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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.

Experience One of the Most Powerful and Prophetic Worship Albums of the Decade

12305049-bethel-music-you-make-me-brave-releases-april-22I am convinced that Bethel Music’s You Make Me Brave (available now on iTunes) is a landmark worship album. The songs powerfully and prophetically speak of the season that God is ushering the church into. He is stripping off timidity. Impossibility is quickly becoming an abnormality to followers of Jesus Christ. Since the same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead lives inside of you and me, we have every reason to agree with these lyrics and live like they are really true.

In short, God is bringing our Christian experience into agreement with the realities we are singing about. The songs emerging in this season are inviting worshippers across the Earth into a whole new way of living.

The title track, “You Make Me Brave,” written by Amanda Cook, is simply stunning (watch the YouTube here). It is both a timely and timeless anthem for a community of believers rising up to fulfill divine destiny, walk upon the waters of impossibility, and scale the mountains of life. Cook delivers several other standout tracks on the album, including the beautiful and intimate, “Shepherd.” Surely, mountain-moving faith will be ignited in worshippers as they declare the beautiful bridge: How I love You, how I love You… You have not forsaken me!

The album’s second track, “It Is Well,” was written by Jesus Culture artist and Bethel worship leader, Kristene DiMarco. The song maintains a delicate tone throughout—that is, until the sweeping conclusion where she incorporates the timeless hymn into her brilliantly-written confession of stability in Christ. The waves and wind still know His Name.

“We Dance” is absolutely worth noting. It is subtle, intimate, and lyrically impressive. Songwriter and worship leader, Steffany Frizzell-Gretzinger, invites us into a snapshot of her relationship with Jesus, while giving worshippers a wonderful expression of romance to the Lover of their souls. The picture she paints of a divine “dance” works very effectively. I will lock eyes with the One Who ransomed me, the One Who gave me joy for mourning. Truly, this is a song to both play and quietly ponder. It is cuts like “We Dance” that stir up great excitement for Gretzinger’s upcoming solo album.

Jenn Johnson’s “Come To Me” (originally from Bethel’s Loft Sessions) is undeniably a highlight—although, I would contend that every single song on the recording is a highlight in its own unique way. This live version has some strong prophetic/spontaneous moments that will escort you into deep moments of intimacy with a good and faithful God. It was also a delight to hear Jenn deliver a fresh rendition of an older classic, “A Little Longer” (which was originally featured on Bethel Music’s second album, We Believe).

One thing that Bethel Music does not do is simply recycle old songs. They may occasionally repeat the same songs on different albums, but I guarantee you, the different versions of the songs will always be fresh. In fact, I have had the privilege of attending multiple services at Bethel Church and although the basic song order/structure remains the same from one service to the next, how the songs are delivered constantly changes based on the prophetic direction of the Holy Spirit. This same flow transfers over to Bethel’s worship recordings.

I have no doubt that the masses are going to fully unwrap the treasure that is Bethel Music through the dynamic cut, “Forever.” Even though songs like Kari Jobe’s cover of “Love Came Down” and Passion’s rendition of “One Thing Remains” have progressively been pushing Bethel Music into more of a mainstream worship spotlight, “Forever” is nothing short of epic. Lyrically, it is one of the most refreshing “popular” praise and worship songs circulating in church today.

Like “Victor’s Crown,” (Darlene Zschech’s contemporary classic) “Forever” is a song that actually releases a breakthrough anointing into the atmosphere as worshippers offer up unified declarations of victory based on the finished work of Calvary. The verses and chorus are well-written and absolutely gripping, but there is something utterly profound about a group of believers joining together and singing the incredible bridge: “We sing Hallelujah/ We sing Hallelujah/ We sing Hallelujah/ The Lamb has overcome!”

Raw moments like this start to bring worshippers as close to the sound of Heaven as possible, this side of eternity. The strength of this song should come as no surprise, since the lyrics simply reflect the eternal Song of the Lamb that is being heralded throughout the ages.

