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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

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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

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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

 

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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

 

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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

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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

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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”.