Album Review: Banner by Desperation Band

Colorado Springs-based youth worship group, Desperation Band, raises the banner of worship with their latest album, Banner. Credited most notably for their songs “I Am Free”, “Counting on God” and “Strong God”, the band aims to create a soundtrack for the beautiful, compelling things God has been doing today.

Released in September 2015, the all-new live recording from the July 2014 Desperation Conference captures the spirit and energy of youth at worship while firmly establishing for all who listen that we share a deep-rooted history. The God of ages past is alive and well and moving mightily among people who are desperately committed to Him.

This 12-song collection features energetic praise, and spirit-moving worship songs. Opening track “Future” shows off the youthful vibe that’s been the signature of the band. Led majority by Jon Egan, songs are beautifully-crafted not just for the youngsters but for all ages. Track like “Fun” gives each of us a glorious moment to rejoice, dance, shout, and have fun in the freedom which Christ has paid for us, while songs like “With All My Heart”, and “We Are Yours” quiet our hearts in reverence and awe of Him. “I don't have much but all I have I give to you, take it all Jesus” is such a faith-stirring and challenging prayer of offering with “Multiply”. Indeed, what do we have which God has not given?

Title cut “Banner” is a one big shift, musically. It is more likely into modern sounding melodies with its synths and rippling electronic effects. The entire song represents the very core of this release, the exact message the group wants to convey.

Overall, “Banner” is one of the best releases of the group, and probably the best yet, since their 2007 release “Everyone Overcome”. Truly, song like “On The Throne” (led by Kari Jobe) is a very good taste of the sweetness of congregational worship. The mighty hand-claps complement their singing of God’s sovereignty. I don’t know the exact words to describe the album, but it is raw, vibrant, and youthful yet for all generation.
Rating: 5/5
Track Listing:
01. Future    
02. Banner    
03. On the Throne    
04. Make A Way    
05. We Are Yours    
06. Break Open    
07. Closer To Your Heart    
08. Fall Into You    
09. No One Else    
10. With All My Heart    
11. Multiply    
12. Fun
Disclosure: A review copy of Banner was provided for review by House of Praise, from whom you may purchase the album.
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Journal: Hillsong Worship NO OTHER NAME Tour in Manila

I first heard their music in 2005, and since then I never stopped listening to their songs. In 2007, I started collecting their records and now I have completed their discography. Indeed, Hillsong Worship’s success is undeniably amazing. They started as Hills Christian Life Centre few decades ago, and because of the success of their music ministry, they re-branded. Millions of people are singing their songs each week, and they have become one of today’s most loved Christian bands.

To celebrate the release of their 23rd LIVE worship album, they have toured the United States, and amazingly, they scheduled an Asian Tour, having Manila as one of the itineraries. It is my second time to attend a Hillsong concert. My first was their 2014 Zion Tour. I rejoiced when the news broke that they are coming back to Manila this year, on the 10th of April at Mall of Asia Arena. The sad part was the tickets were sold out within just a couple of weeks, but, I can say that I am blessed enough to find someone who wanted to sell her ticket, and ‘twas already April the 10th when I got it. Thanks be to God!

The concert was a huge blast. Hillsong Worship team has brought a lot of surprises. Their testimonies are truly spirit-moving and faith-stirring. My most favorite part in the concert was when Jonathon Douglas a.k.a. JD led the crowd in prayer. Which was a really profound time, all of the people were in silence, and with hands lifted high, re-dedicated their lives to no other name but Jesus. Truly, this is one of my most unforgettable moments this year, and perhaps in my entire life.

Now, if you are one of those who didn’t make it to the concert, below is the concert set list I created just for you!

Thank you for reading my today’s blog journal!

God bless you, and go from strength to strength as you live for NO OTHER NAME, JESUS! Soli Deo Gloria!
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Rethinking the Whole Purpose of Faith

Author and speaker Peter Rollins on why religion shouldn't just be an escape.

Can you kind of give us a short summary of what you’re arguing in the book?
None of this is about affirming that I believe God exists or that I believe that X Y and Z. What I’m arguing is that Christianity is an invitation into a different form of life—a life in which you find meaning in your neighbor, in political action, in real transformation of the world. This means you can have doubts, you can question things, you can think it’s all hogwash at times in terms of your beliefs, but still be caught up in the form of life we’re invited into.

