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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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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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WHAT IS YOUR STORY?

Men have always been great story tellers yet it seems that instead of telling the kind of stories that encourage and mentor those they come in contact with, they are telling stories focused on self-centered, self-focused topics.  If not those topics then they are telling their “poor, poor me” stories about how rough their life is and how others have treated them unfairly or inappropriately.  Some have gone so far as to tell stories to harm or hurt other people.  It is a rare occasion that you find a man that is telling the stories of how great and awesome our God is and how blessed they are by having a personal relationship with Him.  Scripture reminds us “The law was brought in so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.[1]  Overall, men are failing miserably at telling the most important story we have been given and that it is the story of mercy and grace provided by our Heavenly Father.

 

Big Daddy Weave, a popular Contemporary Christian musician, has a beautiful song entitled “My Story”. The lyrics humble me and inspire me to tell the most important story of all stories.  The lyrics are”

 

If I told you my story you would hear Hope that wouldn’t let go
And if I told you my story you would hear Love that never gave up
And if I told you my story you would hear Life, but it wasn’t mine

If I should speak then let it be Of the grace that is greater than all my sin
Of when justice was served and where mercy wins
Of the kindness of Jesus that draws me in
Oh to tell you my story is to tell of Him

If I told you my story; You would hear victory over the enemy
And if I told you my story You would hear freedom that was
won for me
And if I told you my story You would hear Life overcome the grave

If I should speak then let it be Of the grace that is greater than all my sin
Of when justice was served and where mercy wins
Of the kindness of Jesus that draws me in
Oh to tell you my story is to tell of Him

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

For the grace that is greater than all my sin
Of when justice was served and where mercy wins
Of the kindness of Jesus that draws me in
Oh to tell you my story is to tell

For the grace that is greater than all my sin
Of when justice was served and where mercy wins
Of the kindness of Jesus that draws me in
Oh to tell you my story is to tell of Him
Oh to tell you my story is to tell of Him

This is my story, this is my song
Praising my savior all the day long[2]

          Peter tells us “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,”[3]  WOW!  Always be prepared to give an answer.  That means it doesn’t matter where you are going, who you will be talking with, or who else may be around, we must be ready to give the reason for the hope that lies within us.  God’s men should be prepared to do this unashamedly, boldly, courageously, joyfully … I could go on and on with descriptors but I think you get the point.

            I can hear some of you now saying “but I don’t really know how to do that” or “I would be embarrassed to just come out and talk about Jesus.”  I think the best place for us to go for the answer is to these dilemmas is God’s Word.  His Word says “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God.  Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.  And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.  You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.  Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die.  But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him!  For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!  Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.”[4] 

 

Telling your story is no more than giving God praise and recognition for the mercy and grace He has shown to you.  Looking for those divine appointments where you are given the opportunity by the Holy Spirit to share something with another person that may change their lives forever and all you have to do is tell your story!  Don’t focus so much on where you’ve been but where you’re headed.  Don’t focus on where the person you are talking to may be but where God can take them.  God accepts us right where we are and then He can take us where He wants us to be if we will simply be obedient.  We have all sinned (Romans 3:23) so our story is not about the other person but about how our lives changed when we had that spiritual experience of accepting Jesus Christ as our Personal Savior.

So what is your story?  Are you telling the most important story that can ever be told?  Isaiah nailed it when he said “but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strengthThey will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”[5]  We all grow battle weary in this world yet we must not miss the opportunity to be renewed by the Lord to continue to battle on His behalf.  But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.[6]  You see we already have the victory no matter what Satan or this world may bring; WE HAVE VICTORY THROUGH JESUS CHRIST!  “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well.  This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands.  In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.  Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.”[7]  This passage from the book of Acts sums up what should be our story regardless of the consequences:  “I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me.  However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.”[8]  AMEN AND AMEN!


 

[1] Romans 5:20&21.  All scripture used in this article is taken from the NIV translation of the Holy Bible unless otherwise noted.

