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BEHIND THE WORSHIP - Misty Edwards

Misty Edwards: Writing With the Holy Spirit

As a leader at the International House of Prayer, Misty Edwards is charged with staffing and encouraging those involved with the 24-7 prayer room. “Keeping it going ... is a lot of work,” she says. “It’s the primary place I pour out my energy.”

But despite the demands, Edwards  is  able to write songs and lead worship because of the Holy Spirit, whom she calls “my closest friend.” 

“Worship-leading and songwriting with Him is exhilarating,” she says. “When we pray and sing the Scripture, He actually teaches us—often through our own lips.” read more

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BEHIND THE WORSHIP - Paul Baloche

Paul Baloche on ‘Open the Eyes of My Heart’

From Africa to Azerbaijan, that song has somehow gotten into people’s hearts and languages. Just that simple prayer: “Open the eyes of my heart.” 

It was one of those phrases that a pastor friend of mine would pray before he would preach, and ... I would take that phrase and just sing it over and over again. I thought, “Man, this is something we need to sing [as a congregation]. We should get another section to this.” 

I looked in the Word and saw, “high and lifted up.” [The other phrase] is from Ephesians chapter 1. And then the song just came together naturally.

People ask me, “Do you ever get tired of singing it?’ And honestly I don’t. It’s like, “Do you ever get tired of praying the Lord’s Prayer?” Repetition isn’t a bad thing.

Songwriting has actually been a helpful exercise for my spiritual life because I’m able to prayerfully construct a musical prayer that others can join in with me. You take a profound truth that you hear on a Sunday morning and you just explore that [in a song]. The Bible says, “Pray without ceasing,” and to me, songwriting has always been a way to carry that out. read more

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BEHIND THE WORSHIP - Matt Maher

Matt Maher on ‘Christ Has Risen’

“Christ Has Risen” was inspired by a third-century sermon by John Chrysostom. The concept is very simple: God used death to destroy death. He didn’t even have to lift a finger. He literally tricked death into destroying itself; Jesus used the process of death to completely eradicate it. So now it just becomes a process of transformation, and death is a window or a doorway. 

It became this chorus: “Christ has risen from the dead, trampling over death by death.” I wrote it and then Mia Fieldes from Hillsong helped finish it. 

I love to read works by theologians. Saint Augustine, John Chrysostom, Henri Nouwen and C.S. Lewis are some of my favorites. At the time I wrote this song, it was my goal that the record would have a theme, that it would be a record someone could listen to from start to finish and have been taken on a journey—the journey of transformation because of what Christ has done for us. 

The reality is that the conception, birth, life, death and resurrection of Christ is a journey that, if we allow it, takes place in our hearts every year, every day and, if we let it, every moment. read more

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BEHIND THE WORSHIP -Paul Wilbur

Paul Wilbur: Persistent Messianic Worship

It’s difficult to stop Paul Wilbur once he puts his mind to something. When he became a Christian—a shocking conversion given his Jewish background and family’s lack of interest in religion—his brother stopped talking to him. 

Wilbur’s response after years of trying to re-establish their relationship? He bought the house next door.

Today the two ride motorcycles together.  read more

BTW-Auge

BEHIND THE WORSHIP - Joel Augé

Joel Augé: When Facebook, Family & Worship Merge

Joel Augé is a busy guy. His website features tweets about innovation and hockey, book recommendations, photographs of his daughter and—seemingly as an afterthought—a small picture of a CD, suggesting he makes music. Yet Augé, CEO of a Canadian gaming company called HitGrab (the developer of MouseHunt, one of Facebook’s most popular games), doesn’t find his roles as worship leader, family man and “company vision guy” as all that different. 

“Worship is an act of responding to what God has already done for us. It’s no different at work. I feel I’m constantly responding to how God is moving our business forward,” Augé says. “My act of worship at work is being a good steward of this opportunity.” 

Raised Catholic, Augé once thought of becoming a priest, but that was before puberty and girls. After some wild times, which included dropping out of high school and moving (alone) to Newfoundland, Canada, Augé had a born-again experience and started writing Christian songs. Today he takes something Paul Baloche, his friend and mentor, teaches to heart: be ready for inspiration.  

And just because it seems as if he has it all under control doesn’t mean he does. “My song ‘Promises’ … was [written] before our daughter was born,” Augé recalls. “I had no idea how to be a dad. I was afraid—terrified actually. It was then that I heard the Holy Spirit calm me down with these words, ‘I will never leave or forsake you; you belong to Me.’” read more

BTW-Houghton

BEHIND THE WORSHIP - Israel Houghton

Israel Houghton: A ‘Friend of God ‘

 

During an annual retreat with his worship team, Israel Houghton stumbled upon—or was given—one of his best-known worship songs. 

