Today’s song comes from a Christian rock bandthat formed in Alabama in 1980. Not to be confused with the popular video game, Halo spent a decade touring churches and venues in the south. However, when Bob Hartman of Petra joined Halo in the early 1990’s, Halo received national recognition before breaking up in 1993. Like most quality groups, Halo had a great run during my final two years of college.
For it is by free grace (God’s unmerited favor) that you are saved ([c]delivered from judgment and made partakers of Christ’s salvation) through [your] faith. And this [salvation] is not of yourselves [of your own doing, it came not through your own striving], but it is the gift of God; Ephesians 2:8.
Saved by Grace is a common expression that you will find in biblically based churches. The above passage serves as one of the inspirations for the lyrics of Saved by Grace. While the sound of Halo hasn’t aged well, it’s a reminder that there is a season and time for every musician. I’m grateful that I was young when Halo reached its prime. I hope you enjoy Saved by Grace.
When I read the passage below last week, I was reminded of one special night in college. Earlier in the evening, I attended a night of prayer sponsored by one of the Christian groups on the University of Delaware’s campus. At first, I was hesitant, afraid I might stutter as I prayed out loud. Yet, with each passing hour I became wrapped in God’s power. After this time of prayer concluded, I was so spiritually pumped up that I went on a prayer walk with a friend, witnessing to anyone who passed by.
I was in the Spirit [rapt in His power] on the Lord’s Day, and I heard behind me a great voice like the calling of a [i]war trumpet, Revelation 1:10.
Based upon the context of the passage above, John was rapt in God’s power. Similar to a student seeking to absorb every word of a professor like a sponge, John was fixated on the voice speaking, John describes a mental state which people refer to today as being in the zone. While training for the upcoming cross country season in high school, some nights I entered into a trance as my body went into cruise control. This intense concentration is similar to what the apostle Paul calls keeping in step with God’s Spirit,
For His divine power has bestowed upon us all things that [are requisite and suited] to life and godliness, through the [[d]full, personal] knowledge of Him Who called us by and to His own glory and excellence (virtue). 4 By means of these He has bestowed on us His precious and exceedingly great promises, so that through them you may escape [by flight] from the moral decay (rottenness and corruption) that is in the world because of covetousness (lust and greed), and become sharers (partakers) of the divine nature, 2 Peter 1:3-4.
One of the best ways to keep in step with the Holy Spirit today is by reading and studying the Bible. Like a body builder working on every muscle in their body, meditating on biblical principles taps into God’s promises to His followers. When I start writing my blogs for the week, I often receive rhemas. These thoughts flow from a verse or portion of Scripture that the Holy Spirit brings to my attention with application to a current situation or need. When you draw near to God as James 4:8 instructs, rapt in God’s power can become a reality.
After finishing my final exam in college, I was on my way to see a friend play in a tennis tournament. As the light that I was stuck at turned green, I proceeded to enter this intersection when the front on my car was hit by a vehicle running a red light. After getting out of our cars, this man immediately apologized. When the cops didn’t arrive for a while, I told a student eyewitness to go home. As soon as a police officer arrived, this man changed his entire story. The evidence of the skid marks was clearly in my favor, but to the judge I was a college student and the man who hit me was an outstanding citizen.
He who believes in the Son of God [who adheres to, trusts in, and relies on Him] has the testimony [possesses this divine attestation] within himself. He who does not believe God [in this way] has made Him out to be and represented Him as a liar, because he has not believed (put his faith in, adhered to, and relied on) the evidence (the testimony) that God has borne regarding His Son. 11 And this is that testimony (that evidence): God gave us eternal life, and this life is in His Son, 1 John 5:10-11.
On earth, every day someone gets away with a crime, lie, or sinful act. You may be able to fool friends, family, or your peers for a period of time before the evidence is revealed. When light exposes your actions, behavior and choices, you may become like the man who hit me in college, changing his story when the police show up. This painful experience of injustice served as a wake up call to me as a naive Christian. While right doesn’t always prevail initially, the evidence of an afterlife are written with conviction in the Bible.
