Prime Cuts: God Would You Forgive Us, Only a Holy God, Completely Overwhelmed
Overall grade: 5/5
In his iconic portrayal of Jesus as Aslan the Lion, C. S. Lewis has rightly described Christ as good, yet he's not safe. The same can be said of Here Be the Lion's debut album for Integrity Music, "Only a Holy God." On one hand, Here Be Lions joins countless worship teams all across the world in offering songs that boldly proclaim the relentless goodness of God climaxing in the death and the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Though such songs are by no means unique, Here Be Lions adds dimension and depth by their overwhelming passion and sincerity. On the other hand, Here Be Lions brings another type of songs to the canon that we don't hear too often. Worship songs that are dangerous; songs that prick our souls to repentance in the face of our holy God. In our feel-good milieu such songs are an anathema, yet they are a so Biblical and they are so much needed in our churches today.
Before we give exposition to these two clusters of songs, a word needs to be said about Here Be Lions. The team is founded by pastor, worship leader and songwriter Dustin Smith ("God Who Moves The Mountains," "Miracles"). Here Be Lions takes its name from the ancient mapping tradition in which explorers marked unknown, dangerous territory with a symbol and the phrase "Here Be Lions." Originally meant as a warning, the phrase has become a call for the Here Be Lions team to advance God's kingdom and authority. The Here Be Lions worship team, including Smith, his wife Jeanna, James Galbraith, Jordan Clause, Jeremy Weedman and Garner McGregor, aspires to create music that welcomes the power and presence of God in expectation of salvation, healing and restoration.
When Here Be Lions sings about tasting the Lord's goodness, they come at it with a voluptuous appetite. "Wildfire," the perfect song to begin a Sunday worship set, calls upon God to move across the church not in a whimper but as an uncontrollable wildfire. With vocals that are torched with an intense passion, "Wildfire" indeed lives up to its titular. The intensity doesn't flicker with the electric guitar accentuated "Wonder Working Wonder." Dustin Smith elbows out all timidity as he invites us into the consuming divine fire in the title cut and a definite album highlight,"Only a Holy God." But not everything is kept at the higher end of intensity, "Belong to You" is tender and comforting with loads of memorable lines: By Your blood I've been adopted/I have taken on Your name/And I need to be reminded/I belong to You.
Then, there are those songs that are dangerous. Leading the charge is the extra-superb ballad "God Would You Forgive Us." Decrying the spiritual degradation of the western church by detailing a laundry list of sins from idolatry to racism to empathy, this song is an soul-opener of how much we need to repent and seek the Lord in humility. Instead of those usual self-focused worship songs, this song actually has something to say and it has a message that really needs to be heard. "Completely Overwhelmed," a power ballad about self-emptying before this holy God, is the perfect response to "God Would You Forgive Us." In a time when congregants refuse to sing or participate during worship, "Power in Worship" essays our stupidity; worship is more than just singing songs, it allows heaven to invade and unleash its glories upon us.
In this regard, Here Be the Lions actually lives up to its appellation. They are bold to challenge the church to buckle up in ways that are gracious and ruminative. And they are not afraid to sing about the "while elephant" issues churches are facing, yet they are often unvocalized and ignored. For the sake of the advancement of God's kingdom, this album deserves wide circulation.