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THERE IS POWER IN THE NAME OF JESUS

There is a wonderful praise and worship chorus entitled “Break Every Chain” and it states the one and only power that can break every chain and that is the name of Jesus.  The lyrics say:

There is power in the name of Jesus; There is power in the name of Jesus; There is power in the name of Jesus
To break every chain; Break every chain; Break every chain
There is power in the name of Jesus; There is power in the name of Jesus; There is power in the name of Jesus

To break every chain; Break every chain; Break every chain
To break every chain; Break every chain; Break every chain

All sufficient sacrifice, So freely given, Such a price, Bought our redemption, Heaven’s gates swing wide
There is power in the name of Jesus; There is power in the name of Jesus; There is power in the name of Jesus

To Break every chain; Break every chain; Break every chain
There is power in the name of Jesus; There is power in the name of Jesus; There is power in the name of Jesus
To Break every chain; Break every chain; Break every chain
To Break every chain; Break every chain; Break every chain

There’s an army rising up; There’s an army rising up; There’s an army rising up
To Break every chain; Break every chain; Break every chain
There’s an army rising up; There’s an army rising up; There’s an army rising up
To Break every chain; Break every chain; Break every chain
To Break every chain; Break every chain; Break every chain

There is power in the name of Jesus; There is power in the name of Jesus; There is power in the name of Jesus
To Break every chain; Break every chain; Break every chain
There is power in the name of Jesus; There is power in the name of Jesus; There is power in the name of Jesus
To Break every chain; Break every chain; Break every chain
To Break every chain; Break every chain; Break every chain[1]


So what does it mean there is power in the name of Jesus?  John1 is a good place to start.  It says In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was with God in the beginning.  Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.  In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.[2]  So we’ve learned that Jesus was with God from the beginning and in him was life and that life was the light of all mankind.  I don’t know about you but that sounds pretty powerful to me!  Despite the fact that from the beginning darkness has tried to overcome the light, it has failed, does fail, and will fail no matter what efforts or tactics darkness uses to overcome the light.

God clearly intended for there to be Power in the name of Jesus which is demonstrated by the words written concerning His son and what He was given dominion and power to control.  The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.  For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him.  He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.  And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him,  and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.[3]  This passage shows us that God’s desire is to reconcile Himself to all things; so much so that He sent his Son to make peace through the shedding of His blood on the cross.

The power in the name of Jesus so far exceeds any other name that we find it hard to comprehend.  He was, is and always will be our intercessor with the Father.  “Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.   Such a high priest truly meets our need—one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens.  Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself.  For the law appoints as high priests men in all their weakness; but the oath, which came after the law, appointed the Son, who has been made perfect forever.”[4]  In the name of Jesus we have a high priest to intercede for us and His life, death, and resurrection gives us the opportunity to reconcile with God so that we can claim the promise of eternal life through Him and with Him.

So how does the name of Jesus break every chain?  There are many passages we could explore but for the sake of simplicity I have chosen one passage that says it all.  After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed: ‘Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you.  For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him.  Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.  I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do.  And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.   ‘I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word.  Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you.  For I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them. They knew with certainty that I came from you, and they believed that you sent me.  I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours.  All I have is yours, and all you have is mine. And glory has come to me through them.  I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one.  While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me. None has been lost except the one doomed to destruction so that Scripture would be fulfilled.   ‘I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them.  I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world.  My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.  They are not of the world, even as I am not of it.  Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.  As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world.  For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.  ‘My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.  I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.  Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.  ‘Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me.  I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.”[5]

The only thing I can say after that is there is power in the name of Jesus to break every chain, break every chain, break every chain!


[1] Jesus Culture; Lyrics to Break Every Chain, Awakening:  Live from Chicago, 2011.
[2] John 1:1-5.  All scripture used in this article is taken from the NIV translation of the Holy Bible unless otherwise noted.
[3] Colossians 1:15-20
[4] Hebrews 7:25-28
[5] John 17:1-26

ARE YOU MAKIN’ IT OR FAKIN’ IT? (The Generation of Fakers)

In this age of technology with Snapchat, Facebook, and other forms of social media, it is so easy to pretend to be somebody you’re not.  You can stand in front of someone else’s car and take a photo to make it appear as if it’s yours.  You can go to someone’s home and take photos of yourself and put all kinds of cute hashtags or comments that would lead someone to believe this is where you live.  While we can easily point our finger at the millennial generation for causing this, the fact is we have become a culture of “FAKERS” and it has affected every aspect of our lives including the church. Being a FAKER is not a new concept, in fact Jesus said “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean.”[

