Touching Lives for God with Chris Tomlin

Touching Lives for God with Chris Tomlin

Lifest – Oshkosh, WI

Ever-popular Christian artist Chris Tomlin has been leading people in glorifying God, and recording worship songs that are widely used by churches, for over a decade. He continues to come out with songs that become hit worship anthems, touching a multitude of lives for God through his music.

Love Ran Red

The title of Chris Tomlin’s most recent album, Love Ran Red, comes from his favorite song on the album, “At the Cross,” which he considers the centerpiece of the album. “It’s really a special song to me, and obviously that’s why we titled the record that,” he explains. He goes on to say that there have been people outside of the body of Christ who ask what “love ran red” means, providing the perfect opportunity to tell them about what Jesus did for them at the cross. “When I say ‘love ran red,’ I’m talking about the love of Jesus, the cross, and the blood of Jesus,” Chris Tomlin informs. “When I think about my music, I’m trying to do two things – share about the greatness of God, and the grace of God . . .” he continues, stating that this was where he was heading with Love Ran Red. The album includes songs like “Almighty,” which are all about the greatness, majesty, and holiness of God, and songs such as “Jesus Loves Me,” which are centered around God’s grace, demonstrating that he met his goal.

What Is Worship?

Chris Tomlin, who has long been involved in leading others in worship, defines worship as our response to God. “For me, it is responding to God for what He’s done in my life, who He is in my life,” he states. “I try to write songs to help people respond to God,” he continues. He explains that everyone worships something – that what you worship is what sits on the throne of your life, which you consider of highest value. For many people, that’s God, but there are many with whom that isn’t the case. According to Chris Tomlin, worship is about much more than singing. It’s responding in how you live your life. “Every part of our life is a worship moment to God,” he concludes.

Favorite Bible Verse

Chris Tomlin’s favorite Bible verse is Romans 11:36 – “For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.” (NASB) “I love how that just captures everything – that one simple verse,” he explains. He compares it to the doxology, saying that it captures all the theology and what we’re talking about during worship.

This summer, I had the opportunity to chat with Chris Tomlin at Lifest. See what he had to say about the role worship plays in his life, his advice to those who are having a difficult time connecting with God during worship, and more!

The Ultimate Life, and How You View Money

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The Ultimate Life, prequel to The Ultimate Gift, tells the story of how Red Stevens discovered the series of “gifts” (important life lessons) that he passed on to his grandson, Jason. After finding the woman of his dreams in The Ultimate Gift, Jason Stevens gets so caught up in the busyness of life that he almost loses her in The Ultimate Life. When he comes to the end of his rope, Hamilton, long-time friend and lawyer of Red Stevens, gives him his grandfather’s journal. Through it, he finds out how his grandfather went from a poor young boy to a billionaire financial success, yet threw away all that mattered most in the process. As he reads the journal, Jason is reminded of what is truly important, which helps him figure out the next step to take in his own life.

In The Ultimate Gift, we meet Red Stevens as a determined teenager who sets out on his own, bent on achieving billionaire status. Throughout his journey, he displays initiative and drive that enables him to overcome any obstacle in his path. At the same time, his focus on gaining wealth causes him to neglect other important aspects of his life, such as his family, until he discovers that becoming a billionaire in and of itself isn’t enough to fulfil him. When he nearly loses his only true friend, he is forced reconsider the path he’s heading down.

The Ultimate Life says a lot about how we should view money. In and of itself, wealth isn’t at all a bad thing. As a matter of fact, God wants His children to prosper, and this includes in their finances. The problem comes in when we put money above all else, and begin to view it as the only thing that matters.

1 Timothy 6:10 tells us that the LOVE of money, not money itself, is the root of all evil. In other words, what matters to God is how you view money, and where your focus is when it comes to your finances. The right way to view money is as a tool to take care of yourself and someday your family, to bless others, and to enable to gospel to be spread throughout the world. The wrong way to view money is to prioritize it above other things in your life that matter just as much or even more.

