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JFH Staff Blog | March 2020

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Don't Look Out The Window by Mark Bishop

Don’t look out the window. I know it’s cold and gray. Instead, picture this…

You step outside your front door and walk into the warm sunshine. As soon as you leave the shadows, you feel the heat of the sun on your skin and you feel the light upon your face. It’s actually so bright that you have to close your eyes. Your other senses are awakened. You can now hear the birds in the trees. They each sing their own song in their own way, just as God created us all to use our unique talents. It should be a discordant mess—the varying pitches and melodies—but somehow it works and all the variations of all the songs by all the different birds makes the summery day even brighter.

With your eyes closed and the sun warming your face, the slight breeze brings the aroma of flowers and fresh-cut grass to your nostrils. You breathe it in slowly and deliberately. It then races quickly throughout your entire body, following the pathways of the blood vessels until you are absorbing a sweet perfume throughout your entire body. Not only is your physical body stimulated but the neurons within your brain use the smells, the sounds, and the warmth as keys to unlock hidden memories and forgotten stories. Our minds are large castles with forgotten chambers and secret alcoves. Those of us who are only a little older have allowed the dust to settle in those rooms and we have misplaced our keys, but the smallest things—like the sunshine—can lead us back.

So here we are. Standing in the sunshine, our eyes closed, absorbing the summer sun through our skin, listening to the singing of the birds, basking in the aroma of flowers. We have adjusted somewhat and so we open our eyes slowly to see the emerald leaves breathe and flutter in the trees around us. The birds flit from one branch to the next. The flowers burst with color as the butterflies and bees dance a ballet above them. The skies are blue and ethereal clouds curl ever-so-slowly above us. It is by any definition a beautiful, beautiful day. The sun is shining brightly and we feel it in every single fiber of our minds and bodies.

Now you can look out your window.

Perhaps our daydream has disappeared because it is not sunny. Perhaps it is cold. Perhaps it is gray. Perhaps we have even opened the windows and have allowed the cold and the gray inside. 

But sometimes perhaps, we have forgotten that the “sun” is within us and goes wherever we are. Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” Could it be that the warmth of the sunshine, the singing of the birds, the perfume of the flowers, and the light upon our faces is not dependent upon our outward circumstances?

Look again outside your window. That’s not you.

You have been given your own source of warmth and light.

by Mark Bishop

By Grace, I Am Released by Matt Adler

 

“This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” 2 Corinthians 5:17 (NLT)

I’m an angry person. I’m prone to impatience, jealousy, pride, and all sorts of ugliness. Heck, if I’m honest – old Matt was kind of a jerk. But I always tell people that it’s irrefutable evidence that God exists that I am no longer defined by these characteristics!

Only by the Grace of God could I ever be released from those traits. I do my best every day to allow myself to be sanctified, and now through Christ I am able to speak and respond with a spirit of gentleness, patience, and understanding. But of course, I screw up. I still say things that I shouldn’t and I respond poorly from time to time. But I am absolutely a different person since I first declared with my mouth and believed in my heart that Jesus Christ is Lord.

In John 16, Jesus says “But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. When he comes, he will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment…”

Here, “the Advocate” Jesus is referring to is the Holy Spirit of God. When we come to know Jesus as Lord, the Holy Spirit indwells us. He convicts us daily, refining us, growing us, and sanctifying us. In Him we can be released from our sin, our shame, our anxieties, our hurts, our character flaws, our addictions… This is such a beautiful Truth of the Gospel, how can we not share this with the world?! We no longer have to be defined by who we once were, but rather by who God is. And by who we are in Christ.

This is the heart behind the song “Released”, the opening track on the Collective Worship album. God loved us so much that He made a way for us to be forgiven, to have relationship with him, to be made new through Him, and to be granted the reward of eternal life – even though none of us deserve it. We were dead in our sins, but have become resurrected to life again with Christ.

by Matt Adler

Matt Adler – Released (Official Lyric Video): https://youtu.be/SG6P9spGki8

Saturday, March 7, 2020

Humbling Ourselves in Reverse by Shannon Graham

It’s not an easy task to humble ourselves. This takes putting aside our pride and accepting a loss, correction, guidance, etc. However, being humble is usually connected with becoming meek or maybe stepping into the background a bit more. Being humble is often equated with stepping out of the limelight and taking the attention off ourselves. Let me tell you, God truly changed my outlook on what being humble truly means when I was thrust into the lead position of a band.

I grew up being surrounded by performers, especially my father and older sister. They were musicians who loved using their talents for God. Standing on a stage in front of hundreds, or even thousands of people, was like second nature to them. For me, it was straight up the most terrifying thing you could ever ask of me. I would only sing at church if they would turn off the lights, shine a spotlight on the cross, and let me sing from the back. Sounds dramatic, but I would freeze. My biggest fear? That people would see me and not Jesus. My other biggest fear? I would screw up.

I finally joined a band with my family (Light Up The Darkness) after many years of begging from family and friends. I didn’t want to sing, scream, or do anything out front if I could help it. I had a double stacked keyboard and I gladly hid behind it. After more begging, I finally settled and did some vocals here and there, but came up with countless excuses to get out of it on the regular. Fast forward many years later - the family band is no longer together, and I’m now the lead singer/screamer of World Breaker. It took a good year of my husband begging me before I agreed to the position.

There have been moments where I wanted to quit and never look back. However, God has had a different plan and that plan has humbled me in a way I never knew existed. I thought I was being humble by not making it about me and sinking into the background. Here’s the problem - how in the world would Jesus have a chance to shine through me if I was hiding? God showed me pretty quickly that in order to humble myself, I actually needed to step into the spotlight instead of out of it. I was too hyper focused on how others would perceive me, that I forgot that God was in control. He gave me those talents so I could turn around and give Him the glory.

Sometimes, we have to humble ourselves in reverse - let go of our fears, stop hiding, and shine bright. God will handle the rest.

by Shannon Graham of World Breaker