FAKERS get caught up in appearances and fitting in to the culture that they forget their first love, Jesus Christ, and they begin to behave as the world behaves.  Jesus made it very simple to understand when He said “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”[2]  It is when we seek God’s kingdom and righteousness first that we realize He will meet all of our needs.  We shouldn’t fret or worry because God has things in control.  Earlier in this chapter of Matthew Jesus tells us how we should view life.  He says Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.  But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”[3]

Much like the warning Jesus gave to the teachers of the law and Pharisees, this passage tells us how we can seek God’s kingdom and righteousness first which is by paying attention to the things that are most important to our Heavenly Father.  FAKERS can store up earthly treasures that will give them status and earthly admiration but MAKERS forget about the worldly things and store up their treasures in heaven.  If you’re “fakin” it then more than likely you are wanting to present one image to certain people and a different image to others.  Jesus makes a powerful statement when He says “for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.  If we were to examine your spiritual heart right now, would you be classified as a FAKER or a MAKER?

Jesus made it very clear defining how we start our journey of being a MAKER.  He tells us “You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’  The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”[4] Being born again is often confusing because we want to look at it from the physical aspect rather than the spiritual aspect.  God changes us and gives us a new life, from the inside out.  We are not physically changed but spiritually changed.  If we truly want to make it we have to start here or we go nowhere.  “Makin it” starts with being born again; entering into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and following Him the rest of your days. Jesus told those that were following Him “if anyone wants to be my disciple they must deny themselves and pick up their cross daily and follow me.”[5]  That’s how we can be truly be a MAKER versus a FAKER!

“Fakin it” prefer darkness while those “Makin’ It” prefer the light.  After all, “Fakin’ it” is a lot easier in the dark because we feel less vulnerable and our flaws are not as likely to be seen.  In darkness we feel as though we can do things without others seeing and we can maintain our “whitewashed” tombs while on the inside we are dark and unclean.  Jesus gave a very clear description of those “Fakin It” versus those who are “Makin It.”  He said “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.  This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.  Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed.  But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.”[6]  Those “Makin It” are not condemned but those “Fakin It” are condemned already.  While this most certainly applies to those who do not have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, it also applies to those who profess to be a Follower of Jesus Christ but have fallen away from their first love and are living for the world.

There are many in today’s churches that are “Fakin’ It” and in fact there are entire churches that are “Fakin’ It.”  Some of you are reading this and saying “WOW that sounds pretty harsh and judgmental!”  Don’t take my word for it, Jesus himself said Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.  ‘I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.  If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.”[7]  If someone declares that they are saved, I do not have the discernment or wisdom to say they are not.  I can however watch their life and if they are not bearing fruit, I can certainly make them aware of what I am seeing is different from what they are professing. The only way of “Makin’ It” is complete and total reliance on Jesus Christ in everything we do and say.  So what’s your answer, are you “FAKIN’ IT” or “MAKIN’ IT?”


[1] Matthew 23:27.  All scripture used in this article is taken from the NIV translation of the Holy Bible unless otherwise noted.
[2] Matthew 6:33
[3] Matthew 6:19-21
[4] John 3:7,8
[5] Luke 9:23
[6] John 3:18-21
[7] John 15:4-6

DO HUMANS BECOME ANGELS AFTER PHYSICAL DEATH?

Despite my best efforts to avoid hurting anyone’s feelings or challenge their way of thinking, I know this article will very likely do both of these things. Therefore, please understand that I do not take lightly the subject matter that I am about to undertake.  The title of this article is a question that is not new but is not often addressed or answered.  We have all heard someone say “Well, they earned their angel wings today” or read someone’s email or post on social media that talks about a human becoming an angel because the person has experienced physical death.  Unfortunately and undoubtedly Hollywood has contributed to this notion.  One obvious example is the old traditional holiday flick “It’s a Wonderful Life.”[1] Clarence is the character in the movie who is trying to help George get his life straightened out so that Clarence can earn his wings.  He references his previous human life and shares the frustration he has experienced not having earned his wings at the time of their meeting.  The fact is that humans and angels are completely different creations of God and a human cannot become an angel.  Now that some of you already have your blood pressure going up, take a deep breath and allow me to use scripture guided by the Holy Spirit to show you the difference.

