CD Report: From the Heart (Billy Blackwood & Friends)

Back in 2019, Billy Blackwood released a CD that mostly features him, but he does have some guests that join him on some of the songs. Most of these are old songs from the 1960s, ’70s, and ’80s as well as one from the ’90s (Is that old?!?!?!), but there are a couple post-2000 songs as well. Unfortunately, I have gotten behind on reviews so, although this is not a brand new CD, I figured it’s better to give it a late mention than none at all.

Songs included are: People Need the Lord, It Is No Secret, In the Garden (featuring Yvonne Lewis-Shelton), Without Him, Willing Heart (featuring Kelly Willard), I’d Rather Have Jesus, A Strange Way to Save the World (featuring Dave Clark), Your Grace Still Amazes Me, Love Held Jesus to the Cross (featuring Gene McDonald), If People, and You’re in God’s Hands.

Befriend Faithfulness

Trust in the LORD, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.  ~Psalm 37:3

I don’t think there is a group of people I enjoy being around more than those who have been faithful–faithful to the Lord, faithful to their spouse, faithful to whatever ministry God has called them to. They inspire me, as that is my greatest desire–that I would be one of those faithful saints.

Proverbs 12:26 tells us:

The righteous should choose his friends carefully, For the way of the wicked leads them astray.

Proverbs 18:24 says:

One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.

Children are often thrown into classrooms where their companions become those they are stuck with. As adults, we get to choose who we hang around and learn from and, although you may think you are not influenced by your friends, think again. It is good to befriend people for the purpose of encouraging them and sharing the Gospel, but your true bosom friends should be those who are influencing your life for good, continually pointing you to the Savior.

I am thankful that I am surrounded by people who exhort me to love and good works, and I like to think that I do the same for them. I have also had friends that can be draining. Sometimes God puts these people in your life so the answer is not just to hang around those who are easy to get along with. But if your primary social life is with those who cuss, get drunk, watch raunchy movies, etc., it most likely will affect your walk with the Lord. Solomon started his reign following after his father David who was a man after God’s own heart, but it didn’t take long until he was following the example of his pagan wives and worshiping idols. You could easily go that route.

I encourage you to examine your closest friends. Are they walking with God, constantly endeavoring to put Him above all else, or are they feeding their flesh and encouraging you to do the same? If the latter, I encourage you to seek out new friends who will challenge you. You may begin to feel uncomfortable if you have been living a compromising life, but you will be in a position where you can begin to come out of your complacency and be a strong child of God. Then you can be that faithful friend to someone else.


Photo by Josue Michel on Unsplash

Rethinking Hebrews 10:25

I expect just about every churchgoer knows Hebrews 10:25 and has used it to guilt trip those who haven’t found a church that they feel comfortable attending, but I am going to argue that this verse was not written to stress the importance of warming a pew. Taken in context, the verse says the following:

And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.  ~Hebrews 10:24-25

Now prior to this, the author did talk about entering the Holiest so that may be why people associate this with attending church, but I think we do a disservice to view that as the primary focus.

I have seen plenty of people come into church at the last minute, find a seat, listen to the sermon, and leave right afterward. I guess they technically assembled, but they did not stir anyone up to love and good works, nor did they exhort anyone. On the other hand, I know people who are constantly ministering, showing hospitality, and otherwise getting together with God’s people. If they never stepped foot into a church building, they are fulfilling Hebrews 10:25.

I am in no way knocking church meetings or suggesting that they are not important. Those who have stopped going to church and have distanced from everyone they know are not thriving. We are not meant to be islands. Assembling is important. But be careful to not be harsh with those who spend their lives serving the Lord and are not at church every time the doors open.

Take Your Time

When I was a teenager, people would talk about suicide and remind us that, no matter how bad things are, they will get better. Someone else commented that life doesn’t always get better, but it does change. Regardless of your view, the fact is that nothing remains the same. Some days will be better and some will be worse, but we need not to react to those “worse” days.

My life has been quite a roller coaster. I have been through some dark-as-midnight valleys, but I have also seen some beautiful mountaintops where my heart filled with joy that was hard to contain. It is most likely these experiences that keep me holding on to hope even when I’m not seeing any at the time.

I have had times where I came close to making decisions that would have drastically altered my future, and probably not for the better. I’ve learned that if I give it time, I can typically think more clearly and better hear God’s voice instead of reacting in my flesh.

I know people who think they have to make decisions right away, therefore they act impulsively. I can go to the opposite extreme where I take too long to decide what to do, but I am trying to find a balance. For me, this sometimes means waiting a day to respond to an email or a text so that I produce the best response. It is rarely necessary to respond with the first thought that comes to my mind.