[2] Publishing: © 2015 Word Music, LLC, Weave Country (ASCAP) / Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Open Hands Music (SESAC) (All rights on behalf of itself and Open Hands Music adm. by Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC), Writers: Mike Weaver / Jason Ingram

[3] 1 Peter 3:15

[4] Romans 5:1-11

[5] Isaiah 40:31

[6] 1 Corinthians 15:57

[7] 1 John 5:1-5

[8] Acts 20:23&24

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THE STRUGGLES WITH FORGIVENESS

So many men struggle with the idea of forgiveness and this is often the area the enemy relies heavily upon to cause men to doubt that God can forgive someone that has a past like they do.  Many in our culture picture God as this angry deity that can’t wait to punish us for our sins.  The fact is we can have forgiveness but it is up to us to accept it.  For this reason, I want to utilize God’s Word to bring awareness of what our Heavenly Father has to say about forgiveness and create a greater awareness of how we can be confident of being forgiven.  John tells us “I am writing to you, dear children, because your sins have been forgiven on account of his name.”[1]   “His name” refers to Jesus and He is the atonement for our sins.

Paul was speaking to the Jew and the Gentile when he said “Therefore, my friends, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you.  Through him everyone who believes is set free from every sin, a justification you were not able to obtain under the law of Moses.”[2] You notice Paul says “through Him everyone who believes is set free.”  First, a person must accept a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and then justification comes to us because of that relationship.  No matter how hard we might try, we cannot do enough to earn God’s justification by “being a good person” or “living by the ten commandments” but Jesus accomplished it for us by His death, burial, and resurrection.  Clearly this is telling us that God chooses to forgive us of all our sins.  While Satan often tries to use our past as a way to distract and deceive us from God’s truth, scripture clearly shows that no matter how great our sin, He forgives. God tells us “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”[3]

 So for those who choose to look at God as being angry and mad at people and is just waiting to take out his displeasure on all who have sinned (which is all of us), God’s Word doesn’t at all provide support for this ideology. This passage of scripture gives us a valuable description regarding sin and forgiveness: “So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer.  Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come.  The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation:  that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.  We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.  God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”[4]Some key points from this passage:

  • For anyone that enters into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ they are a new creation, the old has gone (sinful man) and the new is here (freedom in Christ).  This does not mean we achieve perfection through this relationship but forgiveness.
  • It was God’s plan that made a way for reconciliation; it was not man’s idea because of our sinful nature.  God wants a personal relationship with the part of His creation that was formed in His image so if anyone is in Christ they are reconciled through Christ.  The Holman Bible Dictionary defines reconciliation as “The establishment of friendly relations between parties who are at variance with each other, making peace after an engagement in war, or readmission to the presence and favor of a person after rebellion against the person.”[5]  Sin caused man to be rebellious against God and therefore created separation and distance.  Through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ we have a way to be in the presence and favor of our Heavenly Father.
  • God allowed His one and only Son to serve as the sacrifice for all sins past, present, and future so that in Him we become the righteousness of God.

So often we forget or ignore the fact that we were sinful by nature and we needed forgiveness and reconciliation with our Creator.  As a result, we fail to forgive others as we have been forgiven.  Men particularly struggle with this idea of forgiveness.  We expect forgiveness from others but have difficulty giving it.  Scripture tells us “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”[6]We are to model ourselves after Christ and our Heavenly Father.  “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.  Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.  And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”[7]Pretty strong message when scripture says “Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”

In closing, I want to remind all Followers of Jesus Christ that salvation does not prevent us from sinning.  Let’s face it, it is our nature from the beginning; it is in our DNA. God tells us “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.”[8]  It is very important to recognize that our relationship with Jesus Christ must be our primary focus and if we maintain that focus we will minimize sin but we will sin nonetheless.  Thought or deed, sin is sin.  God knows this and He gives us words of comfort when he had John write “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”[9]

My heart’s desire is these words regarding forgiveness will give you a new or refreshed look at what God has done for us and what we should be doing for Him in relationship to forgiveness.  Thank you Lord for your grace and forgiveness so that we might reconnect our hearts with yours!