When we look at God’s Word we find that from the beginning there is a distinction between humans and angels.  Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.[2] So Adam was made in the image of God but there is no scripture that supports that angels were made in the image of God.  While God’s creation includes angels, they are entirely different than humans.  His Word makes it clear that they are part of His creation when it says The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.  For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him.  He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”[3]

Angels were created to serve God, to be his special messengers to carry out His will.  And while scripture is clear that Jesus Christ was sent to save the lost there is no indication that Jesus’ redemption of humans was applied to angels. When we look in the first book of Peter where this is clearly stated as follows:

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.  In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.  These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.  Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls. Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of the Messiah and the glories that would follow.  It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, when they spoke of the things that have now been told you by those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. Even angels long to look into these things.”[4] 

This passage closes with “Even angels long to look into these things.”  If angels had been previously human, they would have no need to look into the gospel because as humans they would have already experienced the saving grace offered by our Heavenly FatherTo which of the angels did God ever say, ‘Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet?’  Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?”[5]  This further clearly states and supports the fact that angels were created by God to serve a completely different purpose from humans and as such they do not have a need for the gospel.

“Or suppose a woman has ten silver coin and loses one. Doesn’t she light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it.   And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’  In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”[6]   While the angels rejoice it is because of their specific role assigned by the LORD and not because they have previously experienced salvation.

Paul tells us herefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord.  For we live by faith, not by sight.  We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.  So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it.”[7]  So when a human passes from this world in to eternity, if they have received salvation, they go home to be with the Lord.  Our spirit passes from the body to eternity and with it we carry our soul (the essence of what makes us who we are).

Luke gives a very convincing illustration of this when he wrote There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day.  At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores. ‘The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried.  In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side.  So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’  ‘But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony.  And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’  ‘He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my family, for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’  ‘Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’  ‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’  ‘He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.”[8]

Even in death the rich man wanted Lazarus to serve him yet he is told that there is a great chasm between heaven and hell and there is no way to cross from one to the other.  The passage tells us that the angels carried Lazarus to Abraham’s side.  If he became an angel why would he need angels to carry him to Abraham’s side?  It is because it was Lazarus’ spirit that was taken by the angels to be by Abraham’s side.

Let me close with this thought.  Scripture tells us And the angels who did not keep their positions of authority but abandoned their proper dwelling—these he has kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for judgment on the great Day.”[9]  The “proper dwelling” referenced in this verse is the heavenly realm not the earthly realm.  Based on the way it is written it is likely referencing the angels that followed Lucifer when he was exiled from heaven (one third of the angles in heaven followed Lucifer).  Paul asks us why would God have humans judging angels that were formerly human? The reason we will be able to judge angels in heaven is because we will be higher than the angels due to our being like Christ.

God created both angels and humans to serve Him but the evidence is clear that humans will not become angels in eternity.  While it may be comforting to think that this will happen because of the earthly image that has been created about angels, God has a much greater purpose and for humans it all begins with a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.  So don’t aspire to be angel-like go for greatness and aspire to be Christ-like!


[1] It’s a Wonderful Life filmed in 1946, written by Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett
[2] Genesis 1:26.  All scripture used in this article is taken from the NIV translation of the Holy Bible unless otherwise noted.
[3] Colossians 1:15-17
[4] 1 Peter 1:3-12
[5] Hebrews 1:13,14
[6] Luke 15:8
[7] 2 Corinthians 5:6-9
[8] Luke 16:19-31
[9] Jude 1:6

WHAT IS YOUR STORY?

We don’t sing the old hymns like we used to. Most churches have moved to the more contemporary style of music and occasionally pull out one of the old hymns of days gone by. I can still remember the lyrics of many of those old hymns I grew up hearing and singing and sometimes they give me such solace and peace. Recently, the Holy Spirit put one of those old hymns in my heart and mind and the chorus has been something that I find myself humming or singing throughout the day. When that happens, you know that God, through the Holy Spirit, is encouraging you to hold on to the message in those words. While the hymn’s title is “Blessed Assurance” written by Fanny Crosby in 1873, it is the chorus that is a constant on my heart and mind. The lyrics of the hymn are:

“Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine!
O what a foretaste of glory divine!
Heir of salvation, purchase of God,
Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood.

{Refrain:}
This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior, all the day long;
This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior, all the day long.

Perfect submission, perfect delight,
Visions of rapture now burst on my sight;
Angels descending bring from above:
Echoes of mercy, whispers of love.

{Refrain}

Perfect submission, all is at rest
I in my Savior am happy and blest,
Watching and waiting, looking above,
Filled with His goodness, lost in His love.

{Refrain}

That chorus “This is my story, this is my song, praising my Savior, all the day long; This is my story, this is my song, Praising my Savior, all the day long” is such a powerful and compelling message to those who claim to be Followers of Jesus Christ. This chorus being planted in my heart and mind, day and night, brought me to a point of self-examination and introspective searching. Can I truly say this is my story and this is my song? Or have I allowed other things to take the place of this being my story and praising my Savior is an occasional thing like Sunday morning in church or special occasions where I need to look holy to those around me? So let’s take a few moments together to give serious thought and honest evaluation to these questions.

