Chris Tomlin has slowly become the Michael W. Smith of modern-day Contemporary Christian Music. You don’t have to go far to recognize Tomlin’s popularity as fans have purchased over 7 million records. Today’s featured song is a remake of a popular church hymn Whom Shall I Fear? This open ended question serves as a reflection to consider God’s promises and power to protect you from harm.
There is no fear in love [dread does not exist], but full-grown (complete, perfect) love [g]turns fear out of doors and expels every trace of terror! For fear [h]brings with it the thought of punishment, and [so] he who is afraid has not reached the full maturity of love [is not yet grown into love’s complete perfection], 1 John 4:18.
Fear of one of those inner demons that often results in nightmares. Yet, fear can come in the form of peer pressure, especially in this age of virtue signaling and wokeness. However, the apostle Paul reminds his readers that the Holy Spirit is greater than fear, 2 Timothy 1:7. As Christians develop and mature in the love of Jesus, this knowledge can and will expel every trace of fear. Enjoy Chris’ song.
Jimi Ray and Rick Harwell formed Age of Faith in 1987, my senior year of high school. Age of Faith is one of those Christian groups that flew under the radar. Despite being overshadowed by the likes of Michael W. Smith and Stephen Curtis Chapman, Age of Faith continued to make quality albums one after the other. As I purchased each new Age of Faith album, I was always touched by a couple of their songs.
So he got up and came to his [own] father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was moved with pity and tenderness [for him]; and he ran and embraced him and kissed him [[j]fervently]. 21 And the son said to him, Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son [I no longer deserve to be recognized as a son of yours]! 22 But the father said to his bond servants, Bring quickly the best robe (the festive robe of honor) and put it on him; and give him a ring for his hand and sandals for his feet, Luke 15:20-22.
I could have chosen a dozen other hit songs from Age of Faith. Yet, the lyrics of Red Carpet were too moving to pass on. Age of Faith’s version of the Prodigal Son adds a modern Hollywood element by rolling out a red carpet. While rebellion is hard to forgive, a father’s love overlooked greed to celebrate the return of his wayward son. May this song touch your heart like it has touched mine.
From my introduction to Christian music in 1985, there have always been 3 main staples who have gotten most of the accolades: Michael W. Smith, Amy Grant, and today’s artist Stephen Curtis Chapman. When Chapman’s Great Adventure tour traveled across the country, I drove three hours to hear an album filled with classic songs. I was so touched that night by Go There with You, that I included it in my wedding.
God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and death shall be no more, neither shall there be anguish (sorrow and mourning) nor grief nor pain any more, for the old conditions and the former order of things have passed away, Revelation 21:4.
When I was put in charge of the Music at my wedding and the DJ at our reception, I made a mix with all of the songs to be played for all of the special dances. When Leanne and I danced our first dance as a married couple, Go There With You was played. In an age where staying married until death do us part is rare, playing this song was a statement of my will to love Leanne for the rest of my life.
When most of the world was panicking about the threat of Y2K on December 31st, 1999, I was listening to a local Christian Radio station. As one century came to an end, this program began the Countdown of the Top 100 Christian Songs of the 1900’s. While I didn’t necessarily agree with all the selections, today’s song was ranked #4 on this list.
But about midnight, as Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns of praise to God, and the [other] prisoners were listening to them, Acts 16:25.
Benny Hester would have been more popular than Michael W. Smith, but Benny made one crucial mistake. Back in the days when a divorce wasn’t an option for a Christian, Benny did the unthinkable and got remarried. Immediately, Christian bookstores across the country began to remove Benny’s music from their shelves. Yet, Hester’s prodigal experience set the stage for his hit song When God Ran.
I didn’t even know that Christian music existed until I asked Jesus to come into my heart, Romans 10:9-10, in the middle of my sophomore year of high school. I met Mindy at a FCA Bible Study. She was the only person I knew in high school who was an advocate for Christian music. Mindy made different mixes for me so I could figure out which artists I liked before purchasing an album. Mindy’s parents drove me and a couple of friends from Concord to my first ever Christian concert.
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, 20 At all times and for everything giving thanks in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God the Father, Ephesians 5:19-20.
If you haven’t already guessed by today’s song title Secret Ambition, Michael W. Smith gave me a good first impression of Christian music. While I barely recognized any of the songs that were sung that night, I went on to buy every one of Michael’s new albums over the next 5 years. The week i2(Eye) Album was released, I attended a youth convention in Salisbury, Maryland. This was the most fun I ever had on a retreat as a seed was sown to become a youth pastor. Thanks to Secret Ambition, this became a reality.
