Have you recently read a great book, used an excellent App, watched a wonderful TV programme or been given a CD or DVD? Let us all know why they're so good.
Unfortunately The Sycamore Tree in Nuneaton closed on 2nd April 2016. Most of the items highlighted below could have been bought from them. Since April 2017 though we have had quite a few items to peruse and buy on the table at the back of the church. What a blessing that is!
There are now six Christian Bookshops that are near to us:
Hinckley - The Vine
Coventry - CLC
Birmingham - CLC
Rugby - Christian Bookshop
Perhaps see what they have in stock, the next time you are near?
We Shall Stand - CCM United
Released by Gaither Music Group on 9th October 2015
Double CD-£12.99 [45 tracks], DVD-£8.25 [40 tracks]
The first thing I have to do when reviewing this album and DVD is to get out my very best list of superlatives. It is one of the best albums I've ever bought. Fantastic standards sung by fabulous singers, accompanied by supremely talented musicians. Some 'Talking Heads' segments on the DVD give a little insight into the songs being performed. The concert, held on 21st January 2015, was organised to celebrate 40 years of contemporary Christian music (CCM). Loud, strong and rocking songs, quiet and intimate ballads - a wide eclectic range of styles and groupings of instruments, but all with the message that God loves us, came to earth to save us and is faithful to this day.
On various songs some of the "legends" sing backing vocals for other "icons" who are singing the lead part. That's super! There is plenty of hands on other people's shoulders and shaking of hands etc on the stage during the concert. These people are happy to be there and are certainly comfortable with each other. Most of them have been following Christ for many decades and write songs that don't try to answer difficult questions with trite and superficial words. From reading quite a bit about the different artists over the years I know that like most of us, their lives haven't been a bed of roses - children dying, divorce, severe illnesses to close family members, addictions and so on have been experienced by many of the performers. Some of the shots on the DVD show a video screen in the background showing photos and names of people who have been active musicians in the Christian music field over the last forty years. Some of them are now dead. It was good to mentally reminisce about their music too. The only negative is that it doesn't show the whole concert. For instance the introduction to the first song has been badly truncated - the original album track has a Bach Prelude as part of it, but this is sadly missing. There are several YouTube videos which do show the whole concert - it had been broadcast on Amercian television.
Whilst it is predominantly a recording that celebrates American Christian music over the past forty years, two British songs manage to sneak in: In Christ Alone and This is the Air I breathe. Perhaps a third of the tracks are what we would term worship songs - indeed some of them we sing on a Sunday morning.
I knew nearly all of the songs from purchasing hundreds of cassette tapes, records, CDs and downloads over the past 34 years. If you want to gain an overview of quality American CCM this CD or DVD would be well worth purchasing. It's top notch!
Revealing Jesus - Darlene Zschech
Released by Integrity Music on 11th March 2013 - £14.99
Some people, when mentioning Australia, might think of The Outback, Cricket, Rugby, Sydney Harbour Bridge or kangaroos. I tend to think of the 2000 Summer Olympics, Hillsong Church,
Reuben Morgan and Darlene Zschech.
I bought this CD/DVD combo in February to help our Music Group play one of the best tracks on the Album (Victor's Crown) at our Easter Morning Service at the end of March. It was a super purchase as so many of the songs encourage us to worship God wholeheartedly, faith is stirred and the arrangements are fresh, musical and have interesting hooks. New songs are sung alongside older ones and a classic hymn. The songs are all very good.
On the DVD I would have preferred it if the "talking about the music sections" were not placed between some of the songs, but formed part of the Bonus Section.
It is a live recording that was made at a Conference in a Church in the USA, where Darlene was joined by a high calibre of musicians and singers such as Michael W Smith, Israel Houghton and Kari Jobe.
Open Heavens/River Wild - Hillsong
Released by Hillsong on 16th October 2015 - £12.99
The first Hillsong CD I bought was in 1993 and this, their current release, is their 26th "general" live worship album. It's another pretty good one, brimming full with Christ-centred lyrics, catchy riffs and excellent arrangements! Themes such as the Holy Spirit, Jesus being central and the Resurrection are explored.
Walls - Gateway Worship
Released by Gateway Worship on 30th October 2015 - £12.99
This is the fourth CD/DVD I've had from Gateway Worship (one of the
previous releases was described below on 22/03/11). This album was mainly recorded on 15th May 2015 at the Gateway
Church in Dallas - it is thought to be the fourth largest church in USA, with about 36,000 active members!
