What’s In a Name?

13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.

Matthew 16:13-16

As an immigrant kid growing up in the US, my family routinely visited INS (Immigration and Naturalization Services). We had to overcome the labyrinth of legal bureaucracy to eventually gain legal residency in the United States.

One unintended result of my INS experience was that I actually learned my name. As strange as it may sound I was not aware of my full name during my early childhood. Everyone in my family called me “Sergito.” In Spanish, the suffix “ito” means the small version of something. Well, I was the small version of my father, Sergio.

In the Bible, names have deep meanings. For example: Elisha means, “my God is salvation,” while Ishmael means, “God will hear.” So when Jesus asked his disciples, “But who do you say I am?” I think it’s possible that his question was multi-faceted. Jesus’ name alone had a powerful meaning. I like what biblical scholar J.C. Ryle has to say about Jesus’ name.

“The name Jesus means ‘Savior.’ It is the same name as Joshua in the Old Testament. It is given to our Lord because “He saves His people from their sins.” This is His special role. He saves them from the guilt of sin by cleansing them in His own atoning blood. He saves them from the dominion of sin by putting in their hearts the sanctifying Spirit. He saves them from the presence of sin, when He takes them out of this world to rest with Him. He will save them from all the consequences of sin, when He shall give them a glorious body at the last day” –C. Ryle

As a young child, I never paid attention to discover why my family would call my father Sergio, especially since friends and acquaintances called him Jorge (or George in English). Learning how to address people was a confusing endeavor.

After all, half of my community spoke Spanish and the other half spoke English. The Spanish language is quite proper, and culturally, minors show respect for their elders by addressing them appropriately.

English, on the other hand, was the anarchist guide to personal preferences. Some people appreciated being addressed as “Mr. or Mrs.” Others prefer first name rather than last name, and vice versa. Then there are those who would just say, “call me Skipper.”

Figuring out proper name etiquette at times seemed more confusing then interpreting the book of Revelation in the Bible. I often found myself in hot water when I got it wrong, not just in one language but two. All this to say that names are important to people. A person’s name describes the beauty of their character and defines their identity. No one knew this more than Jesus.

When I was seven years old, my family and I neared the conclusion of our immigration process. That’s when the Immigration agent asked me to sign my name. It was the first time I had seen my entire name spelled out: “Jorge Sergio Chavez Rodriguez Junior.” Suddenly everything made sense to me. My father’s first name Jorge was changed to George, (easier for US Americans to pronounce).

Within our family, it was more personal to call him Sergio, which is why I was called Sergito, as a term of endearment. In Mexico, legal documents include surname and maiden names, which from my Mother’s side is “Rodriguez.” And lo and behold, I never knew I was a junior.

When I read the question that Jesus presents to Peter, I have the sense that He is asking, “do you believe what my name implies?” Peter confirms that the disciples indeed believe Jesus is the Son of God. That’s when Jesus addresses Peter as “Simon Bar-Jonah.”

Hearing Jesus’ response, I can’t help but think that Jesus is using a parallel to Peter’s response. In my mind, it makes Jesus more human – as if He’s saying, “just as you say I have a Father, so do you.” A combined translation of, Simon Bar-Jonah translates to – “listening son of dove.” “Simon,” meaning “listening.” “Bar” meaning “son,” and “Jonah,” meaning “dove.”

My love of scripture translates this as, “Simon you have been listening. You carry the name of a prophet: Jonah. It was Jonah who was troubled, but ultimately listened to God and saved an entire nation. Just as the Dove represents the Holy Spirit, soon you too will prophesize to the world at Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit (in the form of a tongue of fire) descends upon you.” (Acts 2:14-41).

In that moment, Peter proclaims Jesus as Christ. This is what happens when we connect with the Holy Spirit; our deepest beliefs are revealed and become an unstoppable force that we carry with us throughout our lives.

Learning my full name was a revelation. Sure, not as profound as Simon Peter claiming Jesus is Christ, but it changed the course of my life. I now could claim who I was, who I am to become and hopefully who Jesus is calling me.

Power in the Name of Jesus

“She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus.” Matthew 1:21

‘Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, There is something about that name.

As I write, my heart is somewhat sad because it is difficult to understand why so many people hate the name, Jesus. This came out of a letter I received from a friend.  A letter in which he stated that he was preparing to speak at a very large convention sharing his testimony and in that context, the impact made on his life after a visit to our Campus in Guatemala.