I’m trying to argue that Christianity is not simply being able to take the right answers to something but it’s also not simply about expanding our lives into eternity. If I could say a prayer and you would live forever but you couldn’t enjoy the depth of your life, I wouldn’t be blessing you, I’d be cursing you. Heaven would just be millions of people screaming for death. What I’m arguing is that Christianity is first and foremost not about continuing life into eternity but transforming the way in which we live here and now in the world where we find beauty in the material world itself.

You talk about how so much of this Scriptural conversation about death is not just physical death, but it is a spiritual death, a death in life.
"What I’m arguing is that Christianity is first and foremost not about continuing life into eternity but transforming the way in which we live here and now in the world."
Absolutely, it’s constant in the Bible whenever Jesus says, “I’ve come to bring life and life in all its fullness.” He’s not speaking to people who are dead, He’s not in the graveyards. And when Paul talks about being buried with Christ and rising with new life, he’s not talking about something over the horizon, he’s talking about a way of participating in that new life here and now. For me, Christianity is about transforming the very way we live.

You offer an unconventional view of Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 13:12: “For now we see through a glass darkly, but then face to face now I know in part but the shall I know even as also I am known.” Can you talk about that a little bit?
Ultimately, I’m arguing that we imagine that when we see through the glass darkly, which means when we get this Christian insight into what lies at the other side of the glass, we see something full and complete and wonderful that will fulfill us.

My argument is actually, that’s what everybody in the world is promising. Everyone in every magazine you read, every film you watch, every TV show is promising there’s something out there that will be whole and complete. It’s like the world is a huge vending machine and everyone has their products in, the products that say they will make you whole and complete. The Church has come along and has also put its product in the machine.

But Christianity, at its most radical, is not about putting some product in a machine that says, “If you can get this everything will be wonderful.” It’s about taking a sledgehammer to that machine, breaking it so that we see clearly that there is nothing in this world—whether it’s religion, whether it’s sex, a job, consumerism—that will complete us. Instead, what we have to do, is learn to live with that kind of lack, that sense of brokenness, that sense that things aren’t complete. And in learning to live with it we actually find a true joy and a true happiness. Instead of trying to run for our suffering, instead of trying to run from our brokenness, we have to carry with it and make peace with it.

Christianity invites us to look at our ghosts, look at our brokenness, face up to the things that we find difficult in our lives and although that’s traumatic at first, that actually leads to a full and healthy type of life.

You write that in using rituals to uphold our beliefs, we’re often just protecting ourselves from facing the fact that none of those products in the machine can complete us. Can you explain that?
"I’m trying to encourage people to not run from their suffering because when we do that I think it just causes more suffering, deeper suffering."

That’s a part where I’m wrestling with how we can have rituals and forms of life which help us escape our suffering for a moment. If you’ve gone through a breakup and you just want to forget your suffering, you go out and get drunk and listen to rubbish pop music. You forget about everything for a few hours, but then it comes back the next day. So you have to go out and get drunk again.

Contrast that with the type of Irish pub you get where I’m from back home, where you’ve gone through some sort of difficult time and you go to the pub not to get drunk but to have a drink and talk about your suffering, to talk about what happened. There’s a singer-songwriter in the corner who is singing some tragic song about lost love. But in that tragic song you see a little bit of yourself and somehow that music helps you look at the things you’d rather want to avoid. And in that experience you start to feel the weight of your suffering lift.

For me, the Church can be one of those two things. The Church can be either the place where you go get drunk and it provides these rituals that help you momentarily escape your suffering and make you feel everything is great, but then that just means you have to go back again and again and get drunk on the worship another time. Or the Church can create a liturgical space in which, through the prayers and the sermon and the music, the full range of human emotions are expressed and your brought to look at your struggles, look at your fears, look at the things inside you that you’d rather avoid. Not so that you’re destroyed by them but so that you’re able to bring them into the light of day and be freed from their oppressive sting.