Red Steven’s poverty as a child led him to become so wrapped up in gaining wealth he neglected other important matters. Wealth isn’t what causes love of money. There are both rich and poor people who love money, and both rich and poor people who view it how God wants them to. Instead of trying to figure out where the limit is on how much money it’s ok for you to have, trust God with your finances, and focus on using the money you have in a way that honors Him. If you’ll do that, not only will you be blessed with the financial success God desires to give you, but you will also come to view money the way God desires for you to view it!

Glorify God Through Success

Glorify God Through Success

In the movie Woodawn, black high school running back, Tony Nathan, is encouraged to use his gifts for God. The sports chaplain tells him that it may be God’s plan for him to be a star. His coach takes notice of him, and gives him a chance to play a starting position at which he excels, thrusting him into the limelight. When he feels down because of the obstacles and difficulties he encounters, he is reminded by several people that he has encouraged and given hope to those around him by what he’s been accomplishing. As a matter of fact, the pastor of his church acknowledges in front of the entire congregation that he’s glorifying God by using his ability in football, and applauds him for it.

Sometimes Christians can have this mindset that you can’t desire or strive for success and truly be following God the way you should at the same time – almost like if you’re successful, you mustn’t really be on the path that God has for you. There’s this mentality that if you happen to have a lot of money, are in a career that puts you in the limelight, or really, really succeeding, you’re somehow less of a believer. Actually, nothing could be further from the truth!

God actually WANTS his people to succeed! He desires to lead and guide them, setting them up for success. He promises that if we delight in His Word, EVERYTHING we do will prosper (Ps 1:2-3). Psalm 45:12 declares that people of wealth will seek our favor. Isaiah 60:3&5 say that nations will be drawn to God’s light shining through us, and that the wealth of nations will come to us. Does this sound like God is against you succeeding?

Oftentimes, success can actually open up a greater platform for God’s people to share Him with the world. Those who have an abundance of money have an increased opportunity to bless others financially. If someone is well-known, as long as they stick with God instead of getting caught up in the fame, they are just in a more visible position to tell others about their faith. When believers experience success, and unbelievers ask how they achieved it, they have the chance to point them to the God who is responsible for it!

Obviously not everyone is famous or a billionaire, but God does desire for His people to live a prosperous, successful life in every area – to have successful godly relationships, to have all that they need and more in their finances, to do well in the career path He has for them, and to prosper in every other arena of their lives.

It saddens me when people think they need to choose between God and success. Just like Tony Nathan was able to glorify God through his success, pointing others to Him with the platform he’d been given, God wants us to prosper, and glorify him through that prosperity. Commit your life to the Lord, with the determination to stick close to Him even in the midst of success, and discover the amazing things He has in store for you!

You Have Been Gifted by God

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In Woodlawn, sports chaplain Hank sees potential in black running back, Tony Nathan. He tells Tony that he has a gift, and he needs to decide what he’s going to do with it. He says that if Tony plays for himself, he could be great, but that if he chooses to play for something higher, that’s when the extraordinary happens. He further states that God has a plan for everyone, and though he doesn’t know what God’s plan is for Tony, he thinks it is for him to be a star. Tony is skeptical, stating that there’s no such thing as a black superstar – at least not in Alabama. However, Coach Gerelds begins to notice him, and puts him in instead of the white player that had been filling his position. Tony Nathan excelled in his new position as running back, and ended up in fact becoming the star of the team!

Tony Nathan had been gifted by God as a running back. As he used the gift he had been given, he gave people hope, and brought glory to God. God has given each of us gifts and abilities, as well. Because each of us are unique, our talents and abilities are also unique. You might not be as gifted as someone you know in a certain area, but you are probably gifted in an area that they’re not. God wants us to use our talents for Him. As we do so, God will use us to bring Him glory, and share His love and grace with those around us!

As Tony began to use his ability as a running back and gain recognition for it, he encountered opposition from a variety of sources. White people didn’t like it that a black player had replaced a white player, and was the one who was in the limelight. Some black people didn’t like it that he was spending so much time with white people. As a matter of fact, someone threw a rock through a window of the house he lived in, with a note attached telling him to quit football, as well as burning a jersey with his number on it. Through it all, he persevered. He didn’t let opposition prevent him from following the path God had for him.