“This guy was walking us through a lesson,” Houghton recalls, “and he handed out a sheet with all these promises of God: ‘Nothing will separate us from the love of God,’ ‘We are more than conquerors.’ And then three-quarters down the page it says, ‘I am a friend of God.’ He says, ‘Everyone, circle one promise that stands out to you.’ I circled the phrase, ‘Friend of God.’ When asked why I chose it, I just started crying.” read more

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BEHIND THE WORSHIP - Rebecca St. James

Rebecca St. James on ‘Song of Love’

“Song of Love” has been used in a lot of churches for corporate worship. The thing that was most powerful for me was hearing it for the very first time in my own home church in Franklin, Tenn., where our praise and worship team did the song often. To hear it being sung by the congregation of familiar faces around me was a very beautiful and memorable moment for me as a writer.

One of the most powerful things that can happen in ministry is hearing other people using your songs to worship God. To know that a song has been birthed from my own personal relationship in encountering God, and that now other people are encountering Him too through the same words and music I’ve written, is a very profound experience to me.

I’m a real nature person; I love being outdoors and seeing God’s creativity all around me. That really draws my heart instantly toward worship. 

That sense of God in the vastness of His great universe of creation that we see all around us was really the inspiration for this song and what it expresses. The lyric line, “The heavens declare You are God” is a very real biblical truth that is ever-present in my mind. read more

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BEHIND THE WORSHIP - Don Potter

Don Potter: Talking to God in Worship

Don Potter had heard the admonition to “seek God’s face” before, yet like many, it left him feeling perplexed. One day while seeking the Lord in the cabin where he was staying, he looked out an upstairs window. “The sky was clear and blue ... and just then I cried out, ‘Lord, I don’t know how to seek Your face—show me Your face!’ When I looked up there was a cloud right outside the same window ... perfectly shaped like a human eye and looking right at me. I stared for a moment and then fell on my face. When I got up, I started writing this song [called ‘Show Me Your Face’].”

Potter waited a year before he sang the song in public; that’s how intimate the experience felt and how concerned he was about “offending my King.” However, that sort of Spirit-filled experience isn’t uncommon for Potter, a musician and producer who, in addition to leading worship at churches around the country, also works with country stars such as Wynonna Judd.

“(As I’m leading worship) I try to hear the heart of people,” Potter says. “I then try and sing that to God as I believe I’m hearing it. After a bit, God will sometimes want to say something back, and I will try my best to repeat the words I hear. Praise-leading is really not leading at all, but offering yourself as a conduit for God to have a conversation with [people].” read more

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BEHIND THE WORSHIP - Martha Munizzi

Martha Munizzi on ‘Because of Who You Are’

To have a song that’s had that kind of life and longevity is incredible. When I wrote it my kids were young and everyone was getting ready for bed, and I just had a moment to reflect and watch my kids play. Suddenly I started singing the chorus part: “Because of who You are.” I kept it to myself and would sing it around the house, but then I thought, “Because of who You are, I give You glory, I give You praise” ... but who is the “You”? I started looking up the names of God: You are my Jehovah Jireh, my provider—all of the different names for God.

I’ve found that songs about God to God are the songs that people gravitate to; they’re the songs that literally change the worship time because it’s suddenly not about me, it’s about Him and it’s directed to Him. It’s rallying all of us to sing of His greatness. Those are just the best songs, but they’re not easy to write, and when I’m writing I have to remember that. read more

Christian Billionaire Pledges to Donate Half His Wealth

What does David Green have in common with Warren Buffet, Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates, and Facebook Founder Mark Zuckerberg? First, they are all billionaires. Second, they are all giving away half their wealth to charity.

The CEO of Hobby Lobby, Green, a devout Christian, is among a growing list of billionaires who have pledged to give away most of their money. Green and his wife, Barbara, are officially part of The Giving Pledge, an effort to invite the wealthiest individuals and families in America to commit to giving the majority of their wealth to the philanthropic causes and charitable organizations of their choice either during their lifetime or after their death.

“Coming from a family of preachers, the idea of giving back has been part of my life as long as I can remember,” Green wrote in his pledge letter. “My parents and their parents before them were what some would consider poor, but they gave back whenever they could whether through small contributions of money, or through acts of kindness,” God has blessed me with a wonderful family, a successful business and outstanding employees. I do not take these blessings lightly.”

