There is nothing like the end of a huge storm to remind me of the sovereignty of God. Once when I was a kid we rode out a hurricane in our sturdy house. Even though it had thick concrete walls, I was not sure we were going to make it with the howling wind outside sounding like a jet plane roaring by all night. In the morning we got up to bright sunshine and debris everywhere. We had survived and I vowed to remember the power of God to change my world and my life any time He wanted to.
As I have gotten older, I have grown to appreciate the many ways that God works to stir things up in my life and to literally change the spiritual atmosphere around me. Somehow, music has been one of the most sustaining influences that He has used to mold and shape me over the years. In my teens, the power of music to affect my emotions and stir me was greatly affected by my discovery of “good” Christian music. At that time I was caught up in discovering bands that emulated the sound or secular bands but that had lyrics I could defend in front of my parents. Whether it was older music like Love Song and Larry Norman or bands like Stryper and Petra, I was hooked.
During my years in Christian retail serving in an urban environment, I have come to love and appreciate the richness and authenticity of urban gospel music. Hearing Fred Hammond sing about dancing like David danced gave new meaning to the scriptures that I had read many times. When Kirk Franklin sang about a revolution I understood more about what it must be like for a kid growing up in urban America to take a radical stand for Christ. Meeting Cece Winans and hearing her sing about an alabaster box taught me to love Jesus in ways that I am still learning about.
While I do know that God can use any style of music to reach a person’s heart, I am convinced that worship music is the one genre of music that I have seen change the atmosphere in a room, a church and in a heart more than any other. There is nothing quite like watching a person walk into our store, stop dead in their tracks and get lost in the music that we were playing. Over the years, I have seen the right song or artist bring tears or a smile to someone’s face like nothing else. In my own spiritual journey, it is worship music that has helped me reorient my focus back on God at critical moments. I have discovered that it is pretty hard to complain, stay angry, remain bitter or any host of other compelling sins when I am filling my own personal space with praises to an all consuming and wonderful God.
Here are some of my favorite new worship albums releases – several of them came out just this week.
Who could resist a worship album by a group with a name like the Desperation Band. Led by Jon Egan, the Desperation Band was birthed out of the student ministries of New Life Church in Colorado Springs. The project is a studio worship album with producer Paul Mabury. It is the bands first experience with an outside producer and features 11 brand new songs, most of which were collaborations with writers Jason Ingram, Paul Mabury, Mia Fieldes, and others. My favorite song so far is Wonderful with the refrain “Your freedom reigns, Your justice roars, Your people sing, You are the risen Lord.”
The first time that I heard the song “He Wants It All” by forever Jones, I was stopped dead in my tracks. I had never heard such a beautiful song, with such compelling lyrics that spoke to the depth of my personal spiritual need. When I learned that was from a group comprised of a mom and dad and their five kids who consider their 9AM daily devotions a sacred space that births the music they sing, I began to understand the power behind the music. Their new album, Musical Revival, released this week and promises to be unforgettable as well. My favorite song so far is the hauntingly beautiful Every Moment.
I have appreciated the music of Sovereign Grace Ministries for many years and been amazed at the number of worship songs they have produced that are now being sung in churches all over the country including my own. Their rendition of the classic Charles Wesley song, O My Soul, Arise by vocalist Erin Hill is worth the price of the entire album in my humble opinion. I have a feeling that I will be listening to this CD (yes I still buy and listen to music on CDs) for a long time to come.
I first heard this album when it was streamed live in a concert from the Austin Stone Church in Austin, Texas. It features songs from worship leaders Aaron Ivey, Jimmy McNeal and Andy Melvin. What a blessing to hear fresh new music from talented worship leaders in the church that are reaching a new generation of worshipers without compromising the quality of the music or the content of the lyrics. This is one album that I found infectious and I suspect some of the songs will find their way into the music repertoire of other churches in the near future if that has not already happened.
As I was thinking about this subject this past week, I was reminded once again that it is not the style of music that is sacred, but the God that is worshiped and praised. My son noticed that a rap album released on the same day as many of the albums mentioned above and was #2 on the Apple iTunes chart. The fact that it was a rap album was not remarkable, but he fact that it was by a Christian artist Trip Lee certainly was. How awesome to see God once again changing the atmosphere with music that honors and glorifies Him in the same space that he is profaned and despised by others.