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Allen “Thunder” Scott is the founder of ThunderHeart Ministries. He was brought up in the church and jokingly tells audiences he and his younger brother had a “drug” problem when they were growing up. More »

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LET YOUR LIGHT SHINE

As a boy, I remember going to vacation Bible school and singing “This Little Light of Mine.”  The song says:

“This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine, This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine, This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine, Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine

Hide it under a bushel, no! I’m gonna let it shine, Hide it under a bushel, no! I’m gonna let it shine, Hide it under a bushel, no! I’m gonna let it shine, let it shine, Let it shine, let it shine

Don’t let Satan blow it out, I’m gonna let it shine; Don’t let Satan blow it out, I’m gonna let it shine; Don’t let Satan blow it out, I’m gonna let it shine, Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine,

 Let it shine til Jesus comes, I’m gonna let it shine, Let it shine til Jesus comes, I’m gonna let it shine, Let it shine til Jesus comes, I’m gonna let it shine, Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine

This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine, This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine, This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine, Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.”[1]

 

While I remember the song very well, I never stopped to consider the meaning of the song and really let it sink in.  The Gospel of Matthew tells us “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.  Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”[2]  “The Message”, which is an interpretation of the Bible, says it this way: “Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.”  A simple children’s song has such a powerful message when we look at the scripture behind it!  Jesus said YOU ARE THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD!  WOW, I wish I could testify that I see many Followers of Jesus Christ letting their light shine every day but from my vantage point there are fewer and fewer that have the boldness and courage to let their light shine.  We have become too concerned with fitting in and worried about what people might think if we let the light of Christ shine in our lives.  As the passage warns, we have put our light under the bowl of being politically correct and socially acceptable.  There is still time to change your situation to truly become a light-bearer for Christ.  It is not too late to let your light shine.  So let’s look at the critical elements needed to be an effective light-bearer.

First and foremost, before we can effectively shine light we must be connected to the source of light, Jesus Christ.  Without Jesus there can only be darkness and in that darkness we are drawn to the ways of the world.  A lamp can have all the proper components (bulb, switch, electrical cord, etc.) but if it is not plugged into the source it cannot shine light.  Jesus said “I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.”[3]  Clearly Jesus is the light and without Him we live in darkness.  It is awesome to know that our energy source of light never runs out and He provides us the power through Him to shine light to the world.  We are not sources of light but we are reflections of the source of light within us.

This brings us to the second element; the entire purpose of light is to dispel darkness.  If you have ever been in the forest at night where there is no light or in a room that is completely void of light we find ourselves trying to maneuver around attempting to avoid the pitfalls that lie before us.  Sometimes we guess right and sometimes we guess wrong.  We desperately strain our eyes looking for even the smallest ray of light to help us avoid the dangers around us.

When your life is in total darkness you want to find light yet you fear the light because it will expose the sin in your life. The Gospel of John tells us “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.”[4]  Despite our best attempt to extinguish the light it can never be eliminated.  While it is sometimes difficult to open ourselves to the light and expose the sin in our life, it is the light that can bring us to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and the result in repentance and God’s forgiveness.

The third and final element is the fact that letting my light shine is a choicePaul tells us  “Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling  for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.   Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, ‘children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.’ Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life. And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor in vain.”[5]  By no means an easy assignment, yet we have the ability to accomplish what Paul is saying by relying upon the light within us.  No matter the place or circumstances we are to be like shining stars in this world of darkness.  To accomplish this we must focus on the statement Paul makes saying “for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill His good purpose.”  The Prophet Isaiah said it this way “Yet you, Lord, are our Father.  We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.”[6]  To choose to let your light shine means you are willing to be the clay and let our Heavenly Father shape and mold you to accomplish His desired purpose in your life.

So here’s the question, are you going to let your light shine?  There is no question that our dark world needs more shining stars to see the light of truth.  Let your light shine in every aspect of your life and others will be drawn to the light!


[1] Found on METROLYRICS; Written by Jim Curnow; Published by Hal Leonard Corporation

[2] Matthew 5:14-16.  All scripture used in this article is taken from the NIV translation of the Holy Bible unless otherwise noted.