As usual the songs and presentation are very good. There are songs reflecting exuberance and liveliness in faith with a thick musical texture, contrasted later by sparse musical accompaniment for just one singer on the stage. There seems to be more of a modern sound in the rhythm section than in previous recordings. It is positive that the thirteen tracks were led by ten different people and written by a large array of people. Top songs could include: We bow low, Walls, Whatever You want (not the Status Quo song) and Wait for You. The congregation are definitely actively and outwardly participating. This recording will prove a blessing to many.
The Burning Edge of Dawn - Andrew Peterson
Released by Centricity Music on 9th October 2015 - $10.00
Andrew is an engaging American singer-songwriter and author, with this Album being his seventeenth release. Several of these are available from Amazon though much of his back catalogue can be obtained from his online shop. He regularly uses social media.
With a clear and soothing voice, he crosses over several genres, with folk being his main mouthpiece. His lyrics are often thought-provoking and have ideas of substance, sometimes portrayed through a story. With ten tracks on this album, my favourite songs are Be kind to yourself and Rejoice.
Sometimes it's difficult to try artists you have never heard before. Listen to him on YouTube and Spotify to discover more and perhaps find that you enjoy his message and songs too.
As Family We Go - Rend Collective
Released by Integrity Music on 21st August 2015 - £10.99
You might be familiar with 'Rend Collective' already - we use some of their songs on a Sunday. A lot of their music has a really exciting groove. If you look here you will see two members (out of five) playing the third
song on the album and explaining some of the thinking behind it. They are very effervescent in their presentation, yet deep truths are handled and explained.
Originally from Bangor in Northern Ireland, this is their fifth album. In the past they have used mostly folk music as the basis for their songs. This album is a slight move away from that, with the use of only folk-tinged arrangements. The imagery in their lyrics is often creative and strong. It is certainly a good set of songs to enjoy at home!
'Rend Collective' tour a great deal around America. In 2016 they will be performing ten dates in the UK too.
Elim 100 - Elim Sound
Released by Elim on 4th May 2015 - £12.99
I've listened to this album many times since buying it in June. It's excellent! The 15 tracks incorporate a good mixture of older and newer songs, a broad range of
themes and helpful arrangements. A large number of people from around the country were involved in the recording. My favourite songs are Glory, The Great I Am and Lay it at Your
The album is entitled 100 due to the Elim Movement celebrating the centenary of it's founding in Monaghan, Ireland, in January 1915 by the Welsh evangelist George Jefferies. A promotional video for the album can be watched here. It contains many musical excerpts from the album, giving a good overall flavour of what you could expect.
Unbroken Praise - Matt Redman
Released by Integrity Music on 15th June 2015 - £9.99
A new release by Matt is always to be welcomed. This is his 12th album since his initial recording in 1993. The inspiration keeps on coming, with super God-focused
lyrics coupled with good melodies and harmonies. It is interesting how he incorporates parts of such classic hymns as It is well with my soul (written in 1873) into his own new
The album was recorded live at the Abbey Road Studios, with 350+ singing their hearts out. Reading about the background to the recording, it is clear that Matt is very dependant on the team around him - musicians, writers, engineers etc. This is reflected in all the signatures that form the background to the album cover. The penultimate track was written by Matt and two members of Elim Sound.
He's touring around North America at the moment, but will be sharing the stage with Kari Jobe in the UK in November. You can watch a video of Abide with me here - this was recorded as part of the album.
All the places to go - John Ortberg
Published by Tyndale on 6th March 2015 - £10.99
We all have to make decisions everyday. Some are very easy and don't take a great deal of time and effort to reach a conclusion - shall I have cheese on my toast today or lemon curd, which Doctor Who episode shall I watch tonight or The Six Million Dollar Man instead...? These questions aren't so important in the grand scheme of life.
Sometimes we might face difficult questions about a job, a relationship or where to live though. Often we would pray about these situations and listen to God's response. Shall I go left or right? Should I move several hundred miles to a great new job with promotion and a super house nearby, but what about making new friends, finding a new church...?
In ten chapters and 265 pages, John helps us to see beyond these immediate questions. God is the God of adventure. We have to trust Him through all the doors we go
through and all of those we don't. Ortberg uses his own experiences, as well as a good few Bible texts to encourage us to move forward and not be paralysed by change. Generally we don't hear a voice
from heaven in response to our questions (like Moses and other top-notch people). John gives us ideas and strategies to make sure we don't become stagnant in life. It is a challenging book, but
certainly encouraging too.
