Saturday, June 29, 2013

All the People Said Amen - Matt Maher



Maher’s Boss-like worship further solidifies him as one of the finest in the field.

All the People Said Amen
Artist: Matt Maher (www.mattmahermusic.com)
Label: Essential Records
Length: 13 tracks/66:32 minutes

If Bruce Springsteen decided to make a “worship” album, I can imagine it sounding a little like All the People Said Amen by Matt Maher. Maher is known for songs like “Your Grace is Enough,” and here, in mostly live settings, his delivery of signature songs and new material is raw and even aggressive. Though there are intimate moments with appropriate reverence, much of this has an air of boldness and confidence. Muscular backing from a band that rocks and an exuberant audience make it a boisterous affair. The Boss might approve, but this is directed to please the One to whom all glory, honor and praise rightfully belong. It’s apparent that Maher and the crowd are enjoying themselves, and it shows that worship can be a joyful experience.

Even though I favor quieter moments, I appreciate that this compares favorably both musically and lyrically with anything in the marketplace. Maher has become a favorite for his songwriting depth and artistic sensibilities. There may be many ways to worship, but this is one way to do it right. It combines a little of the singer/songwriter muse with the best in rock.

Even so, Maher is not afraid to reach back into the past for inspiration. On the worshipful, “Mighty Fortress,” one of the few studio songs, Maher adds words and music to verses by Thomas Aquinas.

The opening title track, a studio gem, has a catchy rhythm and a theme that captures the universal need for grace. This is one of Maher’s finest songs. If I could only download one song, this is it.

“Lord, I Need You” is intriguing for a couple of reasons. It borrows a little from the chorus of a beloved hymn, “I Need Thee Hour.” That alone makes it worth hearing. It also includes, fellow Catholic, Audrey Assad on backing vocals. What John Michael Talbot has been to inspirational music, bridging the Catholic/Protestant divide, Maher and Assad are becoming to the modern worship movement. They have broad appeal; their music is appreciated as much or more by non-Catholics.


Those not familiar with Maher may be surprised at the number of familiar anthems found here. Maher writes with some of the best in the genre. He is an artist to follow, especially for those who engage in modern worship.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Only a Shadow: Misty Edwards Live CD & DVD



A wideness in God’s mercy; a wildness in His Love

Only a Shadow: Misty Edwards Live CD & DVD
Artist: Misty Edwards
Label: Forerunner Music (www.ihopkc.org/music)
Length: 14 tracks/73:18 minutes

A spirit of sacrifice animates Only a Shadow: Misty Edwards Live CD & DVD. It’s as if all is on the altar, which is when the song of the Lord begins, giving this an indefinable quality that some may liken to anointing. It sounds truly inspired at times.

This could be considered alternative worship. It features cutting-edge music, exudes radical devotion and has a touch of spontaneity. The latter includes a couple of improvised songs. This in part reflects the charismatic influence of the International House of Prayer, which is the setting. There is no reason for concern if you are not of the same persuasion. There is no glossolalia or speaking in tongues, though some of the spontaneous utterances may seem a bit rambling.

Edwards has a dynamic vocal range. Her voice is tender and beautiful on ballads. It’s strong and powerful when the band rocks.

The supporting cast of musicians is excellent. The instrumental “Selah (When You Think of Me), which borders on progressive rock, as on other segments, showcases their talents.

The title song contains impressive variation. When Edwards breaks into the chorus, the resolve in the music is powerful. It’s followed by a melodious guitar interlude that reminds me of some of the fluid lines played by Phil Keaggy.

My favorite is “I Love Your Ways.” It combines a winsome melody with the chorus, “I love your ways/your beautiful ways/I love your yoke of meekness and lowliness/I love your ways.” It captures in song some of the tension between flesh and spirit; the struggle that becomes rest when submitting to God’s will. It’s like the crowning achievement, even though the album closes with the driving rock of “Between the Cherubim.”

Even though I have a charismatic background, I was somewhat wary about what I might find here. I need to remember that there is no fear in love. There is a wideness in God’s mercy that encompasses many temperaments and persuasions. Modern worship does not have to be tame. It can be a reflection of the wildness in God’s love.


The DVD mirrors the CD content. 

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Troubled Minds: Mental Illness and the Church’s Mission - Amy Simpson



The mentally ill wear stigma like a scarlet letter, but Christ can make it a badge of honor.

Troubled Minds: Mental Illness and the Church’s Mission
Author: Amy Simpson
Publisher: IVP Books (www.ivpress.com)
Pages: 221

Troubled Minds by Amy Simpson was a must read. My on and off relationship with Dave, who suffers from mental illness, left me looking for help. Relating to troubled minds is rewarding, but it can also be frustrating and draining. This book did not disappoint as a reference and guide on a subject that has often been neglected and misunderstood by the church. This goes a long way towards bringing clarity and wisdom.