[1] 1 John 2:12
[2] Acts 13:38&39
[3] Hebrews 8:12
[4] 2 Corinthians 5:16-21
[5]Holman Bible Dictionary, published by Broadman & Holman, 1991.
[6] Ephesians 4:32
[7] Colossians 3:12-14
[8]1 John 1:8
[9]1 John 1:9

Note: this article was inspired by God Has Forgiven You – Jesus Christ brought love from Heaven posted on www.believers.org website

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HOW MUCH IS A SOUL WORTH?

So often in today’s world men are distracted from the condition of their soul and enamored with the condition of their social status.  Men are notorious for maintaining a win/loss tally sheet and they compare their sheet with their circle of acquaintances to determine their level of success.  Many of them are church going men that fill a pew on Sunday mornings but that too is a part of their tally sheet to use in comparison to their peers.

When I share the gospel with men of varying ages it is not unusual to hear a response of “I’ll get to that later, right now I have other things I want to accomplish with my life.”  Not all of those things are bad; in fact, many of them are worthwhile and pleasing to God provided they are done in the way that God has them planned to be accomplished.  Education, getting married, starting a family, starting a career, buying a home, are just a few of the things they list and this list could go on for pages and pages; They’re not bad things unless they become your idol and you leave God out of the equation.

Jesus tells us “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.  For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?  If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.”[1]

This seems to be a pretty clear message that doesn’t need a lot of interpretation.  The man that is trying to build up their tally sheet to compete by the world’s standards will lose it all.  Those who choose to follow the path of Christ will not look to the tally sheet for the score but will look to the Heavenly Father for His approval.  What good is it to gain everything the world has to offer but in the exchange lose your soul?  I find it truly amazing at what some men will sell their soul to gain something that will eventually tarnish and wear away!

Paul tells us “that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.[2]  Everything in this world will be subject to the bondage of decay because of sin.  We get focused on “stuff” and Satan loves to tempt us with the world’s stuff and the temporary satisfaction it can bring.  The key factor is the satisfaction is only “temporary” and cannot last so we move on to the next stuff that takes us a little deeper with Satan and a little further from God and soon we are feeling totally separated from God all together.

So some of you reading this may have been in the “tally sheet” mentality and trying to compare yourself to the world’s standards of success.  You are asking yourselves “is it too late for me to get things right with God?”  IT IS NEVER TOO LATE WHEN IT COMES TO GOD (provided that you are still breathing and your heart is beating)!  The gospel does not have an age or time limit. It is available today as it was yesterday and tomorrow it will be just as available as it is today.

It all starts with a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.  Acknowledge He is the Son of God, ask him into your heart, and confess that you need a Savior because you cannot be good enough, rich enough or smart enough to buy or earn your way to heaven.  It comes by faith alone in Christ alone.  Once we have accepted that personal heart relationship scripture tells us Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.   Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.”[3]  In this relationship we are living with a heaven-focused approach to life meaning that God is the center of our universe and we no longer need “stuff” to determine our success or value in the world.  We live knowing that eternity is all that really matters because all of us have an appointed time to die; we should live daily with the same desire that our Heavenly Father has and that is none should perish.  The only way this relationship is possible is if we revisit the passage from Mark where Jesus says If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.”

We must share the gospel if we truly have a heaven-focused heart and mind.  God’s man will use Jesus as his role model.  He will give unselfishly to those around them in need.  He will show compassion to those the world has thrown away or completely disregarded.  He will live everyday knowing that a person’s soul is eternal and if we aren’t the hands and feet of Jesus then a lost person may never know Jesus.  It makes me shudder when I read the words “in this adulterous and sinful generation” because it rings so true when we look at today’s world.  We have taken evil and made it good and we have taken truth and made it unacceptable.

