We think it is all about our initiative and our effort, when in fact that is the worst way to live the Christian life.

AN INTERVIEW WITH JOHN BRANDON ABOUT THE BOOK LIFEBLOOD article from http://lifebloodinus.com/

Why did you decide to write this book?

I was living in a cabin on a lake, and I had relocated my office to a garage. I was writing a daily column while working in an area surrounded by boxes and fishing gear. One of my columns that summer was about being driven — how it’s important to keep pushing yourself. Since I typically write about leadership and management, it seemed like an interesting topic, because many leaders in business tend to drive forward under their own power. Companies like Facebook or Google initially started because of one or two people promoting a crazy idea.

That got me thinking about Jesus, and about my own Christian life. One thing led to another, and I found myself writing an entire chapter of a book. I wanted to write about how Christians often try to do the same thing as entrepreneurs in business, that we push and push and push. We think it is all about our initiative and our effort, when in fact that is the worst way to live the Christian life. It ends in failure and burnout. I felt a tug on my own heart, that I was the one making all of the decisions in my life about how to be a good Christian. It wasn’t working. So I decided to write about how God has propelled me instead, those Holy Spirit moments when it’s obvious that the only way to “succeed” spiritually is to let God do the driving.

Why did you decide to write about marriage, and friendships, and community?

They say to write about what you know. In my “day job” writing a column for Inc. Magazine and Fox News Network, I tend to cover topics that are well within my own expertise. I was a corporate manager for about a decade, and I write about those experiences often. For many years, I tested products and reviewed them, so I still write about gadgets. But there’s one area where I’m more personally experienced than any other, and it is in living my own Christian life for the past 30 years. I’ve seen how God has worked in my marriage, in friendships, in the workplace — it’s amazing to see his hands of grace guiding me.

Who is your audience?

I’m glad you asked! I do have a reader in mind, and it is someone who is struggling to move forward spiritually. I guess that is all of us, in a way. Even the most spiritually mature person in the world is not always moving forward o finding great spiritual success. We might experience periods of tremendous growth, but then we stall out. We might finally confront an inner demon, only to see another one pop up out of nowhere! I know how this all works. Lifeblood is really intended as a message to struggling Christians, and the main message is to realize that it is the Holy Spirit inside of you who brings about real change and growth. In many ways, the message is to relax. To stop worrying so much. To let God have all of the control.

Why is this book worth reading?

I realize there are many, many books available — most of them are probably more interesting! The one reason to read Lifeblood, though, is to hear a message of hope that you can live victoriously and without the guilt of feeling as though you have to be in charge of your own spiritual destiny. Lifeblood is not intended as a “self help” book but a “Jesus help” book. It’s a total transformation in how we view our Christian lives, how we make decisions and how we advance spiritually. It is not under our own power. It is by him and through him.


About John Brandon: John Brandon is a well-known reporter and columnist for Inc. magazine, Fox News Network, Christianity TodayRelevant magazine, and many others. For ten years, he worked as a corporate manager in the Information Technology field. After 9/11, John’s employer (who became nervous about the world economy) fired him. At the advice of his wife, he became a writer and has since published over twelve thousand articles in seventeen years. Over ten million people have read his thought-pieces on leadership, productivity, mentoring, and technology for Inc.com. He lives in Minnesota with his wife, Rebecca, and has four children, two sons-in-law, and three grandchildren. This is his first book.


About Lifeblood: Lifeblood is what flows through us when we first find Christ; but as time goes on, we start to grow stale in our spiritual life. Not simply a how-to book, Lifeblood is about getting back to the basics of Christianity and making life-altering communion with Jesus possible every minute of the day. Tapping in to your lifeblood starts with you; but it will flow to your friendships, marriage and family, church, work, and even your community. Lifeblood is available for pre-order https://www.clcpublications.com/shop/lifeblood-tapping-into-jesus-as-the-true-source-of-renewal/

Dealing with Sin

From the CLC Bible Companion

By his death, Jesus dealt with the sin that has so devastatingly disrupted the life of God’s world and its fellowship with him.


The early Christians expressed their understanding of the significance of Jesus’ death with a simple summary statement: “Christ died for our sins, according to the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3). This short summary, however, called to mind a whole world of meaning from the Old Testament, which helped the first Christians to understand what Jesus had done for them. For a start, Jesus had done something about “sin”.

  • A history of sin.

In the Old Testament, sin was not a vague term referring to general moral failings, as it is sometimes used today. Sin could only be named as “sin” within a particular context: the context of relationship with God. God had established the world as a place where humans could flourish in life as they remained in constant, obedient fellowship with him (Genesis 2:15-17). But, no sooner had this relationship been established, than humans stepped outside its boundaries by disobeying God’s command (3:6), and so losing the blessings of life with him (3:16-24). From then on, sin was always “lurking at the door” (4:7), disrupting the peace of God’s creation, and turning humans away from him.

