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Remembering Keith Green

Your Love Broke Through: The Worship Songs of Keith Green
By various artists, Sparrow Records.

It is hard to believe it is approaching 20 years since Keith Green passed away.
His legacy of inspired music is timeless. In another effort to remember Green’s pioneering worship music, artists such as Michael W. Smith, Rebecca St. James and Jason Upton have assembled to honor one of contemporary Christian music’s finest.

Produced by John Hartley and Derald Daugherty, Your Love Broke Through captures the sounds of earlier projects such as At the Foot of the Cross and Noel. The sound is pleasant and never overbearing. And it doesn’t hurt to have a quiver of musicians such as Phil Keaggy, Matt Redman and Darlene Zschech on hand to help. “Rushing Wind,” performed by Twila Paris, and “The Lord Is My Shepherd,” sung by Charlie Hall and Joanne Hogg, are outstanding, but the entire project is without any obvious flaws. Each song reflects the originals as well as the personalities of the artists. As a result, each holds a treasure all its own.

One of the album’s highlights is Michael W. Smith on “There Is One,” a previously unfinished song that Smith completed with the help of Martin Smith of Delirious. Green himself is featured on “Oh Lord, You’re Beautiful,” which is backed up by the stellar ensemble.

This project succeeds on many levels, with excellent production, musicianship and delivery. The classic cuts are reverent and faithful, yet modernized. Best of all the album recognizes an artist who inspired and influenced a generation.

Your Love Broke Through is a must for anyone seeking the highest quality worship available.
–Doug Joseph

Celtic Communion

In Christ Alone: New Hymns of Prayer And Worship
By Margaret Becker, Máire Brennan and Joanne Hogg,
Worship Together.

Laden with ethereal vocals and Celtic charm, In Christ Alone combines the talents of Grammy Award-winner Máire Brennan (Clannad), Dove Award-winner Margaret Becker and Joanne Hogg (Iona) to create one rich listening experience. Produced by Keith Getty, the release uses pipes, whistles, fiddles and an orchestra to create the musical background to a celebration of Christ’s life and resurrection.

The opening “Your Hand O God Has Guided Me” struts to a declamatory beat of unity. A Riverdance pace takes hold of “With the Early Morning,” while the delicate “My Hope” is a soul-stirring cut that resonates with faith and hope.

While the Celtic sound takes a small hiatus on “Hear All Creation” in favor
of a more pop-influenced tone, the album as a whole is strongly styled by authentic Irish instrumentation. Standouts include the drum-filled title song and the soft, Enya-esque “This Fragile Vessel.”

Ideal for Bible meditation, prayer and as relaxing background music, In Christ Alone is a wonderful album and recommended to anyone who enjoys Celtic sounds or any of the three artists who shine brightly on this recording.
–Margaret Feinberg

Gentle Lullabies

Songs for Children: Precious Playtime/Darling Dreamland
By Elizabeth Montgomery, A-Chunka Music,

This is what many parents are looking for in quality Christian children’s music. Elizabeth Montgomery produced, with her husband, Mark, a two-CD package of upbeat and wholesome songs that resonate pleasantly in one’s mind.

With all songs written and recorded by Montgomery, whose voice may remind listeners of musician and author Karyn Henley, the set is filled with sweet tunes that cause basic Bible truths to stick in listeners thoughts. In Precious Playtime, Montgomery teaches the books of the Bible as well as active play songs about Noah, faith and just having fun. The music isn’t so insistent that you can’t listen to it as you eat breakfast, sort laundry or have a conversation. But it’s catchy enough to win kids’ attention.

Darling Dreamland is sleepy-time music meant to soothe kids toward slumber while instilling more Bible basics such as being thankful, having confidence in God’s love and feeling certain of His care. Gently instructive, Songs for Children is a rare find that parents and kids alike are sure to enjoy.
–Karen Schmidt


Waking Up to Your Destiny

Awakened to Destiny
By Terry Crist, Charisma House,
256 pages, paperback, $13.99.

Author Terry Crist, who calls himself a “recovering sleepwalker,” was awakened to his purpose in life as a child, and though he knows he is somewhat unusual, the veteran church planter says everyone, at some point in life, must experience an awakening that unveils his purpose for living.

In his book Awakened to Destiny, Crist inspires readers with profiles of historical figures such as Billy Sunday and Martin Luther King Jr., who experienced their destinies, making the world a better place as a result. He does not teach that the only true place to find destiny is in full-time Christian service, but writes that all believers have the potential to be world-changers if they tap into their purpose. He spends a chapter discussing predestination and the sovereignty of God,
and teaches that a person’s identity, or distinctiveness, is his destiny.

This is a book for every believer. Those who have experienced disappointment in the quest for fulfillment will be encouraged to start living at the next level. Crist shows that every Christian has inherited abundant life in Jesus and can walk in the light of destiny.
–Christine D. Johnson

Defending Renewal

The Spirit Comes (as Part of the Package)
By John Leach, Zondervan, 208 pages, paperback, $12.99.

