This is an awesome song by Kristian Stanfill, rejoicing in the hope we have in God. “Day after day our God is reigning, He’s never shaken, My hope is in the Lord!”
I just recently came across a brand-new band called The City Harmonic. Their website has a great description of their music:
When listening to The City Harmonic, you instinctively turn up the volume and join the chorus as the music dynamically bounces from sparse intimacy to soaring celebration and back again. It’s a musical metaphor for the band that plays it—with their feet in the dirt and their eyes toward the heavens. It isn’t long before you find yourself singing along and not because you ought to, but because you want to.
Here is their song, Manifesto, a great declaration of belief in the Almighty, Triune God. Amen!
I’m usually not a big fan of Bebo Norman, but I found his arrangement of Amazing Love (written by Graham Kendrick) very stirring.
My Lord, what love is this
That pays so dearly
That I, the guilty one
May go free!
Amazing love, what sacrifice
The Son of God, given for me
My debt He pays, and my death He dies
That I might live, that I might live!
And so, they watched Him die
But oh, the blood He shed
Flowed for me!
And now, this love of Christ
Shall flow like rivers
So come wash your guilt away
Anyone who knows me well enough will know that I have no problems listening to any genre of music. The Bible does not put limits on what style of music is “acceptable” and what is not. As Bob Kauflin points out in Worship Matters, “Scripture doesn’t come with an accompanying soundtrack.” Music as an art form can be and should be enjoyed across many kinds of styles.
Although music is amoral, that certainly doesn’t mean that it cannot affect emotions, attitudes, etc. In fact, music that DOESN’T affect us in some way isn’t very good music. The challenge for me comes in trying to teach discernment to my tween-who-thinks-he’s-a-teen. For awhile now, he’s been into all things “cool” which I suppose is a very subjective category, but apparently includes any kind of music that is fast. This certainly isn’t a problem in and of itself. But with the “all things cool” category came the “I’m too cool for you or your kind of music” attitude. That’s when the music becomes a problem. I’ve had to take away some privileges like his MP3 player. But I think we were both getting frustrated because no ground rules had been set up for the music he is allowed to listen to. This is mainly because I was having a hard time coming up with something that my very non-abstract, linear-thinking son could “get.” Then I had an idea.
Carlos has started to be interested in working with tools, banging nails, and building things. Unfortunately, whenever he uses my tools, he has a tendency to leave them outside instead of putting them away. Monday evening I took him out on a date to Chick-Fil-A, but first we went to Home Depot to buy a hammer. As we ate, I told him that the hammer was a gift from me. Then we talked about the proper ways to use and take care of a hammer. You don’t go around hitting people, windows or cars and you don’t throw the hammer around like a ball. A hammer is used for building things. A misuse of his gift might end up with the hammer being taken away.
Then we talked about the gift of music. I said that God has given us music to enjoy and to use for lots of different things, but mainly to praise Him. But just like we can misuse the hammer doing things that it shouldn’t be used for, we can also misuse music, even “good” music. Music can make us proud, unkind, and arrogant if we let it. We can use it to praise God for the beauty he has created or we can use it to praise ourselves.
We agreed on three ground rules for music that he can listen to (borrowing a little bit from Todd Stocker’s Infinite Playlists);
By the end of our date, I felt like we had made a connection. Only time will tell how much sank in and I fully expect to have to go over these rules again. But hopefully Carlos will better understand and be able to make wiser choices about what he allows to affect him, and be able to hear the gospel in songs that we sing while not giving in to the “I’m too cool” attitude. And of course, I hope I don’t catch him hammering on his siblings.
Heather Williams’ (a “new-to-me” artist) song entitled “Hallelujah” is one of those songs that, although powerful enough by itself, becomes even more stirring when you know the background of why it was written. With that in mind, the first video below is Heather telling of how she wrote the song after her little baby died. Watch this video first then listen to the song. Hallelujah!
(You’ll need to click through to YouTube to watch. It’s worth the click.)
In May 2008, tragedy struck the family of recording artist Steven Curtis Chapman. His 5-year old daughter Maria was accidentally struck with a vehicle and killed by their older son. In Choosing To SEE: A Journey of Struggle and Hope, Mary Beth Chapman writes of the impact the devastation and loss had on her and her family. In sharing a little of her life story, she reveals her struggle with accepting things that she could not change (both the good and the bad) and learning to follow God in what came into her life. Part of the difficulties came through battles with depression and part came through coming to terms with things she could not control. This lesson was to help her when tragedy struck. Interspersed throughout the book are lyrics from various songs her husband wrote. It gave these songs a whole new life to discover the backdrop of why they were written.
Chapman is very open, raw and brutally honest with the challenges she faced and continues to face. This is not a book written from the perspective of someone who has all the answers, someone who has it all together. Rather, it is from a mother who still aches for her daughter and longs for the burden and guilt her son carries to be taken away. It is from a person who still asks God “Why?” In one of the most poignant statements of the book, Chapman says “When people ask how we are doing, the first thing I always say is, ‘I want Maria back. I want my son Will Franklin not to have this as a chapter in his story. I want my children to be healthy, my family secure. I don’t really care whose life has been touched or changed because of our loss!’” Throughout the book and especially after the death of their daughter, Chapman writes of her trust in God, a trust in his sovereignty that says although things look bleak now, one day God will make all things new.