When Hobby Lobby was created in the early 1970s, Green says he was committed to use his profits to help ministry work. He says knew from an early age that ministry work, at least in the sense of preaching from a pulpit, was not his calling. But, he adds, he also knew that God gifted him with a mind for understanding business, and that gift would allow him to carry out God’s work through contributions to great missions throughout the world.

“We honor the Lord in all we do by operating the company in a manner consistent with Biblical principles. From helping orphanages in faraway lands to helping ministries in America, Hobby Lobby has always been a tool for the Lord’s work,” Green wrote, pointing to a verse in 2 Corinthians that says, “Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work…You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.”

What's your take on wealth? Did Green make the right move? read more

Did You Know ...·

A gospel song is dominating the playlists in nightclubs and bars in east and central Africa.·

MTV Africa host Emukule Ekirapa, also known as VJ Kule, reports that the song “Tobina,” which means “to dance” has been a smash hit in clubs, bars and churches in East and Central Africa. The upbeat praise song by Congo gospel artist Daddy Owen has secular and Christian listeners swaying to its worshipful lyrics. Whether the listener is in church or a club, VJ Kule says the song’s message is clear: “Thank God for the beautiful life that you are living. Thank God for your health. Thank God for your family. Once God has sorted all of that, the only thing left to do is dance and praise Him.” read more

Numbering Our Days

During much of our life we measure time by its duration: how many years have passed, how many remain before us. We rush through one task in order to hasten on to the next. We use up time, often squandering it like wealthy millionaires.

But as we reach late life, this preoccupation with quantity gives place to an appreciation of quality. The slowing of our lives allows us to meet each person and situation with greater attentiveness. Each moment, each day becomes more precious.

We are finally able to sink into the present moment. In Number Our Days, Barbara Myerhoff describes this capacity to live life fully as one of the secrets of aging well.

She quotes a Jewish friend: "I think this paying such attention to life is what we mean by 'a heart of wisdom'...In the psalm it says, 'So teach us to number our days, that we may get us a heart of wisdom."

Learning how to number our days means cultivating a capacity for wonder, for solitude and for prayer. Deepening our understanding of these dimensions of the spiritual life can enrich our aging immeasurably.


Adapted from Winter Grace by Kathleen Fischer, copyright 1998. Published by Upper Room Books, www.upperroom.org/bookstore/. Used by permission. read more

God Can Use You, Too

When I was a little girl, I watched my dad get drunk and physically abuse my mom. One day He went so far as to bring another woman into our home.

At 4 years old, I was molested by a baby-sitter, and at 5, by a family member. The molestation continued until I was 12.

At first, I didn't tell anyone because the abuser said my mom would be angry with me and would not believe me. When I finally spoke up, that is exactly what happened.

In high school, I spent every moment either at school or working, just to get away from the tur moil in my home life. Then at 17, I became a Christian.

My mother made it difficult for me to live the Christian life. Eventually, I returned to my old ways.

I began preparing to attend college in Europe. I wanted to get as far away as I could, but I discovered I was pregnant at 18, and I was kicked out of my home.

I moved in with my boyfriend and cried every night for a year. This was not what I had planned!

When we were old enough, my boyfriend and I were married. We had many differences, but I made a commitment to him.

My husband liked to drink and smoke. His drinking led to cocaine use and adultery. I tried everything to get him to stop using drugs, but nothing worked.

One day I called out to Jesus to help me.

My husband became very sick, and I ran to God. That day I found Him all over again. He comforted me and loved me as though I'd never left Him.

Two years later my husband was diagnosed with a terminal illness and given two to six months to live. But before he died, he became the kind of man I'd prayed for him to become.

Now I'm running a day-care center and working with abused women. I have also begun speaking and writing books.

The Lord has turned my misery into a ministry to others. He's using me in ways I never imagined He would. read more

Comfort in Crisis

Times of crisis don't usually evoke cherished memories. However, it is just such a time in my life that calls up my fondest memory.

While I was growing up, my family went to church sporadically and believed in God. I believed that He existed, but other than that I never thought very much about Him.

Then in my late 20s a series of events drove me to a crisis point. My mom died suddenly, and 14 months later, I married and began a new life 900 miles away from family, friends and everything familiar to me.

When I became pregnant with my first child, the thrill was tempered with fear. Problems with the pregnancy confined me to bed for several weeks. As I prayed for the safety of my child, I found myself deeply desiring to know this God to whom I was praying.

