Saturday, August 11, 2012

At the Name of Jesus -- Dennis Jernigan

Someone might have asked him ‘Are you having a mid-life crisis?’ After all, he was turning 30, and he’d just shared something with a crowd of people, something that most of us would feel ashamed to say in public. But, hearing what he wrote later, and recognizing the source of the words makes one see in a different light what he must have been thinking. Dennis Jernigan knew how to excise the guilt from his consciousness, and it meant being totally transparent, and trusting in the foundation of Him about whom another wrote centuries earlier. Jernigan’s words in “At the Name of Jesus” are so similar to an ancient passage, that we can be certain what he was doing when he was inspired to write a contemporary version of that same text.

Jernigan’s story is so well-known today that we might forget there was a time when he had not shared it, but had kept it hidden. He “came out” in 1988 from behind the veil of homosexuality that had haunted his life, even after his marriage to his wife Melinda some five years earlier. His testimony and the songs he’s written carry a consistent theme about freedom for the wrongdoer – ‘sinner’, in biblical terms, a word that our culture doesn’t want us to acknowledge.  Dennis seems to say that he had taken our culture’s advice for too long, even while being a believer and knowing that God is omniscient. Eventually, he knew he needed to take away the ammunition of the Enemy (‘Satan’ – another term our pop culture does not take seriously). So by mid-1988, Dennis was standing before his spiritual family and confessing his previous life’s perversity. We can know from the words in his song “At the Name of Jesus” that he must have been an avid bible reader at about that same time, perhaps as he sought freedom from his conscience-stricken condition.  What made him apparently draw upon the great apostle Paul’s words (Philippians 2:10-11) for this song? Was he longing for the time in the hereafter, when his mistakes would no longer dog him? Don’t we all? It must have been some moment when he was reading this letter from a spiritual brother 2,000 years old, and he understood ‘I don’t have to wait.’ Was he intrigued that someone could write something so full of joy from a prison? Dennis wrote his song to say ‘praise Him’ now, for what he knew would one day be true, despite the mess that was still trying to cling to him in the 1980’s.  

Did it occur to Dennis Jernigan that Paul and he were both prisoners, at least at one time? Jernigan’s a smart, sensitive guy, so it’s not much of a stretch to suggest that he adopted Paul’s method for prison-life management on purpose, in order to seek his own cure. Read the apostle’s words about civilization’s destiny, call upon His name, and usher his kingship into your life, Jernigan says with his renewal of the ancient words. Are you in prison? Think about the future, Dennis and Paul might say. Count on the time when He will overwhelm every evil deed and thought, every injustice. His name and its owner will be all that matters then. Do you hear the call of His name?   
Some biographical information on Dennis Jernigan:

And, see this book:  Giant Killers: Crushing Strongholds , Securing Freedom in Your Life, by Dennis Jernigan. WaterBrook Press, 2005.

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