What is your hope for this book? What steps do you hope readers take after reading it?
It’s limited what a book can do, but I’m trying to encourage people to not run from their suffering because when we do that I think it just causes more suffering, deeper suffering. We put it on to other people. In this book, I want to say to people, what are the things you might be running from in your life? What are the things in your individual life, in your family life, in your relationships that you’re hiding from? And instead of running away from those things, can you find people who will help you bring that stuff to the surface? Can you help your friends with that process? And can we reform Christian community in such a way that we are able to, like AA, we are able to talk about the difficult things in a community of grace that just accepts who we are. Because In being able to bring that stuff to the surface we will find life, and life in all its fullness.
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Album Review: WOW Hits 2015

2014 was a very fruitful year for the Christian Contemporary Music Industry. There is a plethora of 2014 songs I am still cherishing greatly until now from first listen. If someone would ask me at this moment what album I will recommend, it will be WOW Hits 2015 Deluxe. Released in September 2014, I must say this two-disc WOW edition is the best release, to date, in its kind. The tracks are well-chosen, and I am sure you’ll enjoy all of them.

To be honest, this is the first time I enjoyed a compilation album so richly that I almost played it all the time for days. As I said on my review of WOW Worship Lime—for compilation albums to survive in the future, they should be meticulous in choosing the songs, which they have done brilliantly on WOW 2015. Now, there are two simple reasons that make this release worth having. First, it gathers some of the biggest names in CCM Industry such as Newsboys, Sidewalk Prophets, Francesca Battistelli, Big Daddy Weave, Toby Mac, Chris Tomlin, Third Day, Hillsong United and many more. Last, it features numerous of today’s most loved Christian hits, where 11 are #1 radio songs, 17 more in the top 5, plus 4 songs in the top 10. Some in the list are Hillsong United’s Oceans, Steve Curtis-Chapman’s Glorious Unfolding, Alive by Hillsong Young and Free, and More Of You by Colton Dixon. 

Overall, WOW Hits 2015 offers you a wide access to the world of CCM by giving you simply the best of today. If you’re a Christian music geek, you know exactly what I am saying. If you are a newbie and just starting to explore the world of Christian music, WOW Hits 2015 is a very good choice to start with.

WOW HITS 2015 Track Listing:

1. We Believe - Newsboys
2. The Only Name (Yours Will Be) - Big Daddy Weave
3. Oceans (Where Feet May Fail) [Album Edit] - Hillsong United
4. Thrive - Casting Crowns
5. Do Something (Radio Version) - Matthew West
6. Back To You - Mandisa
7. Keep Making Me - Sidewalk Prophets
8. I Am - Crowder
9. Waterfall - Chris Tomlin
10. All The People Said Amen - Matt Maher
11. Shake - MercyMe
12. You Won’t Let Go - Michael W. Smith
13. My Heart Is Yours (Radio Version) - Passion (feat. Kristian Stanfill)
14. Glorious Unfolding (Radio Edit) - Steven Curtis Chapman
15. Forever (Radio Version) - Kari Jobe
16. I Will Follow - Jon Guerra
17. Beautiful - Dan Bremnes
18. Lay It Down - Sanctus Real
19. Mercy (Radio Version) - Matt Redman
20. Lift My Life Up - Unspoken
1. This Is Amazing Grace - Phil Wickham
2. Fix My Eyes - for KING & COUNTRY
3. Speak Life - TobyMac
4. Beautiful Day - Jamie Grace
5. Multiplied - NEEDTOBREATHE
6. More Of You - Colton Dixon
7. Write Your Story - Francesca Battistelli
8. No Man Is An Island - Tenth Avenue North
9. Press On - Building 429 (feat. Blanca Callahan)
10. Come Alive - Jeremy Camp
11. Alive (Radio Version) - Young & Free
12. Love Alone Is Worth The Fight - Switchfoot
13. Don’t Deserve You - Plumb
14. Your Love Is Like A River - Third Day
15. He Is With Us - Love & The Outcome
16. Satisfied - About A Mile
17. Words - Hawk Nelson (feat. Bart Millard)
18. American Noise - Skillet
19. Ready Set Go - Royal Tailor (feat. Capital Kings)

Disclosure: A review copy of WOW Hits 2015 Deluxe was provided for review by House of Praise, from whom you may purchase the album.

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