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IMG_1957-300x269One of the joys of my job as coordinator of the Atlanta Arts Network is meeting and partnering with other Creative Artists and in this case Worship Artists.

Jay and Abby Akins have just released a Album called Trust.

You might be saying, yeah another CD from a worship leader.  Isn’t that par for the course.  Everyone who leads worship these days pretty much has to record as well as lead worship.

This is where Jay and Abby are a bit different from the rest!  Jay and Abby see this Album as an extension of their ministry to worship leaders as well as a way to serve the church by providing great songs for worship.

From the first time I met Jay at a Chick-fil-a (the original one in Hapeville GA) I realized that Jay’s heart was for building disciples as well as making music.  Abby and Jay are part of our South Atlanta Worship Leaders Community.  Jay has been a big part of our getting that group going and he really loves investing his time in people.

Trust is a testimony of a Jay and Abby’s vibrant heart for God and a desire to cultivate worshippers of God.  While many people focus on styles of worship, Jay has been at the forefront of helping his congregation learn to focus on Christ and the message of the gospel.  In a culture that looks at the church and what it offers as products and services to be consumed, Jay is quick to point to the fact that their focus is engaging the worshippers in such a way as to point to Christ and to challenge them to vibrant walk with God, and be owners of the church rather than be a merely a member who comes to church!

Trust features songs that call the worshipper to consider Christ and what it means to follow Him in the midst of life!  “Hope is” is a praise anthem that sets Jesus before us as the eternal son who is Himself Hope.  We bring our “Golden Dreams Fragile Hopes and Simple Faith” and find that they are torn.  When we look at ourselves we hear the call of Jesus to “surrender.”

Hope is Rising from the Ashes
I’m delivered
I’m restored
Hope is Rising
Christ delivers Christ restores

I Stand in Awe of You“, communicates the commitment of a follower of Christ who sees the truth of the gospel and prayerfully calls on God to work and shows a overwhelming sense of wonder of His person and work.

Jesus my Savior
I bow low before You
Carried my sin
Healed my shame
I live for You
Forever I am changed
My heart will sing Your praise

I stand in awe
I stand in awe of You

Hope in You, considers the nature of God and how He is the place to find true hope.

Trust, the title track, beginning with a lyrical feel with some nice mandolin work that a made the song flow and yet didn’t take away from the melodies and sing-ability of this song.  The vocal counterpoint between Abby and Jay in chorus will translate well into congregation singing.

Invited features strong vocals from Jay and Abby’s harmonies blend well with the driving guitar which gives this song energy.

Returning is features a nice organs and guitar which complement the Abby’s vocals on this rock ballad that echoes the themes of a prodigal.

For too long now
I’ve turned my face from You
I have tasted
The bitter sinful fruit
I am longing
To feast upon Your love
I am turning
Please fix my eyes above

Ransom Song and Point of Surrender finish off this album pointing us first to the Cross of Christ where the debt was pain in full, where Jesus took our place.  Point of Surrender finishes by taking lyrics of traditional hymn and re-tuning it in such a way that provides a new melody that still ties to the original and then weaving the melody of “I surrender” as a close.

Take some time to listen to “Trust” and consider getting a copy and spreading the word.  This review is no where near unbiased as I think Jay and Abby are pretty awesome both as musicians and partners in ministry.  But listen for yourself and let us know what you think.

Get the Album on iTunes

http://itunes.apple.com/us/album/trust/id715743606

 

 

 

 

Get at CD at cdbaby
http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/jayabbyakins

Hear about the Stories for their Songs:

http://jayandabbymusic.com/song-stories/

Don’t Forget to Like their Facebook Page – http://www.facebook.com/JayAndAbbyAkins

 

Editors Note: Previously posted at Atlanta Arts Network

winding path

winding pathThis was advice given to me by one of my professors when I expressed my distress to him over not being able to find a job immediately after graduating form my Master’s program. Needless to say, that was not exactly what I wanted to hear. I would rather have heard, “Oh, I know someone who is hiring and you would be perfect for that job. I will call them right away and you will probably have the job tomorrow.”

Yeah, that would have been nice. Nice and easy.

Trusting the process doesn’t sound quite as promising or quite as easy. But, having no other choice, I began trusting the process. And it wasn’t easy. In fact, it was rather hard.

