Gaining Glory by Giving Praise


“Therefore, we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day-by-day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” 2 Corinthians  4:16-17 This verse always strikes me when I read it, mostly because of the words “light” and “momentary”. How many people do you know would classify trials as being light or momentary? I know for me, if I call a hard time “light”, or if something is “momentarily” wrong, I don’t even really think of it as a trial, more just a bad afternoon. But it doesn’t seem like Paul is talking about having a bad day. This is a man who endured shipwrecks, prison time, beatings and persecution, yet still had the faith and perseverance to call his trials “light” and “momentary” when comparing then with the eternal glory that is coming. Then question this raised for me was, how can I have this perspective? And the more I pray about it and really spend time asking God, the more he reveals one answer. Praise him. When trials come, praise him. When we endure pain, praise him. When we can’t imagine even making it through an hour, let alone a day, praise him. Two verses I keep coming back to are 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 which says “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus,” and the second half of Psalm 30:5 which says “Weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.” So the song I’d like to share with you this week is “Your Great Name” by Natalie Grant. This song is literally all about praising God for who he is and giving glory to his name. I love the entire song, but my absolute favorite part is the end of verse one into the chorus which goes: Every fear, has no place At the sound of your great name The enemy, he has to leave At the sound of your great name   Jesus, worthy is the lamb That was slain for us Son of God and man You are high and lifted up And all the world will praise Your great name. So whether this finds you at a time when everything is going well, or right in the middle of a trial, take heart.  And praise him. - Briana B


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New Year, New Goals, New Focus


The start of a new year is always exciting because it brings with it a fresh, clean feeling. Like whatever happened last year is suddenly far away, and you have a fresh slate to work with. Many of us set resolutions or goals that we intend to stick with all year. And no matter how good or bad our follow through may be, it still feels good to set those goals. As we set those goals and prepare to really dig into the New Year, let’s keep in mind what we can do for our brothers and sisters struggling overseas. Maybe we can set a resolution to pray for them once a week or even once a day. Maybe there’s a onetime financial gift we can give, or if you’ve been blessed financially, maybe a monthly gift. I thought it only fitting to end this post with the song “New Year” by Charlie Hall. This may not be a new song, but the message rings true. My favorite part is the chorus which goes: This is a new year This is a new day to rise, shine Lift up your eyes This is a new year This is a new day to rise, shine And point the way to God’s great life.   Happy New Year!  - Briana B


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The Most Wonderful Time


While Christmas is often call the most wonderful time of year, it can also be the most stressful. There can be so much to coordinate between dinners, gifts, shopping, family relationships and so on. I purposefully wanted to keep this post short, sweet and to the point. Lets cherish our families this year. Tell them you love them every chance you get. Because honestly, we’re not promised any certain amount of time on this earth and who knows if this could be the last Christmas we get to spend with someone we care about. This year, care for the family you have around you and pray for those far away. Pray also for our brothers and sisters who don’t know where their Christmas meal is coming from, and pray for the parents who don’t know how to tell their kids there’s no money for gifts this year. Finally, pray for the kids in need around the world. That this Christmas Jesus would hold them in his arms and provide for their needs. We are so incredibly blessed just to be able to wake up in the morning. I pray you get to spend Christmas with the people you love. Merry Christmas.  - Briana B


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And The Winner Is…


Harmony of Hearts is proud to announce that Josh Wilson is the winner of the 2011 Harmony of Hearts Song of the Year Award. Josh’s song “I Refuse” beat Brandon Heath’s song “The One” and Britt Nicole’s “Set the World on Fire” in a close competition. Some of the lyrics in Josh’s song really capture the goal of Harmony of Hearts. The song goes: Cause I don’t want to live like I don’t care I don’t want to say another empty prayer Oh, I refuse To sit around and wait for someone else To do what God has called me to do myself Oh, I could choose Not to move but I refuse To stand and watch the weary and lost Cry out for help I refuse to turn my back And try and act like all is well I refuse to stay unchanged To wait another day, to die to myself I refuse to make one more excuse. These lyrics really drive home the point that each of us as Christians has a responsibility to care for the poor, the “widows and the orphans” as Jesus put it. Especially now as Christmas is fast approaching and we prepare to celebrate Jesus’ birth, lets not forget to take care of our poorer brothers and sister who so desperately need our help. Congratulations to Josh Wilson on winning the 2011 Song of the Year Award! You can check out the music video below.  - Briana B


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Simplicity


It seems to me, everything in life is getting more complicated every day. Where we used to order a cup of coffee, we now order a mocha chai double shot half-calf latte with whip. Where we used to just send a letter, now we email, facebook, text and tweet. And where we used to understand the simplicity of salvation through grace, we often get caught fighting over minute theological intricacies. Don’t get me wrong, theology is paramount in understanding what it is we believe and keeping us on track spiritually, but is it possible we’ve moved a little too far from the child-like faith we were called to have? Romans 10:9 tells us “If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved,” (NIV). That’s it, pretty straightforward. Confess and believe. The song “True Love” by Phil Wickham reminds me of that simplicity, that Jesus came to earth, died, was buried and rose again to save us. That’s the gift of salvation; it really is that simple. The chorus says: The earth was shaking in the dark All creation felt the Father’s broken heart Tears were filling Heaven’s eyes The day that true love died, the day that true love died.   It’s a powerful reminder as we go throughout the day that Jesus loved us so much he chose to lay down his life for us. Plain and simple.  - Briana B