[3] John 12:46

[4] John 1:1-5

[5] Philippians 2:12-16

[6] Isaiah 64:8

HALLOWED BE THY NAME *

We are living in a time when people have turned away from God and are looking for solutions to small and great problems. And many of them are looking in all the wrong places. Jesus’ followers asked Him to teach them to pray and He did so by teaching them what we now know as the Lord’s Prayer.  While Jesus never intended this to be the end all of prayers, He used it as a model prayer to demonstrate the content our prayers should contain.  While there is much that can be said in regards to this model prayer, this article will only focus on the first directive Jesus gave.  He said “This, then, is how you should pray: ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.”[1]  In particular I want us to spend some time gaining an understanding of what is meant by the term “hallowed” and why we should treat God’s name as hallowed.  This word means “sanctified, holy, and set apart” and we are to treat God’s name in this way … Sanctified, Holy, and Separate.

The prophet Isaiah was given a message to share with the people that said “Do not call conspiracy everything this people calls a conspiracy; do not fear what they fear, and do not dread it.  The Lord Almighty is the one you are to regard as holy, he is the one you are to fear, he is the one you are to dread.”[2]  This passage could easily be a description of our communities these days.  We have become a nation that fears hurting someone’s feelings by speaking the truth and therefore we say nothing.  We hold man’s feelings in higher regard than standing on the truth of Yahweh.  Isaiah is telling us not to react to everything people react to and do not dread disappointing people because you do not fear what they fear or believe what they believe.  On the other hand, recognize God as holy and sanctified and as the creator of all things it is Him that we should dread disappointing because he ultimately controls all things.  We must stand on His truth regardless of what those around us may say or do as a result.

Moses is a great example of what can happen when we fail to hallow (treat as sanctified/holy) God’s name and fail to follow His commands.  The people were feuding and fighting with Moses and Aaron because there was no water.  They whined and moaned and blamed Moses and Aaron for the predicament they found themselves in.  The Lord appears to Moses and Aaron and instructs Moses to gather the assembly and call for water to come from a rock and the Lord promised that He would bring all the water needed from the rock.  Moses and Aaron gathered the assembly but instead of doing as God instructed, Moses said “Listen, you rebels, must we bring you water out of this rock?” Then Moses raised his arm and struck the rock twice with his staff. Water gushed out, and the community and their livestock drank.” [3] Did you catch that? Moses said “must WE bring water”!  I don’t read in there where he gave God the credit for any of this! Moses was angry and he allowed his anger to dictate his actions which were not the actions commanded by God.  There was a penalty to be paid for failing to hallow God’s name.  “But the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not trust in me enough to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them.”[4]  Moses lost the privilege of leading the Israelites into the promise land because he failed to show trust and honor in God. So a valuable lesson of how we must hallow God’s name is to trust Him and follow His commands.  We cannot sanctify and make holy God’s name when we take actions out of anger or to serve self.  God cannot bless those that do not trust and follow His guidance and direction.  If we truly hallow His name then we must fully and completely trust and obey His commands.

John gives a strong description of what it means to dishonor God’s name when he said “We accept human testimony, but God’s testimony is greater because it is the testimony of God, which he has given about his Son.  Whoever believes in the Son of God accepts this testimony. Whoever does not believe God has made him out to be a liar, because they have not believed the testimony God has given about his Son.”  Pretty straightforward wouldn’t you say?  If we make God out to be a liar we are most certainly not treating Him as holy and sanctified (set apart).

