Reviews

NeedToBreatheThe faith-fueled rock band NeedToBreathe has added to its catalog a new set of songs which come from a time of transition for the band members.     

The group – anchored by brothers Bear and Bo Rinehart (sons of a pastor from Possum Kingdom, S.C.) – emerged from a chaotic period which saw the uneasy exit of their drummer and strained relationships all around.     

Now, three years since their last project, a new theme emerged.     

“We needed to write songs about the rivers that brought us out of the wasteland,” said Bear Rinehart in a recent interview. 

“Our faith was the only reason that we were able to start a new record.”     

“The Heart” has been among the first of the tunes the band has performed live from the new CD. Although raucous in sound, a sense of hope underscores the lyric.      Already on Christian radio is

“Multiply,” a prayerful plea that says, “May this offering stretch across the skies and these Hallelujahs be multiplied.    

Across their Southern rock milieu, the players simplified their approach for this album, with 90 percent of it recorded in live takes rather than the super-production in earlier efforts.     

The new song “Difference Maker” embodies the newer sound.

The band doesn’t change its approach no matter the concert venue. NeedToBreathe headlined the Unity Christian Music Festival in 2012, a year after opening a concert for country star Taylor Swift in Van Andel Arena.


NeedToBreathe performs June 21 at Meijer Gardens in Grand Rapids. The concert is sold out.

Just the Facts:

Artist: NeedToBreathe
Title: “Rivers In The Wasteland”
Connect:
www.needtobreathe.com

ragamuffinWMCN staff recently had the opportunity to see “Ragamuffin”, the newly released movie based on the life of Christian musician, Rich Mullins.

The film begins with a young Mullins living on a farm, rejected and unloved by a father he admired. It also shows how as a child he discovered his God given gift and love of music.

It follows his life and his struggles, struggles that often stemmed from memories of never being able to please his father.

The movie is not a sugar-coated version of his life. It shows his dark side and his battle with alcohol. But it also tells of his courage and how he was never afraid to share what was on his heart. It shows his deep desire to draw closer to his God.

The life of Rich Mullins is a story of God’s love for us, broken as we are.

“Ragamuffin” will be available for sale beginning May 6, exclusively through Walmart stores.

You can watch the trailer here.

Read More: The legacy of Rich Mullins's Ragamuffin Band from Christianity Today

Read the Dove review, and watch Dave Mullins comments regarding the movie.

Watch Rich Mullin's testimony

hifrWhat would you do if your child said he had been to Heaven? Would you believe him? What would you say to your neighbors and friends? How would you explain it to your parishioners if you were the pastor of a church in a small Midwestern town?

That was Pastor Todd Burpo’s dilemma which he first shared in the book, “Heaven is for Real”. The book hit the New York Times Best Sellers list and was recently made into a movie with the same title.  

When Colton Burpo was 4 years old he underwent emergency surgery, and as he hovered on the brink of death, he had an experience that would impact his life and the life of his family in a very powerful way.

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While the surgeons were working on him, Colton saw his father yelling at God for the possibility of taking his son and his mother on her cell phone calling friends and neighbors to pray. Since Colton was under anesthesia at the time, there would have been no way in the natural that he could have seen that happening.

As time progressed, Colton began telling his parents more of what he had experienced. He talked about being in Heaven and told them about the people he had met there, including a sister who had died in his mother’s womb.

As would be expected, the experience caused Colton’s parents to do a lot of searching and examining of their faith.

This movie will certainly be the subject of conversation around the water cooler in the months ahead. Is this real? Is it a fantasy? Can someone really see into Heaven and talk about?

Whatever your thoughts are on “Heaven is for Real”, or the other movies of interest to Christians that have come out recently, the question that we as Christians should be asking ourselves is, “Are we prepared to give the reason for the hope that we have within us?”

carpenters crossThe West Michigan-based Carpenter’s Cross has just issued a new self-titled collection, containing original-songs written by band members over the past several years.   

Each of the songs contains a scriptural message - whether advice based on a lesson learned or words of encouragement for the Christian life.

A good example of this is “Eyes and Ears,” a song written by lead guitarist Clark McCombs. The lyrics reference the story of Jesus and his disciples gathering food on the Sabbath. The reaction from the religious leaders of the day is a cautionary tale not to place yourself above the ones you serve.
    
The CD’s songs come in basic pop-rock settings – nothing too hard or edgy. There is a nod to a country sound in “Wrestling With My Demons” and a touch of blues in a ballad based on I Corinthians 13, “Is This Love?”
 