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It’s that time…


Every year, Harmony of Hearts hosts the Harmony of Hearts Song of the Year Award, which searches high and low for Christian artists that have written a song in the past year that really reflects the vision of both Harmony of Hearts and its parent organization, Cross International. This year, the three finalists up for Song of the Year are Britt Nicole and “Set the World on Fire”, Josh Wilson and “I Refuse” and last but not least, Brandon Heath and “The One”. Harmony of Hearts chose these three songs because each of them reflects the heart of Christ in reaching out to the poor, and carries that message to the world. Isaiah 61:1 says “The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners.” This verse has really come alive for me this week as I’ve been spending time in the word. To know that Christ came to “bind up the brokenhearted” is so liberating. We don’t have to stay broken or afraid. He has come to proclaim freedom. In 2009, the band Leeland won the Harmony of Hearts award for their song “Follow You”. Cross took this song and infused video and audio clips from our project in Africa, as you can see below. To vote for this year’s Song of the Year, visit www.crossinternational.org/SOTY  - Briana B


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Themes of Thanksgiving


With Thanksgiving right around the corner and Christmas on its heels, the holiday season has begun. Christmas decorations have been appearing in stores since Halloween and the tents for trees are going up around town. Thanksgiving to me is sort of a funny concept. Don’t get me wrong, I love the turkey and gravy, pumpkin pie, spending time with family and feeling the season change, but why do we as Christians need to set aside one day where we give thanks? Since I’ve started working at Cross and gotten involved with Harmony of Hearts, I’ve begun to realize just how much I have to be thankful for. Even when things in my life don’t go how I want them too or God does some pruning in my heart, I know I have the ability to give thanks, because he’s working in my life. The song “Carried to the Table” by Leeland has really touched my heart recently so I wanted to share it with you. The chorus reads: I was carried to the table Seated where I don’t belong Carried to the table Swept away by His love And I don’t see my brokenness anymore When I’m seated at the table of the Lord I’m carried to the table The table of the Lord That’s the greatest gift we could ever receive. We have been forgiven. We have been given mercy. We have been given grace. Let God show you the truth in this song, and have a Happy Thanksgiving.


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Connecting with Scripture thru music – new Nicole Nordeman


My personal feeling is that the perceived problem is the relevance of Scripture. It becomes harder to bring the mess of our modern questions to the pages of such a holy and sacred text, and find relevant answers. We are tempted to look solely through a cultural or historical lens, taking Scripture and the stories within, at face value. We want sound bites and CliffsNotes. We want easy acronyms from our pastor to help us remember the “takeaway” from a certain passage. I just don’t think Scripture can be read or absorbed like this. I was humbled and embarrassed as I dug further into this project to realize how I had marginalized some of these characters over time. I think people often shrug and walk away from the study of Scripture (and maybe from churches) because at first glance we don’t see the immediate connection between God’s people then … and now. We don’t see any connective tissue from our lives to theirs. And it’s just too much work for most of us to dig deep enough and long enough to unearth the treasure that is buried a few miles down. - Nicole Nordeman on “Stories”, her first album in six years.


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What is your church worth?


Interesting study graphic here says “in a 1997 study, (it was) found that urban congregations provide, on average, $140,000 worth of services annually.  In 2009, (it) was revised to more than $476,000 annually.” Some specifics: Reduced crime rate:  $64k Volunteer hours: $94.7 Rehab efforts (drugs, alcohol):  $78.7 Stimulus to local economy (church budget):  $520k Impact for eternity:  priceless. HT:  Christianity Today


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Have we divorced worship from service?


I’m afraid we’ve almost divorced worship from loving our neighbor as our self. The first and most important commandment is “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength.” And we go, Oh, stop right there. That’s worship. Yeah, but keep reading. Jesus isn’t finished yet. And the second most important commandment is this: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” And I think I read somewhere that we should weep with those who weep. But I think most of the Christian church is focused on rejoicing with those who rejoice. It’s hard work. It can be depressing if your focus is constantly on the pain and the suffering and the sin and the poor and the homeless and the marginalized, the racism that goes down in this world and even in the churches. I’m not a macabre person. But the bottom line is that worship of God cannot be disconnected with loving your neighbor as yourself. Yet for the last eight or ten years, when Christians are talking about worship, we’re really talking about the songs. That’s so one-dimensional. Worship really is lifestyle, and it includes suffering alongside of my neighbor. Worship includes not just bringing my offering to the temple, but for the one who has two coats, to give one to him who has none. And I think that there is a divorce among many Christians when it comes to loving their neighbor, particularly their poor or their marginalized or their not-so-groovy-never-drive-a-Lexus neighbor. That kind of attitude. These folks think they’re worshiping God? Because they’re singing “the top ten” worship hits on Sunday morning? Excuse me. I’m hearing the prophet Amos hollering in my head. Glenn Kaiser, Singin’ the Blues (Interview with ChristianityToday.com, June 13, 2005)


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