However, through a series of steps, God led me to the perfect job that He had in mind just for me.

Trusting the process, that seemingly scary walk down a path of unknowns, is exactly what is required for emotional healing.

And of course, the first step to trusting the process is entering into the process. This is a step that most of us do rather reluctantly. We already know it won’t be easy, it may be long and we will get tired and discouraged along the way.

God, in His infinite love for us, has designed a healing process for emotional problems a process that has many components. Since we all need healing in different areas, in different degrees and in different ways, God Himself directs our healing process. And true to God’s character, He tailor makes a healing process just for us.

Read this week’s Pocket Principle, “Healing from Emotional Problems” to learn more about how to begin trusting your own process towards emotional health.

Get Pocket Principles in Understanding People, part of Cornerstone  from the WDA Store

For more information visit the WDA Store.

Broken CisternThere are many differences between man-made religions and Christianity, but perhaps the chief one is this: only Christianity offers the believer a relationship with God. All religions devised by man are, at their core, variations on the same theme, which is man trying to reach God. Christianity, by contrast, is the story of God reaching down to man and offering a relationship with Himself.

In its essence, Christianity is a relationship with Christ. When Christ called the first disciples to come and follow Him, He was calling them into a relationship with Him. The same is true of all who follow Him today. Through the miracle of new birth into the family of God, we enter into a new relationship. The Christian life is an unfolding, a widening, and a deepening of that relationship. Everything concerning Christian growth has its foundation in this relationship. Therefore, the filling of the Holy Spirit grows out of our relationship with Jesus.

John 7:37-39 emphasizes the connection between the filling of the Spirit and our relationship with Christ.

On the last and greatest day of the feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “If a man is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified. John 7:37-39

Verse 39 indicates that Jesus was preparing believers for the time after his death when the Holy Spirit would come and continue His ministry. When Jesus talks about a relationship with Himself, He is also talking about the filling of the Holy Spirit. Jesus invites believers to be filled with the Holy Spirit by relating to Him as indicated by the three action verbs recorded in John 7:37-39 (highlighted above). These actions are discussed below.

 

“Come to Me”

Thirst is a gift from the creator. Just as physical thirst is a signal that our body needs refreshment, so our spiritual thirst points out a need. Becoming aware of our spiritual thirst motivates us to come to Jesus. However, many go through life dissatisfied, discouraged, and despondent, but totally unaware of their thirst. It was no different in Jesus’ day. In his book Inside Out, noted Christian counselor and author Larry Crabb describes the scene in John 7 this way: “Our Lord Jesus walked into a group of people whose ritualistic practice of religion had so numbed their souls that they no longer were conscious of unsatisfied desires. To move them from lifeless ceremony toward the vitality of knowing God, He stood up and shouted, ‘If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink.’ There was no thought that perhaps some were thirsty and others were not. Every fallen person created to enjoy God is thirsty. But many, perhaps most, of the people Jesus invited were unaware of their thirst. Perhaps they had given up hope of ever finding satisfaction and had successfully turned their attention away from that ache inside. By focusing on other matters, thirsty people can sometimes become oblivious to their parched souls.”

In the fourth chapter of his gospel, the apostle John relates the story of a meeting Jesus had with a Samaritan woman at the city well in Sychar. This woman had already been married five times and was now living with her current lover. She apparently came to the well in the heat of the day to avoid the stares and disdain of the other women of that village. The line to a country music song that says “looking for love in all the wrong places” pretty much describes this woman. In His conversation with her, Jesus was not interested in heaping shame on the woman or in offering simplistic answers to the obvious hurts in her life. Rather He was interested in helping her to identify her spiritual need⎜her thirst. As recorded in John 4:10 Jesus said to the woman, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked Him and He would have given you living water.”  Those who know their thirst can then turn to the source of satisfaction. Consider the following words of King David: “O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water.” (Psalm 63:1). Is it any wonder that David enjoyed such an intimate, personal relationship with God? He knew deep thirst; he found deep fulfillment. Thus he could affirm the testimony offered in Psalm 107:8-9: “Let them give thanks to the Lord for His unfailing love and His wonderful deeds for men, for He satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things.”