People talk about how easy it is to pick fights online because it’s impersonal but this does not make sense to me since it is easier to think through what you want to say when you have to type it out versus when you are face to face. We live in an age where it should be easier than ever to think before we speak (or interact online as the case may be).

In this fast-paced world, we want everything “right now,” but sometimes the best things still come to those who wait. Be sure that the decisions you make, the words you speak, the reactions that you exhibit are Spirit-led. If you feel anxious, angry, annoyed, or any like feeling, it would be better for you to take time to pray before you respond. “May your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).

Continuing through the Psalms

Good and upright is the LORD; therefore he instructs sinners in the way. He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way.  ~Psalms 25:8-9

God even instructs sinners. They don’t realize it at the time but when a person comes to know the Lord, I bet they can often look back and see various ways that God was leading them in decisions they made, places they worked, etc. He looks for those who have humble hearts that are open to Him and then He begins His good and perfect work.

I can hear someone saying, “I was proud when God found me.” Yes. You didn’t know the Lord and yet God could still see a heart that was sick and tired of life and ready for a new beginning. And so He lifted you out of the mire and revealed Himself to you.

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.  ~Psalm 51:17

Oh, to continue to grow in humility, to not have to have life constantly revolve around me and what I want, to keep growing in quick and absolute surrender to my Father, to be quick to repent when I realize that I have displeased Him or hurt one of my Brothers or Sisters.

The friendship of the LORD is for those who fear him, and he makes known to them his covenant. My eyes are ever toward the LORD, for he will pluck my feet out of the net.  ~Psalms 25:14-15

Have you ever thought about the fact that you can actually be friends with your Master? You can. He desires a genuine relationship with you. Not one-sided where all you can talk about is yourself but one where you are willing to listen to Him as well.

Humility begins in the heart and then exhibits itself in how we treat those around us. If you struggle to hear God’s voice, I encourage you to look at your heart and see if it is full of pride or a genuine willingness to know what God desires and to follow Him in all things.


Photo by Anthony Intraversato on Unsplash

The Path of Righteousness

He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.  ~Psalm 23:3b

A couple of years ago, my sister and I attended a Bible study on Psalm 23. At the time, I felt like, although it was encouraging, it was just fluff, and I wanted something deeper. As I read this chapter again today, I realized that there is depth if I read slowly instead of breezing through yet another well-known passage of Scripture.

Verse 3 especially caught my eye.

He leads me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.

I’ve divided this into three separate sections for you to ponder. If you are following God, He will lead you down a path of righteousness. This means that if you are living a life of unrighteousness, you are not following God. However, living a right life isn’t just to make you feel good and give you a clear conscience (although these can be great benefits); He desires that His children live righteous lives so that they do not bring Him shame. (It’s not all about us!)

As you follow Him down that path, it is then that you can know assuredly that goodness and mercy will follow you for the rest of your life. This doesn’t mean that everything will always go your way, but you can rest in the fact that your Father will always be good and merciful to you. What a blessed assurance!

I don’t know where you are at in this journey toward the Celestial City, but I pray that you are staying on the straight and narrow road, not looking right or left or backward but focusing 100% ahead.

Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.  ~Philippians 3:13-14

The Lost Art of Longsuffering

But the fruit of the Spirit is … longsuffering …  ~Galatians 5:22

Charity suffers long and is kind.  ~1 Corinthians 13:4

Up until a couple of weeks ago, I was staying at some friends’ house at night while the house I live in is under renovation. I was there about a month before I took a pre-planned trip to visit some friends for a few days and then spend a month with my dad. When I go back home, I expect I will go back to my friends’ house for a time until our house is ready for me to move back into.

I rely on other people’s grace quite a bit, and I do not take for granted their willingness to sacrifice their own comfort and routine to accommodate me. That said, I have observed many people who are not that gracious and longsuffering, and I seek to figure out why.

One thing I know is that it is a lot easier to be patient with others when you realize how patient people are with you. People like to talk about how hard relationships are, but I don’t think they should be. Yes, you have to give and take but if both parties are giving and taking, it shouldn’t be drudgery. It is easy to say “I love you” to people who don’t live with you, but the true test of your love is how you treat those that you see day in and day out.

I have plenty of friends and family that don’t agree with me in every area. Most areas are not hills worth dying on from my viewpoint. I will listen to their side and often still disagree when they’re done but if they continue to want to be friends, I am willing to do so.

I am in no way recommending that people have no convictions and become accepting of sin, but most of the things that the Church gets up in arms about do not fall into this category. The key is in being led by the Spirit. If God places someone in your life, you need to work on being longsuffering with that person. Don’t just say that you love him or her but show your friend how much by how you treat them. Begin with those in your own household, and I expect it will be easier to show love to those around you.

