CD Review: Deeper Oceans (Joseph Habedank)

Singing News readers just voted Joseph Habedank favorite artist again for 2019. It won’t take long to figure out why when you listen to his latest CD. His song Shame On Me has already made it to the #2 spot on the Singing News Top 20, but there is not a so-so song on this recording. Every song was co-written by Joseph and reflects This Grace that he has obviously found.

The last song on the CD, One More Reason, was dedicated to his grandma. Having lost my grandma earlier this year, this song especially resonates with me, and I think it will with a lot of people.

The music on this CD is very progressive so will be liked by a broad audience of old and young, southern gospel and contemporary fans.

CD Review: Pure Love (Legacy Five)

Legacy Five has had some personnel changes lately but they still have the solid blend that we have come to expect from this amazing quartet. The group currently consists of Scott Fowler, Matt Fouch, Josh Townsend, Bryan Walker, and Lee Black. With that lineup and songs penned by such writers as Wayne Haun, Joel Lindsey, Sue C. Smith, Kenna Turner-West, Scott Inman, Lee Black, and Joseph Habedank, you know this has to be good.

Songs included are What a Day, What Kind of Man, That’s What Makes Believers Believe, Love Pure Love, I Believe the Book, The Greatest Wonder, Beggin’ for Change, Love Always Finds a Way, Middle Man, Not Just Another Day, and Only Passing Through.

I don’t know if it was intentional but I found it interesting that the music on Beggin’ for Change reminds me of “He Made a Change” that the Cathedrals recorded years ago.

God Is More Than a Sensation

Do you ever watch Hallmark movies? Although the plots have become redundant to the point that if you’ve seen one you’ve seen them all, I still appreciate good, wholesome stories that allow me to relax when my brain needs a change of pace. One thing I have noticed, though, is that often the heroine calls off her relationship with a steady, hard-working man and chooses someone whom she deems to be more exciting. I think this is what some do with God except in His case, He is the unchanging, stable being in our lives that we take for granted while we go after what we think will produce more excitement. We’re a bit like the disciples who cried, “Lord, show us a sign!” (Matthew 12:38). But if no sign comes, we walk away. God can do amazing things, but He will most likely not do them in order to satisfy those who merely want to see a supernatural side show.

Like anyone else, I love hearing miracle stories. My eyes get wide as others tell of the amazing things that God has done. I can tell some stories myself. But if I had to choose between a life of signs and wonders or one of consistency, I would choose the latter.

Life is full of ups and downs, joys and trials, and constant change. What a blessing to have a God who is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He is one on whom I can depend, and I would not trade that for all the sensationalism in the world.

If you are following Jesus from a distance hoping to catch a glimpse of a miracle he performs, you may receive what you are looking for, but you will be missing out on so much more that can only be experienced through a close relationship with Him. I think of the old hymn that says:

And He walks with me
And He talks with me
And He tells me I am His own
And the joy we share as we tarry there
None other has ever known.

How Steadfast Are You?

“I guess [another Christian leader] renounced his faith now,” a friend texted. This really upsets me. If people are going to apostatize, why can’t they do so quietly instead of making a big announcement and shaking the faith of those who look up to them? It could be argued that people shouldn’t be looking up to them anyway, but people do. They long to see Christianity in action and, instead, they see people who once claimed the name of the Lord declaring it to be a farce.

Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.  ~1 Peter 5:8

Satan is having a heyday confusing those who should be strong in the faith but who, for some reason, are surrendering to the enemy. Why? Do they not believe there is really a God? Do they think that the “freedom” they feel now is worth spending an eternity in Hell?

I am not writing this self-righteously. I am examining my own heart and asking God to keep me close to Him. I am praying for new believers who have questions of their own. We have a major problem when more people are denouncing their faith than are being drawn to Christ. We are in desperate need of revival but we don’t want it badly enough to turn off our TVs and get on our knees.

Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition. ~2 Thessalonians 2:3

This is what we are seeing. As Jesus’ return draws near, Satan is working overtime to convince people that it is more fun to follow him. Friends, this is a wake-up call. God will not strive with man forever. If we do not spend time drawing close to the Lord, getting to really know Him, we too could fall away.

Let him that thinks he stands take heed lest he falls. ~1 Corinthians 10:12

If there is any sin, no matter how slight, that is keeping you from fully walking with the Lord, confess it today. Every day, people are dying who have no chance to repent and get right with God. You don’t know that you have tomorrow and, although you may have 20 years or more left, it’s not worth the risk.

For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Spirit, And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the age to come, If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame. ~Hebrews 6:4-6

I do not want to be guilty of this. Plus, whenever one falls, it doesn’t just affect them; it affects everyone around them.

Wake up, Church! The days of complacency need to end. It is time to put aside the lusts of the flesh and the pride of life and the sins which so easily ensnare us while we run with perseverance the race that God has set before us (Hebrews 12:1). God has created you for a purpose, and it is not to lose your faith! If you have questions, find a mature Believer who can answer those for you. Don’t give up. The battle can be hard but, in due season, we will reap if we do not faint (Galatians 6:9).