Throughout the Old Testament, God called a particular people to come back into fellowship with him. He rescued the nation of Israel from slavery in the land of Egypt so that there would once again be people who would enjoy life as he had intended. He made a covenant with them, committing himself to them and asking them to commit to him. To help them live constantly within this covenant, he gave them the gift of a law, known as the Torah, which described the kind of life that remained within the boundaries of his covenant. Obeying God’s Torah was not supposed to be a heavy burden, but a joyful delight – it affirmed that God wanted his creation to be blessed. As Israel stayed close to him, they would show the rest of the world what God’s life-giving holiness looked like (Exodus 19:5-6). However, sin was still “lurking at the door”, and the people of Israel were quick to go out to it, and let it into their midst. Time after time, sin disrupted God’s covenant, and turned his people away from him.

  • A definition of sin.

Simply put, sin is missing the way of life that God intends. Within the context of Israel, this way of life had been clearly described by God’s good commands in the Torah (see Psalm 119, a song of praise to God for his law). Sin in Israel, therefore, was to disobey God’s law and step outside his holy way of life. It could happen deliberately, as God’s people intentionally turned away from him, or unintentionally, as they were simply caught up in the waywardness of the world around them (see Leviticus 4). Importantly, sin is not simply an action – failing to live up to a list of do’s and don’ts – but an attitude of the heart: human life that is out of step with God from the very centre of its being.

  • The result of sin.

The Old Testament had many different ways to describe the consequences of sin, all of them negative. It caused banishment from God’s blessing (Genesis 3:24); it created uncleanness that spread like a malicious virus through society (see Leviticus 5:2); it brought guilt and shame and despair (Psalm 6:1-7); it grew unchecked into whole systems of evil and injustice (eg Amos 1–2); and it resulted in the ultimate banishment from God’s presence – death. God’s constant judgement about sin was that it had to be removed if people were to live. If it were not removed, then they would die, both now and eternally.


The first Christians proclaimed that Jesus had “died for sin”. The background to this was the sacrificial system of the Old Testament. Through sacrifice, God had provided a way for sin to be dealt with, so that his people would not be swept away by his judgement about sin and its disastrous consequences, but rather be restored to life and fellowship with him.

  • The sin offering.

Leviticus 4:1–5:13 describes the procedure for presenting a sacrifice for sin to God. To us today, the amount of bloodshed involved in these sacrifices may seem excessive, but in the ancient context where animals were sacrificed by all societies in their thousands and millions, God’s instructions were in fact restrained and gracious – there was a standard procedure and by following it closely the worshipper could know that they were back in fellowship with God. They did not need to sacrifice for the same sin twice. The procedure was clear: if a person sinned, they were to bring an animal to the priest, confess the sin and lay their hand on the head of the animal as it was slaughtered. This signified that this costly sacrifice had died in the place of the sinner. Blood was sprinkled inside the sanctuary, signifying that God had accepted the offering and the carcass of the animal was completely burned up. The sin had been removed from the sinner, so that it could no longer riddle the fellowship of God’s people with its devastating consequences. The priest would declare the sin “forgiven”, which meant that God and his people were once again “at one” (atonement, Leviticus 4:20,26,31, etc.). The death of the sacrifice meant the life of the worshipper.

  • The Day of Atonement.

Once a year, all Israel observed the Day of Atonement, on which the whole nation was cleansed (Leviticus 16:34). Central to the proceedings were two goats. On this day alone, the high priest entered the Most Holy Place, with a bowl of blood from one of the goats. He came out of the Most Holy Place and made atonement for each area of the sanctuary in turn, in order to show clearly that forgiveness and cleansing had been initiated by God himself (16:15-19). Then the high priest laid hands on the second goat and confessed over it all the sins of Israel. It would be sent out into the wilderness, where it would die, signifying that God had removed sin from the people completely – the goat had borne it away (16:22). Free of sin, God’s people were re-established in their relationship with him, and could go in peace to live out his covenant in their lives. Once again, a sacrifice had died in order to let God’s people live.


The first Christians understood Jesus’ death as a sacrifice for sin against this Old Testament and contemporary Jewish background.

  • The sacrifice of the new covenant.

Jesus’ death brought God’s covenant with Israel to its climactic end (Romans 10:4) and ushered in a new, better covenant. The old covenant, which included the sacrificial system, had been intended to cleanse Israel from their sin so that they could demonstrate to the nations what it meant to live in intimate fellowship with God. But throughout their history, God’s people had struggled to stay in fellowship with him, time and again being overwhelmed by sin and its consequences. The constant sacrifice of animals was not working – sin was still rampant among God’s people.

The writer of Hebrews had grasped the profound significance of Jesus’ death. Unlike the sacrifices in the temple, which had to be offered time after time because they never really cleansed the worshipper (10:4), Jesus “has appeared once for all at the end of the age to remove sin by the sacrifice of himself ” (9:26). Jesus was the reality of atonement, of which all the Old Testament sacrifices had just been shadows and anticipations (“sketches of heavenly things”, 9:23). His sacrificial death had brought about a new covenant relationship with God.

  • The universal sacrifice.

As part of the new covenant, Jesus’ sacrifice was not just for Israel, but for the whole world. John the Baptist had said, recalling the imagery of the Day of Atonement, that Jesus was “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). Certainly, he had been crucified as a direct result of the sin of those who rejected him; but in a profound sense, he had died with the weight of the whole world’s sin on his shoulders. The world is the sort of place where the Son of God, who brings only grace and truth, can be crucified (John 1:10-11,17). But because of Jesus’ sacrifice, it is also the sort of place that can be freed to live with God.