Dwell - Aaron Keyes
Released by Kingsway Music on 20th June 2011 - £12.99
Aaron has written some written some excellent songs over the past few years - we sing some of them at NCF. Reading through
the inlay card for this CD and looking through his website, you get to know the reason why many are so good: he's committed to following Jesus and in helping others to do the same.
For each of the tracks on Dwell he writes a brief summary of how the song was conceived. At the end of each of these summaries he says "SEE" and then lists a few Scriptures that will help us to understand the song more fully. What a great idea! Good ideas for a song are very different from extracts from the Bible through which to get inspired.
My favourite songs are Only Just Begun (this has nothing to do with The Carpenters) and Every knee shall bow down which is based primarily on Philippians 2.
Love Shine Through - Tim Hughes
Released by Kingsway Music on 21st March 2011 - £12.99
Tim's fourth studio album is a strong one. Jesus Saves is the only established song at the moment (though greatly repackaged
in it's arrangement) and this sits amongst singable songs that certainly make you ponder.
Having been to several Premier League football games in the past year, I can detect several songs that have a rough chanting type of backing vocal attached to them. This is good, as when you sing along with the volume turned up, you feel part of a large crowd that is worshipping. Perhaps some of our heavenly repertoire will consist of these type of songs - not just the polyphonic textures of Handel and Bach or pristine melodies of Rutter!
The lyrics reflect an awesome God who is beyond time, as well being relevant to the present iPad, wireless and downloading generation. My favourite songs are Never stop singing, God is coming and Jesus saves, with all the tracks being collaborative.
There is a video of Tim describing his album here.
Great Revivalists: 1700 to the present day - John
Published by CWR in 2008 - £9.99
Recently I was browsing in the CLC bookshop in central Birmingham and noticed
this book with a £3 off sticker on it. I certainly like a bargain, but looking through it I couldn't decide if I was ready to read it and then to try to put some of it's elements and truths into
practice. I'd read quite a few biographies of "Stella Saints" over the years - sometimes I felt pathetic and feeble in comparison to what I heard about, whilst sometimes I rose to the challenge for a
few months and dug deeper to follow God more fervently and consistently.
The book was written to celebrate the 21st anniversary of the opening of CWR's present headquarters in Surrey. Beginning with an investigation into what Revival is and isn't, it then goes on to present a brief biography of twenty six individuals who opened themselves to God in remarkable ways. Both George Jeffreys (the founder of the Elim Church) and his brother Stephen are discussed, amongst some well known faces from several countries and centuries. At the end of each chapter is a "Challenge for today" and a "Prayer."
I found this book hard to put down, but made myself read it over several days in order to think about and follow through the implications. It is certainly one I'll need to read again - it's format makes it really easy to dip in and carefully consider what God might demand from us today. £6.99 well spent!
God be Praised - Gateway Worship
Released by Integrity Music on 15th February 2011 - £12.99
About a year ago I was searching on YouTube for something and came across some songs by Gateway Worship. I was impressed and bought their 2008 Wake Up the World DVD - watching it a great deal. It's proving a good investment. Their latest album features many of the same people, albeit with different hair-cuts!
With 16,000 people in the congregation in this church in Texas, it was obvious that the musical calibre and creativity of what has been recorded would be of top quality.
The Church uses many songs that talk about the Cross of Christ, freedom in Jesus and the character and actions of God - there are some songs with these themes here. The Blood of Jesus, which is often neglected in our worship repertoire, is mentioned on many tracks on this DVD too. This will hopefully encourage other songwriters to consider this important topic more.
It is good that they were not afraid to be a little different from the wide array of worship recordings that are available when they planned which songs and arrangements to use. I really enjoyed One Single Drop and I hear the Lord passing by as these were sung without electric guitars and drums - a small bowed string ensemble with piano and harp were very effective in accompanying them. The testimonies that were given before them were also relevant. However, the first few times I watched this DVD By the Grace of God got on my nerves a bit. An integral part of this song is a chap in a kilt playing bagpipes. In the past I have not been a big fan of bagpipe music, but from a cultural perspective I was pretty certain that if I read a book about Texan music, nothing would be mentioned about the role of bagpipes in Texan life. It just seemed wrong to include them. In July 2007 I was at The Menin Gate in Ypres, to commemorate the 90th Anniversary of the start of the Battles of Passchendaele (where my great-uncle Perceival was killed). Some bagpipes were played in addition to the normal buglers at The Last Post Ceremony. I felt something spiritual occur there - imagining many thousands of soldiers being killed with the sound of warfare in the background (shells landing, human cries of despair and bagpipes helping to lead the men forward). From this perspective, it dawned on me that using bagpipes in this song was in fact a brilliant creative idea. My own cultural prejudices were quashed and I am now able to participate in what is a cracking song rather let my brain dictate that I shouldn't!