Everything stated in this article is an attempt to make the reader keenly aware that we live in a world that does not hallow the name of God and by their actions, many are attempting to make God out to be a liar.  God’s people must refocus and pray for boldness and courage to stand on the Word of God and keep His name holy and sanctified.  There is only one God and one way to heaven yet we often sit silently by as people talk about many gods and many ways to heaven.  By our silence we are not treating the name of God as holy and separate from all other idols and false gods!  Isn’t it odd that we will quickly stand up and defend our favorite sports team, school, or activity but when it comes to treating God’s name with the same energy and passion it is the exception rather than the rule?  What is most important to you?  To be accepted and honored by people or to be honored and accepted by God?   No one said being a Follower of Jesus Christ was going to be easy but God did promise that He would be with us every step of the way.  It is time for God’s people to once again follow the model set by our precious Savior, Jesus Christ, and live out the model prayer which begins with “Our Father which art in heaven, hallowed be they name”.  Jesus gave his all to pay our sin debt so the least we can do is give our all to share with everyone that God is holy and sanctified and He will not be mocked and He will not accept anything less than the trust and faith that comes from living a life that hallows, sanctifies, and holds holy His name.  I pray that you will spend some quality time with God talking through your relationship with Him and if there are things you need to make right with Him then there is no better time than right now.  We cannot effectively impact this world until we live a life that demonstrates our Heavenly Father is holy and sanctified and as a result we trust and obey His commands despite what the world may think or say.

Holy Spirit I pray that you will burden the hearts of those that read this article that are not living a life honoring your hallowed name.  May they see through their spiritual eyes what You see and if it is not pleasing to you then they will make the needed changes to be the person you planned for them to be.  Father, let us honor You for who You are and recognize that the world thrives on actions and deeds that are driven by sin.  Thank you so much for being a God that loves us enough to give us multiple chances to work out our short comings and grow stronger in You through studying your Word, prayer, and fellowshipping with like-minded Brothers and Sisters.  May all the glory, honor, and praise be given to you Heavenly Father.  Amen and Amen!

 


*This article was inspired by a series of sermons delivered by John  Piper.  John Piper (@JohnPiper) is founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and Chancellor of Bethelem College & Seminary.  For 33 years he served as pastor of Bethelehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota.  He is author of more than 50 books.

[1] Matthew 6:9.  All scripture used in this article is taken from the NIV translation of the Holy Bible unless otherwise noted.
[2] Isaiah 8:12-13
[3] Numbers 20:9b-11
[4] Numbers 20:12

SATAN IS A LIAR; TEMPTATION IS REAL; HELL IS FOREVER

My intent in writing this article is not to scare or frighten the reader but to give them an understanding of a spiritual reality that is far too often ignored. For the most part it is not being taught in today’s church either.  May the Holy Spirit guide you as you read this article and my heart’s desire is that it will make you thirst for studying God’s Word to gain addition insight about not only hell but the eternal home for all Followers of Jesus Christ, heaven.

Sadly, in today’s organized church far too many have moved away from preaching the truth of the gospel and the reality of spending eternity in one of two places; heaven or hell. There are some fundamental issues that every Follower of Jesus Christ should be well acquainted with so they are prepared to talk to the questions that come up about eternity.  Many, including people in the church, believe that everyone will go to heaven because why would a loving god send anyone to eternal torment.  While a nice thought, that is far from what God’s Word says very straightforward and clearly.  Some believe if we just try to be a good person and do good things for those around us then that’s the best we can do.  Again this is not what we know from God’s Word which teaches us that even with our very best efforts to live a righteous life they are like filthy rags in comparison to God’s righteousness.  So let’s look at three critical elements of understanding Satan, temptation, and the reality of hell being for eternity.

Jesus was talking with the crown and questioned why they could not understand what He was saying.  He quickly identifies the problem and tells them You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” [1] Since the fall of man, we have all entered this world as sinners.  From birth we have a sin nature.  If we surrender to this sin nature then our lives will be patterned after Satan who is described as having no truth in him and further described as a liar and the father of lies.  Deception, distraction and destruction are his tools to keep people in his web of sin.  We are told “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.”[2]  Satan and his band of demons use any and all methods to create an inviting environment to follow the false teachings of false prophets created by sin only to lead a person or group to be devoured by their blind devotion to the enemy, Satan.  The church is not immune from these efforts as Satan boldly uses religion as a means of creating false prophets and false teachings.  That is why it is so incredibly important that we stay connected to our Heavenly Father through our personal relationship with Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit and God’s Word so that we can see through these ploys of destruction. Satan is a liar and from his very first interaction with Eve in the garden he has been telling lies ever since.

