Concert Withdrawal, Be Gone!

Does anybody else feel like it’s been way too long since they’ve attended a concert? I sure do, so I was thrilled to find Godsey Media’s HopeSings Concerts During Crisis. These are concerts that you can watch online. They are charging $20 per ticket, but your money is going to help artists who have been out of work for six weeks or so while the country has been locked down. Since I make much of my income traveling and doing events, I understand how difficult this time is and how much more so for groups that support several households through singing. This is not a time to think, “I can watch videos for free on YouTube.” This is a time to support your favorite groups so that they can continue to sing once the ban is lifted. Plus they would like to keep eating and paying bills before then.

I realize a lot of people are without work now, but if you still have money coming in and have some extra to share, I hope that you will check out the schedule and support one or more of the groups or artists who will be performing. For instance, tonight the Nelons will be giving a concert at 7:00. Then Saturday will feature Triumphant. On Sunday, Riley Harrison Clark, Gene McDonald, and their Surprise Quartet will be performing. And that’s only the tip of the iceberg. One thing I like about this approach is that the artists aren’t just asking for money. They are willing to perform to an empty room while giving you a concert like you would expect to see in a concert hall.

Don’t forget to pray for these artists too. Many are feeling the strain of this time, so if you can’t support them financially, you can still lift them up to the Father and ask Him to give them strength and encourage their hearts. I’m so thankful to serve a God who has promised to meet all of our needs, many times using Brothers and Sisters in Christ to do just that. If you do watch some of these concerts, I’d love to know who you saw and how they ministered to you. God bless you all!

Don’t Forget the Cross

The weeks leading up to Easter, and Easter weekend itself, are a reflective time for me as they are for many people. However, while we were eager to get to the Resurrection and the reminder of the life that we can now have in Jesus, I pray that we do not forget the suffering that Jesus went through so that we can have this life. Now that Easter has passed, I imagine that most people go back to life as usual. At least as usual as it can get these days. But I urge you not to do that. Keep going back to the Cross and the price Jesus paid for your freedom. It is harder to live a life of sin when the Cross is ever before us.

As you go through this week, begin each day by reflecting on anything God showed you this past month. And if you didn’t think about much, then start today. Is there unconfessed sin in your life? Confess it. Unforgiveness? Ask God to help you to forgive as you have been forgiven. Anything that is not fitting for a Christian? Repent. Jesus did not die so that we could continue in our selfishness and arrogance. He died to make us new! But we must allow Him to do so.

Maybe you have been going through the motions of going to church but there is no life in you and you are not sure you’re really saved. Ask God to save you once and for all and start serving Him. You may have to go through the motions of prayer and Bible study in the beginning but, if you truly want to get closer to the Lord, you will begin to love that time spent alone with Him until you can’t get enough of it.

Each day is a new beginning. His mercies are new every morning. Let’s not go back to our old routines. Let’s move forward in new life with Him. Start today!

Two Trees

Blessed is the man that trusts in the LORD, and whose hope the LORD is. For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, that spreads out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat comes, but her leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit.  ~Jeremiah 17:7-8

I love this mental picture. The person who completely trusts the Lord and hopes in Him is compared to a carefree tree planted by a river, soaking up the perfect amount of sun and water. Its leaves don’t wither and it doesn’t stop producing the fruit that it was created to produce. It’s like it’s oblivious to everything else that’s happening in the world.

I find that when I am totally trusting God, I feel irresponsible. I wonder if I really understand the brevity of a situation. But that is where God wants us. He wants His children to go about their daily tasks and trust Him to deal with the things that they cannot alter anyway.

You’ve heard it said that you can’t change anything by worry while others think that worry must work since the things they worry about never happen. Whichever way you look at it, I would rather not waste time worrying. I know that my Heavenly Father watches over me so I have no reason to fear.

In contrast stands a tree on which our Savior was crucified. This was not a tree that was full of life; the sole purpose of this tree was to bring death. In dying on a coarse, rugged tree, Jesus would give us life like the tree planted by the water. In my mind’s eye, I see the confused look on a multitude of faces as the sky turned suddenly dark in the middle of the day. There was nothing good about this day. His mother cried. His disciples were perplexed. Had they been deceived like so many others who followed a false prophet and now the last three years of their lives were wasted? I expect that thoughts like these were running through their minds but, thanks to God’s Word, we know the end of the story. It’s only Friday now, but Sunday is coming!

CD Report: Lift His Name (Karen Peck & New River)

I was reading verses on praise the other day so, when I pulled this CD off my shelf, I got excited by the title. Karen Peck Gooch co-wrote all but three songs, and there is quite a variety on here: fast and slow, encouraging and thought-provoking, songs on the crucifixion and the resurrection, and, yes, songs of praise and surrender. They even threw in a progressive version of Ain’t No Grave.

Other songs included are: The God I Serve; Made Right; I Know Jesus Lives; The Book; The Love of Jesus; Messiah Overcame; When I Lift Up the Name; and All About Yes.