There is a good visual mixture of those on the stage and those in the packed diverse congregation. Activating the subtitles makes it really easy to join in with this quality product from Gateway Worship.
There is a Hope - Stuart Townend
Released by Kingsway Music on 15th March 2010 - £14.99
This combined CD and DVD set was originally released as separate formats in 2008. Recorded in Coleraine (near the northern tip of Northern Ireland), it features
Stuart with a group of eminent musicians. Plenty of space is allowed for them to let their instruments sing. At different times you can hear a soaring violin, a chugging accordion, a punchy trombone,
a simple guitar, a delicate piano, understated brushing on the drums, positive harmonies from the backing vocalists, almost human sounds from the pipes, flutes and whistles and the very important
Whilst this is all wonderful and together with the atmospheric lighting adds a lot to what the worship consumer gets, when this is all stripped away, we are left with something greater: a collection of fourteen (with an extra three bonus songs on the DVD) divinely-inspired songs. They would still work with a less capable musician on an almost in-tune guitar or piano. With many of the songs, you can't help but be impacted by the striking images painted by the words. Aaron Keyes and Kelly Minter also lead some of the worship here. Just as we still use songs by Crosby, Wesley and Montgomery etc, it's fairly certain that we and our descendants will still be using some Townend (with collaborators) songs in meaningful worship for many decades to come. Stuart's latest album, The Journey, will be released on 16th May 2011.
Luke: A World turned upside down - Michael
Released by Covenant Artists on 26th January 2011 - $10.00
You might remember Amy Grant's Age to Age album being released in 1982. The title track (El
Shaddai) was partly written by Michael - this was near the beginning of his musical career. Around twenty five albums and ten books later comes Luke.
His trademark creative fingerprints are again in obvious evidence on this latest release: a predominantly easy-listening folk style, altered chords with occasional unexpected inversions in the harmonies, deep Biblical truths developed in a few stanzas with helpful metaphorical pictures and the use of paradox in the lyrics. He plays many of the instruments - piano, guitar, banjo, hurdy-gurdy, bouzouki and Irish harp, though interestingly some well-known musicians joined him (Chester Thompson of Genesis and Matthew Ward) as well as some of his family in the recording this time.
As he explores some of the adventures and shocks that Luke wrote about in his Gospel, the listener is conveyed to a different world - 1st century Israel with the Person of Jesus taking centre stage. At the moment the two stand-out tracks are The Pain and Persistence of Doubt and Seven Endless Miles. In the sleeve notes, he comments that "These songs hope to simply scratch the surface of the upheaval and amazement and mystery and incredulity that is Luke's Gospel. Each one is meant to be a bridge over into the Gospel, an invitation to engage the text with your imagination and take a step close to the original event that was the earthly life of Jesus of Nazareth." This is the essence of what he does - music is the side issue, Jesus is the central focus.
This recording isn't available in this country at the moment. I got it by ringing his agents up in Missouri - it was worth it though. Mike is in concert at the United Reformed Church in Hinckley on Friday 25th March.
The Kingdom is coming - RIVERcamp
Released by RIVERcamp on 5th December 2010 - £10.00
Sometimes when we worship together as a church on a Sunday, I'd like to press the "pause button" as we encounter God in a tangible way and I want to stay there for a
long time and not listen to the notices or go home! There are several occasions on this live recording when I literally do press the pause button - as God speaks, I want to listen and devote time to
It doesn't take many listenings for this album to stir you. It isn't just the great music (the band is rhythmically tight with some very intelligent and sensitive lines played); it isn't purely the impressive blend of newer songs with classic older songs that always seem to encourage us to taste God's presence; it isn't the way the accompanying CD booklet has been produced with quality in mind; it isn't only the way that spoken words have been incorporated. What has been captured on this album is God meeting with a group of people and how they react to this. At times quiet and reflective, at times strong and penetrating with some funky moments, it is an exciting album to experience. The 2009 and 2008 albums were good - this is better.
And if our God is for us... - Chris Tomlin
Released by sixstepsrecords on 6th December 2010 - £14.99
I've seen Chris on many YouTube videos and have downloaded the occasional song from some of his previous albums. When a good friend wanted to know what I wanted for Christmas and suggested this album download from Amazon, it proved to be a great idea. Many of the eleven songs, which cover diverse themes, are very singable which can be unusual on some albums! A .pdf of the Booklet that would normally accompany the CD and a "making of" video, as well as some acoustic versions are also part of the de-luxe package. The symbolism for some of the songs (runaway train, You traded riches, like the rising sun that shines, etc) is very powerful.