Our second critical element is the fact that temptation is for real.  When God condemned Lucifer to the earthly realm, He gave him power and dominion on earth.  Because of this power, anyone that loves the world cannot have the love of our Heavenly Father in them.  Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them.  For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world.  The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.”[3]  It is because of this power that God intentionally gave to Satan that he can use temptation as a source of drawing people away from God and into his lair of destruction and eternal separation from God.  We can boil it down to a pretty simple concept; when we surrender to temptation our desire is to please ourselves instead of obeying God’s teachings to flee from destructive sin.  Paul made it very clear when he said “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.”[4]   Seeking self-gratification and the pleasures of the flesh characterize the unsaved, however, those who are saved can find themselves slipping back into the characteristics described in this passage if we do not follow the guidance given in God’s Word that says “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.  Come near to God and he will come near to you.”[5]

Our third and final element is hell is forever.  Barna Associates, a public survey/research firm, found in one of their surveys that only 32% of adults see hell as, “an actual place of torment and suffering where people’s souls go after death.”  No wonder so many people have bought into the ways of the world.  They don’t believe there are any consequences for doing so.  One of the false teachings that exist today is that hell is temporary.  Not true.  Hell, just as heaven, is for eternity.  In the Gospel of Mark it tells us “If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, where the fire never goes out.”[6]  The Gospel of Matthew describes how it will be at the end of time saying “This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous and throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”[7]  Seems pretty straightforward doesn’t it?  Yet people choose to put on blinders and go their own direction choosing to worship self over a personal relationship with their Creator.  The book of Jude states “In a similar way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire.”[8]  The Gospel of Matthew gives us a word picture regarding the return of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne.  All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.  He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.”  This passage goes on to say “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.” Then he describes the fate of those on the left “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.”[9]  Hell is indeed for eternity and there is no way to cross over from hell to heaven.

[1] John 8:44; all scripture used in this article is taken from the NIV translation of the Holy Bible unless otherwise noted.
[2] Matthew 7:15
[3] 1 John 2:15-17
[4] Ephesians 2:1-3
[5] James 4:7-8
[6] Mark 9:43
[7] Matthew 13:49-50
[8] Jude 1:7
[9] Matthew 25:31-33, 34, 41

WHO IS “The Man Upstairs”?

 

            I have heard a variety of people from all walks of life make statements like “I’m good with the man upstairs;” or “I know I need to get things right with the man upstairs;” or I’ve talked about it with the “man upstairs;” and I’m certain that you could add more to the list based on your life experiences.  It’s as if the rent is late and you’re going to run upstairs to the landlord’s apartment and make your payment or relying on the knowledge of someone that has achieved degrees of higher learning in hopes that they can share their wisdom with you.  On a recent weekend, while our ThunderHeart Ministries Prison Team was in Parchman Prison, God really convicted me on this subject of hearing people say these things and I have just let them pass as if these statements actually meant something.  You see, when statements like this are made, whether intended or not, they are disrespectful to God and demonstrate a lack of understanding by the person making the statement.  I want to share some of the scriptures that God led me to read to give clarity to who is in heaven and who is in charge of all things.  When I say address, I am not talking about being judgmental or harsh, or being mean spirited, but using the love of Christ to bring someone to a greater awareness of who God really is.

We don’t have to go very far to find a verse that dispels these comments about a “man upstairs.”  Genesis 1:1 says “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”[1]  You see there is no mention of man being able to perform any of these tremendous wonders of creation but it was God that performed these miraculous acts.  From the beginning there was God not man.