As I read his letter, he mentioned my name and the school but did not mention the Mission, ‘The Arms of Jesus Children’s Mission.’ I sent him a note saying I would be praying for him and his witness.  Then I received a response that saddened my heart. He said, “Thanks…it is very frustrating. They censored it to the point where I couldn’t even mention ‘The Arms of Jesus Children’s Mission’ because it has ‘Jesus’ in the name. I was (hot) under the collar.”

Can you understand that? In today’s political correctness, you cannot mention the name ‘Jesus.’ My mind went back a few years when a dear friend and member of the Government of Canada helped us get funding for a project in Haiti. He came up against this same issue and heard Government Officials say, “Get them to change their name.” In simple terms, “Have them remove the name ‘Jesus.’”

We are not ashamed of the name of Jesus and will never ever change our name just to get funding. God Himself and His people will provide the resources we need to fulfill His mandate! Let me share a few scriptures with you:

“Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Philip 2:9-11

“Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is no other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” Acts 4:12

By faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong. It is Jesusname and the faith that comes through him that has completely healed him, as you can all see.” Acts 3:16

“And in that day ye shall ask me nothing. Verily, verily, I say unto you, whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you. Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full.”  John 16:23-24

Yes, there is something about that name and the song writer put it so well:

Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, there’s just something about that name.

Master, Savior, Jesus, like the fragrance after the rain

Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, let all heaven and earth proclaim

Kings and kingdoms will pass away

But there’s something about that Name!



A Greatest Passion

By Rich Leatherberry,  Mission Pastor 


On February 1, I preached on a topic that has become increasingly important to me. Two years ago I took an extended study leave from BelPres to learn about revival. I studied how past revivals started and looked at factors which sustained them. I met and talked with some fascinating leaders working for revival. I learned a lot. But the most significant part of my study leave was that it revived me. I came away with a hunger which I can only describe as “wanting more of Jesus.”

Sunday’s message was about making Jesus our greatest passion. Making Jesus our greatest passion is the most important growth lesson in this sermon series we are going through. It is the catalyst for everything. When Jesus becomes our greatest passion, three things happen. First, we want more of Him. Second, we will do whatever it takes to get rid of anything that stands in the way of that. Third, we begin living missionally because our passion for other people grows too.

There are a lot of things you don’t hear on Sundays because there isn’t enough time in a sermon to say it. So it gets edited out of the message. I thought I’d share two paragraphs that didn’t make it into Sunday’s message and see what you think.

Paragraph #1
We don’t loose our passion for Jesus, we leave it.
There are times when our passion for Jesus fades and He doesn’t matter to us as much. Our Christian faith becomes tame and predictable and slips to the margins of what we care about.

Scripture is filled with the stories of people who lost their passion and turned away. Moses, David, and Peter to name a few. But what’s so interesting about their stories, beyond the fact that they help us see how common our struggle is, is that none of them lost their passion for Jesus….they left it. One day at a time, one decision at a time, one action at a time. They made choices and acted out in ways that turned them away and caused them to leave the relationship.

But Jesus never turns away from us and He never leaves us. In the Book of Revelation the Spirit speaks to the church in Ephesus and the Spirit accuses the church of leaving their first love. The cure for that is to repent, and do the things they did when they first knew Jesus. That is our cure too. To repent. To turn around from where we are going and come back to Him. To get rid of the habits, distractions, behaviors and anything else that blocks Jesus out of our lives. James says; “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.”

Paragraph #2
“What matters most in our lives becomes our greatest passion. We give ourselves to that. For some of us its our kids, or our profession or our school, or music or the arts. Any of those things can make us happy and they can be very satisfying. But they can also discourage us and leave us feeling empty. Our kids can say or do things that hurt us. We can lose or hate our job. We can burn out in school.
Jobs, kids, school and the arts are all good. But they don’t satisfy and fulfill us like Jesus. Jesus never disappoints, never hurts and He never goes away and leaves us alone. When Jesus becomes our greatest passion then everything else falls into place. Jesus becomes our deepest satisfaction and experiencing more of Him becomes our great desire. That gives us a missional focus to everything. It changes the way we view other people and our role as parents, employees, employers, and students. In fact, it changes every other area of our lives.”

Let me leave you with a couple of questions:

1) How does a great passion for Jesus affect your relationships, the way you use your time and the things you are involved in?

2) What will it take to experience more of Jesus in your life?

I’d love to hear your comments or help you with questions.