Announcing expositorysongs.com

I’m excited to announce the launch of expositorysongs.com. It highlights songs where the main idea of a passage of Scripture is also the main idea of a song.

I’ll be working through chapter by chapter, one or two per week. Since so many of these songs are long-forgotten, I plan to include all available links to lyrics, sheet music, and YouTube videos,

Besides reading the posts on the website, you can also get them for free via email: http://eepurl.com/caJEPb

Several years ago, I realized that the songs I was most passionate about were deeply rooted in Scripture – and that this was also the defining characteristic of the songs of my three all-time favorite songwriters (John Newton, Dianne Wilkinson, and Michael Card).

The process of finding and organizing these songs started right here on this website, in November 2011, with our Songs from the Books of the Bible series. I’m excited to start sharing this research!

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The Post After the Last

SGJ - Final Kindle CoverTen years ago, while I was listening to the live radio broadcast of the 2006 National Quartet Convention, I thought: If I started writing about Southern Gospel, would anyone care?

I decided the only way to find out was to try. So I launched this site the following Monday.

Two principles were central: First, take a constructive approach. Second, put up a post every weekday. (Over a seven-year period, I think I only missed one, on a day when a major storm took out power for more than twenty-four hours!)

Early on, a day with fifty readers was a big day. But over time, those two principles started to resonate and interest built. At its peak, the site had over 3,000 unique visitors per day. In 2013, its final full year of operation, it had over a million cumulative daily visitors. I decided to retire the site in 2014. There were several factors, but perhaps the most important was that I realized I had said my piece. I had written over a million words about the music I love (3,175 posts, 1,048,944 words).

I have decided to pick fifty of my best posts to highlight in anthology form. Today, I am pleased to announce the release of Southern Gospel Journal: An Anthology. It is available in paperback and Kindle formats at Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/dp/1523399058/.

A news website is inherently ephemeral. Its posts rarely have lasting value. These are the few exceptions.

The search to pick the fifty best was surprisingly riveting. The posts I selected are the ones that made me laugh and made me cry.

Perhaps they will do the same for you.

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Sony’s Thoughts: Farewell, Southern Gospel Journal

As I sit down to write my last post for Southern Gospel Journal, I am dealing with so many emotions. I still remember when Daniel asked me to write for this blog nearly 6 1/2 years ago and the excitement I had that God would open this door for me. I don’t consider myself to be a great writer, but I love to write and I hope that, as God continues to teach me and help me to grow, He will use my writings to help others to do the same.

When God closes a door, He often opens another and, this week, after Daniel’s announcement, I was contacted by MusicScribe, asking if I would be interested in continuing to write my devotional there. With Daniel’s blessing, I plan to do so starting next week. If you would like to read more than one writing a week, I would love for you to read my blog, Southern Gospel World, as well. Since there are other blogs who do better at keeping up with Southern Gospel news as soon as it’s out, I focus more on reviews and my inspirational writings. With my schedule, I am unable to post every day, and there are times I can go a while but I try to post several times a week.

I would also like to thank each of you who have read my posts each week and have encouraged me through your comments. There have been times I thought about quitting but, at the perfect time, someone would leave a comment that would inspire me to continue.

Although I am sad to see this blog discontinue, I wish Daniel the best and know that God has even better things in store for Him. It’s been a blessing to see him continually mature and grow in God. Jesus asked the question, “When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8). I’m so glad there are still faithful men and women who are willing to surrender all and allow God to guide their every step. May we all follow the examples that have been set for us so that we hear those wonderful words, “Welcome Home, my good and faithful servant.” What a day, glorious day that will be!

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Southern Gospel Journal to retire in June

This has been one of the greatest blessings of my life. But “to every thing there is a season,” and this season is coming to an end: I have decided to retire Southern Gospel Journal in early June.

For my entire adult life, writing a post every morning has been the only routine I have known. So this decision was certainly influenced by a number of factors.

Perhaps most significant is how the world has changed over the last eight years. In 2006, we needed news websites. Now, we follow our favorite artists directly on Facebook or Twitter. That has decreased the need for this site. But I truly don’t regret it, because it is better for the genre.