I know others have written on this but I decided to post anyway. I started days ago but wanted to take my time since this is such a serious topic. I think the bottom line comes from Revelation 2:10:

Be faithful unto death, and you will receive the crown of life.

Amen. Lord, let it be so.

Put Off Bitterness

Years ago, there was a lady who hated us. She lied about us, trying to get others to believe we were immoral, unethical people. She told some of these lies to business clients, hoping to deter them from working with us. We never heard anything good from her, only evil. Thankfully, God covered us, and this lady’s plans came to naught and eventually we stopped hearing from her–both directly and indirectly. Recently, I found out that her husband is dying and probably has been for a while. Whereas the world would say it serves her right, I pray for her frequently, that God will give her the strength she needs during this trying season.

I don’t share this story to pat myself on the back. Believe me, there are areas in which I struggle, but I am grateful when God gives me a heart of love for others instead of hatred, bitterness, or a desire for revenge. This is what separates Christians from the world.

Life is full of bitter, angry people, and unfortunately Christians are not exempt–both from receiving and exhibiting this behavior. Yet Scripture admonishes us to put away bitterness, anger, wrath, and slander (Ephesians 4:31). This doesn’t mean that you will never feel these emotions, but, if you are full of God’s Spirit, you will not let them overcome you.

Jesus taught us to pray, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us” (Matthew 6:13-15). That would be a frightening prayer for some to pray.

I disagree with those who say that, if you have truly forgiven a person, you will restore the relationship. This is an area that you must be wise as a serpent and harmless as a dove (Matthew 10:16). If a person is unrepentant, you may need to keep your distance, but you can refuse to slander or wish evil on him or her. There are also times when you allow people into your life that God did not put there (maybe an unsaved boyfriend or girlfriend, someone on whom you were codependent, etc.). You are not obligated to continue these relationships just because they were in your life once upon a time. However, if the offender is a family member or a close friend who truly repents of the pain they have caused, you may need to be ready to restore that person and put the past behind you. Again, be in the Spirit on this since there are good fakers in the world, but err on the side of mercy instead of judgment. God will judge the situation in due time.

The problem with writing on a topic like this is that I’m bound to be tested, and forgiveness is not always easy. But it is important if we desire to have our own sins forgiven. If you are struggling with bitterness or hatred toward someone who has wronged you, pray daily for God to take those sinful feelings from you. Pray for the other person. You can even pray that God will move him or her toward repentance. Don’t let the sun go down on your anger. Then lie down and sleep in peace, knowing that the Lord will make you to rest in safety (Psalm 4:8).

Are You Consistent?

I’ve been thinking lately about things that Christians say but don’t really believe. For instance, any true Christian would probably admit that “God has been better to me than I deserve” but when tragedy strikes they don’t feel like they deserved it. Or they might confess that “No one knows whether they will still be here tomorrow” and yet they live as though they will still be here for years. Or maybe they sing “I Surrender All” while not realizing how much they have really not surrendered to the Lord. Many times, we know the right things to say, but how deep have these truths really gone?

I know I am guilty of this as well but I am daily reminded that life is short. I think of the recent shooting in El Paso or the people in our county who were just killed by a drunk driver. I’m guessing all of those people who are no longer with us thought they would go out to do some mundane tasks and be back in their own beds that evening. Instead, their lives were instantly snuffed out with no chance to repent for their sins, restore strained relationships, etc. I’m thankful that those who were killed in the accident knew the Lord but I don’t know about those killed in shootings. I can only hope that they were ready to meet their Maker.

The question has been raised, “Why would God protect some and not protect others?” For instance, someone could have been going through that stop sign at the moment the accident occurred but they couldn’t find their keys so they didn’t go out. I don’t understand the ways of God but I do trust Him … at least most of the time. Occasionally things come up that make me realize that I still need to grow in this area but I know that He is good and that He loves me, and I pray to be ready whenever He chooses to take me Home. I don’t want to let my guard down, thinking I have years before I have to deal with that. The truth is that I don’t know.

My exhortation today is to think about what you say. Are you just spouting Christianese, or do you really believe the words that come out of your mouth? Do those words line up with your actions? Do you have a head knowledge due to growing up in church, or has it penetrated your heart so that you can confidently declare, “Though He slay me, yet I will trust Him”? Are you consistent?

Photo by Aleks Dahlberg on Unsplash

Be Cleansed

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  ~1 John 1:9

If you grew up in church, no doubt you have heard this verse ever since you were a child. Maybe from a Sunday school teacher who wanted you to confess your sins and know that God would always be there, ready to forgive every sin that you commit. I’m guessing, though, that some of you may not have thought about what it really means to be cleansed from unrighteousness.

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.  ~1 Corinthians 6:9-11

When Christ cleanses, it is once for all time. Sin will not define a true child of God. Yes, it’s true that, if we sin we have an advocate with the Father (1 John 2:1) but it’s also true that Christ has provided a way of escape so that we can flee temptation instead of giving into it (1 Corinthians 10:13).

