Prayer is an Action

I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed this evening. There are at least three people whom I care about who are in desperate need of a physical touch from God. There is the fire near Pigeon Forge and the people I know in that area who may need to evacuate. I have friends who are expecting babies in the next few weeks. And then there is our country: wisdom needed for the President-elect to appoint cabinet members and a Supreme Court Justice, talk about recounting ballots, etc. I feel like there is so much to pray about and yet my mind is going in so many directions it’s hard to focus. I’m physically drained which doesn’t help either.

That said, as I was praying for various friends this afternoon, I was reminded that prayer is an action. It is not something that should be done as a passive formality. I have seen people approach God as they might talk to Santa Claus, with a list of things they would like but they are also fine without. I think we need more people like the persistent widow who kept going back to the judge until he finally granted her petition because he was weary of her.

I am not name it, claim it. I do not believe God owes me anything. But I do believe that the effectual, fervent prayer of a righteous man (or woman) avails much (James 5:16). The answer may still be no, but I do not want to be one of those people who has not because she asks not (James 4:2). Sometimes I think God wants to know just how badly we want what we ask for. Do we really want to see our loved ones saved or healed, or do we just pray because that is what “good Christians” do?

I hate feeling helpless but I serve a God who is anything but helpless. I can’t be everywhere at once, but God can be. He is the only one who can control the outcomes to the things I mentioned. I need to pray as if I believe that.

If prayer has become more of a ritual instead of something meaningful, I encourage you to break up the routine. Try a different room, take a walk, kneel … whatever will help you to regain focus, do it. Seek His face, make your requests known, believe that He hears, and I expect you will begin to see answers to those prayers in ways you never dreamed.

Love Deeply

It’s better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.

I sometimes wonder but I pray that I will never stop loving … and loving deeply.

But God commendeth his love toward us in that, while we were still sinners, Christ died for us  ~Romans 5:8.

THAT is deep love. That is the example Christ set. He suffered rejection, mocking, cruelty, and yet He never stopped loving. And He must have hurt deeply!

As we approach Thanksgiving, I begin looking forward to Christmas. I love this time of year. But it’s not about me. It’s about Him. How does He want me to live? What does He want me to do? How can I show more love to others?

My heart aches as I watch loved ones make bad decisions, become distant, go through hard times, etc. But, if I love them, I will still pray for them, be there for them, and reach out as God leads me to. It’s a tad easier when I realize that I am not always easy to love either.

There is a reason the Bible tells us to “bear each other’s burdens” (Galatians 6:2), bear all things, believe all things, hope all things, endure all things (1 Corintians 13:7), forgive as you have been forgiven (Mark 11:25). These things are not easy to do but they are required if we desire a close relationship with Him.

Don’t let the hecticity of this holiday season keep you from reaching out and showing genuine love to others.

Failure Isn’t Final

I was getting ready for bed when my brain started running. Funny how that often happens and yet I rarely find myself laughing. I sometimes ask God to speak to me but am usually too tired to hear. This evening, however, I was thinking about various areas I seem to fail in, especially that of relationships and business. My body has grown tired, and it is hard to fit in everything I would like to do in a day’s time. Before I could go too far down that road, a song came to mind which Lulu Roman sang on the Homecoming video Marching to Zion.

Failure isn’t final with the Father
Failure opens doors to start again
Falling only hurts for a season
And starting over brings new life again

I like to do everything perfectly. I want everyone to like me. I like to be the one who is always “there” for others. I’m also human, and, as such, I do not do everything as perfectly as I would like to. During these moments of realization, it would be easy to give up and just stop trying. Once I have done that, though, satan has won. This is when I turn to the Lord and ask if I am at least doing what He would have me to do. If I am, that is all that matters and I must rest in that. All of my other goals are things I want to do in my own strength for my own gratification, and this is probably why God doesn’t let it succeed.

