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The River is Rising! (Album Review)

The River is Rising

If you want to start out the year experiencing the manifest Presence of God, I have one surefire way that will help you do that—check out the new worship release from The Ramp called The River is Rising.

Worship That Ushers You Into God’s Presence

Here is why I believe this worship recording is so important. In the hour in which we live, we need the Presence of God more than ever. If our worship times ultimately do not usher us into an encounter with the Person of Jesus, through divine aid of the Holy Spirit, we are coming together for a concert. We are simply singing songs and enjoying Christian entertainment. While there is much concert-ing going on in the contemporary church, places like the Ramp in Hamilton, AL thrill me to no end. They’ve made God’s Presence their primary pursuit. This is clearly evident in all of their ministry practice and culture—especially their praise and worship.

This shouldn’t come as any shock, though, since the Ramp was birthed by Christian music artist and minister, Karen Wheaton. When she pioneered the Ramp, she told God every reason why she was unqualified to minister to young people. And yet, the one thing she did know was the way into the Presence of God. This quest for God’s Presence is unmistakable to this day and is clearly revealed through this album.

From the moment the recording begins, trust me, you are not spectating at a concert. Whether you like it or not, you are being summoned into deeper level of encounter with the Presence of God. I believe you are being introduced to the next dimension of worship.

Worship Birthed Out of Divine Encounters

While listening to The River is Rising, I was immediately brought back to an era in praise and worship that was absolutely revolutionary. The days of Integrity/Hosanna, Maranatha Music, and of course, the Vineyard. But why? What was special about the 1990’s in terms of praise and worship? Simple. Songs were being written out of profound revival encounters with God.

Songwriters and artists were not under any kind of contractual obligation to release albums at a certain frequency. Songs were not being written for the purpose of simply having more songs. I’m not against artistry in praise and worship. I’m not at all against worship collectives, where multiple artists collaborate on writing songs. Bethel Music does this brilliantly, and their worship carries that supernatural grace from Heaven. Matt Redman penned it best. It all comes back to the Heart of Worship…

The river of revival was flowing throughout the church and as a result, we were graced with the music of Darrell Evans, Lindell Cooley, Matt Redman, Passion, and so many others. When I hear The River is Rising, I specifically think of how back in 1996, a worship album was released from a (then) unknown music team in Sydney, Australia. That collection of songs still carries an anointing and authority even to this day. The album was Shout to the Lord. The worship team was Hillsong. The worship leader was Darlene Zschech. Today, I see a new breed of worship leaders and songwriters arising who carry that same mantle—boldly and extravagantly leading the masses to make Jesus the focus of worship. Not the music. Not the lights. Not the excitement. Not the production. The Person of the Lord Jesus Christ!

Catherine Mullins, worship leader at the Ramp, carries this anointing and it saturates every single song on the recording. Truth be told, I struggled to make it through every song because there were worship moments that were so powerful, so Presence-saturated, I had those songs on repeat. You’re in for a treat, though. Don’t expect one song, then another song, then another song in some kind of static procession. The songs flow into each other seamlessly.

Take a Journey into the Glory

The album opens and closes with explosive praise—the likes of which I haven’t heard in a good while. There have been many amazing slower paced, worship songs written in recent years, but some of the more jubilant praise anthems tend to be missing today. “The Whole Earth” sets the tone for the worship journey, fixing your gaze upon God alone. These songs are not man-centric; they are God-centric and as a result, take you on a journey into His very glory.

And when the songs do have elements that involve man’s participation, its powerful and prophetic. “O Mighty Ones” is a declaration of what happens when we bless the Lord with all that is within us—voice and body. Praise pushes back the darkness. This is one you might end up putting on repeat!

“Let Hope In,” originally written by Daniel Bashta (“God’s Not Dead”) is another prophetic anthem, releasing the life and hope of God into the darkest of situations. These songs help worshippers learn how to prophesy the Word and life of God. They give you language to agree with the life-releasing purposes of God. I speak to barrenness/I command life within. These songs don’t only teach us how to worship—they teach us how to prophesy.

Songs that Carry God’s Presence

There is a segment of about 3 songs that I struggled to move beyond. I found myself getting caught up, time after time and wave after wave, in abandoned worship to God. In a few cases, I was so overwhelmed by His Presence—often filling the car—that I thought I might need to pull over. My car is often my portable sanctuary of worship in the mornings, as I’m sure it is for many of you. The songs are “The Lion and the Lamb,” “He is Yahweh” (from Vineyard) and “He’s Reigning in Zion.” Truly, if you want to be taken into a throne room encounter, play these songs back to back. Who can stop the Lord Almighty? Lyric after lyric directs your focus to God. They recalibrate your worship to focus on the character and attributes of God Almighty (“He is Yahweh”) and out of this revelation of God’s nature, you can make confident, prophetic declarations. He’s reigning in Zion, destroying our enemies. He’s reigning in Zion, He’s setting the captives free.

Finally, I love the album’s diversity. You have energetic praise and prophetic anthems, explosive exclamations of joy (“Joy”) and deep, intimate exchanges with God (“Jesus You’re Beautiful”, “All My Worship”).

I’ve only touched on a selection of the songs presented on this recording. Trust me, you will be profoundly impacted by this magnificent album. It’s not another music experience; it’s a powerful worship encounter.

Get ready to get caught up in The River is Rising!

Get the River is Rising here.