God’s Word tells us ““The LORD lives! Praise be to my Rock! Exalted be my God, the Rock, my Savior! He is the God who avenges me, who puts the nations under me, who sets me free from my enemies. You exalted me above my foes; from a violent man you rescued me. Therefore I will praise you, LORD, among the nations; I will sing the praises of your name.”(1) Do you remember every waking moment that The Lord lives and we owe praise to our Rock! He is the Rock of our salvation and He sets us free from our enemies. So often when I hear men talking about their struggles with maintaining a close walk with the Lord my mind immediately goes to the instructions given to us in 2 Samuel. How can we have a close relationship if we don’t remember first what brought us into a close relationship with the living Lord to in the first place? If we are not praising and exalting the One that brought us out of darkness then how can we possibly maintain a close relationship? Satan distracts us with busy-ness and draws our hearts and minds to numerous other activities and things that removes the eternal mindset we owe to the One who Lives and who gives us an eternal promise. We get caught up in the here and now and when we do, we are prime candidates for the temptations of the enemy!

While there are many scriptures and passages of scripture we could use as an example of “this is my story”, I don’t want to turn this article into a book, so we will use a single passage that hits all of the key points.

David testified “The LORD is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life—of whom shall I be afraid? When the wicked advance against me to devour me, it is my enemies and my foes who will stumble and fall. Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear; though war break out against me, even then I will be confident. One thing I ask from the LORD, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple. For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his sacred tent and set me high upon a rock. Then my head will be exalted above the enemies who surround me; at his sacred tent I will sacrifice with shouts of joy; I will sing and make music to the LORD. Hear my voice when I call, LORD; be merciful to me and answer me. My heart says of you, ‘Seek his face!’ Your face, LORD, I will seek. Do not hide your face from me, do not turn your servant away in anger; you have been my helper. Do not reject me or forsake me, God my Savior. Though my father and mother forsake me, the LORD will receive me. Teach me your way, LORD; lead me in a straight path because of my oppressors. Do not turn me over to the desire of my foes, for false witnesses rise up against me, spouting malicious accusations. I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD.”(2)

  • So, using this passage, let’s pull out some key elements that should be part of our story:
  •  Whom shall I fear, whom shall I be afraid;
  •  The Lord is the stronghold of my life;
  •  Though war break out against me, even then I will be confident;
  • One thing I ask from the Lord, that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life;
  • For in the day of trouble He will keep me safe in His dwelling;
  • I will sing and make music to the Lord;
  • Your face, LORD, I will seek;
  • The LORD will receive me;
  • Teach me your way, LORD; lead me in a straight path because of my oppressors;
  • I remain confident in this: I will see goodness of the LORD in the land of the living;
  • Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD

While every man’s story will be different because of his life experiences, these elements should be interwoven in the story if he professes to have a personal heart relationship with Jesus Christ. While the language will be different because we do not necessarily speak as scripture is written, the essence of each item above will be in the story. All of God’s men must be prepared to share “their story” so that God may be glorified and others may learn and grow from the story we tell. So, WHAT IS YOUR STORY?


(1) 2 Samuel 22:47-50
(2) Psalm 27:1-14

All Things Work for Good

One of the many verses in the Bible that is often misquoted or said at the most inopportune times is Romans 8:28.  I have heard well-meaning Believers quote or paraphrase this verse more so to remove their own feelings of inadequacy and not knowing what to say than any real words of empathy for the person that is going through a difficult life event.  Paul tells us “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.”[1]  So people jump to this verse thinking it will surely soothe the pain or misery someone is experiencing at that very moment.

So how can we say cancer or a terminal illness works for good; how can we tell a young mother that has just lost her unborn child “in all things God works for the good; how do we tell someone that has just lost a loved one that was not saved and did not know the Lord as their personal Savior that will work for good; how do we tell those around the world that are persecuted and some even killed for their belief that Jesus Christ is the one true Savior works for good? The list could go on and on because there are many things that happen in our world that cannot and should not be described as good.  Yet God’s Word says plainly “And we know that in all things God works for good.”  So how do we take these disasters, persecutions, and tragedies and apply them to this verse?  I am going to do my very best, with the assistance of the Holy Spirit, to break down the key components of Romans 8:28.