Another example comes from Jeremiah.  Jeremiah was a prophet during a time when the children of Israel were being extremely disobedient and he had to give some difficult and strong messages to the people.  One such message was “This is what the Lord says: ‘Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who draws strength from mere flesh and whose heart turns away from the Lord.  That person will be like a bush in the wastelands; they will not see prosperity when it comes.  They will dwell in the parched places of the desert, in a salt land where no one lives.”[2]

God makes it very clear that He is the one and only God and we should have no other gods.  He tells us “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.  ‘You shall have no other gods before me.  ‘You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me.”[3]  Verse 5 of this passage is often misquoted and misunderstood.  When God talks about punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation, He is not talking about punishing children for the sins of the parent but children continue to carry out the sins of the parents.  That is a significant issue in our world today because people are following the role model set by their parents which was potentially set in motion by generations long before them.  After reading this passage, imagine how offensive it is to the LORD your God to be referred to as “the man upstairs.”

Isaiah, another prophet who served God during difficult times with the children of Israel, provides a view of how God sees himself in comparison to man.  “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord.  ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”[4]  We can clearly see that God declares His ways are not that of men and his thoughts are not our natural thoughts because of the impact of our sin nature.  God cannot be tempted nor can he be blind to the efforts of the enemy. Yet man falls victim to temptation and the efforts of Satan to lead us astray from the One who loved us so much that He sent His Son to die for our sins and pay our sin debt in full (past, present, and future).  So how could we be so foolish to refer to God as the “man upstairs” and blind to the fact that if it were a man upstairs we would have no hope, no salvation, and no eternity with our Heavenly Father?

Some argue that they have never seen God and so it is difficult for them to believe in something they have never seen.  Paul gives us a very straightforward answer to this issue when he wrote “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.”[5]  God has made His presence known in everything we see in creation.  There is no question that man could not have accomplished the complexity and magnitude of creation yet we want to question the very existence of God and refer to Him as “the man upstairs.”  Many people ask for proof that God is real, but it is a matter of faith; there is no proof that will convince someone who does not want to believe.

Let me close with this thought.  One of the Pharisee’s wanted to try and trap Jesus so he asked Jesus the question “Of all of the commandments, which is the most important?”  “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”[6]  If you were absolutely honest with yourself do you believe you could love a man with all your heart and with all of your soul and with all of your mind and with all of your strength?  We might be able to do that on a situational basis or for a period of time but to do it all the time would be absolutely impossible.  So how is it that we can overlook or pass up the opportunity to share the tremendous love of God who rules heaven and earth when someone refers to YAHWEH as “the man upstairs?”  We must share the One who is love and because of His love we can have a relationship with Him that will allow us to love our neighbor as ourselves.  I pray for boldness, courage, and obedience for all of us as we deal with a world who fails to realize the power and dominion of our LORD God Almighty.  May we rely on the guidance of the Holy Spirit to share with those that fail to understand what they are saying when they talk about “the man upstairs” and let our words bring truth and understanding of just how great our God truly is!


 

[1] Genesis 1:1.  All scripture used in this article is taken from the NIV translation of the Holy Bible unless otherwise noted.
[2] Jeremiah 17:5,6
[3] Exodus 20:2-5
[4] Isaiah 55:8,9
[5] Romans 1:20
[6] Mark 29-31

 

SELF-MADE VS. FATHER FORGED

Self-Made vs. Father-Forged

By: Pete Alwinson[1]

 

Self-made men inevitably self-destruct.

This is my deep conviction after a life time of personal experience with my own attempts at growth as well as from thousands of interactions with guys as a pastor and speaker. Life is so broken and challenging that it takes its toll on all of us.

Where does this drive to become self-made men come from? The motivational coding which prompts this nearly inevitable masculine tendency rests far below our consciousness, barely discernible to us. Its narrative goes something like this:

“Today I have to make it happen. Again. I have to deliver, I have to succeed, I have to prove my worth and thus prove I’m a man. It’s up to me. Get up man, and get going!”

Unlike women, most men believe they have to prove their manhood every day. This view of what drives us as men is the conviction of sociologist Michael Kimmel in his well-researched volume, Manhood in America: A Cultural History. Every day is a “relentless test” to prove I’m really a man and worthy of being called a man. Yesterday’s worth is gone; it’s history. Each day we start with a tabula rasa of value, a blank slate of worth.

