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NOT TO US (2002)
Not To Us - Click to view![soapbox] Worship records are a dime a dozen these days, and personally I find it disturbing that glorifying our Lord is rapidly becoming a marketing tool. Worship is not something that can be packaged and sold, nor is it an emotional experience that gives us warm fuzzies whenever we sing one of our favorite hymns. Worship is a lifestyle, a way of living, which ultimately draws us into a deeper relationship with God. Now the Christian music industry would have us believe otherwise, since everyone and their mom has already put a worship album on the shelves. Seeing the industry-driven machine behind it all is probably the main reason why I've never been fond of worship music. [/soapbox]

With that said, Chris Tomlin's Not to Us is the most brilliant and enlightening worship recording I've heard thus far. At a time when everyone thinks they've nailed down the worship scene, Tomlin is one artist who's doing it right by placing utmost focus on God. In fact, that's the entire point behind Not to Us: the glory should be directed towards God rather than the artists themselves. Rather than having an artist and a band saying, "Look how cool we can be doing worship!" Tomlin and his friends strive to show us how worship is something pleasing to God.

"Everything" opens the disc with a few humble acoustic strums before blossoming into a full-blown, semisonic cry to God, reaffirming that everything good comes from the Father of Lights and the Giver of Life. Credit is due Tomlin's band in this instance as well as several others, i.e. the title track where they radiate a very U2-like vibe as Tomlin sings the poignant lyrics, "Not to us, but to your name / be the glory." Even the guitar solo on this song serves as an offering to God in its own unique way, wailing along with the throngs of believers on their hands and knees, crying before God's throne. Track #4 explores the overall majesty of our "Wonderful Maker," as rippling, serene synth effects accompany the gentle chords from Tomlin's guitar. Even with all the blessings God gives us, "Wonderful Maker" comfortably assures us, "No eye has fully seen, how beautiful the cross / and we have only heard the faintest whispers of how great you are." As our hearts continue to reach upward, the soothing rain of God's presence flows into the live recording of "Come Let Us Worship," an anthem to come together as kingdom citizens and merely worship the Lamb. An interesting combo of a drum machine and a Hammond organ are thrown into the mix, lifting the somber air amidst the service. Crank your stereo to eleven for "The River," a rocking cascade of grace personified. Hearing of the ever-flowing mercy provided by the blood of Christ will make listeners want to dive in headfirst. Likewise is the mood of "Unchanging," except the electric guitar is scaled down to a mellower level, and the chorus reads simply "So we raise up holy hands, to praise the Holy One, who was and is and is to come." Undoubtedly destined to become a sing-along favorite, the cut ends with a reminder that the God we serve is the same God who reigned at the universe's conception. Sounding more like an adult contemporary hit than a worship song, "Come Home Running" falls in towards the end of the record as a benediction: "Oh heart of mine, why must you stray / From one so fair, you run away / And one more time you have to pay / the heaviness of needless shame." This is appropriately used as an invitation, and the glorious notes of piano keys melt smoothly into the stringy batter of guitars and violins.

Brimming with talent and exceeding artistic capacity, Chris Tomlin has finally done something many other worship artists fail at: producing an awe-inspiring worship album that actually brings praise and glory to God and inspires listeners to do the same. Needless to say, anyone who can make me enjoy a worship recording deserves major accolation. Not to Us is an entirely different worship experience altogether, and trust me when I say that this album is at the forefront of modern worship for 2002.
- Rick Foux
November 2002
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