Just like Tony Nathan, sometimes when you’re using your talents and doing what God has called you to do, you’ll encounter opposition. There will be people who will say you’re too young, too old, not good enough, come from the wrong background, or pose some other objection. You might face a few speed bumps along the way. If this happens, just remember that God is on your side, and He’s got your back. Don’t let opposition keep you from doing what He’s called you to do!

God has a plan for your life. He’s gifted you in incredible ways. Use those talents for Him. Don’t let opposition stop you from following that path that He has for you!

God’s Favor Is Upon You

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In Woodlawn, black running back Tony Nathan goes from remaining silently invisible and taking a backseat on the football team to displaying an huge amount of courage and conviction, and becoming the star of the team. He grew up in the church, but really made his faith his own when a sports chaplain came to his school and shared Jesus with the team members. He goes on to play football both in college and at a professional level. His rise from obscurity to achievement and recognition shows just what can happen through God’s favor upon the life of an individual!

As a child of God, you have a major advantage – His divine favor. It surrounds you like a shield (Ps 5:12), causing you to be in the right place at the right time, attracting people important people to you (Ps 45:12), and making everything you do successful (Deu 28:8). His favor can enable you to rise to heights no one expected, and accomplish what no one thought you could.

It doesn’t matter what your background may be, or what you’re up against. God’s favor can overcome all of that. It can pull you from even the worst of situations, and do what you consider impossible. Regardless of whether you’ve had the most amazing, perfect life ever, or whether your past is one you’d rather forget, God has amazing plans for your life, and nothing is impossible with Him (Mark 10:27). As your Heavenly Father, He is on your side! Because He is for you, none will be able to stand against you (Rom 8:37)!

This favor from God is given to you freely as a gift. It isn’t something you can earn. There’s nothing you need to do to obtain it. All God wants is for you to accept it as yours, simply because you are His. Do so, and begin to live the incredible life that God desires for you!

Woodlawn, and the Power of the Gospel

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“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” Romans 1:16. Pureflix’s new movie, Woodlawn, clearly demonstrates this verse!

Based off of a true story, Woodlawn focuses on a high school in Birmingham, Alabama. Because of laws that were passed, the school was forced to become integrated, allowing both black and white students to attend. Black students were also allowed on the football team, which made the team members angry. All of this changed when a sports chaplain name Hank came to town and shared the gospel with the team. Almost the entire team responded by accepting Christ. After this happened, Coach Tandy Geralds found himself wondering why his team was the only place in the city where white and black people actually got along! However, the revival the football team had experienced soon spread to the rest of the school, a rival team, and the entire town, resulting in many, many lives changed by the gospel! The individuals who had experienced the power of the gospel in their own lives were not ashamed of it, and very bold in sharing their faith, standing up for it even in the face of adversity.

All throughout the movie, we see what happens when Jesus steps into people’s lives – hatred is replaced by love and respect for others, enemies become friends, and many are drawn to Him through His transforming power, displayed in the lives of those who have turned to Him. This is the kind of effect the gospel has! There is nothing else that can work this kind of a change – both individually and corporately among His followers. No amount of self-effort, motivational talk, or anything else can bring about true life transformation. The good news of what Christ has done is the power of God to save anyone and everyone who believes – no matter who they were or what they may have done before they accepted it!

Just like the people at Woodland high school whose lives were changed by the good news of Christ, we should be unashamed of our faith. Why be ashamed of something with that kind of power? The gospel is nothing to be embarrassed of or timid about – even though it may not be popular in our modern culture, it is what this world desperately needs. As a matter of fact, it is so amazing and exciting we should want to share it whenever we get the chance! Ask God to give you opportunities to share the gospel with those who need to be exposed to it.

Woodlawn clearly demonstrates both the transforming power of the gospel, and the fact that when we stand unashamed of it, amazing things can happen. If you haven’t already done so, will you accept what Christ has done for you? And if you have, will you begin to share the good news with others?

“Scripture quotations taken from the NASB.”

