CD Review: Unashamed (Brian Free and Assurance)

The latest release from Brian Free and Assurance did not jump out and grab me. Musically, it sounds the same as their last two or three projects. I would really like to see them come out of their musical rut but I still appreciate their heart and there are some good songs on here.

This is the first I’ve noticed Ricky Free co-writing songs. He co-wrote half of the songs on this CD, including the leading song, God of Possibilities. Do you know this God who can part a sea and use a child to kill a giant? He’s the same God yesterday, today, and forever.

Unashamed is a commitment to boldly live for Christ.

Ricky Free teamed up with Ronny Hinson to write Tell It Like It Was. This is one song I like on the project. “Is it any wonder that we’re in the shape we’re in? The church will only say it if we’re sure it won’t offend.”

The tempo slows down as Bill Shivers sings Say Amen.
Brian Free sings He Still Saves, a new song with an old message.

Evidence in You talks about who we are in Christ after we come to know Him.

Jeremy Lile sings the toe-tapping A Little Bit of Me and You. Then the tempo slows down for One. In an ever-changing world where there seems to be no right or wrong, there is still one God.

Another song I like on the CD is Where There’s a Will, He Has a Way. Lauren Talley Alvey makes a guest appearance on the second verse. “Trust the One who holds you close, ’cause at the end of the day, where there’s a will, He has a way.”

Before the After talks about how easy it is to focus on the past but keep in mind that those things were before the after. We must remember the past in order to testify of how God brought us through. However, if that is no longer a part of your life, you must move on, realizing that that was before; this is now.

Book Review: You Don’t Cry Out Loud (The Lily Isaacs Story)

you-don_t-cry-out-loud-lr_2For years, I have heard bits and pieces of Lily Isaacs’ story (how she was the daughter of holocaust survivors and a cancer survivor herself), but I had never heard exactly how her parents escaped Hitler’s plans or that her father was an alcoholic while she was growing up. I am happy that New Leaf Press chose to release this amazing story of a Jew who eventually found Jesus and allowed Him to turn her life around. For those who are familiar with the Isaacs’ music ministry, you will enjoy learning more about the matriarch of this much-loved group. If you have never heard of her, you will still appreciate this amazing story. You will laugh with Lily as she talks about some of her childhood antics and you will cry with her as she talks about being shunned by her parents for becoming a Christian. Even if you are not a reader, you will want to get this book.

CD Review: Great Day (Legacy Five)

The latest CD by Legacy Five begins with the uptempo title track, Great Day. I love the tight harmonies that we have come to expect from this group.

Gus Gaches sings Christ is Still the King. A powerful song written by Dianne Wilkinson and Rebecca J. Peck. “Rejoice! The tomb’s still empty, and Christ is still the King!”

More great quartet harmony on That’s a Hallelujah. “Every time the Lord has been good to ya, that’s a Hallelujah!”

Scott Howard sings So Many Things which tells of many of the things he’s thankful for in spite of the difficulties life brings.

What a Happy Day is a medley of old songs: “O What a Happy Day,” “Everybody Will Be Happy Over There,” “I’ll Live in Glory,” “When We All Get to Heaven,” “I’ll Have a New Life,” “Heaven’s Jubilee,” and “A Wonderful Time Up There.” So many old favorites, yet they fit portions of each song into just a little over four minutes.

Only the Living is a beautiful song. It talks about how sad it is for those living when a loved one goes on to Heaven. The one who left, however, is experiencing joy on the other side.

In my view, the message of Who is This Man has been overdone but the delivery is well done.

He Heals is a slow song of hope hope for the hurting.

He is to Me has a similar feel to “He Is” which Triumphant Quartet sings.

Great Medley features, “Great is Thy Faithfulness,” “How Big is God,” and “How Great Thou Art.” Hallelujah!

I read some other reviews of this project and apparently not everyone hears it the same way I do. In my book, featuring great arrangements by Lari Goss and great lyrics from a variety of songwriters, as well as great harmony, this is another great Legacy Five CD.

Don’t Stop Growing

I love meeting new Believers. They are so eager to learn about God and His Word. If the Bible says it, they believe it and desire to do what it says. They are often looking for opportunities to share their new-found faith with others. After what God has done for them, they don’t want to just keep it to themselves.

As excited as I get when I meet people like this, I am extremely burdened for those who have gone to church their whole lives. Many of them do not exhibit the joy of the Lord, they are not in the Word asking Him to try them and know them and show them the things that displease Him, and they are not being the Light that God calls us to be. Instead, they show up at church Sunday morning, looking like they would rather be anywhere else.

The Bible is a big book with lots of guidelines for how God wants His children to live, but a great starting point would be Galatians 5:22 and 23: the fruits of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance). Jesus said we would know those who are His by their fruit. Does this list describe you?

