Victory Is Ahead

Most of those who know me will be surprised to know that I have dealt with periods of depression the last five years or so like I’ve never felt before. It is a struggle to get out of bed some days and yet I have a work to do which requires me to keep fighting.

The Christian life is not always easy. I’ve seen people who “try Jesus” walk away, never to return. The writer of Hebrews explains why when he says, “For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt” (Hebrews 6:4-6).

Brothers and Sisters, if you name the name of Christ, quitting is not an option. Many quit every day. Hopelessness takes over until some end up taking their own lives. Where is the victory that comes to those who accept Jesus Christ as their Savior?

I think many try Jesus like they try on clothes. If He doesn’t fit their lifestyle, He gets put on the shelf until a crisis occurs. Then He gets blamed for not caring when He doesn’t answer. God does care, but He is not obligated to answer the prayers of those who just want to use Him. James 5:16 says, “The effectual, fervent prayer of a righteous man (or woman) avails much.” Are you righteous, or is there a hidden sin that you’re hoping God will overlook and answer your prayer anyway? Maybe that sin is simply living for self but wanting God on the side. You cannot serve two masters.

I’ve derailed slightly, as I want this to be encouraging to those who are discouraged but, before you can be encouraged, you need to examine your heart as to whether or not you are truly in the faith. Is there any area of your life that you have not surrendered to God? If not, then I want to encourage you to keep pressing on and don’t give up. Your answer will come. If life were too easy, we would not need God. Our depression, discouragement, etc. reminds us of what life is like without Him: hopeless. Don’t give in to those feelings. Praise Him when you don’t feel like it. Intercede for others. Get your mind off of yourself and your problems. Learn to be content wherever God has you. Don’t envy others. God’s plan for you is good and not evil, and He will complete His good work in you if you are diligent to fight the good fight. Be encouraged today, dear friends. There is victory ahead!

NQC 2015 Highlights: Day 6

The last night of the National Quartet Convention was the best yet. The Jim Brady Trio kicked off the evening once again.

The Bowling Sisters did a splendid job on “If That Isn’t Love.” It was neat seeing Mike and Kelly Bowling get blessed as they watched their girls harmonize on that song.

Greater Vision did all requests which included: “I Know a Man Who Can,” “Put Out the Fire,” “Preacher, Tell Me Like It Is,” and “‘Til the Storm Passes By.” Gerald Wolfe cried as he sang this song, and I was crying along with Him. This is such a timely song for a lot of people.

Libbi Stuffle of The Perrys sang, “I Claim the Blood.” I cried during this song too, as I know this is even more meaningful to her now. I used to listen to Labreeska Hemphill sing this back in the 1980s so I was very happy to hear it again. Libbi did a great job. The Perrys’ message is not one of grief but of hope. It is summed up in the lyrics of their song which says, “Keep on. Be brave. Hold fast. Have faith. Pray hard. Fear not. Stay strong. Keep on.”

Karen Peck and New River sang, “We Shall Wear a Crown” with The Whisnants, Devin McGlamery, and Eric Bennett. I still enjoy hearing that song. It was fun watching Ricky Braddy, as he obviously loves it too.

The evening ended with different groups singing one of their number one songs. Songs sung are as follows:

The Whisnants: “I’ll Pray For You”
Mark Trammell Quartet: “That’s Enough For Me to Know”
Karen Peck and New River: “Four Days Late”
Triumphant Quartet: “Saved By Grace”
Greater Vision: “My Name Is Lazarus”
Ernie Haase and Signature Sound: “Get Away Jordan”

NQC 2015 Highlights: Day 5

What a week this has been. I have laughed and cried and praised each night. I will probably not have a chance to post tonight’s highlights until tomorrow or Monday but I want to take a moment now to thank each of you who have read what I consider to be some of the highlights of this year’s National Quartet Convention.

Yesterday, I watched Kim Collingsworth’s Majestic showcase. I confess I miss the days where there would be 6-8 piano players at a time but Kim invited Tim Parton and Stan Whitmire to play with her on some songs so that was nice. Kim mentioned that it was ten years ago that Roger Bennett first invited her to be a part of his Parade of Pianos. It’s hard to believe it’s been that long.