Something similar happened with CD reviews. Thanks to Spotify, we don’t need a reviewer to tell us if a CD is any good when we can hear it for ourselves.

When it comes to commentary, I have said my piece. After writing over 3,100 posts here, I find that most of my post ideas are ones I’ve had before.

There are also a few personal reasons. I need to lose weight, which means that I need to spend more time away from the computer, exercising. And I am ready to pick back up several book and songwriting projects that had been on the back burner.

I’m making this announcement a month early, for several reasons. First, there are several posts already promised or scheduled for the next few weeks. Second, this will allow time for anyone who wants to pick up the mantle of daily news and commentary to get up and running. Finally, it lets me get this post out of the way and save the final post for a more fitting subject.

I have been very active in this genre behind the scenes. That won’t change; I still love this music deeply.

With this season in my life drawing to a close, I’m tempted to complicate the transition by refusing to let go of the past. Instead, I’ll focus on the future, looking forward to seeing what the road ahead may hold both for me and for this genre of music that has touched all of us so deeply.

Thank you to all of you who have made this project one of the greatest blessings I have ever experienced.

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Sony’s Thoughts: Jesus is Risen … and He’s Coming Again

I don’t think it’s coincidence that I’m reading through Revelation right now. Right after Jesus’ ascension, “two men stood by them in white apparel, who also said, ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven” (Acts 1:10b-11). The story didn’t end with His death. It wasn’t finished with His resurrection and the fact that He is no longer with us in bodily form. He promised to send His Spirit–which He did–and He promised to receive us unto Himself “that where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:3). That is a day we still have to look forward to.

Jesus warned us that, “In the world, you shall have tribulation,” but He also told us to “be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). We may not know exactly when He’s coming but He definitely will come. Our job is to watch and be ready.

As you think of the cross and everything Jesus went through to offer you forgiveness for your sins, think about your life. Are you living a life of surrender or are you still trying to have your life and Heaven too? It doesn’t work that way. If He is not Lord of all, I daresay He is not Lord at all. He died that you might have eternal life but whether you accept that life is up to you. I pray you will. He loves you so much. Please take time to examine your heart today. It doesn’t matter how many years you have gone to church or how Godly YOU think you are. The question is, “What does God think about the way you’re living your life?” Repent today and find joy and peace like you’ve never known.

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Sony’s Thoughts: Too Busy Serving?

This is conference season for the ministry I work for. From March 1 through last weekend, we were at a different convention every weekend. We now have two weeks off before we hit the road again. Since we’ve been home, I’ve had nights of not sleeping well so I’ve had a lot of sleep to catch up on. In the midst of all this, I’ve been reminded how easy it can be to “serve God” but yet be too busy for Him.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t let one day go by where I don’t pray and, with the app on my phone, I can usually find time to read a chapter from the Bible. It’s not the same, though, as uninterrupted, quality time with my Father. There is a grace on the road. I know I’m doing what God has called me to do, and I acknowledge Him and praise Him as I get a few slow minutes here and there. At the same time, it’s important to remember that God still desires all I have to give Him, and there is no excuse not to make extra time to be alone with Him when I get home.

I share this because I know a lot of ministry leaders read this, but I suppose this really applies to everybody. Whether you are a pastor, singer, evangelist, office worker, housewife, etc., don’t neglect to take the time to hear from your Heavenly Father. He has something He wants to speak to you. It may be a word of encouragement, a caution, some direction, maybe even a rebuke but it is worth listening. We cannot tell others how to live a Godly life if we are not doing everything we can to live Godly as well.

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A Change in Posting Schedule

When this site launched, I decided to put up a post every weekday (and some Saturdays). Early in this site’s history, I missed a day or two—once when the Eastern power grid went down and power was out for more than twenty-four hours! I think it has been five or six years since I missed a day.

That’s good, to a point. But there’s a downside: There are days when I’ve written a post just to keep the streak going. That’s not the most effective use of your time, and I apologize.

