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.
Six months after graduating college, I attended a Youth Ministry Trade School in Minnesota. These 7 weeks completely changed my life; encouraging me to stretch and expand my comfort zone. One of the techniques that I learned was setting goals from a Could Be/Should Be perspective. From a spiritual standpoint, I learned to take an inventory of where I am currently and where I need to be. While writing a first century letter, Peter challenges his listeners to consider the person that you ought to be in Christ.
Since all these things are thus [b]in the process of being dissolved, what kind of person ought [each of] you to be [in the meanwhile] in consecrated and holy behavior and devout and godly qualities, 12 While you wait and earnestly long for (expect and hasten) the coming of the day of God by reason of which the flaming heavens will be dissolved, and the [[c]material] elements [of the universe] will flare and melt with fire? – 2 Peter 3:11-12
The origin of the term Christian dates back to sometime between 30 and 40 A.D. Citizens in the city of Antioch were impressed by members of their local church. Something was different about these people, a specific quality that set them apart from everyone else in town. As these followers of Jesus began to share their faith with the locals, one person put two and two together. “These people must be Christians, followers of Christ Jesus.
Therefore be imitators of God [copy Him and follow His example], as well-beloved children [imitate their father]. 2 And walk in love, [esteeming and delighting in one another] as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us, a [a]slain offering and sacrifice to God [for you, so that it became] a sweet fragrance, Ephesians 5:1-2.
As this expression spread, the apostle Paul provided other churches with a simple spiritual goal to shoot for daily. As people of faith become imitators of Jesus, the fruits of the Spirit take precedence over the acts of your flesh, Galatians 5:1625. As hearts and minds become renewed by the Bible, Romans 12:1-2, the Holy Spirit steers you toward the person you ought to be in Christ. Prayer, reflection, and worship provide spiritual disciplines to keep your mind on becoming Jesus to your local community.
Depeche Mode was a popular group when I was in high school. Finding a similar sound to Depeche Mode wasn’t easy. While in college, I began to listen to a Christian radio program on Saturday nights that featured alternative music. The group that sounded the most like Depeche Mode was Code of Ethics. After buying the Visual Paradox album, Breaking Down reminded me of a classic 80’s feel.
So too the [Holy] Spirit comes to our aid and bears us up in our weakness; for we do not know what prayer to offer nor how to offer it worthily as we ought, but the Spirit Himself goes to meet our supplication and pleads in our behalf with unspeakable yearnings and groanings too deep for utterance, John 8:26.
Breaking Down by Code of Ethics encourages listeners to examine your own life with a new set of eyes. If you are worried about what you’ll find, you may abort this call for reflection before it begins. Yet, as the Lord humbles the proud, humility is God’s way of breaking down walls that humans build and construct. While you may not like 80’s music, the message of Breaking Down is something to think about.
As a former athlete in multiple sports, practicing in the off-season is key to reaching your full potential. Before the days of travel teams and countless weekend competitions, sports junkies like me would hone their skills in local neighborhoods. Spontaneous pick up games would occur every summer day playing 500, steal the bases, interception, and whiffle ball. On rainy days, boards games, cards, and video games passed the time until the weather cooperated. The more I competed and practiced, the presence of improvement began to shine through.
Do not fret or have any anxiety about anything, but in every circumstance and in everything, by prayer and petition (definite requests), with thanksgiving, continue to make your wants known to God. 7 And God’s peace [shall be yours, that tranquil state of a soul assured of its salvation through Christ, and so fearing nothing from God and being content with its earthly lot of whatever sort that is, that peace] which transcends all understanding shall garrison and mount guard over your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, Philippians 4:6-7.
In a letter to the Church at Philippi, the apostle Paul encourages members to practice their faith. While God does show up unannounced from time to time in the form of angels, answered prayers and signs, this doesn’t happen by chance. Peace doesn’t occur simultaneously as soon as you verbalize this word. Rather, peace arrives at the intersection of practice and presence. This develops as faith is exercised through reflection, prayer and thanksgiving. Practicing what you believe gives individuals the opportunity to fail and learn what you need to work on spiritually.
For the rest, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is worthy of reverence and is honorable and seemly, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely and lovable, whatever is kind and winsome and gracious, if there is any virtue and excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think on and weigh and take account of these things [fix your minds on them]. 9 Practice what you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and model your way of living on it, and the God of peace (of untroubled, undisturbed well-being) will be with you, Philippians 4:8-9.
According to the apostle Paul, focusing on the positive is a key step toward progressing. As your mind begins to dwell and focus on true and wholesome aspects of life, attitudes and behaviors tend to change for the better. However, Paul doesn’t want Christians to stop here. In addition, keep moving forward by practicing what you have learned from the Bible. The closer you draw near to the Lord, the greater your chances will be to experience the presence of God. Therefore, carry on by keeping in step with the Holy Spirit so that God’s presence appears when faith is practiced.