In the former account [which I prepared], O Theophilus, I made [a continuous report] dealing with all the things which Jesus began to do and to teach 2 Until the day when He ascended, after He through the Holy Spirit had instructed and commanded the apostles (special messengers) whom He had chosen. 3 To them also He showed Himself alive after His passion (His suffering in the garden and on the cross) by [a series of] many convincing demonstrations [unquestionable evidences and infallible proofs], appearing to them during forty days and talking [to them] about the things of the kingdom of God, Acts 1:1-3.
Luke spoke to individuals who witnessed Jesus’ ascension into heaven. Meanwhile, one of Jesus’ former disciples tells his audience that you can know for sure about your eternal destiny, 1 John 5:12-13. John isn’t wishy washy like a skeptical individual watching an infomercial that sounds too good to be true. Rather John writes as if he just listened to a Tony Robbins motivational podcast, eager to tell others about securing a room in heaven. The Bible is full of evidence, nuggets of truth that will help you find your way home like the bread crumbs Hansel and Gretel left behind to follow when they needed it.
Today’s artist got me through some tough times in college. I was first introduced to Linda Elias through her husband Rick who was a member of A Ragmuffin Band. When Rick started a solo career, Linda would also serve as a background vocalist on a number of his songs. The best way to describe Linda’s music is that she if the Belinda Carlisle of Christian music. Today’s song comes from the Meaning of Life album.
Speak out to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, offering praise with voices [[e]and instruments] and making melody with all your heart to the Lord, Ephesians 5:19.
When I first bought the Meaning of Life album, I shared it with as many college friends as possible. The person who appreciated Linda’s music the most was my friend Pam from Poughkeepsie, New York. The soothing sound of Linda’s voice and the powerful Bible based lyrics made me want to shout the chorus of Your’s and Mine every time I heard it. May this eternal message lift your spirits as you listen.
During my first year of college, I attended a “Why Knock Rock Seminar” at a local church. Why some of the theories that were espoused by the various speakers had a degree of merit, to demonize Christians who felt called to reach young people with rock music was moronic. One of these groups considered dangerous by the Puritans of the 1980’s was the Altar Boys. The Altar Boys’ punk rock sound was enhanced by Gut Level lyrics that spoke to my heart.
And her prophets have daubed them over with whitewash, seeing false visions and divining lies to them, saying, Thus says the Lord God—when the Lord has not spoken. 29 The people of the land have used oppression and extortion and have committed robbery; yes, they have wronged and vexed the poor and needy; yes, they have oppressed the stranger and temporary resident wrongfully, Ezekiel 22:28-29.
While doing some research for my new series Sing A New Song, I stumbled upon the song I Question It. Although the particular sound of this song hasn’t aged well, the lyrics were prophetic. When the church elite was busying condemning and judging those aspects of the youth culture that they didn’t like, the Altar Boys were trying to warn Christians through their Gut Level Music album in 1986. Instead of listening, complacency set in as liberals and progressives quietly worked behind the scenes to take over.
And I sought a man among them who should build up the wall and stand in the gap before Me for the land, that I should not destroy it, but I found none. 31 Therefore have I poured out My indignation upon them; I have consumed them with the fire of My wrath; their own way have I repaid [by bringing it] upon their own heads, says the Lord God, Ezekiel 22:30-31.
I guess it’s a little too late for the members of the Altar Boys to exclaim “I told you so!” Yet, the conditions of today remind me of the words of the prophet Ezekiel. God wanted someone to stand in the gap: a leader, a parent or students to defend that which is right and true. Unfortunately, no one rose to this occasion. Nonetheless, I sense a similar call to stand up for the Bill of Rights, the Constitution and for Religious liberties. Will the church sit back and watch from their pews or start reminding their neighbors of America’s heritage of faith? Time is of the essence so stand now or we too will be destroyed.
When I was in college, a dog attacked a child in our neighbor. While this girl survived, her face was scarred for life. Before this incident, this dog never had any issues with aggression. Yet, something happened, triggering this violent outburst. Perhaps, similar accounts in the first century inspired the apostle Paul to warn, “look out for the dogs.” The dogs are directed at a specific religious sect known as the Judaizers.
Look out for those dogs [Judaizers, legalists], look out for those mischief-makers, look out for those who mutilate the flesh. 3 For we [Christians] are the true circumcision, who worship God in spirit and by the Spirit of God and exult and glory and pride ourselves in Jesus Christ, and put no confidence or dependence [on what we are] in the flesh and on outward privileges and physical advantages and external appearances—Philippians 3:3-2.