One of Kim’s other guests was her nephew, Jesse. Kim told the story of how, when he was 2 1/2, he was diagnosed with retinal cancer. The doctor removed one eye and, in spite of trying hard to save the other eye, they ended up removing it when he was 4. It was a hard transition for him to go from seeing to being totally blind and he had a lot of anger. One day, when his anger was really bad, his mom prayed that God would heal Jesse’s heart. The next morning, he was able to tell people, “It’s OK. I’ll see in Heaven.” He then played “Great is Thy Faithfulness” on the piano and played and sang “Great is the measure of our Father’s love.” I’m sure there was not a dry eye in the place.

After that, Kim led the congregation in singing, “Jesus, We Just Want to Thank You” and “I Love You, Lord.” She mentioned that “Even in the midst of tragedy and when things don’t go our way, it doesn’t change God’s goodness.”

In the evening concert segment, Wilburn and Wilburn sang a song that was fitting since the shooting in Oregon the other day. It said, “God Wasn’t There … You Asked Him to Leave.” Stop and think about that one.

Riley Clark of Tribute Quartet did an excellent job on “Mary, Did You Know” with just the piano accompanying him. Then Tribute and the Talleys sang “Sweeter As the Days Go By,” each group singing their rendition and then joining together to sing the last chorus. Later, during the Talley’s set, Lauren Talley and Riley Clark sang “Our Prayer.” It was excellent!

The highlight of the Inspirations’ set was “Shouting Time.” Claude and Mike Hopper (who were hosting the show) joined them in singing at the end.

The Primitive Quartet did an instrumental of “He Looked Beyond My Fault and Saw My Need.” Jeff Tolbert was featured on the violin. The presence of the Lord was definitely there through that.

I don’t remember if I’d heard The Littles before, but they were good. One song they sang said, “We’ve just a few miles left to roam. We might as well make it on home.” I listened to it closely to make sure I knew what was being said. Sometimes life is hard and we don’t know how much more we can take, but it can be helpful to remember that we may have more years behind us than we do ahead of us. This is not the time to quit but to press on like never before.

Michael Booth said that a lot of people come up to him and tell him that singings is where they get close to Jesus. I can relate to that but he reminded people that, although music is great, and God uses music, it’s more important to read His Word. He challenged everyone to get into the Word and then listen to Gospel music.

Connie Hopper sang, “I’ve Come Too Far.” I love hearing her sing that.

The Dixie Echoes announced that Junior Shelton is leaving the group to spend more time with his grandchildren. They brought their new tenor on stage to sing a couple songs with them. Unfortunately, I didn’t catch his last name but I think he will do a good job.

The Kingdom Heirs brought the house down with “He Locked the Gates.” I was at the NQC where that was their new song. I loved it then and still love it now.

They ended the night with Jubilee (The Booth Brothers, Greater Vision, and Legacy Five). My favorite song they sang was the last one: “Beautiful Home.”

Claude Hopper had a stroke last month and has a hard time getting his words out at times but it hasn’t slowed him down. He is still doing what he loves: singing and telling stories. Thank You, Lord, for leaving him with us a bit longer.

NQC 2015 Highlights: Day 5

Yesterday was a big day for Mark Trammell. He preached at the chapel service in the morning and then he and his son, Nick, hosted the evening concerts. At one point, Nick brought his 1-year-old son, Charlie, on stage so everyone could meet him.

Nick introduced his in-laws’ group, The Browns. They were fabulous as always. They sang “A Place in the Choir” which has a few fiddle breaks. At one point, Adam and Andrew Brown stopped playing on their fiddles to slide their bows across sister Michaela’s fiddle while she played too. Very talented. They also did an awesome job on “Soul On Fire” and “Didn’t It Rain.” I liked the variety of songs they performed so that there was something for everyone.

Greater Vision sang “Faces” and then sang Lari Goss’s arrangement of “A Mighty Fortress.” They played a video of a short tribute to Mr. Goss. Gerald Wolfe has been mentioning his new CD quite a bit lately so they also sang the title track of that: “As We Speak.”

I like The Perrys’ new song: “When words are not enough, just lift your voices up and sing.” I have found that to be very helpful at times. Tracy Stuffle sang “Time Has Made a Change in Me” with Karen Peck Gooch and Kelly Nelon Clark. They closed their set with Loren Harris and Joseph Habedank singing, “I Wish I Could Have Been There,” along with many other former Perrys members. Tracy even sang his part. That made the night for me!

The Mylon Hayes Family sang a song out of the Red Back Hymnal and even did a verse and chorus singing the shape notes. Stan Whitmire played piano for them.

Canton Junction did an excellent job on “When He Was On the Cross (I Was On His Mind)” and “Every Hallelujah.” What a powerful song!