The author is more than a researcher presenting her findings. She shares openly about her mother’s battle with mental illness and how it affected her family. It is troubling to read how her mom, a pastor’s wife, turned from her faith and wound up on the streets before being incarcerated. When you read accounts like this, or when I think of Christians who have Alzheimer’s, perplexing questions begin to multiply. How does this relate to God’s promise to keep and care for his children? Why must this be? What will be the outcome?

Fortunately, I kept reading. Simpson’s family story does not end badly. The author succeeds in providing a comprehensive overview of this subject from a Christian perspective. The wisdom found in these pages will be a source of comfort for those who struggle and for those who serve a population that is underserved.

I came away with greater compassion, which is no small accomplishment. I like how Matthew 9:36 in the King James Version speaks of Jesus, “But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd.” Christ was moved with compassion. When you catch in these pages a glimpse of the harassed and helpless, who may be like sheep without a shepherd, don’t be surprised if the Spirit of Christ moves you with compassion.

One of the rewards of this book is seeing what the church should be in relation to the mentally ill. Simpson often shows where we fall short, but she does not browbeat. She instructs out of the compassion born of experience and learning.

It would be helpful if at least one member of every ministerial staff could read this book and be familiar with the contents. I recommend it for every church and theological library. It points the way forward for the church to do better. It also provides resource information for those wanting to start a ministry to the mentally ill.

They wear stigma like a scarlet letter, but Christ can make it a badge of honor. I saw this with my friend, Dave, who asked me to write his testimony (see the article at the end of this review). Even though he liked what I wrote, he was fearful of being associated with it. He wants others to know what Christ has done, but disclosures like this often lead to the mentally ill being judged and ostracized, even in the church.   

When asked what this book is about, I mentioned in the presence of a non-Christian that it is an encouragement for the church to reach out to the mentally ill including the depressed. In reply, she remarked, “That’s good because a depressed person is not going to come to you.” Although that may be true, change is possible. This book contains stories and testimonies of churches that have successful ministries that are like magnets attracting the mentally ill. People are drawn to the supportive atmosphere.

The author is careful to point out that the church should not expect a quick fix for those who suffer in this way. This involves a long term commitment. Too often someone who does not get better in a few weeks, months or years may experience subtle rejection. Someone with this disease may struggle for a lifetime. It may be more realistic to think in terms of management rather than cure. It’s not enough to just refer people to specialists. The mentally ill need the support that only the church can provide.

This book shows that mental illness is more widespread than most people realize. It’s an overlooked ministry that is challenging but rewarding for all concerned. For those interested in the possibilities, this book is a fine starting place.  

Michael Dalton


Crazy for God! (David’s testimony)

Crazy for God! You may laugh or think me foolish, but since 1977 I have been mentally ill.  It’s a stigma I often bear, but Christ has turned it into a badge of honor. I don’t have to be ashamed. Mental illness is not a moral failure.

It was a trait that I inherited, and my home life was far from ideal. I witnessed promiscuity; my dad took me to an x-rated movie when I was only 16. But it was being rejected by a woman that triggered manic-depression and schizophrenia.

Since then many people have come and gone. I have seen the inside of hospitals and psychiatric wards. I am misunderstood and rejected even by other Christians. Although I should be able to find a place in a church, I still find myself searching to connect with people.

But this is what makes Jesus so precious to me. Since I trusted Him in 1975, he has never left me. Even more, he has given me a heart to share the good news that all may come to him for forgiveness and freedom. Who would guess that Christ would give me a ministry of evangelism?

I have lived in many places over the years. Everywhere I go I tell people about Jesus. I have given away hundreds of tracts, and I ever long for fellowship with God’s people. How many are fortunate to have that kind of love?

God put it there. His Son was no stranger to rejection. He knew scorn and abuse. When dying, after being nailed to a cross, he prayed “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34 ESV). Though I express it imperfectly, this is the love that God has given me. Though others may mistreat or forsake me, I keep reaching out.

Though I have wanted to marry, at least for now, Christ has given me the gift of celibacy. The 40-year-old virgin has nothing on me. I have been one for over 55 years. It’s been a struggle at times, but even when I feel lonely or discouraged, Christ stands beside me.

He’s the friend that walks in when everyone else walks out. He picks me up when I fall. He’s given me a love for the Scriptures. His Word is a continual comfort and makes me feel like I have a treasure that many people know nothing about.

I am not crazy, just crazy for God. It’s why you are reading this article. I want you to know the God who will love you no matter what. Just turn from going your own way and entrust your life to Christ. As Christian recording artist Evie sang in an old song, “Live for Jesus, that’s what matters/that you see the light in me and come along.”


David

Come to the Waters (Collector's Edition) - Children of the Day

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