This religious group infiltrated the leadership within the Church of Galatia. Unable to let go of their Jewish traditions, these zealots began to added stipulations to salvation. Forcing Gentile believers to be circumcised, the Judaizers broke Moses’ command in Deuteronomy 4:2. Therefore, when Paul compares these religious leaders to dogs, he is suggesting that they are ripping apart God’s commands.
O you poor and silly and thoughtless and unreflecting and senseless Galatians! Who has fascinated or bewitched or cast a spell over you, unto whom—right before your very eyes—Jesus Christ (the Messiah) was openly and graphically set forth and portrayed as crucified? 2 Let me ask you this one question: Did you receive the [Holy] Spirit as the result of obeying the Law and doing its works, or was it by hearing [the message of the Gospel] and believing [it]? [Was it from observing a law of rituals or from a message of faith?] 3 Are you so foolish and so senseless and so silly? Having begun [your new life spiritually] with the [Holy] Spirit, are you now reaching perfection [by dependence] on the flesh, Galatians 3:1-3.
In the passage above, Paul compares the Judaizers to practicing witches. This expression refers to the legalism and rituals that the Judaizers adhered to and practiced. While writing to the Church at Thessalonica, Paul recalls a visit to Berea, impressed by their careful consideration of new teachings. These noble leaders were a model for other churches to emulate, Acts 17:11. As you encounter similar legalism today, remember the words of 1 Thessalonians 5:19-22 so that you won’t be deceived by the next pack of dogs that comes along to invoke a power grab in your church.
After spending 4 years running cross country in high school, my college career lasted a week. The coach who recruited me and spoke at my high school banquet didn’t know my name on the first day of practice. Everything that I thought to be true about my potential in college was a lie. I’ve never been a quitter, but I lost my sense of purpose after 5 days. I didn’t have the energy to even make it on the junior varsity team. I guess you can say I lost that loving feeling for running if there is such a thing.
Therefore I do not run uncertainly (without definite aim). I do not box like one beating the air and striking without an adversary, 1 Corinthians 9:26.
Intramural sports kept me in shape after I gained the freshman 25. I suppose breaking the dorm record by eating 9 cheese steaks in 30 minutes wasn’t such a good idea. Anyway, as my first set of mid-term exams arrived, I used running as a study break to clear my mind. Some nights I took a slow jog around campus. When finals stared me in the face, running became like a break from life. Listening to the sound track to Rocky IV provided me to the adrenaline to fly around campus before returning to my books.
Therefore then, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses [who have borne testimony to the Truth], let us strip off and throw aside every encumbrance (unnecessary weight) and that sin which so readily (deftly and cleverly) clings to and entangles us, and let us run with patient endurance and steady and active persistence the appointed course of the race that is set before us, Hebrews 12:1.
Thirty years and another fifty pounds later, I have limited my running to the spiritual kind. While eluding to the Corinthian Games, a popular track and field event during the first century, Paul talks about the mindset runners possess. Instead of listening to your body, long distance runners enter a trance like state, focused on what’s ahead while maintaining a steady stride. When you run with certainty, there’s no doubt you’ll cross the finish line. Christian’s don’t leave their old life behind to follow Jesus just hoping to get into heaven. Rather, we run with certainty, 1 John 5:13.
By the beginning of my junior year in college, I felt called to pursue a career in youth ministry. To follow this calling, I began to volunteer in as many ways as possible to prepare myself for the future. I served as an assistant youth director for junior high students at my home church in Wilmington. Meanwhile, I sacrificed several weekends to help out with service projects, retreats and weekly youth related events.
The fear of the Lord is hatred of evil. Pride and arrogance and the way of evil and perverted speech I hate, Proverbs 8:13.
When one of my mentors from high school asked me to help out at a lock in, an overnight action packed activity, I jumped at this opportunity. High school students were dropped off at a local bowling alley before being driven back to the church in vans afterward. Serving as an adult, I wanted to sit back and listen, observing this group of teenagers. It didn’t take long to recognize the boy that everyone referred to as Satan. Beside being obnoxious, this boy kept running up behind bowlers, hitting and pushing them just before releasing their ball. This behavior continued for an hour.
Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord,” Romans 12:19.
Instead of being confrontational and preachy, I sat down with this boy, trying to find out what made him tick. I guess you can say understanding Satan became my project for this night. As the evening wore on, I stuck to this boy like glue, hoping to limit his emotional outbursts. When my patience wore off, I began to confront and rebuke Satan, “why are you trying to live up to this nickname?” Feeling compelled to go deeper, the Holy Spirit filled me with probing questions to get to the heart of this boy’s issue.
For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places, Ephesians 6:12.
Normally, I don’t like to press people. Yet, after midnight, I spent an hour peeling away Satan’s onion, one layer at a time. My conversation revealed a broken home, a strict father and having no concept of love. Following a time of prayer in the chapel, the spiritual influences of Satan on this boy’s life was finally broken. This experience as a volunteer inspired me to devote 15 years of my life to youth ministry. As I found out as a college student, nothing is impossible with God as the boy that was called Satan gave his life to Jesus, Romans 10:9-11, before this lock in concluded.
Prior to 10th grade, I hated the English language. Perhaps, this explains why I took 4 years of French and 2 years of Spanish in high school. As a shy stuttering student who was afraid of embarrassing myself, two English teachers laid a foundation for letters of love to express what I was unable to say out loud. Mrs. Ehrig and Mrs. Harker instilled in me a desire to write.
For God so greatly loved and dearly prized the world that He [even] gave up His only begotten (unique) Son, so that whoever believes in (trusts in, clings to, relies on) Him shall not perish (come to destruction, be lost) but have eternal (everlasting) life. 17 For God did not send the Son into the world in order to judge (to reject, to condemn, to pass sentence on) the world, but that the world might find salvation and be made safe and sound through Him, John 3:16-17.
This ability didn’t come naturally until I fully grasped key elements of English like grammar and spelling. This progress coincided with the coming out of my shell to let others in. Following high school graduation, I wanted to find a way to maintain these newly formed friendships. This desire gave birth to a passion for writing letters. Each year of college I devoted more and more time for letter writing to share my appreciation to those individuals who blessed and enriched my life.
Now it is an extraordinary thing for one to give his life even for an upright man, though perhaps for a noble and lovable and generous benefactor someone might even dare to die. 8 But God shows and clearly proves His [own] love for us by the fact that while we were still sinners, Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One) died for us, Romans 5:7-8.
While I still enjoy writing, there is another letter of love that surpasses all understanding. The Bible is God’s letter of love revealing His willingness to give up His one and only son to die for our sins. The passages above illustrate Jesus’ ultimate sacrifice, Colossians 2:13-15, willing to be nailed to a cross to pardon the sins of the past, present and future. May this act of love and the attached song by the Kry remind you of God’s letter of love.
When a college professor repeats an event, fact or theory, this will likely be on the next test. If a mentor shares the same advice more than once, you might want to listen. When a pastor recalls an important message preached by Jesus, putting this into practice can be life altering. Yet, the world is filled with voices telling you to do this or that. How you respond will influence your fate on earth.
On an appointed day Herod dressed himself in his royal robes, sat on his throne (tribunal, rostrum) and began delivering a speech to the people. 22 The assembled people kept shouting, “It is the voice of a god and not of a man!” – Acts 12:21-22
Jesus’ earthly brother learned a valuable lesson, God’s ways are different from the world, James 4:6. Humility brings you closer to God rather than taking credit for your own accomplishments. Jesus warned his followers about pride, quoting the sayings of Solomon, “pride comes before the fall.” The more you crave and hunger attention, the further you drift away from God. The attached passage provides individuals with another reason to give God the glory.
And at once an angel of the Lord struck him down because he did not give God the glory [and instead permitted himself to be worshiped], and he was eaten by worms and died [five days later], Acts 12:23.
According to Acts 12, Herod Agrippa I became full of himself. During a political speech, the crowd was moved. The more Herod spoke, listeners were in awe, suggesting this king was a god, not a man. Instead of setting the record straight, Herod reveled in these compliments. Refusing to embrace humility, an angel of death inflicted Agrippa with a deadly disease as worms ate him from within. May this warning inspire you to give God the glory.