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Outstanding new album from IHOP-KC Worship Leader, Jon Thurlow

stand-in-aweOne of my favorite things in the world is intelligently-penned worship music. This quality undeniably characterizes the hymns and choruses of old that still having staying power in the church today. This is why they are such an anchor to us. Such songs place a demand on us as worshipers. Timeless anthems forbid mindless worship and invite us to truly explore and behold God in the manifold dimensions of His glory. This is one of the many reasons I can highly recommend Jon Thurlow’s recently-released album, Stand in Awe, to you.

Worship At Another Level
Thurlow is one of the worship leaders at the International House of Prayer in Kansas City. One thing you will never get from any of the songwriters out there is weightless worship or peppy praise. You know what I’m talking about it. In a day when it seems like anyone can write a “worship song” and make it the next biggest thing since sliced bread, I honor those who write from a place of intimacy and encounter with the Holy Spirit. Songs like this are bold. They are fresh. They carry something, and Thurlow’s worship certainly fits the mold.

I’m not saying that this type of worship music needs to be wordy. Substance is not expressed through the quantity of words, but rather, the quality.

From the initial praise cuts on the album, the listener is taken on a melodic journey, rich in lyrical depth and passion. Starting with “Who is Like You,” celebrating the unlikeness of Almighty God and the up-tempo “Have the Glory,” we are treated to worship music that is truly saturated in substance.

Some Standout Songs
“Fully in Love” gets me every time. “It’s what You wanted in the garden. It’s what You wanted on the mountain. It’s what You wanted on the cross-beam… just a heart that’s falling in love.” Never ceases to grip me.

“Take Your Place” is well-suited for congregational worship. A sweeping, building, powerhouse of an anthem.

Another highlight is the jazzy, funky “Simple Conversation,” where Thurlow beautifully explores how prayer is a continuous conversation with God.

Jon Thurlow is both a worshiper and an outstanding musician. If you want to know what happens when these two worlds collide, purchase Thurlow’s Stand in Awe today. Incredible.

Check out a sample of some of Thurlow’s incredible worship here…

Kingdom Come is a refreshing and powerful sophomore album from Bryan & Katie Torwalt!

Microsoft Office Outlook - Memo StyleKingdom Come. Right off the bat, I encourage you not to compare Bryan and Katie Torwalt’s second album to their outstanding, exceptional, groundbreaking, stunning debut recording, Here on Earth (released in 2011).

I make the following statement without any reservation: Here On Earth is one of the greatest compilations of worship songs I have ever heard. On top of that, I believe the Torwalts are part of a Holy Spirit-renewal in a “worship movement” that, sadly, has bowed one too many times to commercialism. I add the Torwalts to the ranks of Brian and Jenn Johnson, Jeremy Riddle, Darlene Zschech, Matt Redman, Tim Hughes, Martin Smith, Phil Wickham, Israel Houghton, Kim Walker-Smith and the brigade of others who tirelessly press into God as a lifestyle, and in return, receive fresh downloads from His presence. These downloads become songs that continue to transform the landscape of worship and ultimately, redefine church culture as a whole.

While Bryan and Katie’s songs are musically catchy and easy to sing, the lyrics are unparalleled in depth and richness. This husband and wife duo write from a deep place of intimacy with the Holy Spirit. Such an intimacy cannot be faked. No way. And thus, this duo of singer/songwriters equips the body of Christ with fresh expressions of praise and worship that do not fail to lead us, both corporately and privately, into the powerful Presence of God.

Long intro, but I wanted to give you some context and perspective before I jump into reviewing Kingdom Come, their fresh sophomore album.

First, I absolutely love the sound of the album. It was way different than Here on Earth, so buckle your seat belt and prepare for an incredible experience. With the first album, I made the mistake of attempting to draw a parallel between the Torwalts and other duos such as All Sons and Daughters and even the Civil Wars. Vocally, yes, there are slight comparisons to be drawn, but the Torwalts are venturing into new waters with Kingdom Come. It is a rich expression of different sounds and instruments.

