Your name is who you are. It’s that unique combination of words that encompasses your identity.

A couple months ago, I had a birthday. My wife and our Sunday night small group surprised me with a cake. Inscribed on the cake were the words – wait for it, you’ll never see this one coming – “Happy Birthday Doug!”

(We won’t go into the other décor on the cake such as the number 50 or the little rocking chair that was perched atop it – they’re a real humorous bunch, that group).

About three days later, while getting a cup of coffee, I decided to have a sliver of cake. As I opened the box and looked at the remnants inside, I noticed all that remained was the piece that my name had been written on. My name was wholly intact, but everything else was gone.

In that moment, God whispered, “I’ve kept your name intact. Not the name you’ve striven for. Not the name you tried to build for yourself. Not the name you thought you had established. But the name I gave you.”

And I knew it was true. Through the trials and the turmoil, bad decisions and their consequences, hurt I caused, hurt others caused, gossip, rumors, temptations, struggles, failures, exposed ugliness…through it all God had kept my name intact.

But the important thing is which name He preserved.

You see, God isn’t interested in the name we build for ourselves. He’s interested in the name He has given us.

The Doug who was striving to be significant through credentials and performance was not actually the Doug that God had blessed since the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4).

The Doug who caved in to temptation, hurt people, and sank into the mire of guilt and shame over those failures was not the Doug He had known before He formed me in the womb (Jeremiah 1:5, Galatians 1:15).

Even the Doug that tried to serve and encourage and counsel as a pastor was not the Doug that He declared to have plans for (Jeremiah 29:11).

Those Dougs may have at times been living out some aspects of the Doug God created, but it wasn’t him.

That was someone trying to build the labels that he thought necessary to make him valuable.  But the truth is God had already declared him valuable!

Stop for a moment and think about where you are today. Are you striving to check boxes so that you can be the person you think God wants? Are you working your tail off so that you can somehow attain acceptance with God and make a name for yourself?

If so, stop! God gave you a name before you ever entered this world. You don’t have to make a name for yourself, because the name that is important is already firmly a part of you. Each of us is already “complete in Him” (Colossians 2:10). Live out of your true name.

Or, are you carrying around labels resulting from past failures? Are you allowing your inner voice, or accusations of others, to define who you are? Are you resigned to thinking that you have to live the life of an addict or loser or convict because of your past?

If so, enough! Those failures were certainly not part of God’s plan for you. But that doesn’t mean they change who you really are in God’s eyes. Don’t get caught up in thinking that failure inevitably leads to continued failure. Live out of your true name.

No matter what you have done. No matter what others have done to you. No matter how wildly successful or miserably unsuccessful you think you’ve been, your true God-given name has not been enhanced or tainted one iota. He has preserved it just as He intended, and will continue to do so.

Put all those false self-imposed or others-imposed names behind you and live out your true name. Live redeemed!

Marvelous Grace!

Religion  196

I was reminded of God’s marvelous grace this past weekend and the way He displays it through His people.

There are many definitions of the word Grace, but the simplest and most fitting is “undeserved favor”.

Sunday, my church family bestowed undeserved favor on me by allowing me to stand before the congregation and present Freedom Rising Ministries.  The church I’d had to walk away from two and a half years ago opened their arms and allowed me to share my heart and the vision God has given me.

It was humbling, healing, and God-honoring.

When Once You Have Turned Again…

One of the driving verses behind Freedom Rising Ministries is Luke 22:32. After telling Peter that Satan had requested to sift him like wheat, Jesus assured him that He was praying for him.  Then He said “And you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”

Before Peter ever let Him down, Jesus had already bestowed grace on Him. He knew that Peter would falter. But He also knew that Peter had a calling. Jesus was able to look past the failures that would come, and see that Peter would not only serve Him, but would be able to grow from his experience and even use it to build up others.

Three Facets of God’s Relentless Grace 

When we stop to examine this interaction, we can see similarities in how God’s grace shined on Peter and how it shines on us.

God’s Personal Investment

First, Jesus prays and intercedes for all His followers. Romans 8:34 says “It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.” And Hebrews 7:25, “Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.”

As with Peter, you and I are on Jesus’ prayer list!

God’s Purposeful Calling

Second, our individual calling is sure. It is not dependent on our successes or our failures. “For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable” (Romans 11:29).

That calling may look different along the way, but only because of adjustments in our perception and understanding of it. His vision and purpose for you and me is set from the beginning. But as we grow, we are able to see more clearly the calling He had in mind from the start.

God’s Persistent Restoration

Finally, Jesus knows the end from the beginning. He knows we will stumble. He knows there will be times we will fall flat on our faces. But He also knows failure is not the end of our usefulness, no matter how devastating it may seem to us in the moment.

Our failures are not the epilogue to our story. They are merely another chapter. And in many cases, they are still part of the prologue!

Grace that Never Runs Dry

God’s grace.  Sometimes, it can be astounding, breathtaking, and outright stunning. On occasion, it’s scandalous and messy. Always, it’s abundant, limitless, unstoppable.

I recall the closing verse of Amazing Grace…

“When we’ve been there ten thousand years, bright shining as the sun,

We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise than when we’d first begun.

…and I’m thinking that eternity still won’t be enough time to express our gratitude and love for amazing grace and the God who made it possible!

A humble ‘Thank You’ today is a good start, though.