Saturday, July 14, 2018

Happy 1st Birthday, Baby Eli!

"And they brought young children to Him, that He should touch them: and His disciples rebuked those that brought them.  But when Jesus saw it, He was much displeased, and said unto them, 'Suffer the little children to come unto Me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God.  Verily I say unto you, whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein.'  And He took them up in His arms, put His hands upon them, and blessed them."
Mark 10:13-16

Jesus truly has a special place in His heart for little children.
They are beyond precious to Him.
His eyes are upon them from the moment of their conception, and they are on His mind long before they are even conceived.

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”
Jeremiah 1:5

"For it was You who formed my inmost being; You knit me together in my mother’s womb."
Psalm 139:13
(Berean Study Bible)

Can you believe one whole year has gone by since my niece, Kristen, gave birth to her precious baby boy, Eli?
I don't know when a year has passed so quickly!
To all of the new subscribers here, I say a hearty "Welcome!" and I would like to explain about Kristen and Eli.

Shortly after finding out she was expecting a baby, Kristen collapsed in the Emergency Room and was found to have a blood clot in her lung.
It was a long, hard road for her, and many of you dear readers helped to pray her through so many times.
We are SO grateful for all of your faithful prayers, and this is the amazing result of God answering them!
Remember this day?

Kristen and Baby Eli, shortly after he was born

What a sweet, precious, little bundle of joy!
A perfectly healthy angel, sent straight from Heaven to bless the lives of everyone around him.
God is so good.

Recently, the little fellow celebrated one full year of life.
Isn't he just adorable?
I know I may be just a bit biased, but even though, he is just a living dollbaby!

Eli on his first birthday!

What a smilestone!
It is just so hard to imagine that he could already be a year old!
He is such a happy, healthy little guy, and is surely a miracle, in so many ways.
Every day I pray that God will bless him and keep him healthy and safe.
He is surely one prayed-for little boy, and I hope one day I can explain to him about all of the precious people who prayed for him even before he was born.

God truly does answer prayer, dear friends.
Eli is living proof!
Whatever you are going through ~ nothing is too hard for Him.
Things could have turned out far different for Kristen and Eli, and I have no doubt in my mind that it was because of the earnest prayers that went up on their behalf that all is well with them today.

Every time I think of little Eli and God's faithfulness to him and our family,
I am reminded once again that no matter how dark things look, God never loses control, and nothing is impossible for Him.

I leave you with five of my favorite Scriptures to cling to in such times of distress and also a special song dedicated to sweet, little Eli.
I hope they will encourage you.
Stay tuned for an upcoming Inner Views interview with none other than Eli's mommy herself sometime in the near future!
I can't wait to share her thoughts with you here!

"Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh: is there anything too hard for Me?"
Jeremiah 32:27

"And Jesus looking upon them said, 'With men, it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible."
Mark 10:27
(King James 2000 Bible)

"Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness."
Isaiah 41:10

"Be strong and courageous; do not be afraid or terrified of them, for it is the LORD your God who goes with you; He will never leave you or forsake you."
Deuteronomy 31:6
(Berean Study Bible)

"The LORD is a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble."
Psalm 9:9