In order to quench this deep thirst of our souls, we must come to Jesus. Nothing else and no one else can satisfy. The verb “come” used by Jesus in the present progressive tense means we are to come to Him again and again. Thus, spiritual thirst, like physical thirst, must be satisfied repeatedly. This truth reminds us that spiritual thirst is present both before and after salvation. Although Christians enjoy a relationship with God, this relationship is still hampered by our sinfulness and existence in a fallen world.

Note that Jesus invites us to come, but He does not coerce us. He does not force His way into our lives but rather offers us the opportunity to come enjoy His life. This stance is true to His nature and true to His design in creating us as moral beings. However, we should not misunderstand His approach to believe that He is disinterested in whether or not we come. He pursues us passionately and yearns for us to respond to Him. The “inviting” nature of God is woven throughout Scripture.

 

“Drink of Me ”

After coming to Jesus, we must “drink” of Him. This verb is also in the present progressive tense indicating an often-repeated action, a frequent or continual coming to Him to drink. Jesus’ choice of words emphasizes the force of His offer. Such is the function of His use of figurative language. Take, for example, the language a parent might use to motivate his child to learn. He might say, “I want you to learn all you can.” Or he could say, “Drink deeply of the fountain of knowledge.” The richness of the poetic language conveys a strength of conviction that goes beyond simply stating a desire. So it is with the invitation from Jesus to drink of Him. He earnestly desires that we come to Him for satisfaction, and He wants us to drink deeply from the fountain of His love.

We drink of Jesus by engaging in relational activities such as the following:

• Communing with Him⎜that is, simply dwelling in His presence and spending time with Him

• Worshipping Him⎜telling God how wonderful He is, reflecting on His marvelous deeds, expressing appreciation for who He is and all that He has done for us

• Listening to Him⎜reading His Word, being quiet before Him, trying to discern the leading of His Spirit

• Casting our cares on Him⎜being open and honest before God about our needs, our hurts, and our desires, baring our soul to Him, telling Him everything we are concerned about

• Allowing Him to minister to us⎜letting His Spirit minister to our spirit, letting Him calm our fears, salve our wounds, and encourage our hearts

As we spend time with Jesus in these ways and enjoy our relationship with Him, we find that He quenches our spiritual thirst.

 

“Trust [believe] in Me

The third verb⎜believe⎜is also in the present progressive tense, which expresses an action repeated over and over. We come to Jesus initially to trust Him to save us from our sins and to restore our relationship with God, which is our greatest need. Day by day, as we enjoy that restored relationship, Jesus invites us to choose to trust Him⎜to depend on Him to meet our needs.

Trust is a relational verb. As humans, we do business primarily through contracts, either oral or written. Essentially, every time we enter a contract, we are acknowledging that we do not fully trust the other person to hold up his end of the bargain. However, contracts should be unnecessary between close friends who share a healthy relationship because trust takes their place. In the same way, the more we grow in our relationship with God, the better we are able to trust Him, and the more we trust Him the more we grow and enjoy our relationship.

Conclusion

When we are filled with the Holy Spirit, we experience and exhibit the fruit of the Spirit, as described in Galatians 5:22-23. This fruit includes love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Not surprisingly, this fruit is described largely in relational terms. The result of coming to Jesus, drinking of Him and trusting in Him, is that we will be filled to overflowing. The overflow can be seen in the impact on others that is the result of our filling. We will be more patient with others, more gentle with others, and so on. Therefore, the result of our relationship with God is that we also enjoy healthier relationships with others as the ministry of the Spirit overflows in our lives.

Several thousand years ago God, speaking through His prophet Jeremiah, charged the people of Israel as follows: “My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water” (Jeremiah 2:13). The same charge can be leveled against us today if we seek to satisfy the thirst of our souls in any other way than through allowing the Holy Spirit to minister the love of God to us and through us. We need to keep coming, keep drinking, and keep trusting and thus find in Jesus the life that is truly Life.

 

Application Suggestions:

• Read Psalm 116. How does the Psalmist relate to God? How does he commune, cast his cares, listen, worship and allow God to minister to him?

• In your devotional time this week, concentrate on doing one or more the following:

Communing with Him

Casting your cares on Him

Listening to Him

Worshipping Him

Allowing Him to minister to you.

Get this Pocket Principle in Growing Spiritually, part of Cornerstone  from the WDA Store

For more information visit the WDA Store.