It’s Not God’s Fault

Your iniquities have turned away these things, and your sins have withheld good things from you. ~Jeremiah 5:25

Have you ever known people who feel like everything bad happens to them, but it’s everyone else’s fault? In reality, you can look at the situation and say, “You wouldn’t be in this mess if you had made better decisions.” Although some would say that outright, those who don’t would at least think it.

It is easy to see other’s flaws while thinking I am a pretty good person and yet Scripture says that there is none righteous, no, not one (Romans 3:10)! If you are in a bad situation, it is not God’s fault, nor is it your elderly mother’s fault. Quite possibly, it is yours.

I do not want to guilt trip everyone who is going through a hard time right now. God allows us to go through trials in order to test our faith and draw us closer to Him. And sometimes things just happen because we live in a fallen world. But if you take time to listen to yourself talk and you can’t think of anything positive that has ever happened to you, you might want to seriously ask God why. Are there idols in your life that are hindering your walk with Him? Did God ask you to do something years ago and you told Him no? He may still be waiting for you to surrender.

In Jeremiah 5, Jerusalem was going through a time similar to America. People who had once known the Lord and seen His hand at work now ignored Him. Sure, they gave Him lip service, but He no longer held their hearts. He had brought them out of Egypt and given them “a land flowing with milk and honey,” but they went back to a life of sin. Because of this, God declared that He would devour them (v. 14). Wow. Doesn’t that make you shudder?

In Exodus, the people repeatedly asked Moses, “Did you bring us into the wilderness to die?” In Jeremiah, God made it clear that it wasn’t Him that was to blame for their judgement; it was themselves. I often wonder what it will take for America to turn to God. It seems like when things are going well, we feel pretty good about ourselves and what we have accomplished, but when things go bad, it’s all God’s fault. In reality, the opposite is true. God loves you immensely. I expect that He has done a lot to try to get your attention. Maybe the pit that you have fallen into is a large part of that. If you are at the end of your rope and you don’t think you can sink any further, I exhort you to cry out to God. Read the Prophets. See how merciful the Father is and yet remember that He is also a God of judgment. Don’t let sin become a barrier to your finding true relationship with a loving God.

Book Review: A Praying Church by Dennis Gundersen

Probably a couple years ago now, I had mentioned that I might add book reviews to my blog which don’t apply directly to southern gospel music but that still might be of interested to my readers. I ended up not doing many but, as conferences are closed for at least another month, I am hoping to find time to highlight some books that I think are worth reading, starting with one that seems timely for today.

Second Chronicles 7:14 says, “If My people which are called by My name will humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from Heaven and will forgive their sins and will heal their land” (emphasis mine). Once again, I believe God is calling the Church back to Him, and we must begin on our knees.

In his book, A Praying Church: The Neglected Blessing of Corporate Prayer, Dennis Gundersen isn’t just calling individuals to begin praying; he is calling the Church back to corporate prayer meetings, and he explains how to do this effectively.

I believe the biggest reason many have stopped having gatherings of prayer is due to the fact that few people would come out for this. Much of this shows how calloused hearts are becoming, even among professing Christians, but part of the lack of interest is due to the fact that prayer meetings can be, quite frankly, boring. When individuals are on fire for the Lord and then they get together to pray, lives are changed, miracles happen, and folks are drawn ever closer to the Heavenly Father.

This book does not contain hoopla and magic formulas, but it does have some practical advice as to how to conduct a prayer meeting. If you have a heart for prayer, I encourage you to get this book. It can inspire you in your personal prayer life and might move you to start a prayer group even if it’s in your home. If you are a pastor or church leader, you should read this book. Let’s stop neglecting the act of praying together.

For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.  ~Matthew 18:20

Encourage the Weary

The Lord GOD has given me the tongue of those who are taught, that I may know how to sustain with a word him who is weary.  ~Isaiah 50:4a

Wouldn’t you like to have the right words to say to everyone who is downtrodden? I expect that the number of those who need a word of encouragement is massive right now. Thankfully, for those who know the Lord, we can remind each other that He will not abandon us. He is going to take care of us no matter how long this quarantine lasts. Without the Lord, I don’t know how I would get through these times.

A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.  ~Proverbs 25:11

I was watching a live video feed this evening, and a gentleman mentioned that he hopes people are learning things right now such as the importance of washing hands, being clean, not going out when you’re sick, etc. I also hope that people learn the importance of being pleasant, smiling, not neglecting to share a kind word when the opportunity arises. When people are struggling to see even a glimmer of hope, I hope they find a Christian who is willing to listen and to pray with them. We want to receive these things; we need to be willing to give them.

Set a guard, O LORD, over my mouth; Keep watch over the door of my lips.  ~Psalm 141:3

I once knew an older man who declared, “When you get to be my age, you can say anything.” That may be true but I would counter and say that, no matter how old or young you are, courtesy and kindness are still important. I like the old adage, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.” This is something I am praying about for myself this year, and I encourage you to as well.

I doubt there is a person on earth who doesn’t need to walk more closely with the Spirit. Those who are forced to slow down from the typical busyness of life should use this time to seek His face and “learn of [Him]” (Matthew 11:29). Let’s not take a day or a moment for granted. We are here for such a time as this, and this time may be all about growing in light and encouragement to those around us. Take some time to encourage someone today.