In the opening of verse 28 there is a promise, “And we know that in all things God works for the good.”  It doesn’t say maybe, we guess, or sorta kinda, it says “WE KNOW”.  We can be confident in knowing that God works for the good.  This raises the first dilemma.  So many of today’s men view the world and what happens in it from a temporal point of view.  A temporal point of view is looking at situations in the here and now and is based on immediate time and circumstances not eternity.  To fully embrace the meaning of this verse and the promise it makes we must have an eternal point of view which means we may not be able to see God’s plan with our physical eyes but we know nonetheless that He is working His master plan all of the time even when it seems He is not.

John Piper[2] says it this way “When it comes to the architecture of promises, there are not any bigger buildings than Romans 8:28. This structure is absolutely staggering in its size. It is massive. The infinitely wise, infinitely powerful God pledges to make everything beneficial to his people! Not just nice things, but horrible things, like tribulation and distress and peril and slaughter. What brick would you lay on the top of this skyscraper promise to make it taller? “All things” means all things.

If you live inside this massive promise, your life is as solid as the rock of Gibraltar. Nothing can blow you over inside the walls of Romans 8:28. Outside Romans 8:28 all is confusion, anxiety, fear, uncertainty, straw houses of deadening drugs, tin roofs of retirement plans, cardboard fortifications of anti-ballistic missiles and a thousand other substitutes for Romans 8:28.

Once you walk through the door of love into the massive, unshakable structure of Romans 8:28 everything changes. There comes into your life stability and depth and freedom. You simply cannot be blown over. The confidence that a sovereign God governs for your good all the pain and all the pleasure that you will ever experience is an absolutely incomparable refuge, security, hope and power in your life. No promise in all the world surpasses the height and breadth and weight of Romans 8:28.”[3]

So to whom is this promise?  It is actually defined in two ways.  The first is “those who love Him.”  Those that do not love the Lord cannot claim this promise.  It is a promise made to those who love Him.  This aligns itself with what is described in the Gospel of Mark when Jesus was asked the greatest commandment.  He replied “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.”[4]  But Jesus did not stop there, He went on to say “The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’  There is no commandment greater than these.”[5]  If we do not love the Lord with everything we have … heart, mind, soul and strength … then we will not understand, or benefit for that matter, from the promise made in Romans 8:28.  And if we do not accomplish the first we will most certainly not achieve the second.  In order for us to experience the promise of “that in all things God works for the good,” we must totally and completely love the Lord with everything we have.  This holds true regardless of whether we are in the best of times or the worst of times we must love the Lord our God always.

Paul goes on to add one additional component to Romans 8:28 when he says “who have been called according to His purpose.”  Being “called” is not a frequent topic in today’s church and therefore it is often misunderstood.  Paul gives a powerful word picture when he says “And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.”[6]  While many may hear the Gospel, not all will accept Jesus Christ as their personal Savior.  While many may be exposed to the Word of God not all will receive it by faith and stand firmly upon it.  We are called to salvation by the Holy Spirit, we are justified by faith and we are glorified by our relationship with our Heavenly Father.  If we were to break it down to the very root of being called to God’s purpose, it is to be more like Jesus every day. When we accept the challenge of living our lives like Jesus it is then that we begin to see how God can take all of the good, the bad, and the ugly and use it for good.  You see it’s not about us but it is all about Jesus.  It is when we put all three pieces of Romans 8:28 together that we can see what an incredibly awesome God we serve and He is more than capable of achieving the passage that says “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.”


[1] Romans 8:28.  All scripture used in this article is taken from the NIV translation of the Holy Bible unless otherwise noted.
[2] John Piper is founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary.
[3] This quote is taken from a message John delivered October 13, 1985 entitled “Called According to His Purpose”
[4] Mark 12:30
[5] Mark 12:31
[6] Romans 8:30

 

HORIZONTAL THINKING VS. VERTICAL THINKING

I originally wrote this article under a different title in January of 2005.  Since that time the magnitude and importance of this subject has grown to a level that may determine the very survival of the United States as we have known it.  For that reason, I have updated the article to reflect the importance of “vertical thinking” to God’s men and my hope and prayer is that the Holy Spirit can use it to move men to live the lives God desires.