A bit of a novelty is “Every Day Is Sunday.” The words suggest that the ups and downs of each day in our earthly lives foreshadow the time when “we’ll live every single day like it’s Sunday.”
 
Band founder and rhythm guitarist Dave Nelson and percussionist Dan Mish are also among the songwriters and vocalists. Bass guitarist is Kerr Moyer.
 
If you listen carefully you’ll find a musical testimony in McCombs’ song “W.W.J.D.” It’s a bouncy, percussive tune with some “be-bop” vocals, but asks the important “What Would Jesus Do” question in the face of temptation.
 
(Note: This year’s new addition to the band, singer Kyleigh Pierre, is not on this album).
    
“Carpenter’s Cross” is currently available through www.CDBaby.com, and is expected soon to be on iTunes and Amazon.
 
Connect:
 
Artist: Carpenter’s Cross
Title: “Carpenter’s Cross”
Connect: www.carpenterscrossband.com
 

 Radiate    Singer-songwriter Tricia Brock takes a package full of new songs to her West Michigan concert March 29 at Kent City Baptist Church (details below).
     Best known for her time as lead singer of the inspirational pop-rock band Superchick (which officially broke up last year), Brock has a new solo effort that shines with pop beats and ballads, largely targeted at young women.
     Many of the tunes, such as the up-tempo “Mirror, Mirror” and the ballad “Daughter of a King,” touch on themes of positive self-esteem and the overarching love of God.
     The tune “Difference” includes the lyric, “You can’t make a difference without being different.”
     Brock released an independent worship album as Superchick wound down, but this is her first full-fledged pop effort; co-written and produced by her husband Nick Baumhardt, guitarist in the Christian band Stellar Kart.
     There’s more pop and less rock than in her Superchick days.
     The title track jumps with a disco-synth feel, and the thumper “Good To Be A Girl” features some added electronic effects.
     Featuring a praise lyric in a pop tune setting is the song “Everything But Loss.”
     Brock does add a mix of folk-touch-of-country on “Without You” and offers her album-closing, keyboard and strings power ballad, the declarative “What I Know.”
     Tricia Brock performs at 6 p.m. Sat. March 29 in Kent City Baptist Church, 400 W. Muskegon St., Kent City. Opening the concert is the winner of a “Battle of the Bands” contest held the previous night. Advance tickets $10, available at
www.itickets.com, 800-965-9324.

Artist: Tricia Brock
Title: “Radiate”
Connect: www.triciabrockmusic.com

 
 Thinking of You    The new six-song, acoustic collection from West Michigan-based singer-songwriter Kelsey Rottiers is a personal one. Most of the tunes were influenced by the artist’s courtship and resulting marriage to James Pray several years ago.

     Rottiers, a Cornerstone University music graduate who also studied at the noted Contemporary Music Center, offers her lilting and sometimes mesmerizing vocals highlighted against a sparse instrumental backdrop.

     Her lyrics are another strong suit. The deliberate “Take Our Time,” for example, knowingly describes love as “like walking on water…it takes faith to get to the other side.”

     “Flame” speaks of the significant role of walking with a companion to move beyond the dark of fear into the light.

     The song “Medicine of a Simple Love,” another ballad with some close vocal harmony, was a musical entry last fall in Grand Rapids’ Art Prize competition.

   All of the offerings are medium to slow tempo, with a bit of an uptick on the finger-snapping, a capella “Only Gets Better.”

     The recording was made at a Detroit-area studio in front of a live audience which allowed for a spoken introduction to the concluding “Wash Away,” a worship anthem which borrows from the stately hymn “Nothing But the Blood.”
 
     See her live: Rottiers will be on the bill at a Valentine’s dinner-concert at 5 p.m. Sat. Feb. 15 at Ecclesia Church, 1050 W. Southern Ave. in Muskegon. Tickets $12 per couple. (www.thecrossinaction.org, (231) 760-6742).
 
Artist: Kelsey Rottiers & The Rising Tide

Title: “Thinking of You”

sgsLead singer Jim Visser and his Faithful Journey Quartet take the next step in their musical pilgrimage with the new collection, “Southern Gospel Sounds.”     

As the title suggests, there’s a true Southern style bent in many of the tunes. In the fast-tempo “I Wanna Know,” the singers trade lead lines all the way through while nicely capturing the classic Southern quartet harmony sound on the chorus.    

Similarly toe-tapping is the fun “God Sits on High” which features bass singer Dennis Deters. The lyric reminds listeners that our God on high still “looks down low.” The arrangement also includes some nice instrumental touches.     