God’s Word gives us a beautiful word picture of how God’s men should be living in “this adulterous and sinful generation” when the scripture that says Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart.   Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God.    And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing.  The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.”[4] 

I believe this is the meaning of living with a heaven-focused mindset.  This is what God needs from His men today.  God has made it very clear throughout scripture that this will not be an easy or painless journey yet our focus is not in the earthly realm but the eternal realm.  When we think eternally then the present becomes insignificant in comparison.  The book of James gives us the answer to dealing with trials and tribulations. He says “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.[5]  This scripture uses the words “brothers and sisters” and when we look at the actual Greek text it would actually mean brothers and sisters in Christ.

God’s man must persevere if we are going to make an impact on lost souls.  There will be times when we share the gospel and it will be nothing more than planting a seed; there will be times that we are watering a previously planted seed; there will be occasions where we must tend the ground around the seed so that Satan doesn’t choke it out with his weeds of deception and lies.  There may actually be times that we get to see the Holy Spirit at work and a person accept God’s gift of grace and enter into a personal heart relationship with Jesus Christ.  In all cases we are living heaven-focused with eternity of a soul being the most important thing over all other things.

Paul reminds us “Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”[6]

 


 

[1] All scripture used in this article is taken from the NIV translation of the Holy Bible unless otherwise noted.  Mark 8:34b-38

[2] Romans 8:21

[3] Colossians 3:1-2

[4] 2 Corinthians 4:1-6

[5] James 1:2-4

[6] Philippians 3:13b-14

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“WE WAIT IN HOPE FOR THE LORD”

Psalm 33: 20-22 “We wait in hope for the LORD; he is our help and our shield. In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name. May your unfailing love be with us, LORD, even as we put our hope in you.”[1] There are so many directions we could take with this passage of scripture; the Lord has given me three key points He wants me to share with you:

First is the fact that God serves as our “help and our shield” when we put our faith and hope in Him. “We wait in hope for the LORD” should be our prayer and focus as Followers of Jesus Christ. This world is not our home so if we have gotten too comfortable in this world we probably need to do some self-analysis and/or get with an accountability partner and talk it out. While Satan has dominion in this world, we have something greater than the enemy’s power; and that is the One that has already overcome this world, Jesus Christ!

The Prophet Isaiah tells us “Do you not know?  Have you not heard?  The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.  He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.  He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.”[2] This is one of the essential reasons that we know we should wait in hope for the LORD.  Our God never grows tired or weary and His understanding no one can fathom.  Even the most understanding of human beings reaches a point in a given situation where they say “I JUST DON”T UNDERSTAND!”  Praise His Name that God has understanding that surpasses all understanding.

God is our provider and that includes when we are weary and weak. He not only knows what we need but supplies it as well. It is in these moments that we must turn to Him because this is when we are most vulnerable to Satan’s devious ploys and tricks.  Peter tells us “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” [3] While the enemy may be prowling to find his next victim, we have the ability to defend ourselves as Peter describes “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.   Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”[4]  We don’t have to be victimized by anxiety which leads to weariness and fatigue but we are able to cast our cares, concerns, and struggles on the One who has the power and ability to lift us up according to His timing.

Second, this passage says “for we trust in his holy name.” It is by faith that we accept God’s offer of grace and as that relationship grows and matures our trust and reliance upon Him grows. It is by this faith and trust that allows us to accomplish the first point (which is to “wait in hope for the LORD” and to know with confidence that He is our “help and our shield.”).  The Psalmist tells us “Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion, which cannot be shaken but endures forever.   As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the Lord surrounds his people both now and forevermore.”[5]  Too often we allow our connection to the physical world supersede our connection to the spiritual world.  If we are not careful, we can be drawn into trusting a person more than we trust God.  Because we can see something with our physical eyes we are drawn to it like bugs to a light — yet so often that attraction leads us away from God’s plan for our lives and draws into the world view and the world’s behavior.