Lillie Knauls made a guest appearance to sing “Oh Happy Day.” Apparently, she appeared on the Edwin Hawkin’s version of that many years ago. That was a nice surprise and change of pace.

The Whisnants sang “New Day Dawning,” which was a highlight since they have sung that at every NQC I have been to. I love that song!

The evening ended with Brotherhood, which is The Booth Brothers and Ernie Haase and Signature Sound. They sang several old songs but my favorite was Rusty Goodman’s song, “Home.” Ronnie Booth played guitar, and Michael Booth played drums on several of the songs. They will be touring out east so watch their schedules for a concert near you.

NQC 2015 Highlights: Day 4

I missed the first segment of chapel yesterday morning, but I tuned in in time to hear Dan Spencer’s message. It was on Ecclesiastes 3 and how everything has a season and each season is ordered by God. I have struggled at times to know how much God controls and how much happens due to bad choices but I do know that God allows everything that happens for a purpose. I just need to trust Him and allow Him to work in my life. After that, The Hoppers sang a few songs.

As you can probably guess, The Cathedrals Family Reunion is a group of some of the former members of The Cathedrals Quartet singing Cathedrals classics. I missed this last year, so I was glad they did it again. Interspersed with clips of George and Glen, this brought back a lot of memories. It was great to see Scott Fowler and Ernie Haase singing together again, as well as Danny Funderburk and Mark Trammell. Gerald Wolfe played piano but he also sang a verse of his signature song with them: “Champion of Love.”

After that was The Singing News Fan Awards. I thought of giving an in-depth report, quoting acceptance speeches, etc. but I know that Paul Heil will be doing a much better job of that in a few weeks so I will simply list the winners below.

 

Bass: Eric Bennett
Young Artist: Trey Ivey
Soloist: Ivan Parker
Male Singer: Ronnie Booth
Baritone: Mark Trammell
Alto: Connie Hopper
Lead: Ronnie Booth
Band: Kingdom Heirs
Tenor: Michael Booth
Mixed Group: The Collingsworth Family
Trio: Booth Brothers
Musician: Kim Collingsworth
Female Singer: Kim Hopper
Soprano: Kim Hopper
Non-performing Songwriter: Dianne Wilkinson
Songwriter: Rodney Griffin
Quartet: Triumphant Quartet
Album: Triumphant Quartet – Awesome God
Song: Greater Vision – “For All He’s Done”
Artist: Booth Brothers

It was really good to see Squire Parsons back on the main stage last night. Among other songs, he sang “I Sing Because,” “I Feel Good” (in response to people asking how he’s doing since his recent health issues), “and Samuel and Leah Parsons joined him to sing “Beulah Land.”

Archie Watkins and Smoky Mountain Reunion were good as always. The highlight for me was seeing Archie sing “Two Shoes.” I hadn’t heard that in a while but I love that song.

Melissa Brady sang Squire Parson’s song, “The Greatest of All Miracles.” The first group I ever heard sing that was Gold City in the mid-1980s, but it is still an amazing song.

This was Primitive Quartet’s first NQC without Norman Wilson. They did well as always, and Jeff Tolbert sang the last song Norman sang on that stage: “What a Singing That Will Be When I Get Home.”

This was The Erwins’ first time to be on the main stage, and they did an excellent job. My 13-year-old niece says they are her favorite group that she’s heard. A mixed group of siblings ages 15-22. You definitely need to check them out.

I always love seeing Jim Brady sing with Legacy Five on his song, “Truth Is Marching On.”

“He left no stone unturned but he left one rolled away.” Great lyrics to The LeFevre Quartet’s new song.

I like NQC because I get to see where the different people are now. You may already know this but I found out that Josh Garner is now singing with The Dixie Melody Boys. It was good to see them back on the main stage.

Jason Crabb brought his sister, Kelly Bowling, on stage to sing with him on “Through the Fire.”

The Booth Brothers dedicated their set to Mosie Lister’s memory, playing a short video and then singing songs that he wrote. They ended with “I Met the Master” and “Still Feeling Fine” (one of my favorites).

The evening ended with some of the former members of Gold City and the groups they now sing with performing old Gold City hits. Songs sung were, “When I Get Carried Away,” “Under Control,” “I’m Not Giving Up,” “One Scarred Hand,” and “Midnight Cry.”

