ago, on this day-his birthday, he and I left our hometown of Wilmington, NC for a spectacular roadtrip across the US.  Here’s my journal, penned just three days before:

In a discussion recently with a good friend I began to answer the commonly summoned, “so what’s new?” Such a typical cliche question that normally is followed by the typical (and, yes, cliche) “oh, not much.”

However, there was a pause and while it was for just a moment, it was a deep deafening pause as if thunder interrupted the conversation. It was then that I began to realize that my life is complicated and in need of more than just a simple one-line summation. OK, you can stop rolling your eyes now–those of you who know me well enough to know my life has been very complex lately and mostly due to self-imposed complexities.

Nonetheless, I began:

“Well, I’ve got some big changes on the horizon…in fact, starting real soon.”

My former roommate has always been very respectful and generous in his time toward me so he inquired further. He then learned of my ambitions to travel a few time-zones back…to the West.

In short, my desire for the West is inspired by a few larger intentions of my character:

1. Independence

2. Spontaneaty

3. Beauty

Independence – I have a strong desire to promote individualism. I believe we all benefit by the fruits of many individuals rather than the collective sum of the masses. The American West has historically and even today represents this very intention; that all deserve some room and no one holds rights or privilege over another.

Spontaneity – Some call it a curse, I tend to think it makes life more interesting. I’m not an advocate for mere existence. I desire to live. Get on the road, do something you haven’t, reach for the stars for it’s better to live for a minute than to exist for a lifetime.

Beauty – Beyond just surface pleasures, the Western portions of the United States far surpass what the East can provide, unless the smell of congestion, confusion, chaotic manipulation, and social inequity suits your fancy. I believe every American kid should visit the Grand Canyon, and every American parent should make that happen. Go visit God’s canvas!

So here it is. Welcome to the “Western Mecciafication!”

All packed and ready to go!

Chris and I, May 28, 2008. Wilmington, NC

Somewhere in WY

Chris and I, days later. Somewhere in Wyoming.

Montana!

Chris and I, Montana. June 1, 2008

Sometimes it’s hard to think about.  But, still, it’s easy to smile.  Chris was good at that, smiling.

Today, four years later, I certainly miss him.  But, I have the hope of seeing him again, given to me by God through His word.  God promises me a day with Him, and him(Chris), in paradise.  A day that knows no fear and sheds no fear.  Only peace.  A peace we are incapable of understanding today.

Some may find it bizarre, a belief in the afterlife (especially an afterlife that is so profoundly beautiful–typically, people prefer the likes of zombies!).  But, as I think of God and His will, His power, and His intention, I really can’t think of anything less than beautiful.  He is magnificent!

This gives me the strength to move on.  I love my brother and miss him dear, but I still have a mission while I’m here.

Today, I will sing Happy Birthday, but I’ll not cry.  I’ll smile.  For I know he has been renewed and is in the presence of our Father.  The Father.

The Name Above

I recall my mother telling me the story of why she decided to name me Justin.  She was walking in a park while she was pregnant with me when she was overwhelmed with an internal thought–as profound as it would be if it were actually someone’s voice–instructing her to “call her child Justin for he will bring justice to all these things.

Now, as cool as I think that is, I do feel like there’s a bit of a bar to reach there.  I mean, seriously?  What justice can I bring?

Nonetheless, according to behindthename.com, Justin comes from the latin name Iustinus which was derived from Justus.

Justin Martyr – not exactly a handsome fellow…

Several early church saints were named Justus including Justin Martyr, who was beheaded in the 2nd century due to his Christian philosophical belief–yikes!

I’ve held a rather opinionated belief that when naming a child the parent should take into careful consideration the name they opt to give them.  I recall reading a book by Farrah Gray titled “Realionaire.”  Farrah, who’s name means ‘burden bearer,’ was the fifth(? – I am pulling from memory) child to a single mother.  He grew up in an impoverished urban city, but refused to give up on his dreams.  By the age of 14 he made his first MILLION dollars!  In short, his story and his motivation are certainly nothing less than a profound inspiration.

In his book, he shares his mother’s sentiment on naming children, which is strikingly similar to my own.  As a result, I’ve become quite fond of the name Farrah.

Now, unfortunately, not all of us get to CHOOSE our names, unless we’re a celebrity (Prince, Madonna, etc.), but that doesn’t mean we can’t redefine them!  In fact, my wife, Corylene, has a name that has no known origin or meaning.  Yet,  I try to encourage and tell her, “hey, perhaps your name has no meaning because we’re ready for YOU to define it!?”

In the days prior to Jesus’ birth, the Jews took very seriously the naming of their children.  It was customary to name the child based on a prophetic inspiration, or even a family tradition.  Consequently, you have the meanings of names like David (beloved), Jeremiah (Yahweh is uplifted), and Moses (son or deliverer) all being quite prophetic in value.

Etymology of ancient names and Biblical names can become quite valuable.  Consider the lineage from Adam (the first man) to Noah, and more importantly, the meaning the names:

Adam – Man
Seth – Appointed
Enosh – Mortal
Kenan – Sorrow
Mahalalel – The blessed God
Jared – Shall come down
Enoch – Teaching
Methuselah – His death shall bring
Lamech – Despairing
Noah – Comfort and rest.