Trust is about letting our spiritual eyes be our guide and our trust in the LORD is the only thing that matters!  There’s an old hymn that says “trust and obey, for there’s no other way, to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.”[6] We must trust in His holy name and obey His guidance and direction for our lives. This is why the Holy Spirit must be trusted as our one and only guide through life’s many challenges, trials, and yes, even our victories. It is through our relationship with the Holy Spirit that we grow in our faith and trust in what God has in store for us.

Third, and this last point is so powerful and so extremely important you should remember it always. God’s love is unfailing! When the devil and his minions are trying their best to convince us that we are all alone and defenseless, we have to rely on what we know in our heart and that is God’s love is unfailing and the fact that He will never leave or forsake us. There is a Contemporary Christian song out entitled “ONE THING REMAINS” and the chorus says:

“Your love never fails it never gives up it never runs out on me.
Your love never fails, it never gives up It never runs out on me.
Your love never fails; it never gives up your love your love. Never gives up on me.
And it’s higher than the mountains that I face
And it’s stronger than the power of the grave.
And constant in the trial and the change this one thing remains.”[7]

Remember, Jesus has already overcome this world! When we have a personal heart relationship with Jesus Christ we are victors even in the most difficult of circumstances. That doesn’t mean it will be easy or without challenge but it does mean that we have the power to and can claim victory in the midst of life’s storms because we have Jesus on our side!  “The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.  But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.   Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”[8]


 

[1] All scripture used in this article is taken from the NIV translation of the Holy Bible unless otherwise noted.
[2] Isaiah 40:28-29
[3] 1 Peter 5:8
[4] 1 Peter 5:6
[5] Psalm 125:1-2
[6] Trust and Obey, lyrics written by John H. Sammis and music written by Daniel B. Towner, written in 1886.
[7]Publishing: (c) 2010 Bethel Music Publishing (ASCAP) / Christajoy Music (BMI) (Admin. by Bethel Music Publishing) / Mercy Vineyard Publishing (ASCAP) Writing: Brian Johnson, Christa Black Gifford and Jeremy Riddle
[8] 1 Corinthians 15:56-58

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Articles

DO YOU HAVE A BIG “S” ON YOUR CHEST?

Before you think I have totally lost what little mind I have left, let me share a poem with you that will give you an understanding of what the title question is all about.

 

I wear a big “S” on my chest not because I think I’m Superman;
But because of SALVATION, that’s God’s perfect plan.

Because of God’s wonderful gift of grace,
SALVATION put me in a totally different place.

He died on a cross to pay my debt and charged no fee,
So now I’m washed in the blood and set totally free.

When I am weak Jesus is strong,
Why even the grave couldn’t hold Him long.

Salvation is all about having a little faith to accept God’s grace;
And when you do, Jesus becomes your partner in this life’s race.

He will never leave you or forsake you, His love is for real!
So don’t be a fool and fall for the devil’s lies and false appeal.

SALVATION is all about a relationship not about religion,
That’s why God lets you choose to make the decision.

So how do you answer God’s call to SALVATION, yes or no?
Jesus will never enter where he’s not asked to go!

So will you choose the big “S” on your chest to represent who lives in your heart?
‘Cause when you accept SALVATION Father, Son, and Holy Spirit will be doin’ their part.

 

SALVATION,” is defined as being saved from the act of sin or evil and it is something that many churches have lost their zeal and drive to preach from their pulpit.  Maybe it is because of the desire to be politically correct and/or socially acceptable.  Yet there is nothing more important for Followers of Jesus Christ to share with a lost and dying world.  There are many who are seeking truth but few who are willing to be candid and honest with God’s truth.  So this article is an attempt to draw attention to the fact that Followers of Christ need to know and understand the salvation plan so they can help others find the one and only source of salvation and that is a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

 