  • A liberating and cleansing sacrifice.

As Jesus explained to his disciples at the Last Supper, he was going to his death to bring about the forgiveness of sins (Matthew 26:28). He would bear the devastating agony of sin’s true consequences in his own body, so that others would not have to. At the moment he died, the curtain into the Most Holy Place in the temple was torn in two (Matthew 27:50-51). The way in to fellowship and new life with God – the way that had been blocked by sin – had now been opened for all (see Ephesians 2:18; Hebrews 10:19-20; 1 Peter 3:18). But also, as pictured by the Day of Atonement, God’s cleansing power could sweep out of the temple into the world. Through Jesus, all can be cleansed and purified, so that they may worship God with the life he always intended (Hebrews 9:14).

Jesus’ sacrificial death is, in fact, central to his announcement of the kingdom. Without being set free from sin, it would be impossible for his followers to share in the life of God’s promised kingdom. Without a sacrifice for sin, God’s judgement about sin would remain over them – their lives would end in death (Romans 6:23). However, because he died “for our sins” (1 Corinthians 15:3), bearing them away in his own body (1 Peter 2:24), people who come to him are set free from sin to live in God’s new covenant, looking forward to the fulfilment of their salvation in his new creation. Jesus’ death as a sacrifice for sin enables a great, gracious exchange to take place: he took our sin, so that we might share in his righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21; Romans 3:21-26)!


About The CLC Bible Companion The CLC Bible Companion is an all-in-one guide to the Bible that is both a comprehensive reference book and an exciting companion. Its goals for you are to: Know Jesus Christ, Discover the Contents of the Bible, Explore the Truth of the Bible, and Believe and Experience the Message of the Bible. The CLC Bible Companion is on special promotion for a limited time, you may purchase the CLC Bible Companion for $10.00 while supplies last. (retail price $29.99 for hardcover) To learn more about the CLC Bible Companion and purchase, please visit: https://www.clcpublications.com/deals-discounts/


Download Free PowerPoint Resources for your Bible Studies:

Knowing Jesus 1

“Music appeared on my bedroom wall as I was lying in my bed before dawn”

Denice Rippentrop, Composer – March 2018

From the Pen of Composer Denice Rippentrop

It was in the late 1970s that I first trusted in God’s divine Son, Jesus the Christ, as my Lord and Savior for the forgiveness of my sins. I believed in the death of Christ on the cross to pay for my sins, the resurrection of Christ to provide life everlasting, and Christ’s gift of salvation, which can only be received by faith, apart from works or merit on my part. My life changed miraculously!

A few years later I heard a poem by Amy Carmichael for the first time. It was called “No Scar?” and I heard it on a radio program. Amy’s words moved deep into my soul as a picture came to my mind. I saw the scars on my Savior’s hands, feet, and side—and it tore into me. To think that He has these scars and I have none. I was so taken by this scene in my mind I could hardly breathe.

At that point, I searched endlessly for every poem and book by Amy Carmichael. I was so moved by the deep meaning of her words—written in a style unique only to her—as well as her display of vocabulary and the images portrayed in her words. Her utter devotion to Jesus Christ came through in her every word. She loved beyond herself. She never took her eyes off the cross of Jesus Christ and His eternal, unending love.

In 1987 I was at Hamline University in Saint Paul, Minnesota working on my master’s degree. My synthesis was composing music to eleven Amy Carmichael poems, ending in a concert of these works. The concert was given at Incarnation Lutheran Church in Shoreview, Minnesota under the direction of Bonnie Doole. My daughter Tammy gave a reading on the life of Amy Carmichael. I still can hear her presenting this reading. She gave an outstanding presentation.

After that concert I continued to write sacred and secular choral works. Much of my writing has been impacted by one of my composition professors, Dr. Jody Rockmaker. Throughout the years I have received many honors and commissions and have given numerous performances of my music.

Alison Beck, pianist

Then, nineteen years after the concert in 1987, music appeared on my bedroom wall as I was lying in my bed before dawn. At first, I thought I was dreaming. There were several pages, and the first three pages had three music staves showing a solo voice and piano. The music appeared two more mornings; but this time, Amy Carmichael’s name was written in the top left-hand corner and my name was written in the top right-hand corner. I asked God to show the music again if this was from Him. And, my Holy Father did. I knew I had to write it down.   

The Holy Spirit led me to Amy Carmichael’s book If. One by one, the fifteen Amy Carmichael statements that I was to write music to were shown to me.

“If at the Moment,” the first song on my CD If (What Do I Know of Calvary’s Love?), is the music I saw on the wall the first morning. The text says:

“If the moment I am conscious of the shadow of self crossing my threshold, I do not shut the door, and in the power of Him who works in us to will and to do, keep that door shut, then I know nothing of Calvary Love.”

Vanessa Libbey, vocalist

As Amy Carmichael said of her book If, “[These statements] are not meant to be read one after the other. Perhaps only one “If” here and there may have the needed word.” As you listen to the CD, I ask that you give each song the time it needs to reach the depths of your soul, as Amy so desired.