Thank God for Kids ~ The Oak Ridge Boys

Friday, July 6, 2018

A Few Of My Favorite Things

"Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy."
I Timothy 6:17

Today, I thought I'd lighten up the subject matter a bit and write a fun post, instead.
I love learning more about the bloggers I follow and thought perhaps you may enjoy that, too!
So, here are a few of my favorite things.
#1.  My dear, old, trusted Bible.
Its cover is tattered and torn, the pages are well-marked and highlighted from over 31 years of use, the hours we've spent together are many, and I wouldn't trade it for all the money in the world.  It is still the Bible I regularly read, and my most precious earthly possession.
#2.  Spending time with Jesus.
One of my favorite things to do is pray, and one of my favorite places to pray is outside overlooking the river.  It invites me to get real quiet before Him—still enough to clearly hear His voice.  I love to pray out there at night, too.  Even though I can't see the river, I know it is there.  I can hear it gently flowing, its calming movement mixing with other sounds of the night.  Speaking of the river, we have been enjoying getting acquainted with the goose family that has been gracing us with visits this spring and summer.  There's a mama, a papa, and six little babies.
It is fun to watch them grow.  Each time they drop by for a visit and bread or crackers, they are a little bit bigger.  They haven't stopped by for several days, but we've spotted them visiting other spots in the neighborhood while we are out and about on our daily walks.
#3.  Walking through life with the dearest man and sweetest boy.
One of the most precious blessings of my life is getting to share each day with Kevin and Zach.
This is what we see on our walks together.
The serenity of the mountains and the river draws me in, and it is not at all unusual for the praise in me to well up and burst forth in the form of, "How Great Thou Art!"  Yes, I have been known to sing it as we walk, and there may or may not have been people around.  God has done SO much more for me than I will ever deserve.  How can I keep from singing?
#4.  Recently, dear, sweet Zach spent his own money and surprised me with a Wonder Bible!
I was so deeply touched by his thoughtfulness and generosity.  Zach is so precious.  I will never, ever, ever stop praising God for sending Zach to us right when He did and for allowing Kevin and me to finally have a child of our own and to be Zach's parents.  This Wonder Bible is downright amazing.  It has already proven to be such a blessing to me, and I love to listen to it as I am going to sleep.  What a sweet and perfect gift!  Thank you, dear Zach, from the bottom of my heart!
This truly is a powerful tool in helping me stay on track, both spiritually and physically.  If you haven't downloaded your FREE copy yet, please click here, and help yourself!  I keep my P.O.W.E.R. Tool© on the table next to my recliner, so I am continually reminded throughout the day to pray, reach out to others, drink water, exercise, and read my Bible.  I hope you will try it and see how much it helps to motivate and inspire you, too!
I cannot say enough good things about this stuff!  I had tried it several years ago, and then I got slack and stopped ordering it.  I didn't realize how much it was helping me until I stopped taking it.
Recently, I started back on it, and boy, can I tell a difference!!  It keeps my hunger at bay and helps to regulate my sugar levels, but the best part of it is that it gives me energy and just makes me feel better. 
Kevin and I love the pink drink so much, we became ambassadors!  So if you would like to try some, 
we would be ever so grateful for your support!  Just click HERE to place an order!  Better yet, I hope you will consider becoming an ambassador, too!  The discounts are worth it!  If you're interested, please drop us an email.  
Since I am trying so hard to lose weight, (you can read about it here where I share about facing obesity head-on), along with taking Plexus Slim Pink Drink every day, I am closely monitoring my carb intake.  This means I had to pretty much totally give up honey.  😢  BUT, never fear!  THM Gentle Sweet is an answer to my sweet cravings.  I started using it a few months ago, and it has become my new go-to sweetener.  It is healthy, too, (NO aspartame~it is Stevia-based), and the flavor is amazing with no bitter aftertaste.  Hooray!
#8.  Therma-Lou.

As I may have mentioned, I am trying SO hard to lose weight, and part of my commitment to The P.O.W.E.R.© Tool is to drink a personally-specified amount of water each day.  This handy-dandy insulated water bottle is an amazing help!  It was a gift from my niece, Kristen, the one so many of you helped to pray through her pregnancy last year.  (You may remember that she had a blood clot in her lung throughout much of her pregnancy, and there were so many scary moments.  But, God in His infinite mercy and faithfulness pulled her and her precious baby, Eli, through, and he is now one year old!)  Kristen gave this gift with the intention of it being Kevin's Christmas gift last year, but shamefully, I hi-jacked it shortly after it arrived in our home!!!  It is just wonderful!  It keeps my water cold for HOURS, I kid you not.  I can fill it with ice today, and by tomorrow morning, the ice has not melted.  I LOVE this thing!  
Okay, I am sure by now, you are wondering about its name—Therma-Lou.  Well, that, my friends, is a long story, and I wanted to catch you before you start storming Google with questions like, "Where can I buy Therma-Lou?"  Let me explain.
My goal is to take water with me wherever I go so I can keep up with my water drinking commitment throughout the day.  I am forever forgetting "her" and calling out things like, "Zach, would you mind grabbing my drink-thermos-water-thing on your way to the car?"  So, we decided it was time this little beauty be given a name all her own.  Barney Fife and his girlfriend, Thelma Lou, came to mind, and I got this bright idea to alter her name just a bit, replacing the "L" with an "R" and name our water bottle in her honor.  So, there, you have it!  The ever faithful, Miss Therma-Lou!
(Just in case you want to try to find one like it, and should you happen to get strange, blank stares if you approach a store employee and ask for "Therma-Lou," I wanted to share a picture of the name brand shown on the bottom.)

#9.  Water Flavoring Packets

I don't know about you, but I can quickly become bored with drinking plain water.  So, to keep things interesting and to make sure I stay on track with my water drinking each day, we started buying these super-handy flavoring packets.  I just fill "Therma-Lou" with ice, open a bottled water and mix the flavoring packet in, then pour it over the ice.  I prefer not to use the ones with artificial sweeteners but will use them in a pinch.  The brands I love most are True Lime & True Lemon.  They are sweetened with Stevia, and you can buy them at Walmart.  They are delicious and really keep me motivated to keep drinking water.  I LOVE being able to record as many check marks as possible on that P.O.W.E.R. Tool© sheet at the end of the day!
#10.  Coffee
If you've been reading here for very long at all, you probably already know that I love coffee!  I am always on the search for great-tasting, rich, bold-flavored coffee that packs a powerful punch.  And, there is this certain quality that I look for in a coffee taste—I hardly know how to describe it, but it has to leave a certain strong coffee aftertaste.  Does that make sense?
I have mentioned The Spice Merchant's coffee here before so you may remember how crazy I am about it.
(Get it, Jamaican Me Crazy?  Never mind.  😂)  This coffee is out of this world.
Today, I also wanted to mention another coffee company that we were just recently introduced to.  Let me just tell you that I've been drinking this coffee every day, and it is amazing!  Oh, the aroma!
When you open the bag, you can't just take a quick, little sniff.  You have to inhale—deeply—and linger.  The scent is wonderful, but only a small glimpse of the flavor to come!  And don't you just love the name?
I love to support Christian businesses, and when it means there is coffee involved, I'm all in!  By the way, the owner's mama just happens to be one of our favorite singers in all the world, too.  She is none other than sweet Karen Peck Gooch of Karen Peck & New River!  So, why not stop by and visit Matt Gooch at Solid Ground Coffee, & show him some loving support?  (Have you ever heard him play the guitar?  All I can say is, wow!  He is super-talented!)