People rely so much on God’s forgiveness that they are not too inclined to refrain from sinning. Sure, God is able to keep you from falling (Jude 1:24) but if you are determined to commit a sinful act, more than likely He will let you, and you will have no one to blame but yourself. My admonition to each one of us is to “walk in the Spirit, and you (and I) will not fulfill the lust of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16).


More of God?

I remember when people would cry out to God to send more of His Spirit and fill them with more of Himself. Recently, I was listening to the Dove Brothers sing, “It’s not that I need more of God but He needs more of me,” and that hit a chord with me (pardon the pun). God has given us everything we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3) but many times we do not cling to those things. Instead, we pursue our selfish pleasures and then wonder why we are not as close to the Lord as we’d like to be. I have been examining my heart in this as well.

I too would like to be closer to the Lord than I am but it is easy to let the cares and hecticness of life crowd out the time that I need to be spending in His presence and studying His Word. This is something I want to remedy. Doing a Bible study at night when I’m able is helpful for me but sometimes it can be a while before I get a quiet night where I’m not too tired to do this. Therefore, I must be proactive to find other ways to spend quality time with Him.

Years ago, the question was asked, “If you don’t feel close to God, who moved?” Hebrews 13:5 reminds us that “God will never leave you nor forsake you” so if you aren’t close to the Lord, I can answer the question and say that it’s not Him who has distanced.

Psalm 42:1 says, “As the hart pants after the water brooks, so pants my soul after you, O God.” When I go too long without eating, I begin to get shaky and I feel sick. This is how desperate we should be for the Father. We tend to treat Him like someone who will be there when we want to spend time with Him but, when we’re too busy, He’ll understand. I want to say that He doesn’t understand. He desires close fellowship with you but He will not force you to take that time. He wants you to come to Him because you love Him and you want to spend every moment of every day with Him.

Keith Green sang, “How can they live without Jesus? How can they live without God’s love?” I want to ask, How can you live without Jesus? How can I live without Jesus? I’m so thankful that we don’t have to live without Him. He means everything to me, and I pray that I live a life that reflects that in everything I do and say, beginning with spending time with Him, worshiping Him, studying His Word, and letting Him know how much I love Him.

In closing, let me say again, It’s not that we need more of God but He needs more of us!


Photo by John Royle on Unsplash

Dwelling in the House of the Lord

One thing have I desired of the LORD, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to inquire in his temple. ~Psalm 27:4

Have you ever wondered what it means to “dwell in the house of the Lord”? In the above verse, the psalmist is not only wanting to experience it but he wants to dwell there all the days of my life.” Today, we would probably think of the house of the Lord as being a church building; however, the average person does not live there. It is just a place that we visit a few times a week at most. I believe the answer comes in Jesus’ words in Luke 17:21 where He says, “Neither shall they say, See here! or, see there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.” I desire to dwell in God’s presence–His Kingdom–24/7 all the days of my life … and beyond!

If you want to be nitpicky, you may remind me that we are always in God’s presence, and I do not argue that point. However, there is a difference between God watching everything we do and actually walking beside us, having fellowship with us, and directing us. I want to be aware of God’s presence–not just mentally but tangibly.

When you dwell in God’s presence, there is also a peace and a joy that cannot be explained. It is not only something you feel and experience but it is something that radiates to those around you. Just as bad attitudes are catchy, joy can also be catchy. It’s hard to be in too foul a mood when those around you are rejoicing.

It is easy to become focused on self and circumstances. I understand that. But I don’t want to stay there. One of my favorite hymns says:

Lord, lift me up and let me stand
By faith on Heaven’s tableland
A higher plane than I have found
Lord, plant my feet on higher ground

Do I hear an Amen?!

In the Valley … He Restoreth My Soul

For a while now, I have been singing this song that Dottie Rambo wrote but, at the time, I wasn’t going through a valley. It is just the song that God kept bringing to my mind. Today, I find myself going through a minor trial, and I am once again focusing on the words of this song and thanking God that He is near.

I would like to be able to tell you that I am continuously rejoicing and fully resting in God’s will for my life but I confess this is still a process. I do believe that I have made progress in the last 20 years or so but the work is not completed, and I expect that this is one reason that I keep going through these things.

They say that trials can make you bitter or better. I understand this as, with each trial that comes my way, I have a choice: Do I let God handle it and trust Him to work it out, or do I lean on my own understanding and fight my way out, convinced that I could do a better job than He seems able to do? Giving up control can be difficult and yet God has shown me time and time again how much He loves me. If this is true, why would I not surrender every part of my life to Him? After all, as Dottie also said, “He ain’t never done me nothin’ but good.”

I don’t know what you’re going through right now but I encourage you to give it to Jesus. Maybe you’re being slandered, or you’re grieving the loss of a loved one, or you’re going through a debilitating illness … you are not alone. God is waiting for you to turn to Him. He may not change your situation but He will carry you through it. I would much rather walk with God through the valleys than walk on the mountaintop alone. How about you?


Photo by Kevin on Unsplash