This attitude creates a great deal of “chronic anxiety and insecurity,” and for us this “relentless retesting of an unprovable ambition.” It’s with us from the earliest days. Ultimately, this male self-made man force within us comes from our fallen nature and dysfunctional world.

But in the Gospel we find the really good news that because of what Jesus accomplished for us, we can become Father-forged men instead of self-made men. Grace scripts for us a different narrative of life. At the beginning of each day we can say:

“It’s good to be alive! I am the redeemed and deeply loved son of the Most High God and I can’t wait to spend time with my Father in His Word. It doesn’t get any better than being who I am. The best part of my day is meeting Abba and my Lord Jesus Christ. It gets me filled up for the adventure ahead of me today!”

The grace of God in Christ enables us to truly face our sins and deficiencies as men without despairing or groveling endlessly over our unworthiness and inability to be good men. Time no longer wasted in stressing over our failings or trying to “be the man” can now be spent in resting in His great love for us and in our high identity as the Father’s sons. We can allow our privileged position to leverage us in interacting with the Father on the very areas where we need to grow.

God forges His sons into great men through the fire of our failings with the quiet but transformative Spirit-shaping and sometimes hammering of His Word, reshaping our masculine souls–always under-girded by His deep and abiding love.

Grace enables us to see with extreme clarity the areas we need to change without the accompanying clouding of shame. We can discern the character that needs to be added, as well as the different behavior we may need to implement in a particular situation. The Father-forged man is fueled by grace and love, and connects that love and grace to concrete areas of growth.

How does this work? Let’s say I have to lead and make a decision for my work team or family that I am insecure or fearful about. First, I make an appointment with the Father. I start that time out by focusing on what Christ has done for me out of love. Reading the Word with the Spirit’s power helps here! Resting in and ruminating on the Father’s great, steadfast love and Christ’s accomplishments through His life, death and resurrection, my thinking begins to change. “I’m not a nobody. I’m the Father’s son.”

It’s easy when I’m freed up emotionally in the context of God’s unconditional commitment to confess and repent of my fear, insecurity and failings from the past. I can look my Father full in the face and ask for boldness and wisdom in leading well.

The reality is that during the process I’ve just described, specific wisdom and new strength is already beginning to flow even before I ask for specifics. What I’ve found is that subtle but unbelievable power flows when we first engage God as Father. Self-made manhood becomes a thing of the past because it is a relic of an identity that is being replaced by my true identity as a beloved son.

Pick any subject where we need and want to grow as men–lust, addiction, fear, anxiety, inferiority or leadership. Where grace is mediated from Father to son, sons grow and are forged into the greatness for which they were designed, and for which they long.

But there’s more! This new way of life and manhood is transferrable! With the grace of God in Christ we become more relaxed, authentic and open to other people. No longer needing to play the “I have it all together” game, we move into the lives of other men, helping them to see that they too can abandon the self-made man strategy. They realize the self-made mindset will inevitably cause them to self-destruct, and move into the more exhilarating and motivating life of a Father-forged son. Imagine how simple and powerful it would be to leave no man left behind on the battlefield of life.

So abandon the ultimately self-destructive mindset of self-made manhood. Lean into the grace and honor of being a Father-forged man. When we do, common men like us can help other men become Father-forged men living uncommon lives, promoting the flourishing of men, women, children, churches and culture, for the glory of God.


 

 

[1] This article comes from Man in the Mirror Newsletter.  Dr. Pete Alwinson was a pastor, church planter, lead pastor and seminary adjunct professor for over thirty years.  His lifelong calling is communicating God’s grace and developing men.  Pete has been married to Caron for 36 years.  They have three grown children, two wonderful daughters in law, and three perfect grandchildren who call him “Chief”.