The antique coffee canister in the photo is a cherished, long-ago gift that Kevin bought for me during one of our times antiquing.  I love the way it looks, but I mostly love it because Kevin bought it for me.  The pretty mug was another gift from my niece, Kristen—yes, this mug was actually intended for me!

I love the mug so much.  It has become my favorite, and I think of Kristen every day when I use it.
As you can see, I love to combine some of my favorite things and pray outside by the river while sipping a cup of fresh-made coffee.  The words on the mug say it all!
Speaking of coffee—
Oh, my, I love my Keurig so much!  Kevin and Zach bought it for my birthday last year, and I can't begin to say how much I enjoy using it each day!  It gets a workout and keeps on brewing!
When it comes to coffee taste quality, there is no substitute for buying whole coffee beans and grinding them fresh.  In order to ensure the best quality of freshness, I usually only grind enough coffee beans to last for about 2-3 days at a time.  This little appliance is a gem!
It is the perfect size and so easy to use!  After I grind the beans, I store the grounds in the antique coffee tin.  It just makes me smile.  I love making coffee for Kevin and Zach, too.  They like flavored creamers and enjoy trying different ones.  I stick to a limited amount of 1/2 & 1/2 in mine.  There is only ONE gram of carbs in 2 Tablespoons of the Walmart brand!  YEAH!  I feel like a professional barista whipping up a coffee treat for each of us every afternoon!  Those little things in life mean a lot everything.
#13.  Old canning jars.
We've been collecting old, antique jars for many years.  As you can see, we love to make daily use of them and not just keep them for display.  Since we have started an intense minimizing journey, possessions that earn the right to stay in our home have to meet one of three requirements—we have to either need, use, or enjoy them.  We got rid of a lot of our old jars, but we held on to certain special ones, and we are finding ways to bring new life to them.  You may have noticed that we store our THM Gentle Sweet in an old, blue canning jar.  I simply cut the label off the plastic bag and taped it inside the jar, to identify the contents.  We use old, blue canning jars to store several things inside our kitchen cupboards and outside, too, including a way to display pretty marbles.

Oh, my!  I wish there was a "sniff here" button on your computer screen!!  Kevin and I recently celebrated our 30th year anniversary!  YES, I said 30 years!!  Oh, God has been SO good to us.  We praise Him from the bottom of our hearts.  Kevin spoiled me and was so kind and thoughtful, as always.  This McCall's candle was one of my anniversary gifts, and I have been enjoying it ever since.  The fragrance of this one is "State Fair," and I can't even describe how wonderful it smells.  It permeates throughout the whole room and is just amazing.
#15.  Primitives, Antiques, & Homespun Decor
During our minimizing, we have let go of about 90% of our possessions and moved to a much smaller living space, but we have chosen to keep the things that fill our home with comfort and a sense of peace and add value to our everyday lives.  Things like this darling "Homespun" box dear Zach recently bought for me.
Isn't it just adorable?  The word "homespun" caught his eye and made him think of Homespun Devotions, and he, of course, is well acquainted with my weakness for quilts and anything primitive or old-looking.
#16.  Dad's old banjo & bluegrass music.
Some of my sweetest childhood memories have to do with the times my dear Daddy took out his five-string banjo and played for us.  Many a family get-together was centered around music, and from my earliest childhood memories, I can recall singing that high lonesome sound Vince Gill sings about.  So many who were in those gatherings have been called home to Heaven, and the void they left behind will never be filled.  I could easily burst into tears each time I hear certain songs or a banjo playing.  When I was in 8th grade, Mom and Dad bought me my first guitar, and through the years Dad taught me to play.  I have always wanted to learn to play the banjo, too, but like Dad always said, "If you can't learn the roll, you just can't play the banjo."  Though Dad patiently tried many times, I just couldn't get it so I would listen to him play and back him up on the guitar.  I miss singing with him and Mom more than I could ever put into words.  Dad didn't own many earthly possessions when he died.  I cherish the few things he left behind, but this banjo means more to me than anything else.  Each one of the memories attached to this old banjo means the world to me.  I'll close this post with a few of the songs we used to sing and play together.  