When I was in high school, Michael W. Smith was the top Christian artist in the nation. Songs like Go West Young Man, Secret Ambition and Place in this World inspired me to start thinking about the future. While in college at the University of Delaware, I was torn between becoming a golf course architect and serving as a youth pastor. Following a dual internship in Cleveland, Ohio, I discovered my true passion and began to pursue it.
Not that I have now attained [this ideal], or have already been made perfect, but I press on to lay hold of (grasp) and make my own, that for which Christ Jesus (the Messiah) has laid hold of me and made me His own, Philippians 3:12.
After working as an Inner City Workcamp Coordinator and Youth Director at a Methodist Church, I wasn’t sure about how to build a ministry. Following a visit to a Youth Ministry Trade School, a renewed passion was conceived as this training gave me the knowledge and vision to succeed. However, in any ministry there are big egos with a tendency for control and power which make maintaining healthy relationships difficult.
I do not consider, brethren, that I have captured and made it my own [yet]; but one thing I do [it is my one aspiration]: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the [supreme and heavenly] prize to which God in Christ Jesus is calling us upward, Philippians 3:13-14.
Over the years I’ve learned that desires and passions come and go. What you believe and think about your role in life today may change as the situations around you fluctuate. Just as societies and the world evolves, it’s important to re-evaluate where you want to go and what you want to do. Once you discover your spiritual gifts and unleash the desires within your heart, pursue God’s will as you seize each day.
The older you become, the degree of trouble often intensifies. As a child, you may get your hand caught in the cookie jar. As adolescence arrives, someone in your neighborhood may catch you drinking, smoking or cursing out loud. If you are fortunate enough to attend college, you may choose to skip some classes or get involved into an inappropriate relationship. Like his 1989 song, Michael W. Smith claims that we are always living and learning, shaped by the trouble that surrounds us.
Do not let your hearts be troubled (distressed, agitated). You believe in and adhere to and trust in and rely on God; believe in and adhere to and trust in and rely also on Me, John 14:1.
When your future is in jeopardy, trouble is fueled by anxiety, concern, and fear. The context of the passage above occurs during the Passion Week, sometime after Palm Sunday and before Jesus’ arrest. John 14 begins immediately after Jesus predicts his future death in John 13:38. Apparently, Jesus saw panic in his disciples eyes or sensed a spirit of hopelessness. Therefore, when your heart is troubled, believe and trust in the Lord, Proverbs 3:5-6.
Casting the ]whole of your care [all your anxieties, all your worries, all your concerns, once and for all] on Him, for He cares for you affectionately and cares about you watchfully. 8 Be well balanced (temperate, sober of mind), be vigilant and cautious at all times; for that enemy of yours, the devil, roams around like a lion roaring [[n fierce hunger], seeking someone to seize upon and devour. 9 Withstand him; be firm in faith [against his onset—rooted, established, strong, immovable, and determined], knowing that the same (identical) sufferings are appointed to your brotherhood (the whole body of Christians) throughout the world, 1 Peter 5:7-9.
In the passage above, one of Jesus’ disciples suggests that trouble can be inflicted by invisible spiritual forces. Peter uses the analogy of a predator seeking out a weak or wounded prey, waiting for the right time to go in for the kill. Perhaps, Peter is eluding to the time he caved to peer pressure by denying to know Jesus three times in public. Sinful human beings will never escape trouble. However, as individuals learn to grow and mature, look for the way out of any temptation before all hope is lost, 1 Corinthians 10:13.
In the middle of the first century, the apostle Paul had his own battle with an illness. Instead fighting off the remnants of the Coronavirus, Paul was ravaged by a messenger from Satan. Apparently, Paul was inflicted by a thorn in his flesh, perhaps a splinter became infected. Based upon the context of the passage below, this condition persisted for a number of months if not longer. Some scholars have suggested that Paul is referring to some sort of demonic oppression that began to wear down his emotional and physical strength.
But He said to me, My grace (My favor and loving-kindness and mercy) is enough for you [sufficient against any danger and enables you to bear the trouble manfully]; for My strength and power are made perfect (fulfilled and completed) andshow themselves most effective in [your] weakness. Therefore, I will all the more gladly glory in my weaknesses and infirmities, that the strength and power of Christ (the Messiah) may rest (yes, may pitch a tent over and dwell) upon me! 10 So for the sake of Christ, I am well pleased and take pleasure in infirmities, insults, hardships, persecutions, perplexities and distresses; for when I am weak [in human strength], then am I [truly] strong (able, powerful in divine strength), 2 Corinthians 12:9-10.