When I came to know the Lord in my late teens, there were certain negative character traits He took away from me. Some things, however, I still struggle with. As much as I would like to not struggle (I even hate it at times), I realize that it is in these struggles that growth comes. If everything were easy, I would not see the need to rely on Him. As it is, I call on Him daily to help me walk in a way that pleases Him. I pray that I never become content but will constantly seek to grow and follow Him wholeheartedly. I want to be a vessel He can use until my dying day. I pray that is your prayer as well.

Faithfulness is a Choice

If there is one thing I desire, it is to be faithful. I pray daily for God’s help in that area but often I’m reminded that I need to choose the path of faithfulness. Temptations abound, even for the Christian. If I do not desire faithfulness with all my heart, to the point that I am willing to make right choices, it is like asking God to help me lose weight while I eat every dessert and carbohydrate in sight. It’s not going to happen. First Corinthians 10:13 tells us that God will provide a way of escape from temptation but I will add that He won’t make us walk through that door.

This is a lesson I am still learning. I like quick fixes. I would prefer to be so close to God that I don’t desire to sin but there are still areas where I must choose on a daily basis to take the right path. Sometimes I win; sometimes I fail. Thankfully, I serve a merciful God who will allow me to get back up and try again. The more I choose the path of “right,” the easier it becomes the next time.

Years ago, a friend told me that it was easier for her to not eat any sugar than to eat a small bite. If she allowed herself any, she would end up eating more than she should. It is that way with sin. If we allow ourselves a slight indulgence, we will not be able to stop with that. It is much better to weigh everything we do in light of God’s Word. If He says to do it, do it with all your heart. If He says don’t, stay as far away from it as you can. If there are things that are not clearly stated in Scripture, see if there are principles in the Bible that would speak to the situation. If you have the Spirit of God, He will show you right from wrong. When He does, you have a responsibility to walk in that. Anyone who knows to do right and does it not, to him or her especially, it is sin.

I hope you will choose to be faithful today. Study the fruits of the Spirit and examine yourself to see how those line up in your life. What about the two great commandments: loving God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength and loving your neighbor as yourself? That is the standard–not whether we are living better than our friends and neighbors, but if we are pleasing God in everything we do.

Are You Genuine?

I can’t imagine anything worse than being called a hypocrite: “a person who feigns some desirable or publicly approved attitude, especially one whose private life, opinions, or statements belie his or her public statements.” People used to joke about moms who would holler at their children but, when the phone would ring, the tone of voice quickly changed as she answered, “Hello.” I’ve been in ministry for over 25 years, and I remind myself often that, if I am not living what I preach, I should not be preaching.

This does not mean I never have a bad day. I can become frustrated, overwhelmed, stressed, etc. but I work to overcome so I can walk through those times in a way that honors God. When I fail and I know I have grieved my Father, I ask His forgiveness and His help to do better.

I don’t want anyone to ever look at me and see another Christian who has failed. I want them to see that God is real and at work in the lives of His imperfect people. Without Him, I am not a blessing to anyone but, with Him, there is no end to the ways He can use me if I will allow Him to do so.

If you are struggling to live Godly in Christ Jesus, the answer is not to give up. Continue to draw near to God, ask for His help to become the person you know you need to be. If you have been unkind to others, tell them you know you were wrong. It may take them time to forgive you but at least you will be taking the first step to a victorious walk with Christ. Habits are hard to break so you may find yourself repeating the sin you’ve repented of. Every time, as soon as you realize you’ve done it again, go to God and ask His forgiveness and His help to say No to those things. Whether anger, pride, selfishness, lust–whatever the sin–God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. I, for one, am very grateful that He is continuing the work that He began in me. May I ever praise Him for it.

Don’t Neglect the Widows

Lately, I’ve been thinking about all the people I know whose husband or wife have gone to Heaven ahead of them. I can only imagine the heartache, as the person who has been their best friend for 30-60 years is no longer around to share their joys and sorrows.

James 1:27 tells us, “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.” There is such a need for those who feel alone to still feel loved. They need to know we care. I keep a very hectic schedule and, often, taking the time to call someone seems like a mountain, but I’m praying for God to show me how and when to fit that in. I’m also trying to be more faithful with emails. It doesn’t take long to send a quick note of encouragement to someone I know who is struggling.

Remembering the widows in your midst may take you outside of your comfort zone, it will force you to think of others, but in the end, you will be glad you were obedient because you will know that you truly made someone’s day. Sometimes that is all it takes to brighten my day as well.

Prayer Warriors Needed

I was reminded today about a family who lost their dad and two girls in a tornado recently. I left a window open on my computer with their names so I would remember to pray for the family.

A friend of mine requested prayer today for a daughter-in-law who was having surgery to repair a hole in her heart.

Almost every morning when I get on Facebook, I see post after post from people requesting prayer. Surgeries, children in the hospital (some with life-threatening illnesses), marriages falling apart, family members dying–all crying out to the Savior for a much-needed miracle. I sometimes wonder how many take these requests seriously.