“FOOLS DAY”

While some people recognize April 1st as “April Fool’s Day,” it pales in comparison to how our nation has stepped into the world of fools on a daily basis.  We have thrown the obvious truth out of the window and we have been blinded by a world that is driven by deception and lies.  For those that profess to be followers of Jesus Christ, it can certainly be discouraging to see the world embracing fools that seek only to promote themselves and their agenda regardless of the impact it has on others.  As always, God’s Word has all the answers we need to deal with situations such as these.  “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.  For it is written: ‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.’   Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?  For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe.  Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.  For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.”[1]

Throughout history we have seen time and time again people falling away from the truth of God and drawn to the foolishness that is believed to bring free provisions and protection.  In other words, a self-absorbed world that only cares for me, myself, and I.  We expect things to be given to us that we do not deserve and we are unwilling to put forth any effort to be productive contributors to our communities.  We have been deceived into believing that we should be given things simply because we believe ourselves to be worthy to be supported by others.  This mentality unfortunately leads to a society that is controlled by a chosen few and in order to continue the support a person must do or say what they are told to do or say by those select few in control. Otherwise we are refused the support we have grown accustom to receiving.  This is the ultimate deception because on the surface it appears to be very appealing and unfortunately the latter condition of control is not discovered until it is too late. Once again, God’s Word gives us the solution:  “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.  The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.  But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand.  The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”[2]  We have a large portion of our society that builds their lives on sand and when the rains of life come, the streams of distress rise, and the challenging winds blow their lives come crashing down.  On the other hand, if we build our lives on The Rock, Jesus Christ, we will still experience the storms, rising streams and winds; the only difference is the foundation!  We will withstand whatever life brings our way because we have built our lives on the firm foundation of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.  We can stand firmly on the foundation that will never leave us or forsake us.

Another issue we see in our world today are those that have been convinced by the deception of Satan that there is no God.  Foolishness brought on by the enemy using all the tools at his disposal.  Maybe it is the words of a famous person, a book, a family member or friend telling you what they believe and you accept that as truth. The fact is the enemy thrives and survives on lies.  Paul tells us For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.   For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.  Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools.”[3]  God has provided more than enough evidence of His existence if we just look around us.  Denial of His existence simply to justify a life of living outside His will is no excuse and there is a day coming where every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord!  Yes I am a bona fide Jesus freak and I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ so speaking His truth is obedience to my relationship with Him.  Simple question: are you ready for that day?

Let me close with this passage of scripture that speaks truth in a straightforward and factual way.  “We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing.  No, we declare God’s wisdom, a mystery that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began.  None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.  However, as it is written: “What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived”— the things God has prepared for those who love him—  these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit.  The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God.  For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.  What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us.  This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words.  The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit.  The person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things, but such a person is not subject to merely human judgments, for, “Who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?”  But we have the mind of Christ.”

So you want to campaign against the foolishness in our world today?  It starts with the Holy Spirit.  It is time for God’s people to stand firm on the foundation of Jesus Christ and explain spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words.  We need to demonstrate daily that we have the mind of Christ and He directs our every step even in the storms and winds of life.  Removing foolishness begins with each follower of Jesus Christ standing boldly and courageously for the cause of Christ and depending on the Holy Spirit to guide and direct our actions, words, and deeds.


 

[1] 1 Corinthians 1:18-25.  All scripture used in this article is taken from the NIV translation of the Holy Bible unless otherwise noted.

[2] Matthew 7:24-27

[3] Romans 1:20-22

WHAT IS THE CHURCH MISSING?

As I have been preparing and studying the materials we will use in Zambia Africa to teach pastors about discipleship, I was made keenly aware that the church in the United States is missing a critical element.  We wonder why church attendance is on the decline and why people don’t want to come to our beautiful big building that offers awesome programs and has an incredible ministry staff.  The simple fact is we believe that we build the church which is not at all in accordance with Scripture.  Jesus said “I will build my church[1].  You see the church existed long before you and I were born, before our ancestors were born thus the church could only be built by the one who owns it and that is Jesus Christ.  Scripture refers to the church as “the bride of Christ.”