Choosing to SEE is not an easy book to read. I had to put it down several times to relieve the ache in my heart for her family and deal with the fears I had of such a thing happening to my own family. As my wife has said to others in recommending the book “You might as well buy Walmart out [of tissues] now!” Having gone through (and currently going through) the adoption journey, I also enjoyed reading of their family’s journey in bringing home their three daughters from China. Ultimately, it is encouraging to see someone who is living through a tragedy not only admit they still struggle (something I’m too often afraid to admit!), but confess an unwavering trust in a God who gives us hope. Rating: 5/5 stars
I don’t usually do this, but I’m including a music video from Steven Curtis Chapman’s album “Beauty Will Rise” that perfectly captures the message of his wife’s book. Amazon’s description of the albmu says “Created in the past 18 months in the walk through the darkness of the loss of his daughter Maria, and while God continues to meet him there on the journey. Part lament, part praise, part grief, part hope, part wrestling, part pondering; these tracks resonate as Steven’s personal Psalms. It is a desperately hopeful, raw, personal, and honest recording that is likely the most important of his already incredible 20 plus year.” This song is called “Spring is Coming.”
I have always enjoyed listening to the “Hallelujah Chorus” from Handel’s Messiah. Unfortunately, the extent of my knowledge of Handel’s entire classic piece has been very limited. I can’t recall having ever listened to the entire work, much less having known anything about its background. I’ve enjoyed listening to Calvin Stapert’s book, Handel’s Messiah: Comfort for God’s People in which Stapert takes us through a brief biographical sketch of Handel’s history. Stapert also includes a history of the “oratorio” (a term that up until I read this book was completely unknown to me) style of music and how Handel introduced – or rather invented – the English oratorio. Stapert goes over each piece of Messiah touching on several theological points including the anticipation of the Messiah and the culmination of redemption in Christ.
In listening to this book, I learned quite a number of things. One was how the style of the oratorio differed from operas and what effect this had on the Messiah. I found it interesting that the oratorio style of music did not even exist in England before Handel “due to Puritan opposition during a critical time in opera’s development elsewhere” – interesting because we see similar oppositional mentalities to various musical types and genres in some Christian circles even today. Handel recognized the merit of music as art, but also wanted to do more than entertain. As Stapert puts it “It does not reject entertainment as the goal. It rejects it as the only goal.”
Perhaps the best part of the book was Stapert’s walking the reader through the story of redemption, progressing through Scripture’s recognition of a need of a Messiah, the anticipation of the Messiah’s coming, his arrival, his death and resurrection, and the promise of his return. The notes on how the musical styles and variations underscored the lyrics of each piece was also very interesting.
While the book itself was very interesting, the narrator (James Adams) of the audio book from Christianaudio made me feel like I was in some kind of music literature class taught by a professor who deemed himself just above the task. While Adams’ narration is perfectly pronounced, with dramatic pauses and inflections at just the right places, it holds none of the “Comfort” of Handel’s work, but felt rather cold and distant. I didn’t hear the literary voice of the author in the reading so much as the art museum dryness of the narrator’s own voice.
Although the audio version from Christianaudio contains a few selections from Handel’s Messiah, the selections are comparatively few. I found it much more helpful to find and listen to the entire work, pausing the audiobook after each section to listen to the piece just discussed and then proceed with the next. I would recommend purchasing the actual book along with a full album of Handel’s Messiah instead of sitting through the droning of Adams’ narration.
(Thanks to Christianaudio for providing a free review copy of the audio version of this book.)
Handel’s oratorio Messiah is a phenomenon with no parallel in music history. No other work of music has been so popular for so long. Yet familiarity can sometimes breed contempt — and also misunderstanding.
This book by music expert Calvin Stapert will greatly increase understanding and appreciation of Handel’s majestic Messiah, whether readers are old friends of this remarkable work or have only just discovered its magnificence.
Stapert provides fascinating historical background, tracing not only Messiah’s unlikely inception but also its amazing reception throughout history. The bulk of the book offers scene-by-scene musical and theological commentary on the whole work, focusing on the way Handel’s music beautifully interprets and illuminates the biblical text.
For anyone seeking to appreciate Handel’s Messiah more, this informed yet accessible guide is the book to have and read.
I’ve been listening to this book this week and so far have enjoyed it. As an added bonus, the audiobook also includes selections from Handel’s Messiah. Get your free downloand at ChristianAudio.com
As I was listening to this song, I was reminded of the sermon Pastor Tim preached two Sundays ago on the joy that is found only Christ. No matter what storms or trials may come our way, our eternal joy is found in Christ and him alone.
“I have a shelter in the storm
When all my sins accuse me
Though justice charges me with guilt
Your grace will not refuse me”