My first lengthy conversation with Paul Baloche took place about 5 or 6 years ago. Early on the conversation turned to theology. Paul assured me that his theology was “Jesus,” and he didn’t think it needed to be more complicated than that.
I’m happy to report Paul’s views have changed.
Paul’s new album, Glorious, is filled with intentional, gospel-centered theology that’s expressed in tunes that are both singable and memorable. Yes, you can find albums that are denser theologically and more cutting edge musically. But when it comes to writing accessible songs that communicate biblical truths clearly and sincerely, few do it as well as Paul Baloche. His past two albums (A Greater Song, Our God Saves) were evidence that Paul’s goal is to serve local churches with songs that enable the “word of Christ” to dwell in us richly (Col. 3:16). Glorious continues in that direction.
Musically the album hovers around the standard guitar-driven modern worship area, but without the overwhelming “wall of sound” that can get old so quickly. It has a live congregation feel, with applause in between the songs and a brief time of spontaneous singing at the end of How You Love Us. The live sound accents the fact that these songs were intended to be sung and not merely listened to.
Here are my thoughts on the individual songs. I starred my favorites.
*Glorious – A mid-tempo song that celebrates the glory of the risen Savior. The melody leaves plenty of space to contemplate the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. Love the chorus. Two of my favorite lines: “See the resurrected ruler of my heart,” and, “The hope of his returning fills the universe.”
*You Have Saved Us – A celebratory song that would have been a great addition to Sovereign Grace’s Sons & Daughters album. Oh well. “You have shown us love and mercy, we are strangers no more.” The second verse begins with a plea that God would “turn our hearts from earthly idols.” I appreciate the reminder that God saves us to make us holy. The chorus adds a “yeah” at the end, which I’d probably leave out if I was leading (I’ve never been a big fan of “yeah” in worship songs).
*Just To Be With You – A moving song of dedication. “I’m face to the ground, forsaking my pride, leaving my will, my burdens behind, All I want, all I need, is just to be with You.” And lest we think this is all about our commitment and resolve, the bridge reminds us, “You made a way for me, oh Savior.” Another great chorus.
Wonderful God – A reflection on how God’s mercy fell “and changed a heart as hard as mine.” The lyrics touch on themes of God’s faithfulness, sovereign grace, strength, and presence.
*How Great is the Love – Songs that focus on God’s love for us can easily become man-centered if we’re never told what the purpose of that love is or how it has ultimately been expressed. This song does both. “We were created for Your pleasure, for Your presence, for the glory of Your name” puts the focus on God. The chorus joyfully declares, “The weight of the cross, the curse of our shame, you carried it all and rose from the grave.” Great song.
To the Cross – “Where can I go but to the cross, to the cross, For there my shame You have washed away.” The number of times we sing about what Jesus accomplished for us at the cross is beginning to be an obvious focus of the album, and constantly draws our eyes to the glorious Savior. The chorus gets a little repetitious for me, but the tag is a joy to repeat: “Chains are broken, shame has fallen, all my sins are gone.” Paul prays at the end of this song and rather than simply emote, he reminds us of what God reveals to us in the cross: redemption, healing, compassion, lovingkindness, love, and truth.
Today is the Day – Not one of the stronger songs for me. Ps. 118:24 refers prophetically to the day of salvation in which God is going to deliver his people through the Messiah (Mt. 21:42). Here it’s used as a declaration of our trust in God’s faithfulness as we leave our past behind, but the original meaning of the verse is grander than the song seems to imply.
Shaken – We don’t sing many songs that help us appreciate God’s chastening. This song, written by Paul’s wife, Rita, does just that. “No suffering for the moment is pleasant but it brings forth the peaceful fruit of righteousness; Jesus, my righteousness…Only You remain.” Difficult to get into a song, but this one does it well.
*We Will Hold On – This song is primarily a commitment to hold on to the love of the Savior even when we’re “tested by the fire, persecuted, and reviled.” But rather than think it’s all about our efforts, we’re reminded that “in our weakness” it’s Jesus who will “make us strong.”