Vanessa Libbey, the vocalist on the CD, is a classically trained soprano. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Luther College and resides in New York City.

Alison Beck, the pianist on the CD, earned her master of music degree in piano performance from the University of North Texas. She resides in New York City.

The recording took place at Avatar Recording Studio in New York City from April 18­–20, 2017.


All lyrics in If (What Do I Know of Calvary’s Love?) are from If by Amy Carmichael, ©1938 The Dohnavur Fellowship. Used by Permission of CLC Publications. May not be further reproduced. All Rights Reserved.

About If by Amy Carmichael: Amy Carmichael questions whether we allow our doubts and disappointments to hinder our faith, or do we really know Calvary’s love? In a series of statements and common situations, a Christ-love of forgiveness and strength is meant to mend our hearts and encourage others, because of what He has already done. Purchase the book with a CD featuring words from If performed by Vanessa Libby, soprano soloist, and Alison Beck, pianist. https://www.clcpublications.com/shop/if-by-amy-carmichael-cd-bundle/


About Amy Carmichael: Amy Carmichael was the eldest daughter of a large Christ-centered family in Millisle, Ireland. She was impressed at an early age that “nothing is important but that which is eternal.” This understanding proved to be the foundation for her service to the Lord among the mill workers of Ireland, the Japanese briefly, and then in India where she began her ministry to children in 1895 and where she remained until her death in 1951.

Knowing Jesus: Jesus, the Son of God

From the CLC Bible Companion.

Jesus’ understanding of his mission and the events of his life reveal his unique relationship with God and his true identity as the Son of the Father.


The declaration of Jesus as the Son of God was central to the faith and preaching of the first Christians, and continues to be so to this day. Mark tells his readers at the beginning of his Gospel that the Jesus whose story he is about to recount is “the Son of God” (Mark 1:1). The first message preached by Paul after his encounter with the risen Jesus on the road to Damascus was that “he is the Son of God” (Acts 9:20). In 1 John, the confession that Jesus is God’s Son is seen as the key to the whole Christian life (1 John 4:15; 5:5,10,12). However, the first Christians did not invent this belief; it is grounded in the life, teaching and mission of Jesus himself.


Jesus’ disciples would already have been familiar with the term “son of God” from two main contexts.

  • The Old Testament.

The people of Israel knew that they had a special relationship with the true God. When God had rescued them from slavery in Egypt, he had sent a message to Pharaoh through Moses, saying, “Israel is my firstborn son. Let my son go so that he may worship me” (Exodus 4:22-23; see also Hosea 11:1). In the ancient Middle East, as in many places today, the firstborn son had a special status within family life: he enjoyed the closest relationship with his father and often spoke and acted on the father’s behalf. Among all the nations of the world, Israel was God’s firstborn son, enjoying his lavish love and blessing and being called to act on his behalf in the world (eg Deuteronomy 7).

Later, the king of Israel was also seen as the “son of God”, because of God’s promise to David in 2 Samuel 7:14. The king represented in one individual what the whole nation was supposed to be. Psalm 2, which was possibly sung at the coronation of kings in Israel, mentions the close relationship with God that the king enjoyed, as well as his special responsibilities to act on God’s behalf (see also Psalm 89:19-37). Of course, it soon became clear that neither the nation of Israel nor the king were fulfilling their responsibilities as God’s “son”. Passages in the Dead Sea Scrolls indicate that at least some Jews expected the coming Messiah to be the true “son of God”.

  • Pharaohs, kings and emperors.

Israel was not the only nation to use the term “son of God” to describe their ruler. In the ancient Near East, both Egypt and Babylon also gave this title to their pharaohs and kings. For them, it highlighted the special relationship the king was thought to enjoy with the gods, and so underlined his authority to rule. Whereas in Israel the use of the term did not mean that either the king or the nation was in any sense divine (but merely a human representative of God), this distinction was not as clear for other nations, who thought that the gods might adopt heroic leaders as divine sons.

For instance, in the fourth century BC, Alexander the Great declared himself to be a son of the god Zeus, and expected actually to become a god after his death. He asked his subjects to worship him as divine during his lifetime! In the Roman Empire it was commonly believed that an emperor became a god at his death; his successor was then called a “divine son”, or a “son of god”.

This belief was inscribed on some Roman coins, which have been discovered by archaeologists. For instance, the penny that Jesus asked to see in Mark 12:13-17 was probably marked with the inscription “Augustus Tiberius Caesar, Son of the Divine Augustus”. The early Christians proclaimed Jesus to be the true “son of God” written about in the Old Testament. They did so in a world where the term was used as a political title for emperors who demanded worship. However, they also knew that Jesus had transformed the meaning of the term, because he was the Son of God in a new and unique way.


