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Another Realm of Holiness
Posted November 18, 2013
By KevinDavis_NRT, Staff Reviewer

Phil Wickham has breathed several new worship anthems into the Church, like "Always Forever," "You're Beautiful," "Cannons," "Because of Your Love" and "At Your Name (Yahweh, Yahweh)." We sing all of those songs at my church on a regular basis, and I was excited to hear Phil's latest offering, The Ascension.

The lead single from the album is "This Is Amazing Grace," which is another song for the Church. The song references that we are God's sons and daughters. That is one of the truths we can cling to as believers. That's an example of God's amazing grace. In our fallen and sinful tendencies, He still thinks of us as His children, His sons and His daughters if we've accepted Jesus as our substitute and Savior. God views us "white as snow" through the blood of His son instead of in our dirty states. That alone is cause for celebration. The bridge is a glimpse of Heaven and what followers of Jesus will be singing for eternity. If you have put all of your hope and trust in Jesus Christ for your salvation, one day you'll be singing with a loud, celebratory voice: "Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, Worthy is the King who conquered the grave!" Amen to that!

I've been listening to the song leading up to hearing the whole album The Ascension, and I love where the song is placed in the order of songs on the album. I feel like the preceding songs, "The Ascension," "Holy Light" and "Carry My Soul" build up to this celebratory moment on the album. The song "This Is Amazing Grace" kind of reaches a crescendo, and anchors down one of the adoration and celebration moments in the context of the other songs. 

The album is based on the Psalms of Ascent. As I discussed with Wickham, "Many believe is that these Psalms were saved for the moment when the people of Israel were gathered together at the temple in Jerusalem to honor God, for Who He is, and for what He's promised to do. I imagine in my mind families, and towns and communities coming together and singing these songs that are sacred. I love that picture of the people of God being excited to be in His presence. Now we don't need to go to a temple, He is in us. The Church is His body, and every time we gather together and sing to Him we are ascending together."

The second half of the album leans into those Truths, with more of Wickham's signature vocal runs, as found in "When My Heart is Torn Asunder," "Mercy," and the gorgeous and worshipful closer, "Thirst." What stands out for me with this album is that with a similar message and musical vibe as found in "Because of Your Love" on Heaven & Earth, many of the songs feature synth-heavy beats combined with extremely catchy and very sing-able lyrics.

My favorite example is the hymn-like "Torn Asunder," where Phil belts out with passion: "There is Hope beyond the suffering, Joy beyond the tears, Peace in every tragedy, Love that conquers fear, I have found redemption in the blood of Christ, My body might be dying, but I'll always be alive!" Amen to that! 

Closing Thoughts:
I've long been a fan of Brit-rock bands like U2, Keane, Snow Patrol and others who make emotional alternative rock music, but don't always have edifying messages. The first time I heard Phil Wickham's song "Grace" from his self-titled major label debut, I was hooked by his enthusiastic and reverent songs, layered with a Brit-rock musical vibe. I've felt that he's improved with each new album and The Ascension takes me to another realm of holiness and thirsting for God's presence.

It is a completely worshipful album, in the style of Phil's previous offerings of enthusiastic praise and worship about our King and Savior, Jesus. Every single song could be added to your Sunday morning worship set. My favorites are "Holy Light," "Carry My Soul," "This is Amazing Grace," "When My Heart is Torn Asunder," "Mercy" and the gorgeous closer, "Thirst." Phil Wickham is one of my favorite worship leaders, and he writes and sings songs with an amazing passion and with unashamed praise and gratitude to our Savior.

Song to Download Now:
"This is Amazing Grace" (Get it on iTunes here.)

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