Definition of Equipp from WebstersTo attain spiritual maturity the believer must grow in two dimensions of the Christian life, equipping and restoring. In this lesson we will focus on the equipping aspect. Webster’s dictionary defines equip as “to furnish for service or action”. The equipping dimension prepares the believer to serve others on behalf of Jesus, in effect, to carry on His work.

In Luke’s gospel narrative, he records that Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man (Luke 2:52). For some Christians, it can be difficult or uncomfortable to think of Jesus as needing to grow in these ways. That is part of the wonder and the mystery of the incarnation—God taking on human flesh, along with its limitations. Just as He needed to learn to crawl, walk, read, and write, so He needed to grow in wisdom and spiritual understanding. If the sinless Son of God needed to grow, it should not be surprising that we as fallen human beings should need to grow spiritually. This growth occurs as we mature in the areas discussed below.

Growth in Knowledge of God, His Ways, and His Will

Knowledge of God, including His character, His ways, and His will is essential to spiritual growth. The Apostle Paul’s understanding of this principle led him to pray for the believers in Colossae as follows: “We have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of His will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. And we pray this in order that you might live a life worthy of the Lord and may please Him in every way, bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God” (Colossians 1:9-10).

Paul’s prayer for these believers provides insight into the dynamics of spiritual growth. The more we grow in spiritual wisdom, the more we will live pleasing to God, doing the good things He desires us to do. This action leads to a greater knowledge of God and more spiritual wisdom. And so the circle of growth continues.

This knowledge of God is interactive and experiential, not just an accumulation of information. A person can study the sport of scuba diving, can watch others scuba dive, and can even speak intelligently about scuba diving with other people, but until he actually puts on the equipment and dives into the water, he is not a scuba diver. And though he may study advanced diving techniques, he will not become a skilled diver until he has spent many hours in the water. Similarly, there are many people who know much about what the Bible teaches, but they have not embraced the teachings of scripture as truth in their hearts and put it into action. They may know about God, but they do not know God.

The early focus of learning is centered on such subjects as God’s character, who Jesus is, and how to walk with Jesus daily. These topics are necessary for a healthy relationship and lay the foundation for further growth. As we grasp a basic knowledge of who God is, we learn how to please Him and follow His leading. We gain this knowledge through daily interaction with God in the circumstances of life.

Growth in Ministry Skills and Abilities

As mentioned above, the point of acquiring knowledge is so that it can be put into action. One of the ways we act on our knowledge of God is to minister to others or, as Paul puts it, “to bear fruit in every good work” (Colossians 1:10). In the early phases of the Christian’s walk, our focus needs to be meeting the practical needs of others. We see this principle in the way Jesus taught His followers how to minister. When His disciples were new believers, Jesus gave them practical responsibilities such as dispensing food, providing transportation, controlling the crowds, and bringing their friends to learn about Him.

Jesus knew that the best way for His disciples to learn was through on-the-job training. Many businesses and other types of organizations have discovered this principle as well and are delivering more training on the job and less in the classroom. Even schools and universities are beginning to rely less on formal instruction and more on training. Sadly, many churches do not yet seem to understand the importance of this principle. What is learned in worship services and Bible study classes is essential, but it must be balanced by practical application. It is important that newer believers have the opportunity to learn and practice ministry skills under the guidance of more mature believers.

As believers grow spiritually, God often increases their ministry abilities and opportunities. This pattern is clearly seen in how Jesus trained His disciples. Although He began with giving them simple acts of service to perform, He gradually increased their responsibilities. He sent them out on their own to minister and gave them positions of leadership within the larger band of followers.

Christ not only gave His followers hands-on training, He also set the example. His days on earth were marked by selfless service to others. In his gospel account, Mark quotes Jesus as saying that, “even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). Jesus’ servant leadership is a theme that surfaces frequently in the gospel accounts, as he healed the sick, fed the hungry, humbly interacted with the outcasts of society, taught His followers and, finally, laid down His life that others might have eternal life.

Another area of ministry is sharing with others what Christ has done in our lives. Some believers are intimidated by the thought of this, but it really should be quite natural. If a new restaurant in town has great food, we tell others about it. If we find a diet that works, we spread the news. If we stumble across a helpful gardening tip, we pass it on to other gardeners. How much more should we desire to tell others when we have found the Source of life?