The Bluebirds Are Singing For Me ~ Mac Wiseman & The Osborne Brothers

I think one of the reasons we love Blind Pig & The Acorn so much is because they remind us of Mom and Dad and other family members and the precious times we used to have singing and playing music together.  They sing a lot of our favorite songs, and they are SO talented! 
We felt like we had lost a personal friend when Pap passed away not too long ago.
Click here to check out their youtube channel!

What Can Jesus Do? ~ Blind Pig & The Acorn

Who Will Sing For Me? ~ Paul & Pap Wilson (Blind Pig & The Acorn)

Rank Stranger ~ Ralph Stanley & The Clinch Mountain Boys

Foggy Mountain Breakdown ~ Flatt & Scruggs

Thanks for reading and listening, dear friends!
I'd love to hear about a few of your favorite things, too, should you care to leave a comment!
God bless you!

Monday, July 2, 2018

The Inner Views of Emily Ann Roberts

"Be strong and courageous; do not be afraid or discouraged; for the Lord, your God is with you wherever you go."
Joshua 1:9

We recently had the special opportunity of meeting the sweet 19-year-old young lady I am interviewing today.
I can tell you that she is as friendly, down-to-earth, and kind as she seems during her concerts.
You may remember her from "The Voice" Season Nine.
I know you will be greatly blessed by her presence here and hope you enjoy getting to know her better!

"The Voice" Season Nine Runner-up Contestant,
Emily Ann Roberts.

Cheryl:  Please introduce yourself and tell us who you are. 

Emily Ann:  Hi! My name is Emily Ann Roberts. I am 19 years old, and I’m pursuing a career in music. I’ve been singing as long as I can remember and truly believe God created me to encourage others through music. I grew up Knoxville, Tennessee and living so close to the Smoky Mountains really influenced my style as an artist. I first started singing in church and then singing in the choir at my middle school. I started playing guitar in the 7th grade and auditioned for the talent show at my school singing a song called “All Your Life” by The Band Perry and won. Winning the talent show gave me some confidence to enter more competitions around town and start playing gigs at restaurants in Knoxville. Fast forward to my sophomore year of high school, I got an email from a casting producer with NBC’s "The Voice", who found me singing a Carrie Underwood song called, “Something In The Water” on YouTube. The Lord opened every door, and one thing led to another, and I finished Runner-up on season 9 of NBC’s "The Voice!" Since my time on the show, I graduated high school and have been working in Nashville writing music for my upcoming country project. I also recorded my first album in August 2017 which is a Christian project named “Bigger Than Me.”

Cheryl:  We would love to hear about your Christian testimony.  How old were you when you became a Christian?  Were you raised in a Christian home?  

Emily Ann:   I was so blessed to be raised in a Christian home. My mom and dad took me and my sister to church every Sunday and are very strong in their faith. I was in elementary school when I really started thinking about salvation and giving my heart to Jesus. I knew I was a sinner and I knew without asking Him into my life I would spend eternity separated from Him. I was so convicted and knew I needed Him in my life, so in December, when I was in the 3rd grade, I prayed with my parents and asked Jesus to be my Lord and Savior!

Cheryl:  Who has most impacted your walk with Jesus?  Who has mentored you, influenced you, and prayed for you most?

Emily Ann:  My Mom has been my biggest influence/mentor in my Christian walk. She prays for me daily and has the sweetest heart for people. My mom just has the perfect way of encouraging me and giving Godly wisdom/advice when I need it most. 

Cheryl:  What about that person do you most long to emulate?

Emily Ann:  I love how patient and kind my mom is. She is always thinking of how she could help/encourage someone else, and she is always putting others before herself. I hope to be just like her one day. 

Cheryl:  What is your first singing memory?

Emily Ann:  My first singing memory is riding around in a car seat with my family singing every word to Ricky Skaggs' “Soldier of the Cross” album.

Cheryl:  When did you realize that God has gifted you to sing and that He wanted you to pursue that gift as a career?

Emily Ann:  I don’t think it hit me all of the sudden, but with little things that happened along the way, I became very confident that God had created me to sing. It took me a while to quit overthinking/doubting myself as a singer/artist, but when I finally realized it isn’t all about me and my abilities, but about being obedient to the Lord and confident in the gift God placed inside of me, I became sure that this was what I’m meant to do. The Lord opening up the door to be on "The Voice" was also a huge sign that this was what He created me to do. The doors since then have just flown open.

Cheryl:  Tell us about your life before and your journey to being a participant on "The Voice."

Emily Ann:  I sang a lot in Church and around Knoxville in competitions and restaurants before my time on "The Voice." My dad would record videos of me and post them on YouTube, and we never thought anything about it. A casting producer from the TV show saw me singing on YouTube and invited me to come to a callback audition in Atlanta, GA. I never particularly wanted to be on a singing competition show, but since the opportunity fell in my lap I knew I had to at least go audition, and I’m so thankful I did.

Cheryl:  What was the whole experience of being on "The Voice" like for you?