‘Like No Other’: A Powerful Worship Experience

I am always on the lookout for God-centered worship projects. Recently, I wrote an article about how our praise is a weapon of warfare against the enemy. In order to walk in this level of victorious warfare, I am convinced that we need to change our song and our focus.Warfare praise has little to do with singing songs about victory over the enemy and claiming the miracle … and everything to do with moving everything to the peripheral and declaring that Jesus Christ is truly Like No Other. We desperately need worship to flow from the church again where Jesus is truly at the center. This is why it is with my highest applause that I recommend to you the latest worship project from Christ Fellowship Church, Like No Other.

I see the worship songs on this recording powerfully impacting three areas of our lives:

Our Corporate Worship

Like No Other features some exceptional declarations of high-energy praise that will instantly connect with churches. Very much in the flavor of Gateway Worship, Hillsong Live, and New Life Worship—and yet with a fresh sound all their own—the Christ Fellowship worship team offers energetic statements of praise like “Favorite Word” and “From This House.”

In addition, there are sweeping anthems of God-centered worship such as the title track “Like No Other,” “Greater” and “Immortal Invisible.” These songs have been incredibly refreshing to me personally, and I believe they will be a blessing to the church corporately because they summon us to elevate our gaze. Worship is not about singing about what we are going to do for God, nor should be praised focused on how we are going to gain victory over the enemy. Though both kinds of song have their place, it is limited. More than anything, we need modern expressions of worship that basically say, “How great Thou art!”

Personally, one of my favorites is the cross-themed, “Hallelujah for the Savior.” This makes an ideal song for communion, Easter/Good Friday celebrations and other reflection times when the goal is increasing our corporate mindfulness of the redemptive work of Jesus.

Our Personal Devotion

While some modern praise and worship albums seem to be exclusively focused on resourcing churches with new songs for their corporate gatherings, Like No Other provides a selection of beautiful, more contemplative tracks that can be powerfully refreshing for your personal devotion times with the Lord. Of course, any of these songs can still be sung effectively in a church context.

I really enjoy listening to the reflective “Mercy Tree,” as its beautiful, well-crafted lyrics vividly take me back to the scene of Calvary, invite me to personally consider the weight of Jesus’ sacrifice for my sins, and finally, crescendo into a powerful declaration of victory.

Also, “My Reward (Found in You)” is a tender reminder of God’s faithfulness and unchanging nature that infinitely satisfy our heart’s desire.

Our Prophetic Declaration

One of the most popular worship songs in recent years has been the powerful, Jesus-exalting anthem, “Your Great Name,” which was made most popular by singer, Natalie Grant. The Like No Other album features a song that is certainly in the same vein of “Your Great Name,” but is much more prophetic in nature. In fact, the songwriters behind “Your Great Name” collaborated once again for “See You Again.”

If I could say anything about this song, it would be that it beautifully captures the purpose behind the Testimony. One reason we share testimony of God’s miraculous works in our lives to stir faith and expectation in those listening to our stories. After all, the God who healed will heal again because He is Healer. The One who delivered will deliver again because His very nature is Deliverer. Every miraculous work that God performs actually creates a very healthy longing within our hearts: “Lord, do it again. Move again. We want more!”

“See You Again” challenges us as believers not be satisfied with yesterday’s stories, miracles and testimonies of God’s power at work. If Jesus Christ is literally the same yesterday, today and forever, and the book of Acts is really still in progress, and the promise of Jesus that we would do His works, and even greater works is in fact true … we must press in for more. Michael Neale and co-author, Krissy Nordhoff have blessed the body of Christ once again with a prophetic song that helps put this hunger for “greater things” into words.

I encourage you to invest in Like No Other on iTunes. It is a masterful album that the Christ Fellowship team should be very proud of. Not only is the project exceptionally produced and the songs well-crafted. Most importantly, there is a distinctive Presence of the Lord on the album that will help you lift your eyes and behold God in a greater way.

When the people of Judah went to battle against their enemies in 2 Chronicles 20, what was their song? They weren’t singing songs about defeating the enemy, or destroying the threatening armies. Rather, their declaration of praise was exclusively God-focused, as they sang, over and over:

“Praise the Lord, for His mercy endures forever” (2 Chr. 20:21).

Like No Other puts anthems of praise and worship into the mouths of the people of God that truly, silence the enemy. It’s one thing to sing warfare songs about going to battle; it’s another level of faith to declare anthems of praise, exalting the unchanging nature of God even when the battle is raging and the frustrations of life seem all-consuming. Praise keeps us anchored. Though seasons come and go, and though life comes with its share of difficulties, Jesus is Like No Other and He is absolutely constant. This fact alone is certainly a reason to worship!

Want to know more about the next great move of God? Click here to see Jennifer LeClaire’s new book, featuring Dutch Sheets, Reinhard Bonnke, Jonathan Cahn, Billy Graham and others.

Larry Sparks is author of the book Breakthrough Faith: Living a Life Where Anything is Possible, and co-author of the upcoming book The Fire That Never Sleeps, with Dr. Michael Brown and John Kilpatrick (June 16, 2015). Larry is a columnist for Charisma, teacher and revivalist who is committed to training the body of Christ through 3 key seminars: 1) Sustaining a Lifestyle of Revival, 2) Revival in Media, and 3) Breakthrough Faith. Featured on CBN, TBN, and Sid Roth’s It’s Supernatural, Larry is passionate about raising up communities who usher in regional revival and awakening.

You can visit his website at lawrencesparks.com. Also, you can “like” Larry on Facebook (LarryVSparks) and Twitter (@LarryVSparks) to receive empowerment keys to experience and sustain a revival lifestyle.