Author John Leach may describe himself as a “reluctant charismatic,” but this director of Anglican Renewal Ministries in England passionately argues why being charismatic is not an option for the believer; it’s a mandate.

In 18 extremely well-written chapters, Leach recounts his own journey into the charismatic movement–his questions and concerns and how he eventually transitioned into becoming a Spirit-led believer. Most of the volume takes an apologetic role to defend renewal and charismatic belief. Because the author is from across the pond and has been involved in renewal since the 1960s, he offers a unique perspective from most others who attempted to defend today’s renewal.

Leach is not the first to make arguments in favor of renewal, but he is by far the funniest. The author isn’t afraid to make fun of himself or the many excesses of the charismatic movement. Clever plays on words, jokes and wit line the pages, making this an incredibly enjoyable read. Because of Leach’s acknowledgment of the weaknesses of renewal, this is one of the best defenses of it and is highly recommended.
–Margaret Feinberg

In the Line of Fire

Friendly Fire: A Recovery Guide for Believers Battered by Religion
By Mike Warnke, Destiny Image,
173 pages, paperback, $12.99.

Ten years after his fall from grace, Christian comedian Mike Warnke has returned to the public eye with a well-written, fast-paced, enlightening account of surviving the collapse of his career.

Christians who consider themselves immune from the lures of fame, material gain or an influential ministry should read this book. There is nobody better suited to warn of these traps than one brought low after losing his way. In addition, those who have been wounded after making mistakes, or who got caught in the whirlwinds of church politics, will find hope in Warnke’s engaging account.

Still, the book has flaws, most notably his equivocating over the scandal that nearly wiped him out. Although Warnke insists, “I never lied about my testimony,” he still admits to “exaggerations and embellishments” in his 1972 autobiography. In addition, some material in the concluding chapter–where he confronts his past–would have worked better in the first.

Still, don’t dismiss Friendly Fire because of these shortcomings. Warnke has a lot to offer the body of Christ. Perhaps this book will prompt a dialogue about both extremes in reacting to people’s errors. While many have faced the same kind of judgmental condemnation as the author, of equal concern is the laissez-faire attitude toward spiritual leaders who commit gross sins and blithely continue in office.
–Ken Walker


Michael W. Smith Wins Big at Doves

Singer Michael W. Smith was among the the big winners at the Dove Awards April 25, taking home six awards, including Artist of the Year and Praise and Worship Album of the Year for Worship. Fighting back tears, Smith thanked God for his opportunities. “I’m just grateful that He took a little runt from West Virginia and gave him a platform, and I just give Him all the glory,” he said.

Third Day lead singer Mac Powell also took home six awards after winning five with his bandmates, who picked up Group of the Year for the second consecutive time, and one on his own for Male Vocalist of the Year.

Held at the Grand Ole Opry House in Nashville, Tenn., the Gospel Music Association’s 33rd annual awards ceremony also brought some surprises. Newcomer MercyMe became the talk of the show with its wins in three categories, including Song of the Year for the pop worship band’s “I Can Only Imagine,” which also garnered lead singer Bart Millard a Dove for Songwriter of the Year.

Dc Talk’s Toby McKeehan also surprised the industry by picking up five awards, including Producer of the Year over industry veterans Monroe Jones, Brown Bannister, Kirk Franklin and Steve Hindalong. Other winners included Nicole C. Mullen for Female Vocalist of the Year, pop trio ZOEgirl for New Artist of the Year and Steven Curtis Chapman for Pop/Contemporary Album of the Year for Declaration–bringing his career total to 47 Dove awards.

For the first time ever, the two-hour show aired live on PAX television. It was hosted by singer Yolanda Adams and St. Louis Rams quaterback Kurt Warner.
–Natalie Nichols Gillespie


With a Song in Her Heart

An 8-year-old girl sang by a brook, and “the melody and words came to me so fast it scared me.” Now 2,500 songs later, Grammy- and Dove Award-winner Dottie Rambo is Songwriter of the Century, according to the Christian Country Music Association, and will be celebrated during a three-hour live concert filmed for television on July 31.

Hosted by Barbara Mandrell, More Than the Music: Live! An All-star Tribute to Dottie Rambo will air in September as a two-hour PAX-TV special, and will show how her songs–such as “We Shall Behold Him” and “He Looked Beyond My Faults”–have touched lives as they’re performed by world-renown artists from the gospel, country and even pop music industries.

Rambo left home at age 12 to sing in churches, then later ministered with her husband, Buck, and daughter, Reba, as the popular gospel trio The Rambos. Today she ministers on weekends and on Christian television, but she’s in pain.

Divorced and recovering from two ruptured disks that led to 10 back surgeries, Rambo says it’s when she’s under the anointing, praying and seeing others healed that she rises above the pain. “And now when I sing the old songs they minister to me,” she adds.

A grandmother of two, Rambo is still fascinated every time a song comes to her. “It’s a feeling of laughter and of tears, a mixture of both.” But they come with an obligation. “As soon as I finish a song, I empty it and give it away. Then there’s room for a brand-new song to begin.”
–Marsha Gallardo

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