It’s easy to be focused on our own needs that we don’t take time to care about others, but it is in caring that sometimes my own load becomes lighter. Sometimes looking at others’ trials make mine seem small in comparison.

When someone shares a prayer request with you, do you take it seriously and really commit it to prayer until the answer comes, or do you just say, “I’ll pray for you” because it seems like the thing to say and, besides, the sooner you say it, the quicker they’ll shut up? I would encourage you to commit to truly pray for at least one friend who is going through a difficult time. Help to carry their burden as if it was your own.

When you see prayer requests from people you don’t really know, at least take a moment to pray right away. God may use your simple act of obedience to turn the tide in those people’s lives.

Don’t use “I’ll pray for you” as a cliche. If you promise to do that for someone, make sure you really do so. You may even begin to see more answers to your own prayers.

Concert/CD Review: But for the Cross (The LeFevre Quartet)

LeFevre Quartet

The first southern gospel concert I ever attended was on May 13, 1989, when my mom paid for me to see the Gold City Quartet. They were my favorite quartet at the time, and I thought Heaven could not be better. The group at that time consisted of Tim Riley, Mike LeFevre, Ivan Parker, Brian Free, and Garry Jones. Twenty-Five years later, on May 15, 2014, I got to see The LeFevre Quartet, owned by former Gold City baritone, Mike LeFevre. I have seen the quartet a few times at the National Quartet Convention but this was my first time to see a full concert of theirs. It was reminiscent of the Gold City concert I attended long ago: good harmony, great songs, some humor, but everything centered around God and giving Him the glory.

They started the concert with Brandon Barry singing, Plan of Salvation.

Next was a new song to me: Standing on the Daily Promises.

I never tire of hearing Mike LeFevre sing, When I Get Carried Away. He gave another excellent performance this evening.

Mike then introduced pianist Michael Lott, at which point they went into an instrumental version of Just a Closer Walk With Thee.

Brandon was featured again on I’ll Let You Lead Me. Then Mike introduced him to those of us who were seeing him for theĀ  first time. After that, Brandon sang, Let ‘Em Find Me Guilty. I had never heard this song before either but it is a very powerful song.

Jordan LeFevre sang, Come and See. “Miracles are still alive today. It’s not the lack of God’s power; it’s the lack of our faith.” Then they sang the old quartet song, There’s a Rainbow.

After Thomas Nalley was introduced he sang, I Know a Man Who Can. That song was followed by a toe tapper Brandon Barry wrote entitled, Saved by the Blood. They ended the first portion of the concert with Jesus Saves.

Unfortunately I lost my notes for the last half but they took requests, singing at least a chorus of each song that was requested. One highlight for me was when they sang I Love to Call His Name, an old Rex Nelon song.

My favorite song of the evening was Put it Right There. The first verse talks about a young man who tells his dad about his drug addiction. The father tells the son to, “Put it right there. We’re in this together. I’ll help you through this” (my paraphrase). The second verse talks about Jesus dying on the cross and possibly telling the soldier to “put it (the nail) right there,” as He paid the price for our sins.

After that, Mike gave a really good message about the importance of surrender. They closed with the perfect song, I Surrender All, as they encouraged those who needed to surrender to come to the altar.


1287080-origOther songs on the latest CD by The LeFevre Quartet include: But for the Cross, I’m So Saved, The Wedding Song, We Are the Church, The Blessed Hope, and Someday Soon.

This CD was released in 2012 but Mike told me they are working on three CDs which will be coming out yet in 2014. They have a table CD which will be releasing soon, and then later this year, they will release a Christmas CD and a CD of all new songs. I can’t wait to hear them.

A Day of Reflection and Recommitment

Today is my birthday which means a time of reflection. This past year has been one of change for me. Although I usually fight against change, I am learning to embrace it since, without change, there could not be growth. Growth is important to keep us from being stagnant or complacent in our walk with the Lord.

Today, I am recommitting my time and talents to the Lord. I want to see Him use me more than ever before. I hope my new editing venture continues to give me constant work. I pray God continues to open doors for travel and ministry. But I know that, if I leave everything in His hands, He will provide just what I need to help me to best serve Him. This should be my heart’s desire anyway.

I don’t know what the future holds but I know Who holds the future. I know His plans for me are good and not evil. Although I can fall into pouting if I don’t get my own way, I pray those days are few and far between, as I learn to rest in my Father’s plans for me. I am re-learning the art of being thankful in everything for this is the will of my Savior. I pray that I will be a faithful student and learn what my Father desires to teach me so that I can better help others.

God has been so good to me, and I know He won’t fail me now. I look forward to seeing what the coming year brings. I trust His grace to bring me through the hard times but I know there will be joys as well. That’s the kind of God I serve.