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An Evening with Holly Starr
NRT's Kevin Davis shares the special experience of hosting a house show with Holly Starr and Universal Royalty.

We were blessed to host Holly Starr and her band mates, along with opening band Universal Royalty, for a house concert in my basement on October 23. Upon hearing Holly Starr perform her infectious and worshipful songs on main stage at Creation Festival, I was really impressed by how powerfully her songs translate in a corporate worship setting. Last fall, I took my three daughters to meet her and sing along with her songs at a concert, and when I asked them who they'd like us to host for a house concert, Holly Starr was who they requested.

The mission statement of opening band Universal Royalty is to be a ministry of music, laboring in love, founded and rooted in the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ. Their prayer as a ministry is to usher others closer to Jesus and bring glory to God. With that background and having heard the band lead my church congregation in worship, I settled in to listen. They performed an energetic set of original songs including "Jesus Makes Me Clean," "Warning," "God Leads Us Along," "My Reward," "Last Words" and "The Taker."

Their songs are all written or co-written and sung by Luis Toro, one of the six brothers that make up the band, along with David, Juan, Daniel, Marcos, Nick and drummer Jon Faehl. The acoustic set featured Luis, David, Juan, Marcos and Jon playing and singing, and Nick flawlessly ran the sound board. One of the standout songs was the worshipful "Jesus Makes Me Clean." I really like the message of the song, and how the band celebrates the biblical truth: "Create in me a clean heart" (you can watch a video here).

It is always fun to watch a person develop, grow and express their God-given talents in their chosen field of ministry. Holly Starr's most successful album is 2012's Focus. The album was preceded by the single "Let Go," and also includes the hit songs "Don't Have Love" and "Through My Father's Eyes." With each successive album and song, I hear the maturation of a young woman learning to rely increasingly on the grace of God to help her "focus" on what really matters, to find her true identity in the Person of Jesus Christ, knowing that we are all made in God's image.

My family has been blessed by Holly Starr's music ministry and her great example of how to be a modest and godly woman who expresses her love for Jesus and how He has rescued and redeemed her from the lies and destructive messages of the world. After opening with a great rendition of "Let Go," Holly sang "Through My Father's Eyes," which is about encouraging self-confidence in girls.  We were created and made in the image of God, and as so, we all really connected with the lyrics: "I'm loving what I can see with His spirit alive in me, I'm finding beauty for the first time, Looking through my Father's eyes."

Society puts pressure on all of us to conform and feel like we need to fit in. The Truth of the Bible is that we are told to "not conform to the patterns of this world." Holly shared her personal experience of how God has shown her just how beautiful she really is to Him. Holly delivered that message of affirmation perfectly in the bridge where she proclaimed "He changed my life, I'm changing my mind,  He healed all that was broken inside, I'm loving what I can see with His spirit alive in me, I'm finding beauty for the first time, Looking through my Father's eyes."

A challenge I've personally taken away from the song is that God put it on Holly's heart to pray and she was obedient. She spent time in prayer to God in order to overcome this issue, and God healed her. That's available to all of us. Take whatever struggle you are dealing with, and lay it at the feet of Jesus. Holly is speaking out against conforming to the pressures brought about by society but that she's saying to young girls: find your identity in God. Don't let the world tell you who you are.

"God Is" picked up with Holly's desire to provide words for the Church to sing about our Lord, to edify and build up believers with her anointed voice and transparent faith. In that way, her newest song "God Is" reflects her heartbeat to sing about the attributes of God and make an offering of praise to Him. His name is a strong tower. We can call out for Jesus and He will keep us safe. This is a truth for believers to cling to. We're not supposed to just hope it is true, or turn to the Lord as only our last resort, but daily be washed by the Truth of the Word of God. If we learn to build our lives on Scripture, we would all have a Rock as our foundation as we navigate our lives. We can know for a fact that the words of this song are true: "God is greater than the pain." Amen to that!

My family has been very blessed by Holly's amazing new modern hymn "Grace for All." We were discussing as a family the meaning of Holly's album title Focus. I explained to my daughters that rather than focusing on the way they see themselves, it's about knowing the way God thinks of them. I'm crazy in love with all of my girls, but God loves all of us even more than we can imagine. We can take comfort knowing that "His grace is all I need."

I really connect to the lyric in the song "He will meet you where you are." No matter where you are, no matter what you've done, God will find you if you call out to Him sincerely and ask Him for His grace. Even once we are saved, we sometimes beat ourselves up about failure and feel unworthy of God's love. That's the point: we aren't worthy. We can't earn grace. It is a gift of unmerited favor from God for His children. Scripture tells us, "But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Rom. 5:8).

There is a lot of great biblical truth throughout Holly's catchy song "Don't Have Love." We are commanded to love others by Jesus. The song challenges us to think about how well we are loving people. As the song proclaims, "Love's never selfish, love's never vain, Love doesn't criticize, love doesn't blame, from the beginning, through every age, Love is the one thing that's never gonna change." Demonstrating Holly's "heart of worship," she also led us in singing the modern worship songs, "10,000 Reasons" and "All the Poor and Powerless."

It was a truly blessed night for the guests we had cozily seated in our basement. It was a night we won't forget as we sang together and celebrated the biblical truth behind all of the great songs, that "He has Grace for all." All that we have and all that we need is found in Jesus. Our night of worship and singing was a celebration of His amazing grace. The gathering of believers was a wonderful way to celebrate our community and a foretaste of how we'll be singing about God's grace for eternity. Don't miss the chance to see Universal Royalty and Holly Starr in concert.

(View a full gallery of pictures by Heather Albert here.)


NRT Lead Contributor Kevin Davis is a longtime fan of Christian music, an avid music collector and credits the message of Christian music for leading him to Christ. He lives in Pennsylvania with his wife and three daughters.

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