Emily Ann:  I cannot say enough good things about my time on "The Voice." The production staff, wardrobe team, hair and makeup artists, camera crew, band, drivers, and the coaches were all so amazing to work with. I most enjoyed getting to know the other contestants on the show with me. We went through a crazy life-changing experience together, and we became family during those months working on the show. I learned so much and was so inspired by the other contestants. Not only were the people great, but the show encouraged me to do things that used to scare me and to step out of my comfort zone. it really made me step out of the “box” I had put myself in.

Emily Ann & Ricky Skaggs performing together on "The Voice"

Cheryl:  What are some of your most memorable moments during your time on "The Voice?"

Emily Ann:  Honestly some of my favorite times were spent back at the hotel singing songs with the other contestants. We would have “jam sessions” at night where we would just pass the guitar around and sing together. I remember being so overwhelmed and amazed at the talent that was sitting around me. It was so inspiring. Also working with Blake Shelton was amazing. He is so down to earth and normal. He encouraged me so much and truly helped me come out of my shell. Also, he was always just so fun to be around.

Blake Shelton & Emily Ann performing together on "The Voice"

Cheryl:  How did your faith in God and your Christian walk influence and factor into your decisions and conduct while being a participant on "The Voice?"

Emily Ann:  My faith was the one thing that got me through my time on "The Voice." It was a lot of change and pressure on me as a 16-year-old. It was truly an amazing opportunity, that I wouldn’t trade for anything, but there were a lot of long days and homesick nights. But I knew the Lord had brought me to the show and that he was opening all the doors, so I held tight to the promise that he had good plans for it. I also wanted more than anything to be able to sing a gospel song on the show because I wanted to use the platform the Lord gave me to glorify Him. Thankfully, I was able to sing one of my most favorite gospel songs, “In The Garden,” during the live playoffs. It was amazing to hear stories of how that song touched peoples hearts. I’m still so amazed that God can use someone like me to encourage others and lift the name of Christ.

Cheryl:  What opportunities have opened up for you as a result of your being on "The Voice?"  How has life changed for you? 

Emily Ann:  Blake Shelton introduced me to his management company in Nashville, and I have been working with the team there since I got home from the show. I am so thankful to Blake for making that connection for me. There have been so many amazing opportunities I’ve had since my time on the show. I was able to sing at a Salvation Army Gala in New York City, do the half-time show at Neyland Stadium to honor Pat Summit, make my Grand Ole Opry debut, and play countless shows that have blessed my heart so much. My favorite part of what I get to do is connecting with the people who come to my events. I love hearing their stories and being able to connect with them through music. Another door that opened from "The Voice" is working with Abraham Productions and Ray Flynn Ministries. Ray Flynn saw me singing “In The Garden” on "The Voice" and reached out to have me sing at one of his events. I have been working with him ever since and I’m so grateful to work with him. Ray was the executive producer on my first album “Bigger Than Me,” and without him, I wouldn’t have been able to make the record. 

As far as life-changing, the main things that are different are how busy I am and people recognizing me out places. When I first got home from the show, it was a huge shock how many people recognized me and wanted pictures and autographs. I was in such a bubble out in L.A., and I was so busy doing the show that we never watched the show. It was crazy when It fully sank in that I had been in peoples living rooms on their TVs for months.

Cheryl:  What are your dreams going forward?  

Emily Ann:  My biggest dream going forward is getting my country music done and released! I have been working so hard on it for so long, and I cannot wait to share it with everyone. My prayer is that it touches hearts and encourages and empowers every person who hears it. I want my music to inspire little girls who want to be a country music artist one day the way so many albums inspired me growing up. 

Emily Ann with her parents, Tommy & Kelly Roberts, the night of her Grand Ole Opry debut

Emily Ann performing at the Grand Ole Opry

Cheryl:  How is God working in your life right now?  How is He leading you? 

Emily Ann:  God is showing me in this season of life to take one day at a time. I have to daily surrender my life and path to Him knowing that His plan and timing is far better than anything I could come up with. I’m a fixer, and I am not very patient, but the Lord is showing me that some of the sweetest times are in the unknown seasons of life. when I do not know what the next step is or what tomorrow will look like. It is so sweet to know that God has specific plans for each of our lives, and He loves us and cares for us. 

Cheryl:  Who lays most heavily upon your heart?  Who do you most long to reach through your music? 

Emily Ann:  I would love for my music to reach everyone and encourage all ages of people, but most of all, I would love to make an impact on young people. Middle school, High school, and college are hard years for most kids, and I would love to be a light to them. Whether it's with a song that reminds a girl of her worth or a song that they can turn up on their radio that just makes them happy. I want my music to make people feel empowered and give them hope. I want it to inspire them to follow the passions the Lord has placed in their hearts and give them peace and encouragement in the “in-between” seasons of life.

Cheryl:  When people come to hear you sing, what do you want them to take away from the experience?

