If you find that lyric very familiar it’s probably due to one very popular TV series — Cheers! Every Thursday night on American TV, from 1982 to 1993, NBC’s Cheers would begin with those words melodiously streaming from your television set right to your ears and I’ll bet you probably even sang along, if you watched regularly enough.
For those of you unfamiliar with Cheers, it was a simple sitcom about the human condition. A show that revolved around not only the lives of the folks that worked at the fictionally historic tavern in Boston, MA, known as Cheers but also of those who frequented the bar. (Right about now you are either reminiscing or wondering what this has to do with an article on God, His names, and our worship, but stay with me as it will all make sense shortly.)
This show starred several actors over its award winning 11 seasons (Ted Danson, Shelley Long, Nicholas Colasantos, Rhea Perlman, John Ratzenburger, Woody Harrelson, Kelsey Grammer, Kirstie Alley, and Bebe Neuwirth), but the most endearing character was played by George Wendt, and that character’s name was Norman “Norm” Peterson.
Mr. Peterson, was so well known at this bar — so much a fixture there — that no matter how full the tavern was, no matter how long it had been since the patrons had visited, everybody knew when Norman was there. Literally, every time Mr. Peterson’s oversized shape burst through the front door of Cheers the customers and employees alike all shouted in unison, “NORM!”
It seemed that everybody did indeed know his name. It was never, “Hey, you,” or “Hello, Dude,” or “Greetings, fellow humanoid.” No, it was always his name, “Norm.”
Calling on someone by name immediately grabs that person’s attention. It makes them aware of the individual’s intent to engage in a conversation or to offer up a cordial greeting. Our names give us identity, a sense of self-worth, and sometimes our names offer up clues as to our ethnicity, the place we come from, the type of person we are or want to be. Occasionally our names even come with titles that allude to our education or type of job we are enjoying. Names are essential to mankind’s community and communicating with each other within that community. And so it is with our Creator.
Our lives should be places where God is a welcome fixture and so much so that we too shout out His name(s) whenever we feel His presence. Too many of us (myself, included) pray to the Almighty or speak of Him in casual conversation as simply God. It’s become such a generic noun culturally that “God” holds no real meaning or brings about no real conviction to most. It’s safe and unobtrusive, generally, as “God” can refer to many religious figures, thoughts, or theologies. But, speak the name of Jehovah, Yahweh, Jesus, or talk of the Holy Spirit and immediately defense systems arise from within people who are listening. Rooms empty, tables are cleared, and doors become closed and locked; and all that occurred at the local church after Sunday services. O.K., maybe not in the church building, but you do know of the discomfort I’m talking about.
So, why is it that we as Christians are so seemingly ignorant or fearful of speaking of the one true God by name? Why don’t we even bother to address the Almighty by name when we pray? (I’m not talking about ending your prayer with the standard “in Jesus’ name we pray,” either. I’m speaking of truly addressing our conversations with God directly to The Almighty, clearly and intentionally by His name.) I’m certain that most of us who profess to be true “born again” Christians don’t even realize that by calling out to God, by naming Him “God,” we are not calling out to Him by name but by the essence of what He is. It would be like calling out to another person by calling them “Human.”
You may not know this, either, but there are three primary names of God in the Old Testament:
– God (Elohim/Deity)
– Lord (Jehovah, or Yahweh)
– Lord/Master (Adonai)
Beyond these, the one true living God is called by over eighty other compound names or descriptive titles; names that have real meaning and insight as to His very nature. Names that will teach us not only of God Almighty, but of how to serve Him and worship Him.
During this series of articles we will not be studying all eighty plus names of our Creator, but each name that we do study will connect us with an attribute of God; an attribute that will call us to worship Him, whether corporately or individually. More importantly, we will show how to appropriately call upon our Lord by name in our daily circumstances.
When our study is done, we should be able to reflect on how important it is to our spiritual growth, to our physical well-being, to our relationship with God, to call out to Him by name. After all, if God cares so much for us that He knitted us together in our mother’s womb (Psalm 139:13b), that He knows how much hair is on our heads (Matthew 10:30; Luke 12:7a), if He sent His one and only Son to die for our sins (John 3:16), then how much more should we take the time to learn the name of the One who knows us and cares for us so intimately. Then and only then can we properly claim to know Him and be appropriately called a true worshiper of God!
So, I invite you to follow this study with me, and let’s learn together just how to make our lives a place where God can know that we care enough to call upon Him by name, and let’s understand together just how to become more intimate with the One who calls us by name.
His Name Is . . . by J. Scott Harden is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
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