Second, the theme is so well carried through each song (without seeming forced). It is without question that the Torwalts are singing out of their theology and belief system. Every song echoes the invading, present expression and advancement of God’s Kingdom. These songs are prophetic tools for the bride of Christ to align her worship with the current movement of the Holy Spirit. We are to speak into and yes, even sing into God’ activity on Earth. Of course we are to always worship God simply because He is God and He is worthy. Hence, why there are timeless songs and hymns. In addition to the timeless, I do believe there are also timely expressions of worship. The Torwalt’s latest album is just that—timely. I cannot help but recall Darrell Evans classic anthem, “We Will Embrace Your Move.” These songs enable congregations and individual believers alike to get on the same wavelength as the Holy Spirit, embrace His move in the Earth, and declare the in-breaking of Heaven into every sphere of life.

Third and finally—the songs. They are incredibly catchy. In fact, you will immediately gravitate towards certain ones because they get in your mind and in your spirit—and will not get out. For secular songs, this becomes an annoyance. For songs of worship, these is an asset, for the songs are conduits for the Word of the Lord. They actually help us meditate on what He is saying and doing.

“King of the Earth” led by Katie is one such song for me. Exuberant and praise-full, the song stirs the heart to express bold, extravagant praise to the One who reigns over all things. “Shores” is another fun cut. However, I am quick to add that “fun” does not mean ridiculous, lame, and without substance. Even the “lighter,” more up-tempo songs on the album declare powerful Kingdom truths of freedom from addiction, bondage, and depression.

I was also refreshed by the several songs that focus on the manifest Presence of God and how His entrance into an atmosphere or environment actually brings about a supernatural shift. These are wonderful songs for corporate worship expression, for they invite worshipers to press in for a release of God’s glory and presence. “Weight of Glory,” “When You Walk Into the Room,” and “Spirit of the Living God” take you on this incredible journey into the glorious presence of God. I love the bridge of the last mentioned song, “Spirit of the Living God.” So simple and yet so powerful: “Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah—Spirit break in!”

Finally, there are exceptional cuts that are straight-up God-focused worship anthems: “Worthy King” and “It Was Finished.” That said, every single track on the album is God-ward. In other words, you are not going to have a slew of songs dedicated to singing about how great we are, what we are going to do for God, and all of that nonsense. The Torwalts maintain a God-focused, Christ-centric approach to worship that refreshes and inspires.

This review is just a sampling of a tour de force sophomore worship album from Bryan and Katie Torwalt.

My thoughts? Pick up a copy of Kingdom Come. You will be incredibly refreshed in God’s Presence.

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Here is a powerful sampling of worship from Bryan and Katie when they led at this year’s Jesus Culture conference in LA. (You will need to fast forward a little to get to the actual worship segment).

Bethel Music is Turning Tides With Outstanding New Album!

bethel-musicI was at a local Christian bookstore and, to my surprise, they were selling Bethel Music’s latest album Tides. The official release date was slated for September 3—so I was quite thrilled to be an early adopter and critical raver for this incredible project!

An Album That Takes Risks!
What I love, absolutely love about Bethel Music is that everything they have done thus far has been different. They take risk. You can tell that the risk-taking culture of Bethel Church permeates every arena of ministry, from boldly praying for the sick to experimenting with new sounds and styles of music.

Tides is a four star album. I was immediately hooked. In fact, Brian and Jenn Johnson, along with the incredibly talented team at Bethel Music, did a phenomenal job stirring up pre-release anticipation for this album. From releasing preview tracks on iTunes, to hosting a live steamed release party (online) with acoustic worship and song stories, I was a fan of the album long before I officially picked up my copy at the bookstore. Well done.

Experience A New Sound
Do not expect a sequel to For the Sake of the World, Bethel’s most recent live recording (which is another standout album). Even though my preference tends to be the live recordings—where to the best of technology’s ability, it captures the presence and power of a raw atmosphere of worship—I have thoroughly enjoyed Bethel’s out of the box projects, starting with Brian Johnson’s solo album Love Came Down to The Loft Sessions to the instrumental album Without Words and now, Tides.

If I had, absolutely had to compare Tides to anything, it would be to a Hillsong United studio album, like Aftermath or most recently, Zion.

That said, I am reluctant to compare it to anything that currently exists—in sound and lyrics. Each writer is rich in intimacy with Jesus, and the depth of these relationships are reflected on every single track. It’s rare to have a studio album that is permeated by such a strong anointing and hunger for worship. Though polished and professional on every front, the raw pursuit of God’s Presence that sets Bethel Music apart is STRONG throughout this project.