This is what the early followers of Jesus did. Andrew found his brother Simon Peter and said, “We have found the Messiah.” Phillip found Nathanael and said, “We have found Him of whom Moses and the prophets wrote.” The Samaritan woman whom Jesus met at the well in Sychar told the townspeople, “Come see the one who told me everything I ever did.” The blind man healed by Jesus told the religious leaders, “This one thing I know. I was blind but now I see!” This is what we should do⎜simply relate to others what Christ has done in our lives.

Growth in Faith and Trust in Christ

A further area of equipping is growth in our willingness and ability to exercise faith and trust in Christ. Growth in faith means growing in strength of conviction and quickness to obey. Simply put, it means putting into action what we believe to be true. In fact, the putting into action is the proof that we truly do believe something to be so.

Some years back, there was a tightrope walker who performed unbelievable feats high above the ground. A promoter heard of this performer and offered him a substantial sum of money to walk a tightrope across Niagara Falls. The event was widely promoted and drew large crowds of people, eager to see the daring (or folly) of this artist. When the moment came, the performer calmly walked above the rushing waters, to the wild cheers of the crowd. Then he walked across blindfolded. The cheers grew even louder, almost drowning out the roar of the falls. It appeared that the show was over, but the artist had one act left to perform. He had a wheelbarrow raised to the rope and, addressing the crowd, asked if they believed he could walk the wheelbarrow across the falls. The crowd responded enthusiastically. Then he asked for a volunteer to get into the wheelbarrow, and the crowd fell silent. All had said they believed, but none was willing to act on that belief. As Christians, we demonstrate our faith by a ready willingness to “get into the wheelbarrow.”

Growth in trust means applying our faith in more and more areas. It is one thing to recognize Christ as our only way of salvation and place our trust in Him as savior. It is quite another to begin to trust Him in all areas of our lives. After all, we have grown up learning to be independent and to trust in ourselves—our knowledge, our abilities, and so on. However, as the writer of Proverbs reminds us, we need to trust in the Lord with all our hearts and not lean on our own understanding (Proverbs 3:5). Admittedly, this is hard to do. But it is an important part of the maturing process. God, in His wisdom and providence, continues to bring circumstances into our lives that give us opportunities to trust Him and expand our faith. As we encounter these circumstances, God provides the resources to deal with them, as we take a risk and trust Him.

James Brown, pastor of Evangeline Baptist Church in Wildsville, Louisiana tells the following story. “Some years ago when I was learning to fly, my instructor told me to put the plane into a steep and extended dive. I was totally unprepared for what was about to happen. After a brief time the engine stalled, and the plane began to plunge out-of-control. It soon became evident that the instructor was not going to help me at all. After a few seconds, which seemed like eternity, my mind began to function again. I quickly corrected the situation. Immediately I turned to the instructor and began to vent my fearful frustrations on him. He very calmly said to me, “There is no position you can get this airplane into that I cannot get you out of. If you want to learn to fly, go up there and do it again.” At that moment God seemed to be saying to me, “Remember this. As you serve Me, there is no situation you can get yourself into that I cannot get you out of. If you trust me, you will be all right.”

It seems that God sometimes gets us into tough situations just so we can learn to trust Him. The Bible certainly provides enough examples, whether it be Abraham standing over Isaac on the altar, the Israelites huddled on the banks of the Red Sea with the Egyptians in fierce pursuit, Daniel and his friends in the fiery furnace, Jesus’ disciples fighting a raging storm on the Sea of Galilee, or any number of other events. One of the most important things that every Christian must learn is that God can be trusted, regardless of circumstances that would make it appear otherwise. Until a person reaches this place of trust, he will be limited in what he is able and willing to do for God.

Conclusion

To become mature we need to grow in our knowledge of God, in service, in faith, and in trust. As always, God provides everything we need to grow. He has set the example, His Word and His Spirit teach us, and He brings circumstances into our lives to accomplish His purposes. Even the faith required for growth is a gift from God (Ephesians 2:8). We can rejoice that He graciously provides us with everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of Him. (2 Peter 1:3)

Application Suggestions:

• Read John 2:1-11. How do you think this situation impacted the growth of the disciples?

• Think of a situation in your life that is impacting your spiritual growth. Write down evidences of growth that is occurring because of this situation.

Get this Pocket Principle in Growing Spiritually, part of Cornerstone  from the WDA Store

For more information visit the WDA Store.