Every track on You Make Me Brave is truly exceptional. Nothing feels arbitrary or randomly placed on the recording “just to take up space.” In addition, the album captures some dynamic moments of spontaneous, prophetic worship. They do not come off as forced or contrived. The strong presence of the Holy Spirit that was clearly moving during the actual recording can be experienced by listening to this album. As a result, there is such a beautiful authenticity that flows from the explosive introductory anthem, “You Make Me Brave,” to the quieter moments of Jenn Johnson’s spontaneous prayer/song, “We Step Into Freedom” that concludes the album.

Pick up the CD or order the digital download, expecting nothing less than a refreshing and empowering encounter with Jesus, the Champion of Heaven!

You Make Me Brave is now available on iTunes.

Larry Sparks is the author of Breakthrough Healing (Destiny Image, 2014). He is a conference speaker, blogger, columnist and host of the weekly radio program Voice of Destiny (www.thevoiceofdestiny.org). Featured in Charisma magazine and on CBN’s Spiritual Gifts webcast, Larry is also founder of Equip Culture—a ministry that equips believers with the tools and resources to live victoriously through the supernatural power of God. Subscribe to his blog awww.lawrencesparks.com. Follow him on Twitter @LarryVSparks.

Harbour Live Sets A High Bar With Exceptional Debut Worship Album

Harbour LiveEven though Harbour’s debut album, Here We Are has been out for a few years now, it is completely worth recognizing for being a fresh breath of air in the worship community. There are others, don’t get be wrong. But as far as bringing new songs and new sounds to the table, Harbour Live continues to deliver the goods.

Experience Worship That Says “Yes” to All of the Right Things

In fact, I cannot recommend this recording enough. From beginning to end, you are invited into the very experience that this incredible church enjoys on a weekly basis. The songs and sounds of Harbour are not exceptional because God decided to just sovereignly grace one church.

Rather, the leaders in this worship community have said a resounding “Yes.” Not to fame. Not to Christian pop. Not to radio friendly-ness. Not to becoming the “latest and greatest craze.” They have said “Yes” to the Presence of God. They have said “Yes” to Kingdom creativity. They have said “Yes” to “encounter-birthed songs,” where the lyrics are actually written out of revelation, experience, and solid God-centric theology. Because Harbour has said “Yes” to the right things, their worship actually carries the Presence of God and brings you along for the powerful, intimate journey.

Worship leaders, Justin Jarvis and Mary Kat Ehrenzeller, have rightfully been acknowledged for what they bring to the table in this recording. If you have listened to the phenomenal cuts on the Jesus Culture Emerging Voices recording, you will have been exposed to the songs of Harbour Church. Mary Kat led “Who Can Compare” (which is also on Here We Are) and “Mighty Fortress,” while Justin Jarvis led “Here We Are” (the title track of Harbour Live’s album) and “Be My Love.”

Songs that Stir Your Heart To High Praise and Intimate Worship

I would encourage worship leaders to specifically invest in this album due to the quantity of up-tempo praise songs. Such tend to be lacking today—at least songs of high energy praise that are well-written, reflective, prophetic, and engaging. Here We Are delivers on all fronts. From the explosion of praise and faith of the first track, “Rise” to the prophetic “Here We Are,” to the intimate (yet up-tempo), “We Are One” and the declarative, “This is Our God,” Here We Are is not lacking for anthems of praise. And each one is exceptional.

Truly, this album delivers with stirring announcements of praise and deeply intimate love songs of worship. Mary Kat’s “Who Can Compare” is simply stunning, reminding listeners that God Almighty is truly incomparable and yet, He is the very One Who personally leads us through every season of life, lifting our heads and filling us with His hope. There is truly an unusual grace on this song.

“In the Middle” is another song that I cannot get enough of. Justin Jarvis penned a powerhouse devotional, reflective worship anthem that tenderly contemplates our intimacy with God, while dynamically inviting His Presence to invade.

It is a rare worship album that is capable of sending you to soaring heights of praise while also bringing your heart into deep, intimate moments of worship. Here We Are delivers on both. The project does not simply surprise; it surpasses. Get ready for a treat!

Check out Harbour Live: http://www.harbourlive.com/
Check out Harbour Church: http://harbourchurch.com/