Myths About Christian Music

Myths About Christian Music

There are a number of myths about Christian music that have become quite popular. Are they really as true as they sound? Let’s take a look at a few of them.

Myth – All Christian music sounds the same. There’s no musical diversity. If I want to listen to a certain style, I need to turn on secular music.

Christian music is no less diverse than secular music. In music in general, whether secular or Christian, there are trends that are popular for a while, then fade away to be replaced by the next big thing. Maybe you aren’t into the trend that is popular right now, but rest assured that it will soon be replaced by another musical trend – one that may be more to your liking. And there are bands with styles different from what is currently in. All it takes is a little time exploring the world of Christian music to find one you love!

Myth – Christian music isn’t very good quality-wise. Musically, it can’t even begin to compare to secular songs.

Just like in the secular music biz, there are Christian songs that are less than stellar musically-speaking, and ones with high-quality music. And though it’s great to listen to music that you love, you need to pay a little attention to the lyrics as well, because what you are constantly listening to will eventually begin to affect how you view things.

Myth – Christian music isn’t as deep as it used to be, or should be.

Yet songs that don’t talk about Jesus at all are more deep? And some of the songs that we think are very surface-level, filled with “simple” concepts like the fact that God loves us and gives us second chances, are actually a lot more deep than we may think. God’s love and grace are so great we could study them forever, yet never do more than skim the surface. And the fact that Jesus gave His life for us when we didn’t even care about Him doesn’t make sense in the natural. It takes the help of the Holy Spirit to really understand what He did for us at the cross.

Myth – Who’s to say what makes music “Christian?” Any song that is positive or morally sound is Christian music.

This is probably the myth that I’ve heard the most often. Think about it like this – does being a good person get you to heaven? No, it doesn’t! In the same way, you can have a good song that isn’t necessarily a Christian song. How do you tell whether or not a song is a Christian song? It’s very simple – does it talk about Christ? If it doesn’t have anything to do with Him, then no matter how good it is, it probably isn’t a Christian song. Why is it some important to listen to Christian music? Because songs that are centered on Christ can encourage you in your faith and help you draw close to God in a way that secular songs simply can’t!

Which of these myths have you heard?

Introducing I Am They

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Lifest – Oshkosh, WI

Newcomers to the Christian music scene I Am They are off to a great start in their career! They released their self-titled debut album towards the end of this past January, and have been going strong ever since. They joined the Rock and Worship Roadshow this past winter/spring, alongside MercyMe, Jamie Grace, Group 1 Crew, and other big-name artists in the faith-based music biz, in addition to joining Matt Maher for the Saints and Sinners tour. Recently, they were nominated for the Dove Awards New Artist of the Year award!

I Am They originally formed as a worship ministry in 2008, called Solomon’s Porch. In 2011, the band took on the name I Am They, the name they’ve become known by professionally. The band has felt blessed to do what they’ve been doing, pursuing God’s call for them, which has been quite a journey!

When asked to describe the band’s style of music, Adam Palmer called it folk-pop. “We’re very much an acoustic band,” he continues – with few, if any, electric guitars, or anything like that, on their album. He said their sound is very organic, because that’s what they both started with and write on. “We just kind of stick to what we know,” he explains.

I Am They’s debut album contains 10 songs that band member Adam Palmer says are very precious to them – very much from their stories and their hearts. “It’s been neat to see how the church and how the listeners have been able to just kind of own those (the songs) as prayers with a melody,” he continues. “It’s been amazing to see how these songs are touching people’s lives.” Band member Matt Hein said that some ladies he worked with for 10 years who don’t know Jesus or listen to Christian music actually picked up a cd, and haven’t taken it out of their cd player since! “They’re hearing the gospel for the first time,” Matt says, “and for us, that’s what it’s all about, so that’s been very, very much a blessing for us, as well.”

I Am They has come out with music videos for two of their songs – “From the Day,” and “Your Love Is Mine.”  The video for “From the Day,” the band’s first single, was filmed out in a field that’s right out in their back yard, in Nevada. “You can tell we’re in Nevada, because our faces are all wind-blown . . .” Matt Hein comments. The video for “Your Love Is Mine” was actually filmed amidst the trees in the forest!