The 1920’s has been described as the Jazz Age or roaring twenties. This decade of prosperity was marred by the Great Depression which began in August of 1929. Nineteen hundred years earlier, Jesus brought an era of spiritual enlightenment. This was accomplished by turning people’s attention away from following a set of rules, the Torah, to entering into a personal relationship with God. However, even his twelve disciples were often left in the dark, unclear of what Jesus meant by following the way.
And when (if) I go and make ready a place for you, I will come back again and will take you to Myself, that where I am you may be also. 4 And [to the place] where I am going, you know the way, John 14:3-4.
The disciple whom Jesus loved reflects upon these words after Jesus’ crucifixion, death, resurrection and ascension into heaven. John had plenty of time for reflection while living in exile on the Island of Patmos. Jesus spent the last three years of his life on earth pouring his heart and soul into twelve men. Little by little, Jesus showed this motley crew how to live, pray and serve mankind. Despite witnessing numerous miracles daily, a couple of disciples still doubted Jesus and couldn’t fully comprehend the way.
Thomas said to Him, Lord, we do not know where You are going, so how can we know the way? 6 Jesus said to him, I am the Way and the Truth and the Life; no one comes to the Father except by (through) Me. 7 If you had known Me [had learned to recognize Me], you would also have known My Father. From now on, you know Him and have seen Him. 8 Philip said to Him, Lord, show us the Father [cause us to see the Father—that is all we ask]; then we shall be satisfied, John 14:5-8.
Thomas and Philip are identified in the passage above, living by sight, not by faith. During a Sermon of the Mount of Olives, Jesus compares the way to two roads, a super highway and a narrow path. Prior to his arrest, Jesus often ruffled the feathers of religious leaders, referring to an inner temple, not the place of worship in Jerusalem. The Bible, especially the four gospels, provides clues for modern believers who seek a similar path, the Way. May this blog conceive a burning desire for you to follow the Way Maker, also a song by Mandisa.
Driving in a car without listening to music, a podcast or talk radio seems odd. Unless of course your car’s stereo system isn’t working. This makes me wonder why human beings have grown accustom to filling in any brief moments of silence with conversation, some sort of electronic game or texting. Perhaps, individuals are afraid of what the silence might reveal?
He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”11 The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress, Psalm 46:10-11.
To avoid any bad news, heartbreak or humbling reflection, minds race to fill in the blank moments daily. As you wake up, thoughts lead many to check cell phones thinking, “maybe I missed a phone call or important text?” Others click on the news to catch up on current events to pass the time before work. Meanwhile, overachievers will check emails to prepare their minds for what to expect today. As you make your way toward school or work, did you pause to consider what God wanted you to do or say?
Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. 36 Simon and his companions went to look for him, 37 and when they found him, they exclaimed: “Everyone is looking for you!” 38 Jesus replied, “Let us go somewhere else—to the nearby villages—so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.” 39 So he traveled throughout Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and driving out demons, Mark 1:35-39.
During the third and final day of my current Esther Fast, I received a rhema from God. Like a whisper from the Holy Spirit, I came face to face with my fears, afraid of what the silence might reveal. Beside not living up to my potential as a leader, selfishness has kept me from being a servant of the Lord. Not having a church family to call home, I’ve taken several steps backwards spiritually. My prayer for 2020 is that I finally surround myself with a community of believers to build up my wife Leanne and family. While the news may not be what you want to hear, don’t be afraid of silence anymore.
Function is the basis for an act, serving as the bridge to your ultimate purpose. Unfortunately, if you find yourself overwhelmed by a hectic schedule, many carry on with their daily routines without any meaningful reflection. Anyone who allows the busyness of life to consume their soul, you may end up as a prime example of form without function.
What is the benefit, my fellow believers, if someone claims to have faith but has no [good] works [as evidence]? Can that [kind of] faith save him? [No, a mere claim of faith is not sufficient—genuine faith produces good works, James 2:14.
At some point following his brother’s death, James began to re-evaluate his belief system. The life, death and resurrection of Jesus challenged his tradition view of Judaism. The concept of a Messiah was believed to be part of the end times. Yet, Jesus taught James that faith must be accompanied by good works inspired by love. Without any external change by displaying fruits of the Spirit, you are merely form without function.
If a brother or sister is without [adequate] clothing and lacks [enough] food for each day, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace [with my blessing], [keep] warm and feed yourselves,” but he does not give them the necessities for the body, what good does that do? 17 So too, faith, if it does not have works [to back it up], is by itself dead [inoperative and ineffective], James 2:15-17.
While observing religious practices for most of his life, it appears James was simply going through the motions, without a relationship with God, Romans 10:9-10. Jesus’ lifestyle slowly convicted James’ heart, making him realize that his faith was dead, inoperative. Following the commandments, praying and worshipping God is merely a to do list, a spiritual checklist. Seeing the error of his way, James writes to first century Christians to encourage believers to activate their faith. The love of Jesus is the form in which faith is meant to function. May this lesson revive and rejuvenate your soul.