The most contemporary sounding song on the CD is “Days of Elijah.” It was written by worship leader Robin Mark and is used in many contemporary worship settings.     

The traditional “Life’s Railway to Heaven” gets an a cappella treatment by the quartet. And the singers also cover “Then Came The Morning,” a big ballad that speaks to the transforming power of the resurrection that turns night into day.     

Other highlights include “The Old Rugged Cross (Made the Difference)” and “Saved By Grace.”   

The group showcased its songs at a November concert at South Olive Christian Reformed Church near Holland. The singers have another performance at 7 p.m. Fri. Dec. 20 at Calvary Church, 707 E. Beltline NE in Grand Rapids.     

The new CD is available at any of the groups concerts.

 

Briefly:

Artist: Faithful Journey Quartet
Title: “Southern Gospel Sounds”
Connect: www.faithfuljourneyquartet.com

 

 Marvinsaapchristmas       Nationally renowned gospel singer and Grand Rapids pastor Marvin Sapp has sent out a musical Christmas card this holiday season.

     “Christmas Card” is the title of his first ever seasonal CD collection and contains versions of some traditional carols as well as contemporary songs.

     Sapp, pastor and co-founder of Lighthouse Full Life Center Church in Grand Rapids, brought in several old friends for this project – his fellow singers from his former gospel group Commissioned. Sapp was part of Commissioned in the 1990s before launching ministry as a solo artist.

     Fred Hammond, Mitchell Jones and Karl Reid are among those who join Sapp for the songs “What Child Is This?” and the original “Honor The King.”

   “It’s the first new music recorded by Commissioned since our reunion album,” said Sapp in a recent interview.

     Sapp also offers a rendering of “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” from the traditional carol catalog.

     A thought-provoking contribution is the ballad “Joseph’s Song” in which Joseph of the biblical Christmas story wonders aloud with his betrothed Mary the meaning of their circumstances as the birth of Jesus approaches.

     Meanwhile, the pastor-singer has some fun in welcoming his three children (Marvin, MaKaila and Madisson) to come alongside on the rhythmic melody “Thank You.”

   The artist also stepped into the “producer” shoes for the first time and co-wrote nearly every song or arrangement on the disc, many with collaborator Chip Dixson.

     Although the musical style is not strictly classic gospel, Sapp nevertheless shares the joy and spirit of Christmas in this varied musical effort.
The Facts:
Artist: Marvin Sapp
Title: “Christmas Card”
Connect:
www.marvinsapp.com

HealingJason Dykstra, M.D., makes a living in the medical field. Part of his job is diagnosing illnesses or problems in the human body, and after years of mentoring college and high school students he has diagnosed a problem with most people’s perceptions about the afterlife. Using his research skills, knowledge of the Bible, and experience as a mentor and medical professional, Dykstra has written a comprehensive book addressing questions about the afterlife: Healing Hereafter: Finding Rational and Refreshing Answers for Why We’re Here and Where We’re Headed.

“Students and their parents would ask me questions [about the afterlife] and I would write them down. After a few years I had a lot of them,” Dykstra says. These scraps of paper were the seeds that would eventually grow into his book. “I noticed there was lots of confusion, but also lots of interest about the afterlife. It motivated me to put answers together, fill in the gap, give people a product to eliminate doubt.”

To fill in the gaps Dykstra wrote his entire first draft using primarily the Bible as his guide. Only after a draft had been written did he turn to outside sources: scholars, literary authors, christian and secular. The myriad of sources gave him “a balanced perspective about what people had encountered” already about the afterlife. Being a part of the secular medical field also exposed him to different questions than he would have encountered by only being in a Christian environment.

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When asked what this book, in a nutshell, is about, Dykstra answered “this book is about making sense of God’s plan for human destiny in a way that brings closure and doesn’t leave questions unanswered. A way that makes people excited and motivated to believe and follow this God.”

The book is for “anyone who is disgruntled with a faith that seems too simple; a long-term Christian who has doubts; a new Christian who has questions.”

One detail Dykstra noticed during his research was the layout of other books on the afterlife. Many of them “have chapter titles that are not very descriptive. They are organized by topic instead of a natural progression of questions.” To remedy this ungainly way of reading about the afterlife, Dykstra wrote his book in a way that is “answer based instead of topical based.” This is evident when looking at the table of contents. The book is divided into nine parts, with each part containing chapters talking about similar questions. The chapter titles are the questions, making it easy for someone to scan the table of contents for a question and flip to that chapter.

Chapter questions include:

Why is the biblical God a trinity, and why does he have a perfect nature that never changes?

What exactly is a sinful nature, and why would a human have one?