Too many men, including men in the church, become victims of “horizontal thinking.”  What in the world is horizontal thinking you ask?  It is simply getting caught up in the world’s definition of success.  In his book “THE MAN IN THE MIRROR” [1] Patrick Morley writes “Today men are consumed by desires to buy things they don’t need, with money they don’t have, to impress people they don’t like.” A man allows himself to focus on temporal gain to make him feel like a “real man.”  The next promotion, a newer more expensive car, a bigger house, big boy toys (trucks, sports cars, motorcycles, boats, country club memberships, etc.) and numerous other achievements and physical “things”.  Not that any of these things are in and of themselves evil, it is when we devote most or all of our energy to achieve them that they become dangerous.  They are often devious and subversive in how they take hold of a man’s vision of what his life is supposed to be.  Before long, he is consumed with the “horizontal issues” in life and he has lost interest in pursuing or maintaining a vertical relationship with his Heavenly Father.  At this point Satan becomes his greatest ally by showing him all kinds of reasons why his actions are justified.  “I’m doing this for my family”; “I know I’m not conducting my life the way God wants me to but once I accomplish this goal, I’ll get things in order”; “Doesn’t God want successful people in His church”; “If I gain more then I can give more” and so many other rationalizations that we are convinced will keep God at bay.  The interesting thing is “later” rarely ever gets here and the groundwork has been laid for a man to continue down the path of “horizontal thinking.”  What a man intends to do and what he actually does can often go in completely opposite directions.  That is what makes “horizontal thinking” so dangerous.

The best way for us get an understanding of “horizontal thinking” is to look at a scriptural example.  Mark tells us of a rich young man that comes to Jesus to pose a question.  “As Jesus was starting out on his way to Jerusalem, a man came running up to him, knelt down, and asked, ‘Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ ‘Why do you call me good?’ Jesus asked. ‘Only God is truly good. But to answer your question, you know the commandments: ‘You must not murder. You must not commit adultery. You must not steal. You must not testify falsely. You must not cheat anyone. Honor your father and mother.’Teacher,” the man replied, “I’ve obeyed all these commandments since I was young.’  Looking at the man, Jesus felt genuine love for him. ’There is still one thing you haven’t done,’ he told him. ‘Go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.’   At this the man’s face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions.” [2]

Jesus knew He was being set up when the young man called Him “Good teacher.”  You see the young man already had a preconceived answer for which he was looking.  When he told Jesus he had followed the “law” since his youth he expected Jesus to tell him he had already accomplished what was required of him to get into heaven.  When Jesus tells him to “sell everything you have”, it wasn’t because Jesus found fault with wealth but it was the fact that this young man placed more importance on his wealth than he did in his relationship with Jesus.  He was caught up in “horizontal thinking” and he had lost site of the more important “vertical thinking.”  It is also important for us to note that the scripture says that Jesus “loved him.”  In spite of the fact that Jesus knew this young man was trying to set Him up, Jesus was drawn to the young man and His desire was to open the young man’s eyes to the importance of a personal relationship with his Heavenly Father.  The young man walks away “sad” because he didn’t get the answer he expected and he was unwilling to let go of his “horizontal thinking” to gain a vertical relationship with Jesus.

I love how “THE MESSAGE” gives us a reminder on this issue.  It says “You were running superbly! Who cut in on you, deflecting you from the true course of obedience? This detour doesn’t come from the One who called you into the race in the first place. And please don’t toss this off as insignificant. It only takes a minute amount of yeast, you know, to permeate an entire loaf of bread. Deep down, the Master has given me confidence that you will not defect. But the one who is upsetting you, whoever he is, will bear the divine judgment.” [3]   This writing indicates we should not only take this issue seriously (“And please don’t toss this off as insignificant”) but also recognize that God takes it very seriously. It is also important to note that it tells us “This detour doesn’t come from the One who called you into the race in the first place.”  It is not within God’s nature to try and derail us from being obedient.  These verses also let us know there will be “divine judgment” for those who interfere and draw God’s children away from “the true course of obedience.”

So how do I avoid “horizontal thinking” and strive to maintain “vertical thinking?”  First let’s acknowledge that it is not always the easiest task to accomplish, but it can be accomplished.  It starts with what Rick Warren so aptly stated in his book “The Purpose Driven Life”, “IT’S NOT ABOUT YOU.”   You see, “vertical thinking” is focused on God and not on self.  All men, by our very nature, are selfish to one degree or another.  Throughout history this has been the eventual downfall of so many men because they became more and more focused on satisfying themselves above all else.  David gives us a good “test” for our daily walk with the Lord.  David writes “Who may worship in your sanctuary, Lord?  Who may enter your presence on your holy hill?   Those who lead blameless lives and do what is right, speaking the truth from sincere hearts.  Those who refuse to gossip or harm their neighbors or speak evil of their friends.  Those who despise flagrant sinners, and honor the faithful followers of the Lord, and keep their promises even when it hurts.  Those who lend money without charging interest, and who cannot be bribed to lie about the innocent.  Such people will stand firm forever.” [4]  Let’s look at several of the items David has listed here to help us maintain our “vertical thinking.”