This is not always easy. My family and close friends can attest to the fact that I end up in tears of frustration when I feel I have failed someone or something, but I’m thankful that God continues to pick me up, dry my tears, and remind me that it’s not too late to start over. I also know that the closer I draw to Him, the more I will do these things that He has placed on my heart to do. It will no longer be me pushing in my own strength, but His Spirit will take over to be the blessing that I cannot be without Him. Thank You, Lord, that Your mercies are new every morning.

Thoughts on Obedience

I’m reading through the book of Deuteronomy, and I’m struck again at how specific God’s commands were. In Deuteronomy 12:18, God goes so far as to tell the Israelites, “But you must eat them before the LORD your God in the place which the LORD your God chooses … and you shall rejoice before the LORD your God in all to which you put your hands.” Wow. Talk about demanding! If someone told you today that they were only allowed to eat meat in a certain state, you would probably laugh and call them extreme and, yet, that is what God told His people to do in this passage.

It saddens me that many Believers consider obedience to be legalism and, therefore, not necessary. The first definition given at dictionary.com is “strict adherence to law or prescription, especially to the letter rather than the spirit.” Although I agree that some miss the spirit of which a law was given, when talking about God’s laws, it is better to err on the side of strict adherence rather than ignore it. The key is in obeying without developing a self-righteous attitude.

I have friends who keep a Saturday Sabbath, some who observe a Sunday Sabbath, and some who worship on Sunday but don’t believe it’s necessary to keep a Sabbath as such. I know people who believe the dietary laws apply to today and some who have no problem eating pork and shrimp. Some friends wear headcoverings; some don’t. Some wear jewelry and makeup; some feel like that is forbidden. The same could be said of alcohol.

I’m sure we would all agree that there are unquestionably sins, but I think there are other things that are not quite so black and white. These are the areas in which we must learn to give grace to others. If a friend is convicted to do one of the things I mentioned above, it is not my place to convince him or her that they are being legalistic. I believe God will honor their obedience if it is being done out of love for Him. At the same time, I hope my friends will bear with me if my convictions differ from theirs. If a person is sincerely seeking God, He will show them where they need to change. Although I may be the example He uses, I am not the Holy Spirit.

The main thing is to make sure that whatever you are doing is what He wants you to be doing where He wants you to do it. Then move forward in faith.

Perilous Times are Here

But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come.   ~2 Timothy 3:1

I was reading over the list of things that Paul told Timothy would happen in the last days. I’d like to highlight some of them.

For men will be

Lovers of money. We live in a day and age where money is everything. We need money to live, but it should not be the most important thing in our lives. In 1 Timothy 6:10, Paul says that “the love of money is the root of every kind of evil.” Money isn’t evil but the love of it is. We must learn the balance between working hard to pay our bills and yet realizing that everything we have is the Lord’s. It should not be merely for our own pleasure.

Proud. I would guess that everyone deals with some level of pride. My dictionary app defines pride as “a high or inordinate opinion of one’s own dignity, importance, merit, or superiority, whether as cherished in the mind or as displayed in bearing, conduct, etc.” You may not consider yourself a proud person but if there are times when you feel you are being treated unfairly or you feel like no one appreciates you or you think everyone should like you, these are forms of pride. Even low self-esteem can be rooted in pride, as it is drawing attention to one’s self. In James 4:6 and 1 Peter 5:5, we are told that “God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble.” I desperately need God’s grace so I pray for His help to accept the humbling that He brings my way.

Disobedient to parents. I’m sure we can all tell stories of children we’ve seen who have no respect for their parents. This too is a sign of the times.

Unthankful. A feeling of entitlement which keeps us from praising God for His many blessings. Some like to focus on what they don’t have instead of being thankful for what they do have.

Unholy. It’s easier to let the enemy convince us that we can’t be holy so why even try, instead of heeding the Biblical admonition to be holy as He is holy (1 Peter 1:16).