Is there only one time or more than on times humans are judged by God in regard to their eternal fate?

What is the biblical origin of hell, and how did the Bible’s original audience understand and describe it?

“I wrote it as I myself thought about it, and how another reader would want to read it,” Dykstra says. This reader friendly organization is one of the unique aspects of the book. Another useful tool Dykstra included is a “quick read” version of the chapters in one of the appendices. This is a very detailed and thorough book, so having a “quick read” version at the back can be helpful for reviewing, skimming, or just seeing what the book is about.

The title of the book, Healing Hereafter, is a link to Dykstra as a physician. It tells people that “there needs to be healing to people’s perceptions about the afterlife.” Dykstra felt that healing himself as he researched and wrote the book. He says, “I didn’t believe a quarter of the material before I started writing. I didn’t reject it, I just didn’t have good answers to a lot of the questions in the book. It motivated me to finish. These questions fed my own desire to know God more. I hope my journey mirrors a reader’s journey.”

All proceeds from the book will be donated to four charities: Bread for the World, International Justice Mission, Bethany Christian Services, and Compassion International. The book will not only bring healing to the reader’s perceptions of the afterlife, but will bring healing to those in need in this world.

Healing Hereafter can be purchased on Amazon.com.

ddHave you ever seen NCIS? CSI? Another TV crime show with an assortment of letters for a title? Have you ever wondered if elements of those shows happen in real life? David and Diane Munson, a dynamic husband-and-wife writing team, have years of experience in situations like the ones portrayed on these crime shows. They bring their expertise as former federal prosecutor, NCIS agent, and undercover operative to their faith-based international thriller novels. Their newest novel, Stolen Legacy, is set to release on November 5, 2013.

The novel features Martin Vander Goes, a man who travels from the family farm in Zeeland, Michigan to the Netherlands to visit his aunt in 1940. Martin is trapped by the German invasion and finds himself involved in the Dutch resistance. When the U.S. enters the war against Japan and Germany, Martin returns home and enlists in the U.S. Army. He joins the Monuments Men, a group of people General Eisenhower entrusted to rescue Europe’s art masterpieces stolen by the Nazis.

Forty years later, when federal agent Eva Montanna visits Grandpa Marty’s farm in Zeeland she is dragged into a harrowing conflict threatening her family. Eva needs to find out if Martin Vander Goes’ heroism in WWII is the cause of the mystery she is trying to solve.

Stolen Legacy is the Munsons’ eighth novel. When asked about the process of writing these books together, David Munson says “we decide in advance who the characters are going to be and get a rough idea of the plot. Diane writes from the beginning, I start at the end, and we meet in the middle! We write out scenes on separate laptops, then swap and make changes to each other’s work.” Writing this way allows each to bring his or her experiences and knowledge to the novel.

Diane Munson spent many years as a federal prosecutor and uses her knowledge of the court systems, including the Supreme Court, and her love of reading and writing to create the court scenes and shape the way the novels are written. David worked as an undercover officer, sometimes needing to pose as a criminal. He “got to know how they think and act” and uses this profiling to create realistic characters.

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The faith aspect of the novels is very important to the couple. “We have a main theme,” Diane says, “like forgiveness. We really want to proclaim the love of Jesus with our novels.” Stolen Legacy follows the theme of Christ’s legacy, and how we can’t let someone take that away from us.

Having a faith focus, as well as having accurate information about the workings of the court room and justice system, make these novels unique. The Munsons’ are a team with all the elements needed for a good story: Diane is the writer/editor behind the scenes, they both have years of anecdotal story ideas to contribute, and David loves talking to readers and answering questions.

Stolen Legacy is a compilation of all these talents. The Munsons’ are really excited about the book because “its the first time we have written a story that is multigenerational. We go from the present into the past. Its been really fun!” The story has two threads: in the present is Eva, solving a mystery and trying to protect her family, while the second thread takes place during WWII, in the world of Nazis, spies, and the Dutch Resistance. It was a challenge to weave the two stories together, the couple says, but it has all come together.

David and Diane want readers to “see God’s faith through the generations. A young man loved God, passed that legacy to his son, and then it was passed to Eva.”

To learn more about Stolen Legacy, or to see the book trailer, visit the Munsons’ website at www.dianeanddavidmunson.com. The novel will be released November 5, 2013 and is available at local bookstores. The couple will also be speaking and signing Stolen Legacy in Zeeland and Grand Rapids, MI.