In one of his parables, Jesus tells the story of a man who owned a vineyard. He leased the vineyard to some tenants and then went away for a long time. When it came to the harvest, he sent servants back to the vineyard to collect his share of the produce. However, the tenants attacked his servants and chased them away. Eventually, the man sent his own son, thinking the tenants would respect him. But instead they murdered the son, and so faced the owner’s judgement (Matthew 21:33-39). Jesus’ hearers knew from the Old Testament that the nation of Israel was the vineyard (see Isaiah 5:1-7; Psalm 80:8-18), and the Jewish leaders could tell that they were the tenants who were supposed to care for it (Matthew 21:45). The owner was, of course, God himself; his servants were the prophets who had been sent to warn Israel to produce a crop of righteousness for God (see John the Baptist’s message in Luke 3:8). In the parable, Jesus is the owner’s son: he has been sent after all the prophets to turn the tenants from their wicked ways and make the vineyard productive once more.

Just as the Old Testament background suggests, Jesus as the Son of God came to accomplish the Father’s work. The Son is the Father’s chief representative who can act with the Father’s authority. Peter recognised that Jesus was not just another prophet, but that he was “the Messiah, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16) – Peter had recognized that Jesus had a unique role in bringing God’s plan to its climax. Jesus was the Father’s Son!

Sometimes people called Jesus the “son of David”, which is a reminder of God’s promise in 2 Samuel 7:14 that the great coming king in the line of David would be the son of God (eg Mark 10:47). In John 1:49 Jesus is declared to be both “the king of Israel” and “the Son of God”, showing the clear connection between these two terms. From the earliest days of his earthly life, Jesus was aware that he had been sent to work in his Father’s business, just as a firstborn son would be (Luke 2:49; John 8:42). To call Jesus “the Son of God” is a recognition that Jesus acts completely on his Father’s behalf (John 10:36-37), so that whatever he does, it is what the Father wants (John 5:19). As God’s Son, Jesus fulfils all God’s promises from the Old Testament (2 Corinthians 1:19-20).


Jews have always been careful about the terms they use to speak to and about God. Although God’s personal name (in Hebrew, YHWH) was revealed to Moses in Exodus 3:14, Jews tended to avoid using it in case they broke the third commandment (see Exodus 20:7). In Jesus’ day, they used other less personal terms, such as “God”, “Lord”, “the Blessed One” (Mark 14:61), or simply “Heaven” (Mark 11:30).

Jesus, however, used the most intimate language to speak about his relationship with God. In the four Gospels, he consistently speaks of God as “Father” around 150 times (around 100 times in John’s Gospel alone). In the garden of Gethsemane, just before his arrest, Jesus prayed using the term “Abba”, which is an everyday Aramaic term meaning “Daddy” that expresses the closest relationship of love and trust between a child and his father (Mark 14:36). As the Son of God, Jesus has seen the Father (John 6:46), and so is able to make him known to others (Luke 10:22; John 1:18).

Just as Jesus trusts the Father, so the Father trusts Jesus as his Son to do his will (Matthew 11:27). At two key points in Jesus’ ministry, God’s voice is heard saying, “This is my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased”: at his baptism (Matthew 3:17; Mark 1:11; Luke 3:22) and his transfiguration (Matthew 17:5; Mark 9:7; Luke 9:35).


Key aspects of Jesus’ life helped the first Christians to realise that he was the “Son of God” in a new and unique way.

  • His incarnation.

Jesus was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit of God, rather than by a human father (Matthew 1:18,20; Luke 1:35). Jesus also consistently spoke of how he had “come from the Father” (eg John 16:28). Whereas for other humans, birth is the beginning of life, Jesus’ birth was an incarnation – he had existed as the Son of God before his human birth. Unlike the pagan rulers, Jesus was not an adopted son of the gods, but the eternal Son of God.

  • Recognition by Satan and demons.

Whereas Jesus’ true identity was hidden from his disciples during his earthly ministry, it was recognised by Satan (Matthew 4:3,6; Luke 4:3,9) and by demons (eg Luke 8:28).

  • His resurrection and ascension.

Jesus was put to death because of his claim to be speaking and acting as the Son of God (see Luke 22:70-71). His resurrection was God’s confirmation that Jesus had spoken the truth about himself. Paul pointed to the resurrection as the revelation, or declaration, of Jesus’ true identity as the Son of God (Romans 1:4). After his resurrection, Jesus returned to the Father (John 16:28; 20:17) to be in the place of honour at his right hand (Acts 7:56; Hebrews 1:2-3).

  • His work of salvation.

The first Christians knew that Jesus had given them a new, intimate relationship with God (eg Galatians 4:4-6). As they made sense of this, they realised Jesus could only do this if he himself were God’s Son in a unique way – if he fully shared the same divine nature as his Father. When they looked back over his life and teachings, they saw that this was in fact what Jesus was all along. The term “Son of God” had been enriched and transformed. Jesus the Son is to be trusted and worshipped just like his Father.