I was first introduced to today’s two passages by my high school swim coach. Since I only joined the swim team to stay in shape for cross country, I struggled to finish every practice. When you’re running and you trip, you can stop for a moment to retie your laces. However, when your in the middle of a pool, out of breath and tired, you have to keep swimming until you reach the other end. Through my first two years, I only completed a handful of practices. Yet, when I began to take Coach Horne’s advice, Christ became my strength when I was exhausted in the pool.
I have strength for all things in Christ Who empowers me [I am ready for anything and equal to anything through Him Who infuses inner strength into me; I am self-sufficient in Christ’s sufficiency], Philippians 4:13.
During my sophomore year of high school, my coach also introduced me to the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. Instead of just being relating this concept to swimming, I learned to apply the Bible to life. While not everyone in these monthly Bible Studies were genuine believers, I tried to become like a sponge, soaking in as much as I could. I guess the best approach to take about implementing the Bible into you life is using the message from Michael W. Smith’s 1989, Live and Learn. No one is ever a completed or finished project. Rather, each day provides opportunities to live and to learn when you don’t have the strength to carry on.
As a former athlete, I understand the concept of setting goals. At the beginning of each season, I would use a notecard to write down my expectations. Whether I was running, swimming or playing golf, I tried to raise the bar higher and higher each time I set a personal record. The only hard part about setting a score or time to beat, eventually you reach a saturation point. For example, I haven’t bested 69 for 18 holes in golf since my junior year of high school. Meanwhile, I never came close to breaking 17 minutes for a 5K race after doing it once as a senior.
And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up, Galatians 6:9.
I guess what I am trying to say is that as an adult, I spend most of my time chasing dreams instead of actually catching them. There is an old saying that refers to being close. This idiom claims that being close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades. If you want to be the best, losing over and over again to someone slightly better is frustrating. When you get closer and closer to catching a dream, hope is conceived, turning doubters into believers. Yet, if progress is never achieved, chasing dreams can become like a dog attempting to catch their own tail.
Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him, James 1:12.
The other night I watched the film I Can Only Imagined. Bart Millard grew up in a dysfunctional family made worse when his mother refused to take Bart with her after moving out. Left to his abusive father, Bart wanted to chase and catch dreams. However, the negativity spewed by Bart’s dad bombarded his mind, leaving behind emotional, physical and spiritual scars. Despite these obstacles, Bart traveled the country with a Christian group called Mercy Me attempting to follow in the footsteps of Michael W. Smith and Amy Grant. Yet, it took cancer to inflict his father and redemption to transform his heart before the Lord gave Bart the words to I can only image. Upon releasing this single on a 1999 album, the Worship Project, Bart finally caught his dream. May Bart Millard‘s perseverance inspire you to catch your own dreams.
Martin Luther King Jr. would have turned 90 years old this week if he wasn’t murdered on April 4th 1968. To honor his memory, Martin Luther King Day was first observed in 1986. Four years later, Wyoming became the first state in the union to pass legislation to make Martin Luther King Day a legal holiday. While Dr. King’s I Have a Dream Speech overshadows his 14 years as a civil rights leader, Martin Luther taught Americans how to love with your life.
Let all that you do be done in love, 1 Corinthians 16:14.
On their 1992 album Free At Last, DC Talk pays homage to Dr. King. This group refers to spiritual slavery, when an individual is held captive by an addiction, unable to break free until Jesus enters their life. Dr. King fought for a day when people were judged by the content of their character, not the color of their skin. Meanwhile, these Christians musicians longed for a day when forgiveness, grace and mercy reconciled their broken relationship with God. One of the songs on Free At Last, Luv is a Verb, drives home the point that love is meant to be lived out.
Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love, 1 John 4:8.
The concept of love inspired a hit song by a relatively new artist called Hollyn. Hollyn received notoriety for her appearance on American Idol. Two years later, Gotee Records released One Way Conversations in 2017. With the help of Toby Mac, Hollyn is a raising star who has followed in his footsteps. Although the title is different, Love with Your Life illustrates that love isn’t love until you demonstrate it by caring for others. Similar to Michael W’ Smith’s song Give It Away, love wasn’t put in your heart to stay. The best example, Jesus, gave his life away by dying for you and me. Go and do your best to love others with your life.