David tells us we are to walk “blameless” and do what is “righteous.”  Blameless does not mean without sin. It does mean we are known to maintain a lifestyle that is based upon “integrity.”  If there is one thing our society today could use more of, it is men of integrity.  The dictionary definition of integrity is “Steadfast adherence to a strict moral or ethical code.”   Integrity for God’s man is strict adherence to God’s code of conduct, not the world’s.  It’s doing the right thing because it is the right thing to do with no ulterior motive.  It is doing what you say you are going to do and if you can’t, it’s letting people know you will not be able to keep your word.  God’s man does not use integrity only when it is convenient, but at all times – he does so even when it is not easy.  “Vertical thinking” requires that we act in compliance with God’s divine law and by doing so we will be free from sin.  While our relationship with Jesus Christ makes us righteous before God, it is our daily actions and behavior that make us righteous in man’s eyes.

Psalm 15 then tells us God’s man is one “speaking the truth from sincere hearts.   Those who refuse to gossip or harm their neighbors or speak evil of their friends.  We have all experienced the hurt that comes from someone lying to us.  It is especially painful when it is someone close to us.  “Vertical thinking” requires that we build relationships based upon truth.  That’s why Paul tells us “So stop telling lies. Let us tell our neighbors the truth, for we are all parts of the same body.” [5] God’s man does not get caught up in slander and gossip.  James tells us “Brothers, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against his brother or judges him speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it.” [6]  Peter teaches us “Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind” [7]  “Vertical thinking” requires that we harness our tongue and stay away from those that cannot control theirs.

David then tells us God’s man is one “who despises a vile man but honors those who fear the LORD.”  Who do you look up to; who is your role model?  Are they worldly men that daily represent “horizontal thinking?”  We must realize we are sending a message to others and choose our heroes carefully; it is imperative to choose wisely those lives after which we model our own. “Vertical thinking” requires that we seek out Godly men to set the example which we use as our role models for daily living.

The next issue is God’s man is one “who keeps his oath even when it hurts.”  “Vertical thinking” tells us we keep our promises, even when it is not easy or convenient.  It means we keep our promises even if something “better” come along that we would rather do.  “Vertical thinking” requires that we keep our promises the same way God keeps His promises to us.

God’s man is one “who lends his money without usury.” [8]  Usury means interest.  “Vertical thinking” requires that we utilize the resources God has provided without looking for personal gain or attaching “strings” to the item borrowed.  Simply put, don’t take advantage of someone’s need.  I believe this applies not only to money but in today’s world, it could be said of any resource we have available that could help another person resolve a need or problem.

David then gives us one last item and that is God’s man “does not accept a bribe against the innocent.” [9]  Innocence or guilt should be based upon truth and not whether the accused can “buy” their way out of the situation.  Moses was given very clear instruction from God when He said “Do not pervert justice or show partiality. Do not accept a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and twists the words of the righteous” [10]  “Vertical thinking” means truth cannot be bought at any price.

“Vertical thinking” certainly requires us to maintain very different standards than those set by the world around us.  Who are you living to please? Is it the world or your Heavenly Father?  There is certainly short term satisfaction created by the standards of the world but how does that relate to your eternity?  God’s man uses “vertical thinking” to keep him focused on daily living that leads to long term satisfaction — which is spending eternity with our Heavenly Father with all of the benefits of a good and faithful servant.

I am reminded of that wonderful hymn [11] refrain that says:

“Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.” 

Men, may your life be full of “vertical thinking” and may the things of earth grow strangely dim in the light of Jesus magnificent glory and grace!


[1] MAN IN THE MIRROR Solving the 24 Problems Men Face; Written by Patrick Morley; Published by Zondervan Publishing House; Written in 1997 and updated in 2014.
[2] Mark 10:17-22.  All scripture used in this article is taken from the NIV translation of the Holy Bible unless otherwise noted.
[3] Galatians 5 from THE MESSAGE, an interpretation of the Bible
[4] Psalm 15:1-5
[5] Ephesians 4:25
[6] James 4:11
[7] 1 Peter 2:1
[8] Psalm 15:5a
[9] Psalm 15:5b
[10] Deuteronomy 16:19
[11] Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus, Helen H. Lemmel, 1922. copyright status is Public Domain

 

GRACE ALWAYS WINS

The Lord spoke to Paul and said My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weaknessPaul replies, Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.[1]

Matthew West, a talented song writer and performing artist of contemporary Christian music, wrote an extremely powerful song entitled “Grace Wins.”  The lyrics say:

“In my weakest moment I see you
Shaking your head in disgrace
I can read the disappointment
Written all over your face