Beautiful Exchange DVD - Hillsong
Released by Hillsong Music on 5th July 2010 - £14.99
Story - Phillip
Published by CWR in 2010 - £19.99
Reading the Bible isn't always easy. Sometimes what you read may seem exciting; at other times you might read a passage and it makes no sense at all. Many national
organisations have come together, launching Biblefresh to encourage Christians to read and
understand the Bible more. The Big Story has been published by CWR as part of this 2011 initiative.
There are 365 undated readings with a good and easy to read layout for each day. First you get a few short scene-setting paragraphs so that you can understand the verses from the Bible that follow. (These are from the Holman Christian Standard Bible.) To help the reader apply what they have read, at the end there can be a prayer, a point to mull over, an action to take or a challenge to face.
I've used several Bible-reading plans over the years - some may take you cover-to-cover, others chronologically, others a few verses from the New Testament and some from the Old Testament each day. The Big Story comprises 12 sections which take us through the Bible's major covenants (with Noah, Abraham, Moses, David etc culminating in Jesus). The author comments in the introduction that the effect of reading these Scriptures and notes is cumulative. "Notice how particular themes reoccur with added significance. As you stay with the project, you will begin to make the connections which make the Bible so compelling." So far I'm a couple of weeks into using it. Maybe in about a year I should write a Part II to this review.
There will be a five day course devoted to The Big Story in March at Waverley Abbey House in Surrey.
Published monthly - £0.00 (sort of)
I have been reading Elim's official magazine since May 2010. It's brilliant that NCF buys quite a few each month and then
they're left on the table at the back of the church for us to pick up, take home and read. So, is it worth picking up, taking home and reading? Yes. (This would be a very short review
There is a good mixture of light reading with the occasional heavier and thought-provoking-action-inducing article. There are always reports of what is happening in other Elim churches (in this country and often overseas) and testimonies of what God is doing in normal people. It is easy to be drawn to pray because of what you have read and imagined. Sometimes I think an article was written especially for me, as it is so relevant to my circumstances.
In February 2008, an article about NCF appeared in Direction - you can read it in the entrance hall. When you see next month's edition on the table, take a copy. If you wait a week, they might all have gone.
Glorious - Paul Baloche
Released by Integrity Music on 3rd November 2009 - £12.99
Paul has been writing worship songs for many years. They have been used in a large number of churches all over the world - including NCF. Open the eyes of my heart and Above all powers are perhaps his best known songs.
Operation World (7th Edition)
Published by Biblica on 22nd October 2010 - £14.99
I was introduced to an earlier edition of this book in 1986 and used it regularly for many years. Basically, it names every nation and autonomous territory, giving
detailed information on that place so that people can pray intelligently and effectively. It is set out so that every country has a specific date when it is being prayed for - small countries may
have one day, whereas larger countries such as India, China, and Indonesia have several days. Many points for both praise and challenge are given for each country. Personally, I usually skim through
most of the text and diagrams and then pray that God will lead me to one or two points to concentrate on that day.
At the very beginning of the book thirty Christian leaders from around the world comment very positively about the book. It has certainly made a big impact on many people. On page 301 there are several inspiring quotes on the subject of prayer. Here's one by Andrew Murray: "Beware in your prayers, above everything else, of limiting God, not only by unbelief, but by fancying that you know what He can do. Expect unexpected things 'above all that we ask or think.'" The book concludes with a series of Appendices that give details of such things as International Mission Organisations and Prayer Networks.
First published in 1974, the collective editions have sold over 2.5 million copies and some editions have been translated into German, Spanish, Portuguese, French, Korean, Chinese and Russian. It took five years to put together the current edition of Operation World. Incredibly during the first month of this edition's publication, over 90,000 copies have been sold.
There is an Operation World Website and you can be sent an email each day with ideas to pray for a country for that day. If you "like" Operation World on Facebook, you will be sent useful updates automatically to your Wall. You can also subscribe to the Operation World Channel on YouTube. Various book bindings, CD-ROMs and maps are available from the shop on the OW site.
This book is more than many pages of facts, figures and general information on the state of the Church and the World. Using it regularly will change the way you think. It will encourage you to look outwards - beyond what can be seen in the immediate and near, to what is past the horizon both physically and spiritually.