Unloving. This too comes from a root of pride: caring more about ourselves than we do about anyone else.

Unforgiving. Boy, do I see this. A lot! It is so easy to harbor a grudge, and really hard to let things go. In Matthew 6:15, Jesus said, “If you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father in Heaven forgive your trespasses.” Forgiveness is not optional. You may not always be able to restore a relationship if a trust has been broken, but you still must forgive that person, no matter what he or she has done.

Without self-control. The reason there are so many addictions. Pornography, drugs, sexual immorality, gluttony, anger–these are all sins which derive from a lack of self-control.

Lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God. We do not lack for pleasure in our country. Television, movies, games, the computer, phones–not bad things in themselves, but they become bad once they take the place of God. If you don’t have time for God but you have time for these other things, your priorities are out of whack.

Having a form of godliness but denying its power. This is another major thing I see. The fact is that God still has the power to save, heal, deliver, and help you to walk in holiness. It’s not enough to give lip service to those things. We must live like we believe it.

I know some of these things can be hard, especially when our flesh wants to be fed but, if we are ever going to see revival in our country, God’s people have got to be willing to examine themselves, to see where they fall short, and to be willing to allow the Holy Spirit to change their hearts to be more like the Father’s. We must be willing to be broken if that’s what it takes to understand that, without Him, we are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked (Revelation 3:17).

God cannot dwell in a heart of sin. If you want the peace and joy that God offers, you must ask Him to cleanse you and then take whatever steps are needed to allow Him to complete the work He has begun in you. As He shows you things that displease Him, you must turn from them and don’t look back. When you fall, He is faithful and just to pick you up, dust you off, and place you back on the right path. But, as you walk with Him, your step should become more sure so that you stumble less and less as you hold His hand and refuse to look back.

I know this is longer than usual. When I woke up this morning, I didn’t know what I was going to write. I was leaning toward another topic until I read 2 Timothy 3. This whole chapter is worth meditating on. God is speaking to me this afternoon, and I trust He will use it to speak to you as well.

CD Review: Undivided (Master’s Voice)

Master’s Voice is a southern gospel group based in Bristow, OK. In listening to their sound, I’ve been trying to think of who they remind me of. Maybe the old Journeymen Quartet or Old Paths.

I won’t go into detail on each song but will make special mention of the songs I especially like on this project:

How Long a Lifetime Is was written by Joseph Habedank and Rachel McCutcheon. “Never take today for granted. … Hold each loved one tightly and treat each moment as a gift. You never know how long a lifetime is.”

Here I Am Again: I’m so thankful I can go back to God each time I fail and, in His mercy, He extends forgiveness yet again.

Somebody is Me is an upbeat song that will bring a smile to your face and cause you to praise the Lord wherever you are.

Other songs include I Can Hardly Wait to Fly, Goodbye to Goodbye, Lord of Mercy, I Know What He Did for Me, This Same Jesus, Things God Doesn’t Know, Send Somebody, Ain’t it Good, and Everything the Blood Touches Lives.

Never Forsaken

My devotional journal quoted the following verses:

My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?   ~Psalm 22:1

I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.  ~Hebrews 13:5

The writer pointed out that, although Jesus was forsaken by the Father on our behalf, we would never be forsaken like that. I tend to wonder if Jesus was truly forsaken or if He was just so low that he felt like everyone had left Him, including His Father.

I am sure that just about everyone on earth has had a time in life where they wondered if God cared or if He had left them. Maybe you’re at that place now. I can tell you without hesitation that, no matter how dark it seems, God is still there. He may be allowing you to go through a time of testing, but He has not abandoned you. Whether you realize it or not, He is probably holding your hand and giving you whatever grace you need to get through your trial if you will but accept that grace.

David tells us in Psalm 37:25:

I was young and now I am old, but I have never seen the righteous forsaken or his seed begging bread.

Psalm 94:14 tells us:

The LORD will not forsake his people; he will not abandon his heritage.