Early on in my marriage, Leanne and I went to antique shops, searching for a piece of furniture that could be refinished. Wooden chairs were a common purchase, trying to breathe new life into classic designs. Scraping and sanding away old paint often revealed imperfections. In some cases, spindles needed to be reattached with glue. Without a wide arrange of clamps available to apply to a curved angle, brute force was necessary to hold everything together until the glue dried. This process often involved placing your arms and legs into a death grip to avoid spindles from popping out of place. If pressure wasn’t maintained until the bonding process was complete, we had to start all over again from the beginning.
And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together, Colossians 1:17.
As my body approaches the half century mark in age, I’m beginning to feel like an antique. Instead of having a spindle or two out of place, I feel broken, trying to pick up all the pieces. Yet, I have learned that I can’t do this on my own. According to Jesus, the spiritual healthy should be able to self medicate their lives. However, if you attempt to do this without spiritual brothers and sisters within a church fellowship, holding everything together can be overwhelming. Perhaps, this may explain the apostle Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 12:7-12, in “your own weaknesses, lean on Jesus to make you strong.”
But when Jesus heard this, He said, “Those who are healthy have no need for a physician, but [only] those who are sick, Matthew 9:12.
While I am not a counselor by trade, I often find myself scouring the Bible to find answers to my struggles in life. This daily process involves reflection, meditation and searching for nuggets of truth to heal and mend my soul. Unfortunately, I spend many weeks out of the year depressed, unable to hold things together. Again and again, I fight through the pain in my heart to stay optimistic. The one trait I have on my side is a faith empowered by the promises in the Bible. Against all odds, the Holy Spirit propels me to press on despite how I feel day to day. This invisible force is the glue that holds everything together until the bonding process of sanctification is complete.
If you take the time to catch up on breaking news, you might notice a disturbing new trend. Instead of providing the full context of a conversation, sound bytes are used to promote a certain narrative. Instead of relying on truth, justice and the American way, political allegiances have been formed. This decision has replaced the Bible with political correctness. Anyone who does not adhere to this new standard is attacked, exposed and slammed for intolerance. The idea of a corrupt media was something I thought was impossible, left for nations of dictators from third world nations. Yet, as the media’s elite begin to play God, redefining right and wrong, I’m afraid of what the future holds.
For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment, James 2:13.
In 2009, Paramore released Playing God, a single from their third album Brand News Eyes. Lead singer Hayley Williams was one of the authors of this song, collaborating with band members Josh Farro and Taylor York. The music video begins with Hayley sitting in her car, staring at a cross and a button of Jesus on her dashboard. This time of reflection sets the stage for a new concept, what if God did not introduce freewill? Instead God used force, to tie people up so they didn’t go where God didn’t want them to be. While God refuses to participate in this mindset, adults, other siblings and parents from time to time like to play God.
The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps, Proverbs 16:9.
Known for his wisdom, King Solomon addressed this topic during his day. According to Solomon, everyone has an idea, a plan for their lives. While your heart may guide you throughout this life, God ultimately establishes the direction you will take. Along the way, barriers, obstacles and road blocks stand in your way, altering your course. Thus, the sooner you start keeping in step with the Holy Spirit, Galatians 5:25, the better off you will be. Rather than condemning those around you for not following the path of integrity, make sure you show mercy to others so that when you do fall, forgiveness will be extended to you.
If you maintain a burdensome schedule each week, finding time to take an honest assessment of your life isn’t easy to do. Most busy people press on. ignoring any signs, symptoms or traces of trouble. When a state of emergency was issued for Delaware during the fourth snow storm in March, I was forced to slow down, unable to go to work. After reading the passage below, an overwhelming sense of guilt struck my soul, exposing a defiled heart.
After He called the people to Him again, He began saying to them, “Listen [carefully] to Me, all of you, [hear] and understand [what I am saying]: there is nothing outside a man [such as food] which by going into him can defile him [morally or spiritually]; but the things which come out of [the heart of] a man are what defile and dishonor him.16 [If anyone has ears to hear, let him he}” Mark 7:15-16.
As a former high school teacher, I gave my students some sort of assessment every 3 weeks. Homework, papers, quizzes and exams were given during each unit to reveal the degree of comprehension. Unfortunately, after graduating from high school or college, adults rarely think about assessing their faith like educators. This lack of reflection often hides glaring issues. As for me, a lack of candor has brought to light a defiled heart.
For there is no good tree which produces bad fruit, nor, on the other hand, a bad tree which produces good fruit.44 For each tree is known and identified by its own fruit. For figs are not picked from thorn bushes, nor is a cluster of grapes picked from a briar bush.45 The [intrinsically] good man produces what is good and honorable and moral out of the good treasure [stored] in his heart; and the [intrinsically] evil man produces what is wicked and depraved out of the evil [in his heart]; for his mouth speaks from the overflow of his heart, Luke 6:43-45.
According to Jesus, your choice of language provides immediate feedback to what’s in your heart. If you find yourself using coarse joking, put downs or sarcasm, this serves as a warning of a heart in grave condition. In order to take a positive step forward, confession is the best place to start, James 5:16. If your language does not improve, finding an accountability partner can help turn your life around. While transformation takes time, meditating on Bible verses, prayer and fasting are all honorable steps toward healing a defiled heart.