Until then, I had avoided reading the Bible because I'd been deceived into believing I could never understand it. A precious Christian friend encouraged me to buy an easy-to-understand translation and dig in.

I devoured the Psalms as ravenously as a starving person would a sumptuous meal. A picture of God began to emerge from them that was very different from the one I'd created myself, and oh, so much better!

When I read through the New Testament, I began to understand my desperate need for Jesus. Right there in my bed, I asked Him to come in and take over my life.

Later I realized that the crisis in my pregnancy was a gift in disguise. Not only was I blessed with a perfect baby boy, but also I was born again to eternal life. read more

Open Heart Open Door

FROM THE TIME SHE WAS A LITTLE GIRL, MOTHER BLANCHE BELL WEAVER HAS OPENED HER HEART AND HER HOME TO THOSE LESS FORTUNATE THAN HERSELF. read more

Surrendering to God

In the early days of my ministry, 50 years ago, I would go to a place to run meetings and stay for perhaps a week. The people would come, and I would preach, and it was wonderful.

Then I pastored for 20 years in a church south of London. I was so fulfilled in that church. I loved it. This, too, was wonderful.

Then all of a sudden, God said to me, "Go." I said, "No." A second time God said, "Go." But again I said, "No." After my second refusal, God began to deal with me. When He did, I learned something: The God of Jonah still lives!

I realized that, in the whale's belly, Jonah was brought to a place where he would either declare, "Salvation is of the Lord," or bewail, "Salvation is of the Lord," one or the other. And in that place God began to deal with him.

As a result of the Lord's "dealings," I was a dying man at age 51. I persisted in my disobedience for a time, but finally at 2 a.m. one morning, I surrendered to God.

I said, "Lord, I'm going." He said, "Yes, you're going." I said, "But I had decided to stay!" God replied, "No, you're going. You'll either go and do what I've purposed you should do, or you're going home

So I moved out--but not because I wanted to. God has a way of making us give in. How much easier if we just cooperate with Him in the first place! read more

Why Can't I Say "NO"!

Everywhere I travel I meet them--little helpers, eager to "Bless the Minister". They mean well, but sometimes what they are offering to do is better left undone.

You ought to let me cut and highlight your hair." I heard the voice over my shoulder. When I turned around, my eyes had to look down about two feet to find the source of the offer, one that came with a long, Southern drawl.

"Hi, my name is Hepsiba. (That's in the Bible.) I do hair. I do pastor's hair, associate minister Calvin's hair and administrator-apostle Johnson's hair. Now he's actually bald, but I put a thick, all-natural beeswax with Retin-A™ on his hair, and then I pull it through a rice paper sorta hat. read more

God's Paratroopers

Like an elite rescue squad, we have the privilege of partnering with God in ushering to safety those who will perish without Him.


I was once told by a paratroop instructor that there are four important commands given to the parachutists before every jump: (1) attention, (2) stand in the door, (3) look up, and (4) follow me!

Thinking of these commands, I am reminded that Jesus is preparing men and women for the new heaven and the new earth, and He has given His co-workers the same orders that the parachutists receive. The apostle Paul wrote: "Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters" (Eph. 6:5, KJV). Our task is not to give God His instructions. Rather, we must report for duty. read more

Zilpha Elaw

Nineteenth Century Revivalist

One day while milking a cow, Zilpha saw Jesus walking toward her. He appeared to say, "Thy prayer is accepted; I own thy name." Zilpha first thought she was seeing things; but when the cow looked in the same direction, bent its front legs and lowered its head to the ground, she knew the Lord had come to answer her prayer.

Zilpha was born free to religious parents in Pennsylvania around 1790. Her mother died when she was 12 years old, and her father sent her to live with a Quaker family. He died a year and a half later. read more

Yoo Hoo, I Have A Question

Years ago, toward the end of the hippie movement, my husband and I used to arrive with our toddler, Gail, at her prekindergarten class about the same time each Sunday morning. Almost simultaneously, a bearded young man with very long, flowing hair would deposit his young daughter, Tammy.

My husband, Tom, and I were taken aback more than once by how much Tammy's dad resembled the artist's rendition of Jesus that hung on the Sunday school wall. We sometimes couldn't help remarking to each other about it.

After our couples' Sunday school class concluded one Sunday, I went to pick up Gail as usual. Hurrying to the door, her teacher apologized, "I'm sorry, but during playtime just now, your little Gail and Tammy got into a scrap." read more

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