If you place these meanings on a line you get a sentence that reads:

Man (is) appointed mortal sorrow, (but) the blessed God shall come down teaching. His death shall bring (the) despairing comfort and rest.

That’s impressive!!  The Gospel is found in the names of the lineage of the first man to the flood!  By the way, this is also the first portion of the lineage of Christ!

Not that long ago I was involved in a rather lengthy (and, often heated) study on John 1:1 with a couple Jehovah’s Witnesses friends of mine.  While we spent so much time discussing the merits of the indefinite article, “a,” and whether or not it’s present in the original Greek Scriptures, what I have learned recently through this study on the preeminence of Jesus Christ is that outside of the grammatical structure of this verse, the verse itself is profound in Jesus’ deity!

Check this out:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

That, of course, is John 1:1 (JW friends, bear with me.  The inclusion of the indefinite article “a” is irrelevant at this point).

The Greek word for ‘Word’ is the word, “logos.”  It’s actually where we get our modern-day word, “logo” from.  Think of all the effective logos in our day.
With the exception of just one of the above logos, even though no words are present, they all represent something rather easily and immediately.  Apple Computer Company in particular has branded itself with incredibly limited usage of actual “words” at all.  Take a look at the back of your iPod — unless you opted for Apple’s free engraving feature, the only representation on the backside is the “Apple logo.”

The Greek word logos is exactly that.

It means to be a representation or an expression so that we may see.  Thus, we get the suffix –ology.  (To study/reveal).

So, what John was actually saying (at that time, in the Greek) was, “In the beginning was the representation of God.”

Let’s jump back to an incredibly familiar verse, the first verse in God’s love letter to us, Genesis 1:1.

In the beginning God created the Heavens and the Earth.

Now, make the connection.

In the beginning God… (Genesis 1:1)

In the beginning was the Word… (John 1:1)

Combined:  In the beginning [was the representation of God] creating the Heavens and the Earth.

Does it add up?  Well, Colossians 1:16 provides the litmus test.

For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him.

Yes.  God, by way of Jesus Christ, created ALL things.  And, Jesus was (and is) the revealing nature of God.  (Colossians 1:15).

Jesus, Himself (as the Son of Man) even said so.  Here’s a paraphrased version of John 14:9-14 (but, may I suggest reading it on your own as well):

Phillip, don’t you know me considering I’ve been with you the amount of time I have?  Anyone who has seen Me has seen the Father.  Don’t you understand that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me?  These words, and the authority of them is not of my own, but of the Father’s — meaning, it is He who makes this possible!  If you have a hard time comprehending that, then at least believe because of the works of the Father through His son.

A few quick things I’d like to point out here (and I’ll reference the verse so you can look it up independently):

1)  Notice how Jesus, again, points out the revealing of the Father by way of the Son.  (verse 9)

Colossians 1:15 indicates also that Jesus is the image of the invisible God.  But, what does that mean since we have already been given indication of someone being created in God’s image…Adam?

Adam was made in the image and the likeness of God (made with qualities of God, made to be infinite like God).  Jesus IS the image of God.  Never are we given any indication that Jesus was, first of all, made, and secondly, to be like God.  In fact, the Scriptures overwhelmingly support Jesus being God.

2)  Jesus shares with Phillip (and us) that God works from within us.  His miracles are shown through us! (verse 10)

3)  Even Jesus gives credit to the Father!!  Doesn’t boast in Himself (even though He could!) (verse 11)

Now, to drive this whole thing out of the park, the next three verses sum up the whole reason for this marvelous connection.

John 14:12-14

Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father. (13) And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. (14) If you ask anything in My name, I will do it.

All authority is contained in the name of Jesus (Yeshua).  What else does the Scripture suggest about His name?

Well, Romans 10:13 says everyone is eligible for the salvation that comes from the name, Jesus.  It further states that in order to receive His gift, you just need to simply call.

For “whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.

Whoever calls.

Acts 2:21, 1 Corinthians 1:2, Joel 2:32 and Psalms 116:4 all echo this sentiment.

Acts 4:12 sheds a little more light on this empowering name.

Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.

There is NO OTHER NAME that can save you.  The salvation that God offers, by way of His Holy Name (Yeshua), is unique and unlike any other.  In fact, it is the only TRUE salvation.

Let’s put our etymlology-caps back on for a minute.

Do you realize the word “name” appears in the Old Testament 800 times?!  One of those occurrences is in the form of a personal pronoun: in the family tree of Noah.  Noah had three sons, Ham, Shem and Japath.  However, it is in the lineage of Shem that we find the Messiah!  Shem is the Hebrew word for “name!”  It’s a bit weird to name your son name!  What shall we name him Noah?  Name him, Name!  Suddenly, Noah looks like a caveman in my imagination!

In the New Testamant the word for name is onoma (Greek) and it appears 200 times.  What’s worthy of noting is that in the 1,000 occurrences of the word name in the Scriptures, not once does it refer to The Lord in the plural.  It’s always singular.  Take a closer look at Matthew 28:19

Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,

All three personas of the triune God (the trinity), but only one name.

It’s that powerful!

The name of salvation.

The name of the Messiah.

The name above all names.

Jesus.