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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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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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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

 

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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”.

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“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

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AMERICA’S MAJOR PROBLEM IS SIN! PERIOD!

While so many are puzzled, oblivious, or in denial over the variety of issues being debated, argued and fought about in our nation, it is actually quite simple to explain.  We have lost site of the one thing that is at the root of all things contrary to God’s Word, SIN.  While there are many and varied definitions of the word “sin,” we will use the definition of sin as being a person’s effort to find identity for self apart from God.  Scripture tells us “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,”[1] which means that every person that has ever been born came into this world a sinner.  Some individuals who profess to be Followers of Jesus Christ as well as entire denominations have become so arrogant in their practice of religion, they attempt to use God’s Word to justify their sin rather than allowing God’s Word to convict them of their sin and lead them to repentance.  They have fallen for Satan’s lies and they are contributing to the sin problem rather than offering the one and only answer and that is Jesus Christ.  John tells us “Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness.”[2] 

Look around you, open your eyes, our country has demonstrated how quickly a civilized nation can become lawless. “But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days.  People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy,  without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good,  treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God—  having a form of godliness but denying its power.”[3]  Our Heavenly Father has made it very clear of His expectation when He said “You shall have no other gods before me.”[4]  There is nothing vague or mysterious about this statement.

From the very beginning of time God has made it clear that he is a God of love.  His love is referred to as AGAPE love meaning that it is unconditional.  While He may be disappointed by our decisions or how we live our life ignoring Him and following the ways of the world, He still loves us in spite of our thoughts, actions, or deeds.  At the same time He has made it very clear that he is a just God, meaning that he will issue out what is merited to those who refuse to accept his gift of grace and mercy.  Scripture tells us “remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.”[5]   We move from no hope and being distant from God to being full of hope and being drawn close to God by the precious blood of Jesus Christ.  The Lord goes on to tell us “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.[6]  What we deserve for our sinful nature is death but God has made a way for us to receive eternal forgiveness through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

So many deny knowing what the gospel says and in reality they are really saying they choose not to listen to God’s Word and label it as foolishness, narrow minded, for the weak, and the list goes on and on to justify why people refuse to accept the grace of God and repent of their sin.  Grace is defined as “unmerited favor.”  We don’t deserve it but God gives it to us anyway because of his unconditional love for us.  The Gospel of Matthew tells us 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.”[7]  My fear is our nation, much like the foolish man, has built our nation’s house on sand.

Jesus said “A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him.  But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken.  For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.”[8]  WOW!  Have we allowed so much evil to be stored up in our nation that it now is an unstoppable force?

So where are you in this sad state of affairs?  Standing on sinking sand or standing on the solid rock, the Word of God.  “He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just.  A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he.”[9]  I challenge all true Followers of Jesus Christ to stand firmly on the Word of God and speak God’s truth, not twisted, distorted, watered-down or manipulated words heard in a sermon or from someone designated as a “church leader”, but God’s words.  There will be a price to be paid for standing for God’s truth.  But remember this: the solid rock is not going anywhere but the rest is built on sinking sand!  “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.”[10]


[1] Romans 3:23.  All scripture used in this article is taken from the NIV translation of the Holy Bible unless otherwise noted.
[2] 1 John 3:4
[3] 2 Timothy 3:1-5a
[4] Exodus 20:3
[5] Ephesians 2:12-13
[6] Romans 6:23
[7] Matthew 7:26-27
[8] Matthew 12:35-37
[9] Deuteronomy 32:4
[10] 2 Timothy 1:7