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“Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person.” – Mother Teresa

July, 2019

Most of you know that, in addition to playing guitar in praise band and singing in the MUMC choir, I also write songs occasionally. Sometimes I record them and upload the result to a music hosting site, along with “covers” of songs by others. As some of you are also probably aware, there’s another David Phelps out there who is a well-known gospel singer. Jerry Blackwell thoughtfully gave me one of his CDs so I could hear the “other” David Phelps. Which of us is the “real” David Phelps depends on which one you heard of first.

Unfortunately, a fellow guitarist found some of my recordings and wasn’t happy. He commented, “Sorry, I really take offense at your using the name of David Phelps for your song account wherever that is. David is a world class singer, possibly the finest tenor in the world, and while he would encourage you to keep singing, he wouldn’t like you using his name. He is also a friend, as is his wife Lori, her cousin Jack Daniels who is also David’s steel guitar/piano/mandolin player/now retired. I will be at his farm in TN on Labor Day Weekend all weekend for a Barn Bash and am very active in three of his fan clubs.”

While I applaud my online acquaintance for his passionate defense of his friend, I pointed out that, “David Phelps happens to be my real name. I can’t change that just because you don’t like it. And if you’re referring to the David Phelps who is associated with the Gaithers, I own one of his CDs and he is very talented but he was born 16 ½ years after I was so if anything I have prior claim to the name.”

Imagine being told you can’t use your own name. My parents gave me my name for a reason and I can honor them by keeping it. In the Bible, names are especially important. Names were indicators of people’s destinies. Sometimes, God gave someone a new name to represent a major change in his or her life. God gave Abram the name “Abraham.” which means “father of many.” God promised him, “‘This is my covenant with you: I will make you the father of a multitude of nations!’” (Gen. 17:4 New Living Translation). God made that promise when Abraham was 99 years old and his only descendant was his son, Ishmael (vs. 1).

Isaiah wrote about the city of Jerusalem, “The nations will see your righteousness. / World leaders will be blinded by your glory. / And you will be given a new name / by the LORD’s own mouth.” (Isa. 62:2 NLT). God doesn’t just give new names to people but to cities and nations as well.

Jesus asked his disciples, “‘But who do you say I am?’” (Matt. 16:15 NLT). One, named Simon Bar-Jonah (son of Jonah), replied, “‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.’” (vs. 16 NLT). Jesus gave his friend the name “Peter,” or, as we might say today, “Rocky,” based on his confession about who Jesus was.

The apostle called Saul was also known as “Paul.” Contrary to popular belief, he didn’t change his name when he became a follower of Jesus. He is first called “Paul” in Acts 13:9. “Saul, also known as Paul, was filled with the Holy Spirit, . . .” (NLT). From that point on, the author of Acts identifies him with the name “Paul,” rather than “Saul.” Some have speculated that the use of the Latin version of his name, rather than the Hebrew version, helped him communicate the Gospel to the gentiles like you and me.

Jesus himself had many names. The name “Jesus” is derived from “Yeshua,” which is where we also get the name “Joshua.” It means “one who rescues or delivers” (Matt. 1:21). Matthew also mentions the name “Immanuel,” which means “God with us” (vs. 23). If we follow Jesus, God will give us a new name as well, just as God gave a new name to the people of Israel and to Abraham and to Sarah and to Peter. The way we live can honor God and show others that we are worthy of our new name (1 Thes. 1:11-12).

“And you will be given a new name / by the LORD’s own mouth. . . .
“. . . The LORD has sent this message to every land: / ‘Tell the people of Israel, / “Look, your Savior is coming. / See, he brings his reward with him as he comes.”’ / They will be called ‘The Holy People’ / and ‘The People Redeemed by the LORD.’” (Isa. 62:2b, 11-12a NLT.)

Copyright © 2019 by David Phelps