Don’t Be Afraid

Don’t be afraid. Easy to say but not always easy to adhere to. How can one not be afraid when one’s livelihood is at stake? When we’re told not to leave our houses except in an emergency, and we don’t know how long this is going to last? I understand how hard it is to live with uncertainty, but I have some ideas that I think will help.

1. Turn off the TV. There is a reason that I don’t watch the news. People give me a hard time sometimes, but when I obsess over what is happening in the world or even in my county, it can cause me to be afraid to leave my house. I don’t need negativity controlling my life, and you don’t either. The fact is that it is hard to discern what is true and what isn’t. Is this a 2-week quarantine, or will we be here a year from now? Only God really knows, and hearing others’ predictions can be quite depressing. So turn off the TV, get on your knees, and ask God to give you His peace that passes all understanding. He can alert you to anything you need to know. Everything else is a waste of your time anyway.

2. Sing. Jake Hess sang, “How many times have you seen someone fighting while they were singing a song?” I would ask the same question about worry. Although I suppose it is possible, I don’t think anxiety can last long if you are praising your Savior and acknowledging the One who holds the keys to life and death, health and sickness, prosperity and poverty. Singing can’t hurt anyway, so you may as well try it.

3. Pray. “Cast your cares upon Him for He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7). Tell the Lord how you feel. Ask Him to remove your fear and help you to focus on Him. Tell Him that you are trusting Him to get you through this time. And then praise Him for His love. He is so worthy!

4. Study the Word. You know how you never seem to have time for God’s Word because of all the activities you are a part of? Now is a good time to do some much-needed catch up. Don’t just read the Bible; study it. Get to know the Father. As you become more acquainted with Him, you will begin to understand how much He loves you which should give you the grace you need to trust Him more.

5. Don’t Isolate. I know the government is greatly limiting gatherings in many states but, in today’s society, there is no reason that you cannot connect with others. I am not a phone person so most of my interaction comes through Facebook, email, and texts, but I make sure to connect with people on an almost daily basis. Maybe it’s to see how they are doing. Sometimes I’m discouraged and needing prayer. This is what the Body of Christ is for–to be there for each other. If you are a phone person, call someone. Or Skype. The options are endless. Just please stay connected.

My future is uncertain too, but I am clinging to God’s promise that He will provide my needs. If He cares for the sparrow, just think about how much more He cares for us. This doesn’t mean that we will not go through hard things, but we can say with Fanny Crosby, “For I know whate’er befalls me, Jesus doeth all things well” (emphasis mine).

In closing, I will quote the chorus of another song I’m singing a lot lately.

Many things about tomorrow
I don’t seem to understand
But I know who holds tomorrow
And I know who holds my hand

CD Report: Victory Shout (The Kingsmen)

The Kingsmen have released another great CD. It’s up there with their Battle Cry project that came out a couple years ago. With everything happening in the world right now, I’ve especially been enjoying the songs Just Climb, Victory Shout, and You’ll Move Mountains for Me.

Other songs included are: Running to Win; I’ve Ever Been Glad; Dear John; It Still Changes Me; King of Kings; Prodigal Son; and That’s Where You’ll Find Me.

My Thoughts on the Coronavirus

Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. ~John 14:27

By now, I think everyone has heard of the Coronavirus. As I listen to conversations and read what people are saying, there seems to be two modes. Some are fearful and afraid to leave their homes while others think there is nothing to it. Young people especially think it’s a lot of hype as they are more disappointed about their group activities getting cancelled than they are about the fact that people are dying because of this outbreak. I feel like the answer lies in between the two.

We cannot say that this is no big deal because, to those who are being affected by it, it is. Sure, people die of the flu all the time and never make the news, but I think the concern with this virus is how long one can be infected and how easily it can be contracted.  Therefore, I would be slow to minimalize it. That said, fear is not the answer either. We cannot stop living just because we might get a virus. My advice is to use wisdom and be led by the Spirit. For myself, I plan to avoid public transportation for the time being, but I will still run errands, go on outings with my sisters, etc. If my brother or sister-in-law are scheduled to speak at a conference and we are still healthy, we will be there.

I pray that those who know the Lord will be a beacon of hope during this time. I can’t imagine the fear that must be going on inside of those who do not know where they will spend eternity. Or maybe they do know, and that’s why they are so scared. Your smile may be what will cause them to ask why you are so happy and give you a chance to share about the love of Jesus.

I don’t know what God is doing right now, but I do know that, amidst the uncertainty of the upcoming days, weeks, months, and years, God is still on the throne. He is watching.  It’s time for the Church to draw near to Him like never before, to turn from their wicked ways, and to seek His face (2 Chronicles 7:14). Even when things are going well, we should live each day as if it were our last, but what better time to start than during a time when we are faced with the reality that it really might be.

I am praying for those who are affected by this virus in some way. I pray for God’s covering on His people all over the world. I pray that those who don’t know the Savior will find Him and turn to Him before it’s too late. And I pray that God will pour out His peace on those who are struggling to find that serene place. May we all be faithful to keep trusting and serving Him. God bless you all!


Photo by Kalen Emsley on Unsplash