Emily Ann:   When people come to hear me sing, most of all, I want them to leave knowing they have a Heavenly Father who loves them and wants a relationship with them. I also want them to be able to have a great time. I want for my shows to be a fun, safe place where people can forget about all the stuff going on in their life and just relax and enjoy music. I want them to be able to smile, laugh, cry, feel empowered, nostalgic, confident and loved. I want them to know that if God could use a small town, simple girl like me, then He can use them, too. No dream is too big- if they want to be a doctor or an astronaut, or a teacher, or whatever; I hope by seeing me live my dreams, they are encouraged that theirs can be a reality also.

Cheryl:  In a culture that is becoming increasingly hostile toward God, His Word, and His cause, how do you remain grounded and firm in your Christian faith?  What keeps you steadfast amid strong pressure to be silent about your walk with Christ and conform to political correctness?

Emily Ann:  I cannot live without Christ and His word. I know that society is against God but I can not stay silent about him. The Lord changed my life and I want everyone to experience the life I have with Christ. My friends, family, and church have kept me grounded through my journey, and I’m so thankful for the support and prayer they give me.

From Left to Right:  Emily's Boyfriend, Chris Sasser; Emily Ann; Brother-in-law, Tyler Morgan; Sister, Abigail Morgan; Mother, Kelly Roberts; Father, Tommy Roberts 

Cheryl:  What is your advice to teenagers/young people who are striving with all their might to remain true to Christ and swim upstream against such strong opposition?

Emily Ann:  Lean on God with all you have. He will give you the strength to stand firm against temptation and worldly desires. I know it's hard to walk the narrow road, but it is so, so worth it in the end. All the things people chase after in this world will amount to nothing but destruction. Christ came to give life and give it abundantly. He is your portion and all you need. He satisfies every longing your heart could have. Keep reading His word and trusting Him in your life. Also, get involved in a Bible study with other believers your age. There is nothing like having friends to read Scripture with you, hold you accountable, and encourage you.

Chris Sasser & Emily Ann

Cheryl:  Having been a part of your live audience twice, my family and I have experienced first hand the powerful anointing of the Holy Spirit that is present when you sing.  Please share with us about some of the most memorable demonstrations of His presence you have witnessed during your concerts, thus far.

Emily Ann:   It always amazes me how the Lord moves when we let go and let him have his way. The Lord has moved so much during the events with Abraham Productions. There is nothing like looking out at a group of believers with their hands lifted toward Heaven, praising the name of Jesus and knowing I get to have a part in that. Seeing chains break and walls fall down is the most amazing part of what I get to do. Music is so powerful, and the Lord has shown His power through it countless times with people coming to know Him at the events.

Emily Ann performing with the Isaacs

Cheryl:  When do you feel most anointed by God while singing?  Are there particular songs that consistently bless and move you and your audience into a special time of intimate worship?

Emily Ann:  I feel like God uses different songs in different seasons, so it varies which song I feel blesses me and the audience the most. As far as when I feel most anointed, I truly feel like God uses me most when I fully lay down everything and just worship Him. I try not to worry about the words or the notes but focus on my heart and on worshipping Him. 

Cheryl:  Please tell us about your CD.  What songs are on it?  What are your favorite songs to sing?  How can we buy it?

Emily Ann:  My CD is called “Bigger Than Me,” and it came out last August. It is a mix of old hymns, current songs, and a few original songs written by myself and some of my co-writers in Nashville. My favorite songs to sing off my album are “This Blood,” “I Know Who Holds Tomorrow,” and “Bless This Mess.” Unfortunately, the only way to purchase one of my CDs is to come to my shows. We do not sell this album digitally.

Cheryl:  How can we pray for you during this season of your life and career?

Emily Ann:  Please pray that I am able to reach the people who need encouragement and the truth most and for strength, peace, discernment to know where God is leading me.

Thank you ever so much for sharing your time and inner views with us, Emily Ann!
May God continue to bless you and use you and your music ministry in new and powerful ways!

You can connect with Emily Ann by visiting her at her website, on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and her YouTube channel, 

Thanks so much for reading, and please keep Emily Ann in your prayers, dear friends!

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Thursday, June 21, 2018

Obedience, or Sacrifice?

"But Samuel replied, "What is more pleasing to the LORD: your burnt offerings and sacrifices or your obedience to His voice? Listen! Obedience is better than sacrifice, and submission is better than offering the fat of rams."
I Samuel 15:22

To put this verse in its proper perspective, I will share the whole story.
The prophet Samuel came to King Saul and relayed these words from the Lord to him,
"Now go and completely destroy the entire Amalekite nation—men, women, children, babies, cattle, sheep, goats, camels, and donkeys."  I Samuel 15:3  (NLT)

God's instructions were specific and precise.
Nothing and no one was to be spared.
All were to be utterly destroyed.

King Saul went to Amalek, and he followed God's instructions—but only to a certain point.
He destroyed every man, woman, child, and baby—except King Agag.
Instead of killing him, as God had clearly instructed, he made him a prisoner of war.
He destroyed all cattle, sheep, goats, camels, and donkeys—except the best ones.
Instead of killing all of them, as God had specifically told him to do, he killed only what was "vile and refuse".
The best ones he held back with the best of intentions.
He and his soldiers planned to hold them back to sacrifice them to God.
What motivation could be more noble, right?