Book Tour:

Howard Miller Library (Zeeland, MI)

Thursday, November 7 at 7:00pm

Baker Book House (Grand Rapids, MI)

Saturday, November 11 at 2:00pm

GungorMichaelMany West Michigan residents recall singer-songwriter Michael Gungor, who served as music pastor of Resurrection Life Church in Grandville for about five years before moving to Colorado in 2006.

Gungor had already demonstrated his musical gifts in co-writing (“Friend of God,” with Israel Houghton), and in his role as a traveling performer with the Acquire the Fire youth events.

In 2008 Michael, his wife Lisa and newly-formed band (Gungor) released the album “Ancient Skies” which helped place them on a national stage.

Their follow-up CD, “Beautiful Things,” was nominated for two Grammy Awards in 2011 and the subsequent “Ghosts Upon The Earth” also received a Grammy nod.

Now Gungor continues a trend much broader than worship music in his latest, “I Am Mountain.”
The title song is a good sampling of this sometimes stark and ethereal effort.

Building on the Biblical account of the fall of humankind when God proclaimed, “For dust you are and to dust you will return,” (Gen. 3:19b NIV), the songwriter describes in the lyric the identification between humans and the rest of God’s creation.

Even the close harmony and understated instrumentation support the mood, offered as a visual experience in the “I Am Mountain” music video at http://youtu.be/L4agJNu4odI.

Other of the new songs continue in the allegorical, storytelling mode with some electronic effects and experimental sounds added.

Michael has noted a mixed response following the CD’s Sept. release, with some comments on the lack of the worship music of his past. While perhaps not for the casual listener, “I Am Mountain” is nevertheless an intriguing and poetic statement.

The Facts:

Artist: Gungor
Title: “I Am Mountain”
Connect: www.gungormusic.com
jJake_DownWest Michigan singer-songwriter Jake Down (aka Jacob Pauwels) and his band have five new songs on a collection titled “Shipwreck."

Spiritual themes are implicit throughout this acoustic, folk-pop effort, packed with subtle musical textures and picturesque lyrical phrasings.

The opening track borrows from a noted film documentary about the Dust Bowl that plagued the Great Plains states over several years in the 1930s.

“A Plow Broke the Plains,” is surprisingly uptempo considering its mournful plea to “send the rain to us.”
But the hopeful song confesses, “I saw living water pouring from the hole in His side. When I drank I knew I would thirst no more, and I came alive.”

An expectant faith leads the writer to look forward to hearing the “pitter patter of water on my window” and be healed.

Two “Shipwreck” songs (“When We Sank” and “Undertow”) tell of the spiritual battles of guilt and shame and a resolve not to repeat mistakes of the past.

The collection concludes with “A Love Worth Fighting For,” a statement of passion asking for guidance to live a life for a worthy purpose.

Down and his four piece band (The Midwest Mess, a nod to the imperfections in us all) feature the violin of Charlie Bleisch and Down’s own harmonica added to the acoustic guitar-based anthems, with background vocals by bass guitarist Rusty Vining.

The project is Down’s first since his 2011 solo release, “Songs to Spur You On.”

“Shipwreck” currently is available at www.itunes.apple.com and at the band’s concerts.

Artist: Jake Down & The Midwest Mess
Title: “Shipwreck” (an EP)
Connect: www.jakedown.com
SanctusRealRunSanctus Real and lead singer Matt Hammitt are now on the road with their latest CD,  “Run.”  It’s a collection of songs that tell of hope in life’s struggles.

One of the songs, “Promises,” was inspired by words of assurance a friend shared with Hammitt before the birth of his son Bowen, who had already been diagnosed with a severe heart defect.

“Pray” is a reminder of the importance of that basic practice of faith both in sharing our concerns and thanks, and in lifting up others.

This is the Sanctus Real’s sixth studio album, and its mix of pop, rock and ballads builds on songs that have come before such the band’s huge Christian radio hit of several years ago, “Lead Me.”

The CD’s title song (“Run”) is a driving anthem urging listeners to run to the arms of ultimate love.

A hidden gem is “Sanctuary,” a worshipful song addressed directly to God expressing a longing for that place of rest and safety amidst the troubles of the world.

The band worked with three different producers in crafting their new sounds, but the players continue to deliver songs which point to greater truth.

Note: Hear Sanctus Real in concert - along with the bands Citizen Way, Everfound and The Neverclaim - at 6 p.m. Sun. Sept. 25 at The 3 Mile Project, 3050 Walkent Dr. NW, Walker. The concert is part of “Saw You at the Poll.” For ticket information visit www.showclix.com/event/SanctusPray or www.3mp.org

Artist: Sanctus Real
Title: “Run”
Connect: www.sanctusreal.com

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