What’s in a Name?

Today marks my first day back from vacation.  Today also is my birthday.  Tonight at 11:31pm  will mark 45 years since my mother gave birth to me.  She gave birth to my twin brother 5 minutes later.

My brother received the name that was after our grandfathers – John Albert.  John was our paternal grandfather’s middle name and Albert was our maternal grandfather’s first name.  I was given the name James because of James and John, the brothers who were disciples of Jesus.  My middle name, Herbert, was after the doctor who delivered us; he was our family doctor for many years.

My middle name was an easy target for ridicule and insults up through middle school.  It is not uncommon for peers in school to do this.  I did not like my given middle name, that is, until I was given a different perspective about it which happened after I had heard from God that I was to give my life to Him in full time vocation.

There have been many times that I wonder if our western culture has lost some significant aspects that are still present in other cultures.  One of those is the meaning of names.  If you read through the Bible, names are very significant.  Jesus was given his name because it means “the Lord saves,” signifying that Jesus would save his people from their sins.

I was sitting in youth group one night and the topic of discussion was about names.  My youth pastor, Jeff Minniear, was taking everyone’s names and giving them meaning.  I wondered to myself how he was going to do that with mine.  I knew that James was a derivative of Jacob which means “supplanter” or “thief.”  I wasn’t sure about Herbert.  When it was my turn, Jeff told me that my name Herbert had a Germanic background and had warrior in its meaning. Great, I thought to myself.

But then Jeff did something that was one of the coolest things I have ever experienced and became very influential in my life.  Much like what the angel did in Joseph’s dream in Matthew 1, Jeff not only gave me the meaning of my names but also what he saw as the significance of them.  This is one of those moments in my life that I will never forget.  Jeff looked at me and said, “Jim, you will be a warrior who will steal the very souls of people from the hand of Satan.”  I’m not sure if Jeff had ever considered himself prophetic, but at that moment and time, God had given him a prophetic word to speak over me.

What has become a reality of my life is that I desire to bring people in God’s kingdom.  I do not attempt to do this through brow-beating or arguing with people.  It is my goal to do this through revealing to people just exactly who my God is.  God reveals himself to me each and every day.  He and I have daily conversations.  I see his presence and power all over the place.  I experience his provision and joy all the time in my life.

But you want to know when I experience all that the most?  It is when I am in the midst of doing battle with the enemy of humanity, the one who would see as many people experience the fate that he knows is already his.  It is when I am waging war through the power of God’s Spirit flowing through me, battles in the spiritual realm, against, as Paul says in Ephesians 6:12, “the rulers, authorities and powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms,” when I experience my God the most, because what he places before me to accomplish and combat, I cannot do this without his power and presence being active and flowing.

What’s in a name?  God’s stamp of who I am and my purpose in life.


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