God revealed King Saul's disobedience to Samuel, and hearing of what King Saul had done deeply grieved Samuel and compelled him to cry out to the Lord all night long.
God told Samuel of King Saul's exact location, and early the next morning, Samuel went to talk to King Saul.

"And Samuel came to Saul: and Saul said unto him, Blessed be thou of the LORD: I have performed the commandment of the LORD.  And Samuel said, What meaneth then this bleating of the sheep in mine ears, and the lowing of the oxen which I hear?  And Saul said, They have brought them from the Amalekites: for the people spared the best of the sheep and of the oxen, to sacrifice unto the LORD thy God; and the rest we have utterly destroyed.  Then Samuel said unto Saul, Stay, and I will tell thee what the LORD hath said to me this night.  And he said unto him, Say on.  And Samuel said, When thou wast little in thine own sight, wast thou not made the head of the tribes of Israel, and the LORD anointed thee king over Israel?  And the LORD sent thee on a journey, and said, Go and utterly destroy the sinners the Amalekites, and fight against them until they are consumed.  Wherefore then didst thou not obey the voice of the LORD, but didst fly upon the spoil and didst evil in the sight of the LORD?  And Saul said unto Samuel, Yea, I have obeyed the voice of the LORD, and have gone the way which the LORD sent me, and have brought Agag the king of Amalek, and have utterly destroyed the Amalekites.  But the people took of the spoil, sheep and oxen, the chief of the things which should have been utterly destroyed, to sacrifice unto the LORD thy God in Gilgal.
And Samuel said, Hath the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD?  Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.
For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the LORD, He hath also rejected thee from being king."

I have always read this story with deep sadness, as to me, the ending of King Saul's reign and especially the end of his life is one of the most heart-wrenching accounts in the Old Testament.  To think of his potential and how God's anointing was upon him and how, because he thought he knew better than God, he fell and lost everything.

There are so many takeaways from his life's story.
At first glance, we may think the repercussions of his disobedience were too severe.
We may come to the conclusion that he should have been given another chance—that it really made a lot of sense to spare the best animals and to intend and insist upon using them as sacrifices to God.

I'd like to share seven things about this story that God is teaching me.

1.  God values obedience more than He values sacrifice.
So often, as Christians, we feel like if we adopt a martyr mentality, we are pleasing God.
We pour ourselves into "good things" like preaching, teaching, outreach, and all sorts of ministerial endeavors that He has not even asked or called us to do, disobediently "offering up" our time with the ones who matter most on the altar of "sacrifice."
Obviously, there are spiritual gifts and callings God places upon individual lives, and there is a Divine will for all of our moments and days.
 But, if doing what we do conflicts with our personal calling and/or God's Word, we are walking in disobedience, regardless of how much our human reasoning tells us our way makes more sense.

2.  There are only two types of sacrifice.
Obedient sacrifice and disobedient sacrifice.
Obedience to God sometimes requires sacrifice, yes, but not always.
Just because you are sacrificing yourself, your time, your energy, your talents, and your health in the name of God's work and cause, does not mean you are walking in obedience to God's will.
Sometimes obedience to Him means being still from service.
Sometimes it means getting quiet before Him and listening to His voice.
Sometimes it means resting by still waters, laughing, and enjoying time with your family, instead of rushing headlong "doing" something, in His name.
Sometimes it means utterly destroying sin and disobedience regardless of how we justify its value and right to exist in our lives.

3.  Pride causes us to choose sacrifice over obedience.
Samuel told Saul, "When you were little in your own sight, were you not made the head of the tribes of Israel, and the LORD anointed you king over Israel?"
At one point in time, Saul was humble and had a lowly opinion of himself.
It was during this time of humility that God made Saul the head of the tribes of Israel and anointed him, king.
"For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones."
Isaiah 57:15  (KJV)
Many times, with promotion and position, comes the snare of self-exaltation and pride.
We can think we know better than God.
We can convince ourselves that we are above God's law.
Pride is deceptive and sneaky.
When our actions are motivated by pride we often do not even realize it is happening until it is too late.
Here are two prayers we should pray on a regular basis.

"Who can understand his errors? Cleanse thou me from secret faults.  Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me: then shall I be upright, and I shall be innocent from the great transgression.  Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer."  Psalm 19:12-14  (KJV)

"Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts:  and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting."  Psalm 139:23,24  (KJV)

4.  Blaming someone else does not excuse us from the consequences of our own disobedience.
Saul was in charge.
He was wholly responsible for his own actions.
Yet, when Samuel approached him and pointed out his sin, he immediately shifted blame to "the people" who were under him.
"And Saul said, they have brought them from the Amalekites: for the people spared the best of the sheep and of the oxen, to sacrifice unto the LORD thy God; and the rest we have utterly destroyed.  Yea, I have obeyed the voice of the LORD, and have gone the way which the LORD sent me, and have brought Agag the king of Amalek, and have utterly destroyed the Amalekites.  But the people took of the spoil, sheep and oxen, the chief of the things which should have been utterly destroyed, to sacrifice unto the LORD thy God in Gilgal."
I Samuel 15:15,20,21
Even though he tried to pass the buck, he still reaped the repercussions.