Some posts—like last Tuesday’s—could have just as easily been one line in a News Roundup. If something can be communicated just as effectively with one sentence, then it probably should be.

From this point forward, I plan to post only when I have something to say. That should still come out to several posts per week most weeks, and certainly, there will be weeks when every day will have a post. But I won’t waste your time just to keep a streak running.

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Sony’s Thoughts: The Secret Place

As I begin this week’s devotional, I am fighting to see the screen through the tears streaming down my face. I just watched the video Daniel posted Friday of The Booth Brothers singing, “The Secret Place.” Wow. Talk about convicting. I’ve heard the song before but I hadn’t heard Ron Booth, Sr.’s testimony. What a powerful reminder that God still saves and delivers.

I expect that the majority of church goers in America have things in their heart that they don’t want anyone to know about. It’s easy to put on nice clothes and a fake smile and make people think, “He is such a Godly man” or “She is such a nice lady.” God knows the truth, dear Brothers and Sisters, and He desires that we live a life wholly surrendered to Him.

I am not immune to temptation but I pray often to be faithful. Scripture says, “To whom much is given, much is required,” and I have been given so much. I also have five younger siblings, and eight nieces and nephews who look up to me. That, plus being in ministry, does not allow me the luxury of having a secret place in my heart, but I daresay you don’t have that luxury either. God has called us to be a set apart people, and it is only the pure in heart that will see Him. You do not want to arrive at Jesus’ feet only to be told, “Depart from me. I never knew you.”

Today, if you hear His voice, don’t harden your heart. The day will come when you will regret the life you lived. When you look into the loving, but sad, eyes of the Savior, all the justification for your sin, which now seems to make sense, will vanish from your mind, and you will wonder why you ever thought that secret life was okay.

Forgive me for preaching. I had planned to write on something else today but I believe this is the message God is speaking. Excuse me while I go examine my heart and repent of the secret things in my heart. I hope you will join me.

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Sony’s Thoughts: A Word Fitly Spoken

The past week has been quite hectic. I’ve been watching children for a mama who just had her eighth baby. Yesterday, several of them developed colds. I’m praying I don’t get it until Mama gets back on her feet.

In the midst of all this, I received an email out of the blue from someone encouraging me, if I begin to feel overwhelmed, to stop and ask God for strength. In closing, he included the chorus of the hymn, “Turn your eyes upon Jesus. Look full in His wonderful face. And the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.” Praise God for friends and family who are always ready to encourage me when I need it.

I used to do better at sending random notes to people just to lift them up. I’m reminded how important it is. One can feel encouraged during the most discouraging times if someone would take a moment to give them a kind word.

Wise King Solomon said, “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver” (Proverbs 25:11). An encouraging word at just the right moment will be remembered for a long time, and it only takes a moment of our time. Take that time to encourage someone today.

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Introducing Letters To The Editor

Two weeks ago, this site became Southern Gospel Journal. In the announcement, I noted that it is a change in perspective, not merely a name change. The re-branding included several new or re-launched columns, and an expanded “about” section for readers new to Southern Gospel (or to Christianity altogether).

One change remains: It is time to upgrade the comments section.

Ever since blogging became popular, many blog’s comment sections have been free-for-alls where anything goes. I have never been comfortable with this notion. Conversations about this genre are valuable, if they are quality conversations: Insights, respectfully expressed.

The new name for our discussion section, “Letters To The Editor,” is more consistent with the new branding and with this vision. As before, we will still welcome quality discussion. On every post, we will publish the submissions that are most thoughtful and insightful and within the basic comment guidelines. Also, every week, we will highlight a few of the week’s most worthy letters to the editor in our Friday News Roundup column.

Around 95% of the people who visit this website never post a comment. For some visitors, this website is their first exposure to current Southern Gospel culture. Let’s set them a good example. But, more importantly, this site has a fair number of international visitors; for a few, this website may be their first introduction to how Christians treat one another. We must be mindful of the example we set for them through our words and deeds.

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