About The CLC Bible Companion The CLC Bible Companion is an all-in-one guide to the Bible that is both a comprehensive reference book and an exciting companion. Its goals for you are to: Know Jesus Christ, Discover the Contents of the Bible, Explore the Truth of the Bible, and Believe and Experience the Message of the Bible. The CLC Bible Companion is on special promotion for a limited time, you may purchase the CLC Bible Companion for $10.00 while supplies last. (retail price $29.99 for hardcover) To learn more about the CLC Bible Companion and purchase, please visit: https://www.clcpublications.com/deals-discounts/


Download Free PowerPoint Resources for your Bible Studies:

Knowing Jesus 1

Five Ways Your Church Can Avoid Wallpaper Worship

By Danny Byram, author of Wallpaper Worship: Why Church Music Sounds Better, Fewer Are Singing, and What to Do About It

So, what is wallpaper worship? It is very easy to spot. Just walk into a church, grab a coffee, and find a seat. When the music starts, you are free to sit and sip, stand and watch, roam the sanctuary, find someone to visit with (if the volume allows), or skip it altogether and get a coffee refill in the lobby. Wallpaper worship is the religious equivalent of music in a store or a dentist’s office. It is great music, but it is not designed for participation. Wallpaper worship is meant to simply be listened to or observed as it is performed. Worshippers who come to participate are not actually able to because it sounds so good, so slick, so produced, and so well-performed that you don’t want to mess it up by actually singing along with it. The vibe communicated from the platform is “Just sit back and relax; we’ll do this for you.”

In his classic book Worship is a Verb, Robert E. Webber states, “[Worship] is not something done to us or for us, but by us.” Webber’s view, like the view of so many frustrated worshippers today, was founded upon a principle that was at the heart of the sixteenth-century Reformation. That principle touted a new and radical idea: Believers should be able to express their beliefs and their worship of God freely, openly, and corporately without any priests or clergy doing it for them. Today we are in a pre-Reformation cycle of wallpaper worship. Our ability to perform music and speak publicly has become so formulaic that church has become akin to a museum or concert hall. All you have to do is show up and assume the role of an audience.

Here are five ways your church can avoid the common trap known as wallpaper worship. (Some of what I have written is to leaders and some to those being led. Feel free to pass these five principles along as is appropriate for your situation.)

  1. Cast a vision. Church leaders need to decide what kind of church they will lead. Will yours be a typical wallpaper worship church, or will you make the changes necessary to encourage, facilitate, and promote participation? To simply say the church wants congregants to participate will never accomplish it. Specific changes need to occur from the church leadership in order to bridge the gap between the people and the platform. Many worshippers have experienced the discouragement of trying to articulate to leaders their desire for change, only to be dismissed as out of touch. For instance, one church I know trains their ushers to hand out earplugs if people come to the lobby to complain about the volume of the “show.” One of the leaders of that church made it clear to me that if people don’t like it, they can find the door. Casting a vision for participation involves more than lip service. It takes sincere action to gently bring congregants into the fold of participation. An attitude from leaders of “It’s not our fault if they don’t participate” is a cop-out and a justification for wallpaper worship. If you’re part of a church that refuses to cast a vision for participation, then find one that will.
  2. Use your binoculars. When I was producing and directing the Promise Keepers stadium events for men (events that filled NFL-sized stadiums around the nation in the mid-1990s), it was difficult to know if the attendees in the upper sections at the far end of the stadium were connecting with what was happening on the platform. From the opposite end of the stadium, the platform looked like the size of a postage stamp. I would step out from the stage side producer’s tent and look through binoculars to spot those in the far-off upper section seats to see if they were as engaged as the men sitting in chairs on the field in front of us. If we were losing participants from music or a speaker that was not engaging, we would change what we were doing until we saw 100 percent participation. Only by looking through “binoculars” can one see to what degree a platform is or is not connecting with those it is supposed to be leading. Proverbs 27:23 says, “Know well the condition of your flocks.” Pay attention. If people are not participating, the effectiveness of the leadership is questionable.
  3. Try painting in more than one color. Have you ever been to an art exhibit or a museum where all the paintings are in one color? How tedious would it become to view paintings throughout galleries and hallways that are exclusively in blue? When we plan and execute worship services in one narrow style, we are painting in one color. Try using a capella. Calm down the instruments and let the people sing and hear themselves sing. Try using a responsive reading where people hear their voices reciting Scripture aloud and in unison. Try an unplugged, acoustic set of music once or twice a month. Try using a live, classical, sacred piece somewhere appropriate to your service order or content. Why does everything have to be one style, one sound, one means of expression? Music listeners of all ages today access more styles and cultures of music than ever before through Pandora, Spotify, and YouTube. But in today’s church, only one style seems to be allowed. The colors of the artist’s palette are many. Try painting with more than one.
  4. Earn the trust. I once read on a popular worship blog, “The more they sing with you, the more they will trust you.” My experience with producing large and small worship events for decades is the opposite: The more they trust you, the more they will sing with you. Congregants are conditioned by the culture of the church. If the people in the pews sense the worship service is simply a performance to be observed, they will be reluctant to participate—even if given the chance in an a capella song. Leaders need to earn the trust of those they lead. Trust is earned over time by casting a vision for participation and letting congregants hear themselves; it is even earned in the unplanned ambiguity of following the Spirit’s leading.
  5. Be familiar. There is more worship music being written and released today than ever before. Most of it is unfamiliar, even to the select people who listen to Christian radio stations in their cars every day. Musicians tend to think they need to be teaching or performing all the latest material. This is a ruse and it leads to nonparticipation. The more that is new, the less they will know. Do the new stuff, but also use familiar songs that are dear to congregants young and old—songs and worship elements that have stood the test of time and personal devotion. Most of what is heard today will not be around two years from now. A gracious and trusted shepherd leads the sheep with a familiar rod and staff. Leaders have an obligation not only to lead the sheep beside still waters but to actually let them drink. They will be comforted knowing that their shepherd has their best interests in mind. Trust will result. Participation will follow.