Standout Songs
One song in particular that will tug on your heart strings is Jenn Johnson’s “I Can Feel You.” It is beautiful, haunting, and lyrically rich, reminding that no matter how deep in chaos or circumstance we find ourselves, or far we perceive to be from the Presence of God, He is but a “breath away” and so ready to break into our lives. It is also a rich sound-feast. (I’m pretty sure there is a smoking saxophone solo somewhere in there).

A standout track which, I hope, becomes a standard of modern congregational worship is the anthem, “Forever,” co-written by the Johnsons and Kari Jobe. It goes without saying that it will surely become a Resurrection Sunday favorite.

“Chasing You” is a fun way to start the album, with Jenn Johnson taking listeners on a fast-paced, passionate journey pursuing the heart of God.

I’m not going to lie, Steffany Frizzel (now Steffany Gretzinger) is one of my favorite Bethel worship leaders. Anything she writes/sings is worth a listen. The two tracks she delivers on Tides are phenomenal. Vocally, Steffany takes “Be Still” to soaring levels. The bridge is electric, as she passionately declares Psalm 103 – “Bless the Lord oh my soul cries out – all that is within me praise!” As it musically builds, the encounter with the powerful presence of God does likewise. I hear that she has an album coming out in the near future. Stay tuned!

The gang is all here, each delivering strong offerings. Jeremy Riddle (Heaven’s Song, Breaking Through), Hunter Thompson (Come Awaken Love), Will Matthews (Ascend), Matt Stinton (Give Me Jesus) and of course, Brian and Jenn Johnson. Bravo once again, Bethel Music.

Tides has me REALLY looking forward to what’s next on the horizon!

Check out “Chasing You” (also available on Bethel Music’s YouTube):

Weekly Worship Review | Home – Kim Walker-Smith

51U+VCG7u5L._SL500_AA280_I’ll be honest, when I heard that Kim Walker-Smith was doing something slightly unconventional and different from the typical Jesus Culture fare, I was concerned. Needless to say, every concern was put to rest (and then some) as I listened through the album after one go around. No exaggeration.

Was I concerned because I didn’t think Kim could pull different off? No. As a vocalist and worship leader, she is in a league of her own. I just think what she has brought to the global worship community over the last 5 to 7 years (through her involvement with Jesus Culture and her outstanding recent solo project, Still Believe) has been nothing short of revolutionary.

And also, I have significant admiration and respect for her because of her willingness to unashamedly worship in the Spirit—and actually leave those moments recorded on the actual albums! In Darlene Zschech terms, Kim Walker-Smith is an extravagant worshiper. In an age of so much compromise, performance, and showmanship, Kim remains a woman who has been undeniably touched by God’s Presence, marked by His call, and lives to declare His message through worship. Freedom. Healing. Deliverance. Power. God’s unconditional love. Jesus’ chain-breaking power. These are the messages delivered with holy fire through her worship.

This brings us Home. Some reviewers attempted to describe it as Kim going Norah Jones. Not really. It’s not Norah (although there are moments of simplicity and haunting vocals that do remind us a bit of Norah Jones or Eva Cassidy). It’s not typical explosive Jesus Culture fare either. Home is like Kim, really—a project in a league of its own, and for this reason I give it my highest recommendation.

I’ll be honest, I’m still getting into the songs—but I find myself wanting to and enjoying the journey. It’s not tolerable; it’s an absolute delight.

I will say this: “Unstoppable Love” the second track, is a standout. Haunting sound. Powerful vocals. Strong declaration. Lyrically simple, but so relevant to each and every one of us who have experienced the relentless, unstoppable love of God chasing us down. Love the beginning/closing lyrics – “Try to stop Your love… and You would wage a war.”  The more Norah Jones-y cuts are “Home” (the title track, with a slight country/bluegrass flair) and “My One and Only.”

Other favorites are “Christ the Rock” and “Relentless Pursuit.” Skyler Smith, Kim’s husband, is undeniably a fantastic partner to her in life and worship. The blending of their voices on cuts like “Face to Face” make for a wonderful melodious experience.

Phenomenal work, Kim and Skyler. Projects like this make me welcome the “new and different” with open arms – any time you want to share it with us. Thanks for showing the world a snapshot of your lives and relationship with God through Home.