Here comes those whispers in my ear
Saying who do you think you are
Looks like you’re on your own from here
‘Cause grace could never reach that far

But, in the shadow of that shame
Beat down by all the blame
I hear you call my name sayin’ it’s not over
And my heart starts to beat
So loud now, drowning out the doubt
I’m down but I’m not out 

There’s a war between guilt and grace
And they’re fighting for a sacred space
But I’m living proof
Grace wins every time

 No more lying down in death’s defeat
Now I’m rising up in victory
Singing hallelujah
Grace wins every time 

Words can’t describe the way it feels
When mercy floods a thirsty soul
A broken side begins to heal
And grace returns what guilt has stole
And, in the shadow of that shame
Beat down by all the blame

I hear you call my name sayin’ it’s not over
And my heart starts to beat
So loud now, drowning out the doubt
I’m down but I’m not out

There’s a war between guilt and grace
And they’re fighting for a sacred space
But I’m living proof
Grace wins every time 

No more lying down in death’s defeat
Now I’m rising up in victory
Singing hallelujah
Grace wins every time 

For the prodigal son, grace wins
For the woman at the well, grace wins
For the blind man and the beggar, grace wins
For always and forever, grace wins
For the lost out on the street, grace wins
For the worst part of you and me, grace wins
For the thief on the cross, grace wins
For a world that it lost

There’s a war between guilt and grace
And they’re fighting for a sacred space
But I’m living proof
Grace wins every time

No more lying down in death’s defeat
Now I’m rising up in victory
Singing hallelujah
Grace wins every time
Every time
I’m living proof grace wins every time”[2]

I have written and spoken many times about how the enemy uses guilt to bring us down and attempts to distract us from the victory we have already been given.  That victory is the result of grace given freely and willingly by our Heavenly Father.  Often defined as “unmerited favor,” grace is the result of what Jesus Christ did for us on Calvary.  God’s perfect plan included His one and only Son, Jesus Christ, living a perfect life; he was tempted just as you and I are tempted yet he remained perfect; demonstrating the power of Jehovah God to heal and to raise the dead as well as save the outcast and unwanted in the world.  He was accused of crimes He did not commit yet He was found guilty and sentenced to death on the cross.  Jesus anguished on that cross to pay my sin debt and not just for a period of time but for all eternity!  It is extremely difficult for me to soak this in simply because I know I am not worthy of God’s grace. Yet He extends it to me just the same.  There is a wonderful hymn that says “Grace, grace, God’s grace, grace that is greater than all my sin.”  It is grace that makes me clean in God’s sight.  It is grace that makes me a new creature when I accept a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.  It is grace that gives me the ability to rejoin my heart with God’s.

The fact is there is nothing that I can do on my own to save me from my sins and as long as there is unconfessed sin in my life I cannot have the kind of relationship God wants to have with me.  Grace is not something we can earn or perform good works to deserve; it is a gift of God that cannot be bought or earned.  It is His love gift to you and me so that we can have a personal relationship with Him in this life but in addition, an eternal relationship with Him forever and forever.  Paul gives us a good description of this very issue when he wrote Now to the one who works, wages are not credited as a gift but as an obligation.  However, to the one who does not work but trusts God who justifies the ungodly, their faith is credited as righteousness.  David says the same thing when he speaks of the blessedness of the one to whom God credits righteousness apart from works:  ‘Blessed are those whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered.  Blessed is the one whose sin the Lord will never count against them.’”[3]  When we try to earn God’s grace we can very quickly have our focus removed from God and turn to self.  You see works is about what we can do grace is about what God can do!

As Paul trained Timothy to carry on the ministry he tells him “You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.”[4]  You see the enemy would like for us to believe that grace ends at the altar of salvation yet nothing is further from the truth.  Grace begins at the altar of salvation and gives us power in our lives as we grow in our walk with the Lord.  As we grow in our faith we learn not only to receive God’s grace but to extend it to others.  Let me close with a powerful passage of scripture that sums up what I am trying to say.  In the book of Ephesians we are told “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient.  All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath.  But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.  And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.  For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—  not by works, so that no one can boast.”[5]  Are you living in God’s grace?  Are you demonstrating to others the same grace that God has extended to you?  Grace is power and it is the power of God living through us despite our weaknesses.  Oh thank you LORD that when I am weak, You are strong!


[1] 2 Corinthians 12:9.  All scripture used in this article is taken from the NIV translation of the Holy Bible unless otherwise noted.
[2] Artist Matthew West on his album “Live Forever” released in 2015
[3] Romans 4:4-8
[4] 2 Timothy 2:1
[5] Ephesians 2:1-9