Throughout history, wallpaper worship has cycled in and out. It thrives in times of prosperity but disappears in times of struggle or persecution. Whether you are a leader or a worshipper being led, it is time to bridge the gap between the platform and the people. Worshippers today are frustrated when they are not led in worship and feel they are being used as an audience. But take courage: When the bride is frustrated, the Bridegroom pays attention. “The hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship Him” (John 4:23).

Danny Byram teaches a one-day workshop called “Wallpaper Worship Removal: The Tools and Tips for Encouraging a Participating Congregation.” Book a workshop by contacting dbminc1@gmail.com.


Danny Byram is an independent Christian recording artist and worship leader who has performed on five continents. Known by US military chaplains as “The Combat Musician,” Danny has given outreach concerts for the United States military community on over one hundred installations since 1987. He also produced and directed the Promise Keepers stadium events and the FamilyLife marriage arena events. With his breadth of experience in worship, performing arts and leadership, he lectures and conducts workshops on worship in colleges, churches, and military chapels throughout the world.

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In Wallpaper Worship, Daniel Byram makes the comparison between today’s church worship and wallpaper—meant to emphasize the design of its surroundings, but not meant to be engaged with. Through an examination of personal worship experiences, the history of worship, and examples of biblical worship, Byram unpacks this analogy. He shares how to awaken our identities as corporate and individual worshippers, and passionately participate in the God-ordained activity of worship.

Wallpaper Worship is now available! Get your copy here.

Knowing Jesus: Jesus, the True Human

From the CLC Bible Companion

Jesus was fully human in every way; in fact, he shows us what it really means to be human.


From the second century AD, some people claimed that Jesus had not really been human, but that he had only seemed to do human things, suffer and die. This idea may be reflected in 2 John 7. They could not understand how Jesus, the divine Son of God, could ever have been a man with flesh and blood. These views are known as “Docetism”, from the Greek word “to appear” or “to seem”. Early church leaders, such as Ignatius and Irenaeus, argued against Docetism, and the church’s creeds clearly affirmed that Jesus was a human. It is important to note that Docetism arose around the second century, well after the events of Jesus’ life. The people who met Jesus during his earthly life had no reason to doubt that he was a human being, just like them. The New Testament consistently describes Jesus in human terms:

  • Birth and early years.

Although Jesus was conceived in Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 1:20; Luke 1:35), he still had a very human birth (Luke 2:6) and required his mother’s care and attention (Luke 2:7) and Joseph’s protection (Matthew 2:13-15). Over the following years, Jesus grew up in age, strength and wisdom, just like any child would (Luke 2:40,52). We do not know very much about Jesus’ family life; however, it is clear from the Gospels that his parents, brothers and sisters were well known in their home town of Nazareth (Matthew 13:54-56; Mark 6:1-3). Jesus’ early years were so normal that the people who had seen him grow up were surprised that he could teach about God with authority (see also Luke 2:46-47) and do great miracles – they thought he was just a carpenter, as Joseph had been before him.

In the mid-second century AD, imaginative stories began to be written about Jesus’ early life, claiming he had superhuman powers. For instance, in the Infancy Gospel of Thomas, he moulds some birds out of clay and then brings them to life! While these stories were quite popular at the time, the church never accepted them as true. As the New Testament suggests, until the beginning of his public ministry, Jesus seems to have grown up just like any other first-century Jewish boy.

  • Physical, emotional and spiritual life.

Jesus was fully human in every way. He had bodily needs for food (Matthew 4:2; 21:18; Luke 4:2), water (John 4:7; 19:28), and rest (Matthew 8:24; Mark 4:38; Luke 8:23; John 4:6). He accepted the hospitality of others during his ministry (John 12:1-2, also Luke 8:1-3), and was often found at a party! He experienced the full range of human emotions, including joy (see Luke 7:34), friendship and love (John 15:12-15), compassion (Matthew 9:36; Mark 1:41; Luke 7:13), grief (John 11:33-35), anger (Mark 3:5; John 2:13-17) and anguish (Luke 22:44). In his spiritual life, Jesus had to draw strength from God in prayer (Luke 6:12; 9:28) and resist the temptations of Satan (Matthew 4:1-11, also Luke 4:13). The first Christians knew that Jesus’ work of salvation was effective for them because he had been completely human, just like them in every way except for sin (Hebrews 2:14-18; 4:15).

  • Jesus’ miraculous power.

Sometimes we think that Jesus’ miracles prove that he was divine. However, the people who saw them did not automatically think this. They presumed he was a human who was able to use heavenly or demonic power (Luke 11:15-16). Jesus explained that he worked miracles by “the finger of God” (Luke 11:20); he was a human being filled with the Holy Spirit of God (Luke 4:18-21). Other humans also performed miracles (eg 1 Kings 17:17-24; Acts 3:1-10).

