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Where the Good Way Lies - Steve Bell

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Bell’s most mature effort makes the Good Way inviting
Where the Good Way Lies Artist: Steve Bell Label: Signpost Music (www.signpostmusic.com) Length: 13 songs/42 minutes
The attitude in “Bring it On” by Steve Bell on Where the Good Way Lies makes it one of my favorites among all his songs. He could not have picked a better way to open his latest recording. It’s the mindset of “come what may” I can handle it. It is a wisdom born of walking with God for many years: Less to conquer, less to do
Less inclined to suffer fools
Just happy to grow old with you
Bring it on, bring it on
Written with Murray Pulver, who once again in working with Bell is outstanding as a producer and musician, this epitomizes the wit, beauty and excellent craftsmanship that you find throughout this release.
This is probably the finest all-around recording that Bell has done in a career that stretches over 25 years and keeps getting better. I can’t help thinking that this Canadian who cites a legendary fellow ci…

The End of Protestantism - Peter J. Leithart

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A bold summons to unity
The End of Protestantism: Pursuing Unity in a Fragmented Church Author: Peter J. Leithart Publisher: Brazos Press (www.bakerpublishinggroup.com/brazospress) Pages: 225
God’s Purpose & Vision was the title of a series of sermons preached at the non-denominational evangelical church I attended as a young Christian. It became a popular cassette tape package and book.
God’s purpose is for his people to glorify him through the accomplishment of a three-fold vision: being conformed into the image of Christ, evangelizing the world, and attaining to the unity of the faith. Much of the teaching that I have received over the years fits within this framework. Probably the most under-served category—perhaps because of the challenge of implementation—is teaching on the unity of the faith.
Since I first heard these concepts in the late 70s, the church is more divided than ever. Even then without necessarily saying it, many of us seemed to regard our church as superior …

Trust - Jaci Velasquez

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Like Michael W. Smith, Velasquez combines pop and worship with similar results.
Trust Artist: Jaci Velasquez (www.jacivelasquez.com) Label: Integrity Music Length: 10 tracks/42 minutes
Easter approaches as I write. A couple of songs on Trust by Jack Velasquez are easily associated with the season. “At the cross we find healing/At the cross we find peace” Velasquez sings on “Lay it at the Cross.” But what does this symbolism represent? “At the cross we find Jesus/At the cross we find all that we ever need,” we hear in elaboration.
Velasquez sings this chorus like the beacon of light that it is. Apart from Christ’s sacrificial death, we could never be made whole and have peace with God.
The words are punctuated by a synthesizer. It also generates a swirling sound on the chorus of the opening “Trust You.” After its initial heyday in the 70s the instrument became less prominent. Is it making a comeback?
I like the feel-good vibe of “Cross”; no brooding heaviness here.
Have you hear…

Adventures in Evangelical Civility - Richard Mouw

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In search of kindred spirits
Adventures in Evangelical Civility: A Life Long Quest for Common Ground Author: Richard J. Mouw Publisher: BrazosPress Pages: 241
Watching Anne of Green Gables for the first time as an adult I was immediately captivated by the idea of the “kindred spirit.” “A kindred spirit in the Anne of Green Gables series is someone who understands Anne Shirley very well, well enough to know what she is thinking” (Anne Green Gables wiki). Surely, Richard Mouw, the author of Adventures in Evangelical Civility, delights in finding kindred spirits in his lifelong quest for common ground.
Even though my background is Charismatic and the author’s Reformed theology, in more ways than one I have found a kindred spirit. In fact, I am more in agreement with Reformation teaching than with the excesses of the Charismatic movement.
But what drew me to this book and makes me feel like a kindred spirit is the idea of an evangelical civility. It should be obvious that incivility ha…

God's Highway - Sandra McCracken

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For those willing to slow down, God’s Highway offers substantial substance and is deeply reflective.
God’s Highway Artist: Sandra McCracken (www.sandramccraken.com) Label: Towhee Records Length: 11 tracks/45 minutes
If you have a record player and can afford to pay a little more, consider getting God’s Highway by Sandra McCracken on vinyl. If you accept the idea that records sound better, you might feel justified once the needle drops. Why even my digital download sounds vibrant! How much more the grooves on a 12 inch? Plus, you will be helping to support an artist that has a heart for psalms, hymns and spiritual songs.
The supposed warmth of vinyl is a complement to the organic tones found here. No synthesizers and programming. This sounds like a group of musicians playing live in the studio on guitars, bass, piano and drums. Electric guitar adds texture. Drums are on the soft side.
The roots oriented style is a vehicle for themes like waiting and hope, in conjunction with the at…

Winter EP - Audrey Assad

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Who can find a warmer winter song?
Winter EP Artist: Audrey Assad (www.audreyassad.com) Label: Fortunate Fall Records Length: 3 tracks/12 minutes
Who can find a warmer winter song? “Song for a Winter’s Night,” the Gordon Lightfoot composition, falls on the ears like light footsteps on freshly fallen snow. The organic blend of drums, guitars and keyboards are inviting. A strong hook takes listeners in. Cares recede in the enchanting glow.
The temperature drops in “Midwinter”: “In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan, earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone.” This is an adaptation of the well-known carol. The second stanza and subsequent bridge are new along with a slight change to the last line, but all in keeping with the original lyrics.
Even the music is chillier than the first song. The added hooks are dreamy and elongated. The bridge, make it a snow-covered one, includes a biting guitar solo.
The resolve, like the dawn of a new day, comes on the last stanza, whi…

Potter & Clay - Jaylene Johnson

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Johnson’s vulnerability is refreshing.
Potter & Clay Artist: Jaylene Johnson (www.jaylenejohnson.com) Label: Independent Length: 12 tracks/44 minutes
The simplicity and forthrightness in Potter & Clay by Jaylene Johnson is appealing. Witness the starkly confessional opening track, “Fallin’”: There are things I’ve done I never should’ve done
Things I’ve said I never should’ve said
I can’t forget, it’s messing with my head
The things I’ve done, the things I’ve said
Earthy acoustic rhythm and guitars that stretch the notes provide a haunting backdrop. The resolve comes in the chorus. The singer is falling, not into a place of hopelessness, but “into the arms of mercy.”
The first line in the next track, “How Long,” seems so fitting, “Who led me to this desert?” In Scripture the desert is a place of testing, which can prompt questions and wrestling, “Am I being punished/For what I did or didn’t do.” Listeners will find an authentic grappling with faith and doubt throughout this…