As we end the first month of a new year, it is valuable to contemplate God’s grace and amazing love for his people. In the following article, Caroline Bennett reviews CDs by three different Christian artists which focus on praising God and seeing his steadfast love everywhere.
O my Strength, I will sing praises to you, for you, O God, are my fortress, the God who shows me steadfast love. -Psalm 59: 17 (ESV)
Though music of all genres can cause Christians to rejoice in the Lord, music written specifically to praise God can be especially edifying. There are many Christian artists out there, so it can be rather difficult to figure out whose music to listen to. A good way to decide is to ask two questions: are the lyrics thought-provoking and in accordance with Scripture, and is the music interesting and well written? Mosaic, Storm, and Rise in the Darkness are three albums featuring songs that answer “yes” to these questions.
Though most famous for his bluegrass tunes, Ricky Skaggs demonstrated his ability to cover more than one genre when he released Mosaic five years ago. The first song, the titular track, is a grand introduction into the themes Skaggs sings about throughout the album: the grace, providence, and everlasting faithfulness of God. It reminds Christians that though their roles in this world may seem small and insignificant—a mere shard of colored glass— they need to look at the bigger, more glorious picture of God’s redemptive plan. Every song on Mosaic revolves around this idea, but each has a unique sound and story to tell. One of the most creative songs on the album is “My Cup Runneth Over,” with lyrics that help Christians understand Psalm 23 anew: “You ask is it half empty / you ask is it half full /… If I give a different answer/ would you think of me a fool / It’s none of the above/ ‘cause it’s all of the above | My cup runneth over….His love poured out for me.” The wonderful thing about Mosaic is that one can listen to the album over and over again, and still realize something new and wonderful about the songs every time. And Mosaic only has a tinge of bluegrass to it, so even Christians who don’t care for bluegrass should still be able to enjoy listening to this powerful album.
Another album that praises God for his mercy is Storm, released in 2002 by Christian artist Fernando Ortega. The album features a mix of old hymns—“Jesus Paid it All,” “Come Ye Sinners”—as well as new songs written by Ortega. The combination of Ortega’s voice, the piano, the guitar, and other instruments creates a lush sound that is a trademark of Ortega’s albums. Storm is suitable for all occasions. As its name implies, it is wonderful music for dreary weather, for its songs of redemption drive away all melancholy. The album is also quite fitting for those on the road with the opening track “Traveler.” However, the chorus of this song reveals that this is more than just a road trip song; it is a song that Christians need to voice every day: “Heavenly Father, / Remember the traveler / Bring us safely home / Safely home.”
Nathan Clark George is another Christian songwriter and performer who has released a number of albums in the past decade. Rise in the Darkness is one of his best, featuring a variety of songs. On it, George does an amazing job of putting almost word-for-word Scripture passages to music, such as Psalm 127 and Isaiah 58. Yet Rise in the Darkness also features songs he has written lyrics for, including “What if I Were in the Garden?” In this song George admits that, although he would like to think that he would have been faithful to Jesus on the night of his arrest, he would have been just as weak as the disciples. Nevertheless, George rejoices in the thought that, despite his great depravity, God has poured his love out on him and shown him grace. George also performs arrangements of the well-known hymns “Not What My Hands Have Done” and “Nettleton.” Though George’s songs tend to be very quiet and contemplative—he is most often accompanied by acoustic instruments like the guitar and violin—Rise in the Darkness is nevertheless a loud witness to Christ’s work on the cross, and reminds Christians of their need to exhibit God’s love and mercy to others.
Mosaic, Storm, and Rise in the Darkness are wonderful albums for many reasons. They are well done musically, with beautiful melodies and instrumentation. Best of all, however, is the message they propound: man is a sinner, desperately needing a Savior, and God has shown his love to his people by sending Christ Jesus. When Christians listen to these three albums, they can truly rejoice with the psalmist in the God who “shows steadfast love.”
♪ George, Nathan Clark. Rise in the Darkness. Nathan Clark George, 2006.
♪ Ortega, Fernando. Storm. Word Entertainment, 2002.
♪ Skaggs, Ricky. Mosaic. Skaggs Family Records, 2010.