Is God’s Love Really Unconditional?

I bristle when I hear people talk about God’s unconditional love. Typically, it is used in a context of borderline bragging about how it doesn’t matter what a person does; God still loves that person “unconditionally.” And, of course, the implication that follows is that we must love people unconditionally as well. After all, we are supposed to be like God. So I would like to ask a couple of questions. Does God really love unconditionally, and are we to follow suit?

On the surface, the answer to these questions would be a hearty, “Absolutely!” Just as God loves us, we are to love others. But I feel like we need to define “love” and what that looks like.

A parent may love a wayward child, but sometimes the most loving thing they can do is distance themselves and let the adult son or daughter make bad decisions so that they ultimately learn better ways of doing things.

Someone who ministers in a prison may feel compassion for those locked inside, but it would not be right or necessarily loving to let them all loose and trust that they won’t hurt anyone else.

So it is with God. He is grieved when the people He created ignore Him and disobey His Word. He may not stop loving them, but He will withdraw from them and, if they don’t repent, He will cast them from His sight forever. I am in no way desiring to take away from God’s love. I long to fully understand the depth of that love so that I can better love others, but I do not want a distorted view that would propel me into eternal torment.

I am currently reading through the New Living Translation, and I like how it refers to God’s “unfailing love.” The King James and English Standard Versions use the word “steadfast.” His love is “resolutely firm and unwavering,” but He still expects His children to love and obey Him in return.

When you are telling someone how magnificent God’s love is, I would encourage you to consider substituting “unconditional” for “unfailing.” Anyone can “love” someone unconditionally, overlooking sin in the process, but God’s love goes deeper than that. He has laid out conditions for His followers, but His love is so pure and genuine that it is worth doing what He asks. When we accept God’s love as it truly is instead of how we imagine it or would like it to be, I expect that we will grow to love Him more in return.

CD Report: Change Is Coming (Joseph Habedank)

Joseph Habedank just released another CD where he has once again co-written every song.

People will relate to Religion Isn’t Working. We don’t need “religion”; we need a relationship with Jesus Christ. “I wanna know my blessed Savior, and I wanna love Him like I never loved Him before.” Amen!

24 Hours is a song of hope for those who have someone they’ve prayed for forever and are still waiting to see a breakthrough. Sometimes these seem like nice ideas, but the fact is that God does still answer prayer. We must keep petitioning until we get our answer.

My favorite song on this project after first listen is Not Far From Home. The truth of this song becomes more real every day. We are not far from Home.

Other songs included are Thief in the Night, Change Is Coming, Jericho, Child of the King, Judas, Rebel With a Cause, and Rise Above Eden


Pray For Your Leaders

There is power in prayer and the way Christians can turn the world’s attention toward God is by praying for the decisions our leaders make. … By lifting them up to God, praying about the influences on them, and asking God to give them wisdom and discernment, we influence our own quality of life.  ~Carolyn Larsen

Some may disagree with this assessment, but the overall sentiment is true. Paul told Timothy:

Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence.  ~1 Timothy 2:1-2

I confess that I have a hard time giving thanks for our country’s leaders at times, but I do pray often that God will guide them, overriding any plans that are not of Him, and drawing them to Himself. Sometimes I ask that He direct them even if they don’t know why they are making the decisions that they are. This may seem silly to some, but I believe that God is able to do even that.

I used to think of corruption in politics as a recent phenomenon in an era where people are waxing worse and worse. However, in reading books of presidents from days gone by, I wonder if there was ever an election that was cut and dry. It seems like the recent election was not the first to be contested and accused of foul play. Back as far as Thomas Jefferson, there were scandals and possible debates over whether or not he won the election fair and square, but life went on, and here we are today.

It’s easy to complain about masks, lack of masks, rising gas prices, etc. but, for the most part, there’s not a lot we can do about these things. But we can pray.

I don’t know what life is going to look like 5, 10, 30 years down the road. I listened to Bill and Gloria Gaither talking again recently about why they wrote Because He Lives. Even 50 years ago, people wondered if they were stupid to bring children into a declining world. So the Gaithers wrote the words:

Because He lives, I can face tomorrow
Because He lives, all fear is gone

That is just as true today as it was then. God is still alive. He still sees. He still cares. He may allow us to experience chaos and unrest for a time, but He will continue to care for His children, and if we say goodbye to loved ones or if we ourselves die from COVID, we will know firsthand that “to live is Christ, but to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21).

Brothers and Sisters, let’s stop fighting each other. Let’s not look at the government as our savior. But let’s repent of our sins, turn from our wicked ways, pray for our leaders, and ask God to heal our land.


Photo by Gabriella Clare Marino on Unsplash
Quote at the beginning taken from the One-Minute Devotional for Women.