If you like music with a folksy/slightly country kind of feel, make sure you check out I Am They’s debut album. They have had a great beginning to their career, and a bright future ahead of them!

Over the summer, I got to chat with a few of the band members. See what they have to say about the band’s journey so far, and their hopes and plans for the future!

Time Travel Acheived! – Reliving the 60s

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Have you ever wished that you could time travel? Have you ever wondered what it would be like to visit the past? Well, now you can! As a matter of fact, right at this very moment, you are reliving the decade that took place about 50 years ago – the 60s!

One day, I was watching a show on tv where they were trying to depict the scene of a coffee shop in the 60s. While watching it, something looked familiar. Then I remembered – I had seen almost the exact same thing at a shop that I stopped at to grab coffee a few weeks earlier! After taking some time to research the 60s online, I found that there are many striking similarities between today and back then.

Why should this be a surprise? Ecclesiastes 1:9 specifically tells us that what has been will be again, and that what has been done will once again be done, for there is nothing new under the sun.

History really does repeat itself! Here are a few of the similarities between where we are today, and what was taking place during the 60s –

  • Many were against the Vietnam war, just as there are many today who think that we shouldn’t have gone to war w/Iraq, and who oppose very heavy American military involvement in the Middle East.
  • The civil rights movement was taking place, and today we’re dealing with things like the situation in Baltimore that took place earlier this year, and other similar events.
  • In the 60s, the younger generation began to rebel against more conservative views, and take on the mindset that you should be able to do whatever you want, and people should just accept you. Isn’t that the perspective many young people today have?
  • In the 60s, the feminist movement was big, and it’s an issue we’re hearing a lot about today.
  • In the 60s, the gay rights movement began to pick up, and just recently, the US passed a law allowing same-sex marriage.
  • Starting in the late 60s, the Jesus Movement took place when hippie culture and Christianity collided. Today, we are seeing within the church a resurgence of the kind of thinking that was popular during the Jesus Movement as believers try to remain relevant to the world around them. (The way many are doing this is by trying to be as much like the world as possible so that people will be drawn to Christianity as something cool and trendy. The danger is that we may water down Christianity so much in an attempt to get people to accept it, that even the most basic, essential Christian beliefs become completely eroded.)

Romans 15:4 says that everything that was written in the past was written to teach us. That’s the main reason for studying history – so that we can learn from it, copying what previous generations did right, and hopefully avoiding some of the mistakes that they made. If we’re really reliving the 60s, what can we learn from what happened then that we can apply to our lives today?

Serve Out of Your Position with God As His Child

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When it comes to serving, what is your mindset? How do you approach it? Where does your motivation come from?

When you think about what the Bible has to say on serving, what story pops into your mind first? Could it be where Jesus washes His disciples’ feet in John 13? We often use this chapter to say that Jesus set us an example of serving others, and because He did that, it is important for us to follow that example and serve those around us as well.

One of the verses we often overlook or dismiss as inconsequential in John 13 verse 3, which says that Jesus knew three things – that God had given Him authority and power, that He had come from God, and that He was returning to God. It was with that knowledge that He got up from the meal and washed the feet of His disciples. In other words, He wasn’t serving to earn a position with God. He knew that He already belonged to God, who was pleased with Him, and He served out of the position that He had with God.

Sometimes, we have the mindset towards serving that it’s one of the things God demands that we do if we want Him to be pleased with us. We do it in an attempt to earn His approval. If this is our reason for serving – to try to gain a position with God – we will get frustrated and burned out very quickly. On the other hand, if we realize that God already approves of and is pleased with us because of what Jesus did at the cross, we will be motivated to serve and minister to others out of a desire to share the amazing love and grace He has shown to us. This kind of motivation will be far more lasting, because His love and grace are without limit, and He desires to be constantly giving us a greater revelation of just how great they really are!

Why do you serve? To gain a position with God and His approval, out of the position you know you already have with Him as His child? Realize that God already accepts and cares about you, and begin to serve out of a desire to share the One who has shown you amazing goodness, mercy, grace, and love!