In spite of how you feel right now, God will no more neglect you and shove you out into the cold than you would one of your children. He loves you so much, and He wants you to come through this trial stronger than ever before. Don’t give up.

Be Holy

My brother posted the following on Facebook:

The world says, “Nobody is perfect!” God says: “Be holy, for I am holy.” 1 Peter 1:16

It jumped out at me because it goes along with what has been on my mind recently: that of following Christ wholeheartedly so that others can follow us.

I am so tired of excuses about how “nobody is perfect” and “they should be looking to God anyway.” You’re right. They should. But the fact is that we are called to be examples. God placed us where we’re at so that we can touch others’ lives and show them how to live for Him.

I am the oldest in my family, having 5 younger siblings. I also have nieces and nephews. Because of them and at least one or two other people who look up to me, I pray daily for God to keep drawing me closer to Him and help me not to be a stumbling block. Unfortunately, I do fail. I grow weary. I can fall into having an attitude. But the worst thing I can do is say, “That’s just me.” God tells me to love others as I love myself (Matthew 19:19), to take up my cross daily and follow Him (Luke 9:23), to be an example of the Believers (1 Timothy 4:12). This letter may have originally been written to Timothy, but I believe that is God’s call to every Christian today.

Although God understands that we are dust, He never gives us license to use that as an excuse to walk in the flesh. In fact, He says to “walk in the Spirit and you WILL NOT fulfill the lusts of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16). Wow! Is that possible? Apparently it is or Paul wouldn’t have commanded the Galatians to do so.

The fact is no one is perfect. We all sin and, if we say we haven’t sinned, we are liars. When Christ saves us, however, we should no longer live in sin. We should daily be laying aside “the sin that besets us and … run with patience the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1). Ouch! I’ve been failing at the “with patience” part lately. But I’m not giving up and I hope you won’t either. The more we draw away from the lusts of the world and draw near our Heavenly Father, the more He will change us and make us more like Him.

I know what it’s like to be tired, to not feel well, to have a demanding schedule, etc. But I also know what it’s like when those things begin to control your life and leave you no time to bask in God’s presence. Don’t let this happen to you. If you are out of the practice of spending time with God, start slow. Read a few verses and pray for a couple minutes if that’s all you can do starting out. But work to carve out more and more time until His Spirit fills your life, your home, your workplace, and everywhere else you go. It’s not impossible. It just takes making Him priority. Isn’t He worth it?

NQC 2016 Highlights: Day 7

Saturday was another full day at the National Quartet Convention.

The highlights of the morning showcase were Abby Paskvan and The Hoskins Family.

The Song of a Lifetime Showcase featured:

The Jim Brady Trio – “Stepping Out in Faith”
Mark Trammell Quartet – “I’ll take it to the Grave”Triumphant Quartet – I Belong to Jesus
Joseph Habedank – I’ve Never Seen the Righteous Forsaken
Tim Lovelace – Bend in the River of Life
David Sapp – There is a River
Phil Cross – When I Get Carried Away
Triumphant Quartet – Saved by Grace

This last song was in honor of Carroll McGruder who passed away last year.

The Blackwood Brothers took the stage on Saturday, and I was surprised to see Mike Helwig in a wheelchair. Billy Blackwood said that Mike has been diagnosed with ALS. This made his rendition of “The Love of God” even more powerful. People often struggle to accept God’s love during difficult circumstances but Mike made the song come alive. I’m sure there were a lot of tears as he sang.

The Sneed Family sang “Hallelujah Square.”

The Erwins were very good. This was their second year at NQC. The best song from their set was called “I Choose to be a Christian.”

Ed O’Neal honored Les Beasley with Josh Garner singing “When He Was on the Cross (I Was on His Mind).”

My brother is not a southern gospel music fan but, when Hope Bowling sang, “How Can it Be?,” he was impressed. That’s saying something. Kathy Crabb Hannah played piano for the Bowling Sisters as they sang, “At the Cross.”