So if Jesus built His church, then what is it that we are supposed to do as part of His church?  Jesus didn’t build His church ignoring His disciples but He built His church through His disciples using the commandments and teachings He gave them as well as them having a total dependence on the guidance and direction of the Holy Spirit.  It is critical that a Follower of Jesus Christ understands that the guidance of the Holy Spirit does not come from head knowledge but, on the contrary, it comes from heart knowledge.  When we accept Jesus Christ as our Personal Savior, it is in the heart this relationship begins and it is in the heart that we will be directed by the Holy Spirit to accomplish what God has in store for us.  There are many brilliant theologians that have an abundance of head knowledge concerning Biblical history and Scripture but they are as lost as a ball in high weeds when it comes to the personal relationship that Jesus Christ desires to have with each of us.  Many of them use their head knowledge to draw attention to themselves and they are not at all interested in using what they know to bring another person to the saving grace of Jesus Christ.

SO HERE IS THE GREAT WAKE UP CALL FOR ALL WHO PROFESS TO BE FOLLOWERS OF JESUS CHRIST:  Jesus commanded the church to not only seek the lost and lead them to salvation, He gave us the responsibility to make those who are saved disciples.  At the end of the Gospel of Matthew Jesus tells us “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”[2]  WOW!  All authority in heaven and earth has been given to Jesus and He has directed our steps to disciple others, teaching them everything that He has commanded us and taught us to do.  Too often we want to hold on to that portion of this passage that talks about making disciples of all nations.  Satan plants the thought in our minds that this commission that Jesus gave only applies to those who are “called” to be missionaries.  There is nothing further from the truth!  While some will go to faraway lands to share the gospel, Jesus is saying to you and me that as we go about our daily lives we are to be making disciples.  Never thought of yourself as a disciple maker?  Well get used to the idea because that is absolutely the expectation that our Lord has of each of us that claim the wonderful gift of grace and place our faith in the salvation it provides. We accomplish this by changing one heart at a time.

Jesus used parables frequently and on one occasion He used the parable of the weeds in the field.  His disciples came to Him and asked that He explain the parable of “the weeds in the field.”  “He answered, ‘The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man.  The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the people of the kingdom. The weeds are the people of the evil one, and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels.   ‘As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age.  The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil.  They will throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.  Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Whoever has ears, let them hear.”[3]  Jesus makes it very clear that the good seed stands for the people of the kingdom of God.  The church is missing the fact that as good seed we should be bearing crops through discipling others and they then sow their seed into others and on and on it goes with Jesus building His church.

Jesus also used the parable of the “sower” and he describes it this way “Don’t you understand this parable? How then will you understand any parable?  The farmer sows the word.  Some people are like seed along the path, where the word is sown. As soon as they hear it, Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them.  Others, like seed sown on rocky places, hear the word and at once receive it with joy.  But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away.  Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful.  Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop—some thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times what was sown.””[4]  As any good farmer knows, it’s all about the seed.  And it’s not just planting the seed but tending it, caring for it, investing in it, so that it has the best chance of taking hold and growing into a healthy vibrant plant.  It requires time to pull the weeds that Satan will attempt to use to choke out the seed and it will require careful monitoring to see that it is getting the water and nutrition necessary to grow and produce a healthy crop; and from that crop will come more seeds and more opportunities for developing crops. This is a simple yet very effective description of we should view discipleship making.  We find the seed that God has for us and we begin to take the steps, much like a good farmer, to nurture and prepare that seed for growth.  Using the simple mathematics of multiplication we can see how disciple makers can have an immediate impact on the world around them.

So where is your congregation today when it comes to understanding discipleship making?  More importantly, where are you as it relates to being a disciple maker.  No excuses, no rationalization, just an honest, straightforward answer to this question.  If you find you are not where you need to be with discipleship making then it’s time for you to make a change.  Jesus will build the church; He will use you and me as resources to build His church. We will accomplish this assignment by using His commandments, teachings and modeling of disciple making.  He picked 12 men and invested Himself in developing them into disciples.  We simply need to follow the model that Jesus gave us for taking a seed and developing it into a disciple making crop.


[1] Matthew 16:18b.  All scripture used in this article is taken from the NIV translation of the Holy Bible unless otherwise noted.
[2] Matthew 28”18-20
[3] Matthew 13:37-43
[4] Mark 4:13b-20