NQC 2015 Highlights: Day 3

I am sorry for the delay of yesterday’s highlights. I was really tired after the concerts last night. Then this morning, I woke in time to see some of the chapel and the programs today (which I will be posting about later), so this is the first I’ve had a chance to get Day 3 posted.

Last night was Family Night on the stage of the National Quartet Convention. The evening consisted of mostly family groups but, as Phil Collingsworth pointed out, even the quartets who performed included a father and son in the group. Mark Bishop performed, which would have seemed out of place but even he had his daughters singing with him on stage. What an evening!

The McKameys surprised me by singing mostly new songs but Peg did sing probably her most requested song: “God on the Mountain.” I feel old when I hear it because I remember when that song was on the radio charts. Yet its message is timeless.

My favorite set was The Perrys. I cried as I watched Tracy Stuffle sing from his wheelchair, giving the devil a black eye. Among the songs they sang were “I Got a Hold of God This Morning” and “I Rest My Case at the Cross.” Troy Peach summed it up when he said that the reason they tell their story is not so people will feel sorry for them. “No, the reason we tell you our story is so you will have hope.” It’s the testimonies of others that remind a person who is feeling low that God still saves, heals, and delivers. It’s why many of these groups sing night after night: to deliver that hope and point people to the Reason we can have that hope.

It was good to see Jeff Stice back on stage playing piano for The Nelons. The highlight of their set was Amber singing “Then Came the Morning.” “Death had lost and life had won for morning had come.”

I love Triumphant Quartet’s new song. “This my song shall ever be: Amazing God, you’re still amazing me.”

The Lesters started 90 years ago, and Brian Lester is continuing the group with Matt Felts and Brian’s son Jonathan. Matt did a great job singing the old song, “My Savior First of All.” They ended their set with Brian singing his signature song, “He Didn’t Throw the Clay Away.” I’ve heard that song for years and, honestly, it has not been one of my favorites. Last night, I listened to it in a new way, however. What a message delivered in a heartfelt manner.

Dean Hopper announced that Buck Rambo has stage 4 bone cancer. I was not aware of that. Let’s keep Buck and his family in our prayers.

I have not kept up with The Inspirations since Mike Holcomb left the group but Martin Cook has put together a great lineup this year. The group currently consists of Melton Campbell, Matt Dibler, Harold Reed, and Joe Brown.

The evening ended with some songs from former members of The Cathedral Quartet: Ernie Haase, Scott Fowler, Mark Trammell, and Gerald Wolfe. Pat Barker sang bass. They sang “Wedding Music” and “He Made a Change.” Then Danny Funderburk joined them for “Jesus, We Just Want to Thank You” and “We Shall See Jesus.” They played a video of Glen Payne singing the last verse, which totally made the evening.

 

NQC 2015 Highlights: Day 2

Jonathan and Jordan Wilburn hosted last night’s concert segment of the National Quartet Convention. The evening began with the pledge to the flag and a couple patriotic songs. Then The Mylon Hayes Family took the stage to sing a few songs.

During Jeff & Sheri Easter’s segment, Sheri shared something she had written in her journal a year ago. “In today’s world, friends walk away; sons and daughters leave; but God never leaves.” This jumped out at me, as that is exactly what I wrote about on here just the other day. I think that is the message God wants to remind so many people.

The Jim Brady Trio started their set with “On My Way Home.” That is probably my favorite song that they sing.

I thought it neat that Richard Simmons played piano for Freedom last night. I had not heard about him since he left The Dove Brothers so that was a treat.

The Whisnants sang a new song, “I’m Gonna Go Out Singing,” which was very reminiscent of my favorite Whisnants song, “New Day Dawning.” I’m guessing this will be a song they start singing at every NQC.

Kim Hopper noted that it’s been five years since her brother Tony passed away.

This was my first opportunity to hear Ricky Braddy with Karen Peck and New River. They highlighted him on “Were You There.” He did an excellent job!

I have not followed Gold City since the Jonathan Wilburn/Jay Parrack days but I have seen them at NQC and have not always been impressed with their lineups. The lineup they have this year is doing a great job. Granted, they would sing more southern songs at the NQC, bu it may be time to give them another listen.

Matthew Holt put together a mixed quartet out of Bethel University by the name of Renaissance. They sang “I’ll Be a Friend to Jesus,” “The Fourth Man,” “Champion of Love,” and “Standing on the Solid Rock.” I was impressed by the fact that they seemed so comfortable on that stage. There was no sign of nervousness at all, and they did an outstanding job.