  1. We are all sinners.
    Often Romans 3:23 is quoted to demonstrate what God’s Word says about us all being sinners.  There are numerous scriptures that speak on this subject but for sake of space and time I want to refer you to one passage, “As it is written: ‘There is no one righteous, not even one.”[1]  No matter how good we try to be, we can never achieve the level of “good enough.”  After all, how good is good? Doing good things is admirable but does not make one heaven bound.
  2. We cannot be saved heirs of the Heavenly Father in our natural state of sin.
    “You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”[2]  Our natural state is sin and it has been since the fall of man.  We cannot be heirs to God’s promises in our natural state of sin so without salvation we are forever separated from our Creator.Cross references.
  3. Salvation is by grace not works.
    If we are all sinners and being good doesn’t earn your way to heaven then how does one get to heaven?  Scripture tells us “know that a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified.”[3]  A personal relationship with Jesus Christ makes us “right” before God.
  4. Salvation comes through faith alone in Christ alone.
    “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”[4]  “For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus.[5]  Scripture is very, very clear about the means to eternal life with the Heavenly Father and it is always the same; Jesus Christ is the one and only way to eternity with the Father.  Our justification comes from having enough faith to recognize Christ for who He is and what He did for each of us.  Paul tells us “If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.  For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.”[6]
  5. Knowing Jesus is only the beginning.  We must receive Jesus as our own Savior.
    John tells us “Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—“[7]   It is when we receive Him that we have sealed the offer of grace.  Many people claim to know who Jesus is but what they are claiming is knowledge not a personal relationship.  We say it this way; they have “head knowledge” of Jesus but fail to have a “heart relationship” with Him.  Even Satan knows who Jesus is, and in fact scripture tells us he will flee when the name of Jesus is spoken.  We must receive Jesus as our own Savior which makes it a personal choice and a personal relationship. The following is a powerful passage of scripture when it comes to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ: “I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”[8]  When we receive Jesus as our own then all the things mentioned in this passage of scripture are made possible.
  6. You can never lose a genuine salvation relationship with Jesus even if you mess up.
    Jesus said “I did tell you, but you do not believe. The works I do in my Father’s name testify about me, but you do not believe because you are not my sheep. My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.  I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand.”[9]  Nothing can take our salvation from us once we enter into a genuine personal relationship with Jesus.  I have said “genuine” because there are times when someone makes a profession of faith but for the wrong reasons.  Family pressures, emotion, trying to impress someone, and many other reasons sometimes encourage a person to do the right thing for the wrong reasons.  When we know Jesus and receive Him as our own then nothing and no one can pluck us from His hand!
  7. A personal relationship with Jesus guarantees eternal life with our Heavenly Father.
    Because of SALVATION we are not only justified in this life but we are promised an eternity with our Heavenly Father.   Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you.”[10]  I love many aspects of this passage but I particularly love the statement “He has given is new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.”  We serve a Risen Savior and He is our living hope not only for eternity but in the here and now.
  8. Sin brought about death but Jesus died in our place giving us life.
    “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”[11]  Jesus had no sin yet He was crucified to pay in full yours and my sin debt and by doing so, He made us righteous by our personal relationship with Him.  John said “My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.  He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.”[12]  Jesus paid the sin debt of the world, not any particular nation or people group.  He died for all so that they could be made righteous through SALVATION.

 

So where do you stand in relationship to SALVATION?  If you don’t know Jesus personally then it is time to remedy that by following what is outlined above.  If you have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and you profess to be a Follower of Christ then it is time for you to pray for courage and boldness so that you might share the good news of SALVATION that God made possible by the birth, death, and resurrection of His One and Only Son Jesus Christ.  I pray that you will tell somebody about Jesus and the wonderful gift of grace today, tomorrow and the rest of your days.



[1] Romans 3:10.  All scripture used in this article is taken from the NIV translation of the Holy Bible unless otherwise noted.
[2] John 8:44
[3] Galatians 2:16
[4] Acts 4:12
[5] 1 Timothy 2:5
[6] Romans 10:9-10
[7] John 1:12
[8] Ephesians 3:16-19
[9] John 10:25-28
[10] 1 Peter 1:3-4
[11] 2 Corinthians 5:21
[12] 1 John 2:1-2