A Chapel talk that's truly in the name of God

Ashley Wooldridge of Christ's Church of the Valley gave a passionate talk Monday about changing today's culture and not just accepting its shift away from God. (Photo by Gillian Rea)

By Rick Vacek
GCU News Bureau

If everyone's name is sacred, why do we keep changing our names so much?

Think of all the people who are known by a nickname rather than their given name. It’s not Robert, it’s Bob. Elizabeth probably is known as Liz. Someone from the Murphy family inevitably is called Murph.

Think of all the sports coaches who invent nicknames for their players. That’s especially true in baseball, where nicknames are so prevalent, they’re listed right alongside statistics in a player’s biography – Hammerin’ Hank, The Sultan of Swat, etc.

But names had a far different – and far more serious – connotation in the book of Daniel (would he be Dan today?), and Ashley Wooldridge of Christ’s Church of the Valley had an important label for them Monday morning in his Chapel talk at Grand Canyon University Arena. When people are called names, maybe by just one person, that aren't cute or complimentary -- fat, ugly, weak, etc. -- they sometimes give more credence to the accusation and forget that God, and only God, has named them.

As he began, Wooldridge noted how today’s culture is straying from God, and he asked a simple question: How do I stand strong in a culture of compromise? Daniel’s story demonstrates how it can be done.

Chapter 1 of Daniel explains how Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, had besieged Jerusalem and wanted to brainwash its most elite citizens – Daniel among them – into accepting the corrupt culture of Babylon.

Daniel 1:5-7 reads:

And the king appointed them a daily provision of the king's meat, and of the wine which he drank: so nourishing them three years, that at the end thereof they might stand before the king.

Now among these were of the children of Judah, Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah:

Unto whom the prince of the eunuchs gave names: for he gave unto Daniel the name of Belteshazzar; and to Hananiah, of Shadrach; and to Mishael, of Meshach; and to Azariah, of Abednego.

That it was three years is significant for college students, Wooldridge told his audience, because that’s approximately how long they’ll be at GCU.

“College is an environment where, for three or four years, you’re making decisions about what kind of values you’re going to have for the rest of your life,” he said. “And many of you, for the first time, you’re away from family, culture has shifted on you a little bit.”

Those new names the four men were given weren’t anything like the comfortable nicknames we use today. They had very dark, intentional meanings:

Daniel means “God is my judge.” Belteshazzar means, “Lady, protect the king.”

The Babylonians purposely gave Daniel a girl’s name, “which is why I can relate with Daniel so well,” said Wooldridge, who was named after the Ashley Wilkes character in “Gone with the Wind.”

“If you study pagan cultures that lose their identity and lose their godly values, one of the first things you will see is gender confusion,” he added. “… Culture wants to confuse you about who God says you are.”

Wooldridge showed how the other name changes in Daniel were just as devious.

Hananiah means “God has been gracious.” Shadrach means “I am fearful of God.”

The message of the Babylonians was that God is a killjoy with His commandments, as if following God’s word is “going to take all the joy and happiness and peace away from of your life. You won’t have any fun,” Wooldridge said. “And some of you have bought into that lie. Did you know that every single principle that God has given you for living is for your sake and not for His?”

It’s not as if sin feels bad, he said. The audience laughed nervously when he said, “If you don’t think sin feels good, you’re probably not doing it right. But how many of you know that you can feel good in a moment and you can wake up the next day with some regrets for a lifetime?”

Azariah means “Yahweh has helped.” Abednego means “Servant of Nebo.”

The Babylonians wanted Azariah to think God had abandoned him.

“If you don’t believe that you can trust God when trouble comes your way,” Wooldridge said, “guess what you’ll do? You will turn to another god. You’ll turn to the god of sex, you’ll turn to the god of money, you’ll turn to the god of beauty, you’ll turn to porn, you’ll turn to drugs because you don’t trust that God is good and that He can be turned to for your help.”

Most telling was the new name given Mishael, which means “Who is what God is?” Meshach means “I am despised and shameful before God.”

The No. 1 tool Satan uses in our lives, Wooldridge said, is shame.

“If you embrace Satan’s tool of shame in your life, then you will walk away from God,” he added. “… Look at me: You are not shameful in God’s sight, no matter what you’ve done. And God is willing to take all your shame if you would just lay it at His feet and just rely on His forgiveness.”

His closing thoughts:

“GCU, culture’s shifting. It’s shifting right in front of your very eyes. And you need to understand – are you taking on a name that God hasn’t given you? See, at some point you have to ask yourself, ‘When I walk into environments, am I going to be a thermometer or a thermostat?’ Thermometers, when they walk into environments, they just take on the temperature of whatever’s going on. When you walk into an environment, someone gives you a name and you just take it.

“And I think it’s high time that we as followers of Jesus become thermostats in our culture, that we walk into culture that’s shifted and we don’t take on the temperature, we set the temperature. We believe what God has said about us. But, remember, the only way that you’re going to be able to do that is if you remember who God says you are. So I think we all have to answer this question: Will I change the world or will the world change me?”   

● Chapel replay.

● Next week’s speaker: Dr. Tim Griffin, Pastor and Dean of Students

Contact Rick Vacek at (602) 639-8203 or [email protected].


Related content:

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GCU Today: Missionary on doing God's work: Just say, 'Here I am'

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