*Almighty – One of my favorite songs on the album. The melody’s a little challenging, but the lyrics focus on the return of Christ. “You will judge the nations, You’ll reward Your servants, both the great and small.” We need more songs that remind us that there really will be a judgment day when all injustices will be made right.
A New Hallelujah – The weakest song on the album, from my perspective, even if it was voted 2009 “inspirational song of the year.” The focus is primarily on us and what we’re doing, and not a lot is said about why we’re doing it.
Bottom line, Glorious contains songs of faith, hope, commitment, trust, and praise that will encourage your church, be a joy to listen to, and stir up a love for the risen Savior who came to purchase our forgiveness and rescue us from our sins.
Tomorrow, Paul kindly answers a few questions I emailed him about making the album.
“Yes, you can find albums that are denser theologically.”
Today, me and my fiancée were talking about worship lyrics and mentioned the theology thing. We often find ourselves wanting to hear something more profound but, sadly, finding that music is not always easy in the vast sea of worship music. Could you please recommend a few albums or artists you like in this respect? (besides Sovereign Grace music, which we already like)
Thanks for asking. The hymns of Keith & Kristyn Getty (and Stuart Townend) are thoughtful and theologically driven. You can find many of them at Keith’s site. I’d also recommend Indelible Grace, David Ward (reformedpraise.org), and Alex Mejias with High Street Hymns.
> Paul assured me that his theology was “Jesus,”
> and he didn’t think it needed to be more
> complicated than that.
> I’m happy to report Paul’s views have changed.
Hm, I don’t quite get this. What’s wrong when someone says his theology is just “Jesus”? Is it too elusive?
Philipp, exactly. When someone says their theology is “Jesus,” we don’t know whether it’s Jesus the moral example, Jesus the great teacher, Jesus the prophet, Jesus as I’ve experienced him, or Jesus the crucified and risen Savior of the world. There’s a difference between pursuing simplicity and being simplistic. The one seeks to state things in an understandable way, while the other leaves out vital information.
Speaking of “yeah” in worship songs, the “oh yeah!” in the song “There Is A Day” by Phatphish seems really natural and actually indispensable. I tried replacing it with “Amen”, but “oh yeah!” is much more fitting. Listen to the interview: http://www.phatfish.net/video/thereisadayinterview.html.
Bob – thanks so much for this album review. There are so many reasons why I needed to read it today…I was blessed and humbled and impassioned and humbled some more. So thank you.
Thank you for your kind review. I am constantly challenged by your heart for God’s Word and for making sure that the songs we sing today are rooted in the Truth and Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. For many years now, as I’m finishing a song, I actually think the thought, “Bob Kauflin is going to hear this. Is this biblical? Is this True according to the scriptures?” That’s a good thing Bob. I’m grateful for your many roles in the body of Christ and for your faithfulness in earnestly serving His bride.
I trust you know that when I hear your songs I’m always listening to see how you’ve captured a profound biblical truth in a simple, personal, and powerful way. And by God’s grace, you always deliver.
Thanks for your very helpful and discerning review. As a worship leader you and Paul model a love for Jesus and for His Bride, and many of these new songs from Paul will find there way into our church’s repertoire. We sung “How Great is the Love” at our Thanksgiving service and that was a powerful moment. “You Have Saved Us” is up next in the queue.
I thank God for godly, humble lead worshippers like Bob and Paul. Thanks for blessing us.
I was alone in my hotel room during my overseas business trip. I woke up in the middle on the night and was listening to the song “Glorious” on my Kindle.
I was so moved to tears with these words:
“Glorious my eyes have seen the glory of the Lord. Glorious He stands above the rules of the earth. Glorious…glorious You are glorious.
My heart was so filled with awe and adoration and worship to our God. Indeed, our God is Glorious more than any words can express. Thanks for the song Paul.