Gordon Mote co-hosted the evening but he also got his own set. He played and sang, “Power in the Blood,” “Just a Closer Walk,” “Only Jesus Can Heal This Hurting World,” and “America the Beautiful” (backed up by the Voices of Lee).

The Perrys sang “The Holy Shore” and “I Wish I Could Have Been There,” two of my favorites!

The Mark Trammell Quartet sang requests they’d received. These included “The King is Coming” and “My Faith Still Holds.”

Marla Henry joined the Jim Brady Trio to sing Consider the Lilies.

Tribute sang some songs off of their new CD. My favorite was “When the Prodigal Comes Home,” featuring Riley Harrison Clark.

Triumphant Quartet’s pianist sang “Hello Mama.” I love that song more now than ever. Scotty Inman sang, “Somebody Died for Me.”

Lauren Talley sang a song she gets a lot of requests for, “Broken Ones.” “If everybody loved like He does, there’d be a lot less broken ones.”

Gerald Wolfe felt like his voice wasn’t up to par so he brought Mark Trammell on stage to sing with them. They sang, “When They Ring the Bells of Heaven,” “Wonderful Grace of Jesus,” and “My Name is Lazarus,” with Mark singing Gerald’s verse. That was cool! (Sorry Gerald.)

For the finale, the Jim Brady Trio sang, “Stepping Out in Faith” and Triumphant sang, “We’re Almost Home.”

That concludes my NQC coverage. I hope to get some of my thoughts down on a variety of subjects next week. I’ll see how it goes. Have a blessed Sunday!

 

NQC 2016 Highlights: Day 6

A day without prayer is a wasted day.

Don’t tell me you love Jesus if you never talk to Him.

Two great quotes by Dr. Steven Gaines during his devotion last Friday morning.

Quarteto Gileade is a quartet from Brazil. I think the highlight was when they sang “The Hallelujah Chorus.” As you probably know, “hallelujah” is said the same in every language so, although they sang in their native language, even if you had never heard this song before, you would know that they were praising the Lord.

I’m not real familiar with The Hyssongs but they started their set with a trumpet duet of the song of worship, “Majesty.” Very good

Friday afternoon, there was a Vintage Quartet Showcase. It included:

The Dixie Echoes (with Josh Singletary on piano)–“Bye and Bye,” “I’d Rather Have Jesus.”
Legacy Five–“Grand and Glorious Feeling,” “Life Will Be Sweeter Some Day.”
Mark Trammell Quartet (with Gerald Wolfe on piano)–“Echoes from the Burning Bush,” “Leave Your Sorrows and Come Along.”
Second Half Quartet–“Going Up,” “Wonderful Grace of Jesus.”

Each group imitated the old days where there were only 2 microphones on stage.

After that, Dr. Jeremiah talked about the history of revival. It was quite interesting. I will probably go back and listen to that again on the archives.

There was then a break before the evening concerts.

Freedom Quartet got Gerald Wolfe to play piano with them on “The Love of God” and “He’ll Pilot Me.” They ended again with their latest single, “I Am a Christian.” I really like their sound. Tight harmony.

The Kingsmen sang “Stand Up,” featuring their tenor, Josh Horrell.

It would have been Jackie Wilburn’s 79th birthday on Friday so it was fitting that Wilburn and Wilburn were performing that evening. They sang, “The Old Rugged Cross Made the Difference,” “Shoulders” (in honor of Jackie), “You Asked Him to Leave,” and “I’m Rich.”

The Webbs sang, “Days of Elijah.”

This was Joseph Habedank’s first time on stage as a solo artist. He sang The Perry’s song, “If You Knew Him.”

The Hoppers were one of my favorites last week. Every time they took the stage, I paid attention. Their new CD has some great songs on it. I will definitely be looking to get a copy for review.

Karen Peck and New River ended the evening.

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