5.  When God says "utterly," He means "utterly."
He doesn't mean partly, somewhat, half-way, or 99%.
Anything less than utterly is disobedience.  Period.
Utterly ~ entirely, completely, absolutely

6.  You can't deceive God.
"And Samuel came to Saul: and Saul said unto him, Blessed be thou of the LORD: I have performed the commandment of the LORD.  And Samuel said, What meaneth then this bleating of the sheep in mine ears, and the lowing of the oxen which I hear?"  I Samuel 15:13,14  (KJV)

"But if ye will not do so, behold, ye have sinned against the LORD: and be sure your sin will find you out."  Numbers 32:23  (KJV)

"There is none holy as the LORD: for there is none beside Thee: neither is there any rock like our God. Talk no more so exceeding proudly; let not arrogance come out of your mouth: for the LORD is a God of knowledge, and by Him, actions are weighed. "  I Samuel 2:2-3  (KJV)

"Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in His sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of Him with whom we have to do."
Hebrews 4:13  (KJV)

"Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap."
Galatians 6:17  (KJV)

7.  Obeying man instead of obeying God is idolatry.
King Saul succumbed to the pressure of the people around him, even though their guidance was at odds with God's command.
"For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry."  
I Samuel 15:23  (KJV)
Ministers, spiritual leaders, and other people can become idols to us.
We can choose to take their advice and wisdom over and in place of God's Word.
We should always respect those who God has Divinely called and placed in church positions,
but when their counsel conflicts with the Word of God, or we find that we prefer and seek out their opinions more than we search for God's heart on a matter, or we are afraid to make a move without their consent or approval, it is possible that we are serving them instead of God.
While spiritual leaders should be regarded with respect, they are not God.
They are human, fallible vessels, not "lords," and their instruction should always be measured by and compared with the Word of God.
The Apostle Peter said, "And now, a word to you who are elders in the churches. I, too, am an elder and a witness to the sufferings of Christ. And I, too, will share in His glory when He is revealed to the whole world. As a fellow elder, I appeal to you:  Care for the flock that God has entrusted to you. Watch over it willingly, not grudgingly--not for what you will get out of it, but because you are eager to serve God.  Don't lord it over the people assigned to your care, but lead them by your own good example." 
I Peter 5:1-3  (NLT)
God is a jealous God.
"For thou shalt worship no other god: for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God." Exodus 34:14  (KJV)
"For the LORD thy God is a consuming fire, even a jealous God."
Deuteronomy 4:24  (KJV)
"I am the LORD; that is My name; My glory I give to no other."
Isaiah 42:8  (KJV)
God wants to be our all in all.
He and He alone deserves our wholehearted worship.
"You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of human beings."
I Corinthians 7:23  (NIV)
"Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage."
Galatians 5:1  (KJV)
"But Peter and the apostles replied, "We must obey God rather than any human authority."
Acts 5:29  (NLT)

"Obedience to anyone other than God is sacrifice."
Zachary Smith

Here are a few good questions to ask before making decisions.
Am I doing this to obey God, or am I sacrificing to please another person?
Am I being manipulated by psychological intimidation?
Is anyone making me feel that if I don't do this I will be out of God's will, even though God is leading in an opposite direction?
What does God's Word say about this?
Does the advice and counsel of others align perfectly with what God is telling me to do?

Obedience, or sacrifice?
Why do we do the things we do?

Obedience, both when it requires sacrifice and when it does not require sacrifice, will keep us in a place of God's perpetual blessings.
In fact, obedience unlocks His blessings!

"If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land."
Isaiah 1:19  (KJV)

"And if you faithfully obey the voice of the LORD your God, being careful to do all His commandments that I command you today, the LORD your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth.  And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you if you obey the voice of the LORD your God."  Deuteronomy 28:1-2  (ESV)

"See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse:  the blessing, if you obey the commandments of the LORD your God, which I command you today,  and the curse, if you do not obey the commandments of the LORD your God, but turn aside from the way that I am commanding you today, to go after other gods that you have not known."
Deuteronomy 11:26-28  (ESV)

"Be careful to obey all these words that I command you, that it may go well with you and with your children after you forever when you do what is good and right in the sight of the LORD your God."
Deuteronomy 12:28  (ESV)

"But this thing commanded I them, saying, Obey My voice, and I will be your God, and ye shall be My people: and walk ye in all the ways that I have commanded you, that it may be well unto you."
Jeremiah 7:23  (KJV)

"Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man loves Me, he will keep My words: and My Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him."
John 14:23  (KJV)

Obedience, or sacrifice?
Why do you do the things you do?
It is worth considering.