Clayton Inman sang “Welcome to Heaven, My Child,” a song he sang with The Singing Americans many years ago. I’m so glad he brought that song back. I still love it.

The Hoppers ended the program with Claude singing, “If I Can Help Somebody.” Then the group sang “Shouting Time.”

I am now counting down the hours to tonight’s concerts.

National Quartet Convention 2015 Highlights: Day 1

This afternoon, I watched the NQC highlights video from last year and got excited about this week. This evening, I was not let down. Performing were The Jim Brady Trio, The Mark Trammell Quartet, The Hoppers, Greater Vision, and Tim Lovelace.

As I mentioned last year, the highlights I mentioned are just that–what I consider to be the highlights. I’m sure those who are actually at the Convention will have more to share. I am watching online but I was still very blessed this evening and expect to be the rest of the week.

The Jim Brady Trio made their debut as a group on the main stage, and what a blessing they were! They are one of the groups I am most excited about this year. They led off with “If It Had Not Been.”

Greater Vision is celebrating 25 years of ministry as a group this year. Gerald gave the background story of their current radio song before they sang, “Put Out the Fire.” It grabs you in concert.

Connie Hopper is one of my favorite people in the industry so seeing her sing is always a highlight. Of special mention is her singing the second verse of “Thank You, Lord, For Your Blessings on Me.” She sang it wish typical feeling and class.

Kim Hopper and Melissa Brady sang a duet on “There is a Fountain Filled With Blood.” Very good.

Mark Trammell sang, “It’s Almost Over” by request. The whole group got into this song which must have been powerful in person.

Dean Hopper introduced a young lady by the name of Abby Paskvan. She sang, “All Rise,” and she can definitely sing. Dean said he and Mike have just released a CD of hers. I expect we’ll hear more from her in coming years.

CD Review: Words (Canaan’s Crossing)

David Staton produced yet another great CD from Canaan’s Crossing. This group has a way of choosing fabulous songs with great bluegrass arrangements.

Group member Josh Palmer wrote the lead-off song, Closer Than a Brother. The Savior is waiting to enter your heart so that He can be closer than a brother. That is so comforting to me lately, as it seems that, so many times, friends are hard to find. The Heavenly Father is always there, however, waiting to comfort as no one else can.

The tempo picks up for He Holds Me in His Hand.

River of Living Water tells about the living water that Christ offers, as opposed to the water that leaves you thirsty.

Tina Miller sings Somebody’s Blessing, a beautiful song about blessing others. I don’t know about you but it means the world to me when someone tells me I am a blessing. There are way too many negative things in the world but, when you bless another, you are getting past yourself to be God’s hands and feet and voice. “In ways they weren’t expecting, I wanna be somebody’s blessing.”

The Words I Would Say: “Be strong in the Lord. Never give up hope. You’re gonna do great things. I already know God’s got His hand on you, so don’t live life in fear. Forgive and forget. Don’t forget why you’re here. Take your time and pray and thank God for each day.” Words of encouragement for those who are hurting.

Aren’t you thankful for His Unchanging Hand? In a world that ever changes, I’m grateful that God never does. I don’t have to worry that He will love me one day and not love me the next.

Hold Back the Sea starts out talking about how God delivered Israel from the Red Sea. Then it brings it around to personal application, how life can seem like a sea that’s about to drown us but God is still able to hold back that proverbial sea.

Count It All Joy is a song of encouragement for those who are going through trials.

Come Drink This Water is an invitation to accept Jesus into your life.

I Will Go is a song of surrender. “No matter what the cost, no matter what the loss … I will go.”

 

A Godly Man: Who Can Find?

I watched Chuck Brady’s funeral yesterday and, once again, I feel like all the Godly men are going Home. Gone seem to be the days where men kept their priorities right, where God was first, family second, others third, and everything else last. I know Godly women are limited too, but I think women are sometimes quicker to realize their need for depending on God.

I have been so challenged this past week. Through the funeral, my Bible study, books I read … life is too short to live for self. God MUST be first in my life. It is not enough to make it to Heaven on “a wing and a prayer.” I must occupy until He comes and trust that, as I do so, others will follow.

Life can be very stressful. The cares of this world can so easily choke out the Spirit who wants to strengthen us for our daily tasks. We must not let that happen. His yoke is easy, and His Spirit is light. He wants to lift your burden and give you a victorious life. He wants to use you to impact your family, workplace, and community. You are here for a purpose. Don’t lose sight of that.

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