  • Death and burial.

The Gospels describe the agony Jesus endured on the cross (Matthew 27:33-50; Mark 15:33-37; Luke 23:44-46). John records that he saw blood and water flowing out of Jesus’ side after his death, proving that he really was dead (John 19:33-35). Jesus was buried in a tomb, and everyone expected that his body would rot away (the women brought spices for it on the third day, Luke 24:1).

  • Bodily resurrection.

After his resurrection, Jesus remained a real human being, even though his resurrected body was able to do extraordinary things (Luke 24:31,36). He ate with his disciples and invited them to touch his body to prove he was not a ghost (Luke 24:37-43; John 20:27). The message of the first Christians was grounded in the knowledge that Jesus, who had brought God’s life and salvation, was a real human being (1 John 1:1-3), both before and after his resurrection (Acts 17:31; 1 Corinthians 15:17).


Jesus knew that he had a special status among other humans. In the Gospels, he refers to himself over fifty times as “the Son of Man” (eg Mark 2:10; 10:45). The Aramaic phrase that stands behind this title can simply mean “a human being”, but it has special significance because of its use in Daniel 7:13.

There, Daniel sees a vision of “one like a son of man” approaching the throne of heaven and being given authority by God to rule the whole world. By calling himself “the Son of Man”, Jesus is referring both to the fact that he belongs to the family of humanity and to his unique status within that family. When Jesus calls himself “the Son of Man”, he claims that he is the one human being to whom God has given authority over everything (see Mark 14:62). Jesus uses this power and authority to seek out and save the lost (Luke 19:10). He brings salvation through the weakness of his humanity – ultimately through his suffering and death in Jerusalem (Mark 8:31; 14:41). In the future, as the Son of Man, Jesus will be the standard of judgment for all other humans (Luke 18:8).


The role of the Son of Man – to exercise responsible authority over the earth – was nothing new. In Genesis 1, humans were created on the sixth day, after everything else, as the pinnacle of God’s work. God gave humans a task appropriate to their lofty status – he instructed them to act as good stewards of his world (Genesis 1:28). Adam (whose name simply means “man”) and his wife Eve were supposed to be role models for the rest of humanity, living with God in fellowship and obedience. However, through their distrust of God’s word (Genesis 3:1-5) and disobedience (Genesis 3:6), this good order was disrupted (Genesis 3:14-19). The Old Testament does continue to speak of God’s vision for humanity (eg Psalm 8); however, in reality, humans are now incapable of living in the way God intended. Sin and death get in the way. If the story of Adam reveals what went wrong, the story of Jesus is the story of humanity as it should be. Jesus lived in constant fellowship with his heavenly Father. He exercised responsible authority over the world around him (eg calming the storm, Mark 4:39; feeding the crowds, Matthew 14:19-20). Jesus was not just another member of the human race; he was the one true human, the one who revealed human life as God had always intended it.

One of the ways the first Christians expressed this was by calling Jesus “the second Adam” or “the last Adam”. Paul contrasts the disobedience of Adam with the obedience of Jesus, and then he contrasts the effects of their lives: whereas Adam’s disobedience brought death to all, Jesus’ obedience brought life to all! (1 Corinthians 15:45; Romans 5:12-21). It is sometimes suggested that John’s Gospel envisages Jesus as the second Adam too. Just before his crucifixion, at the climax of John’s Gospel, Jesus is presented by Pilate to the crowds with the words, “Here is the man!” (John 19:5). Whatever Pilate himself may have thought about Jesus, Christians have rightly seen a deeper level of meaning in these words: “Here is the true man! Here is the second Adam!”


Humans were created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). This means that among all creatures, humans were to embody the kind of life that God has, and reflect his glory in the rest of creation (Psalm 8:5). Since the fall, the image of God in humanity has been broken and marred by sin. However, Jesus is the perfect and complete image of God (Colossians 1:15; Hebrews 1:3), fully reflecting God’s glory in his humanity (John 1:14).

Of course, Jesus is much more than the perfect human being. But we must remember that Jesus resists sin and reflects God’s glory because he is being truly human, not superhuman. Jesus reveals that sin is not a normal part of humanity as God intended it; it is abnormal. As a human being, Jesus lived in dependence on God’s Holy Spirit, and was raised from the dead. This is what it means for us to be human too (Philippians 2:5-8).

Jesus’ perfect humanity is the hope of our salvation – we can be truly human as we join his family and are made in his image, which is the image of God (Romans 8:29).


About The CLC Bible Companion The CLC Bible Companion is an all-in-one guide to the Bible that is both a comprehensive reference book and an exciting companion. Its goals for you are to: Know Jesus Christ, Discover the Contents of the Bible, Explore the Truth of the Bible, and Believe and Experience the Message of the Bible. The CLC Bible Companion is on special promotion for a limited time, you may purchase the CLC Bible Companion for $10.00 while supplies last. (retail price $29.99 for hardcover) To learn more about the CLC Bible Companion and purchase, please visit: https://www.clcpublications.com/deals-discounts/


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