Introductory Note: In appreciation of Petra’s fortieth year in music and ministry, I am ranking their albums from least best to greatest. You can read my opening post here.
God Fixation (1998, Word Records)
Lineup: John Schlitt (lead vocals), Louie Weaver (drums), Pete Orta (lead and rhythm guitars), Lonnie Chapin (bass), Kevin Brandow (guitars)
After 1995’s No Doubt the lineup to Petra seemed like a revolving door, so in some ways the sound kept changing, and those like me longing for a return to the sounds of the Beyond Belief/Unseen Power era were left wanting. As a result, for years this one sat in my library and rarely got played. But as time has worn on I have come to have more of an appreciation for it. While it doesn’t rank among my favorite Petra albums, there is still plenty to like about God Fixation.
The lyrics to the opening track, “If I Have To Die For Someone,” are some of Bob Hartman’s best and they point to the uniquely sacrificial and atoning death of Christ: “‘Cause I don’t know if I could, even if I think I would / If I had to die for someone, If I had to die for someone else / How could I ever give my life to set the guilty free? / If I had to die for someone, If I had to die for someone else like me?”
That was the most popular song on this album and it’s not hard to see why. As for other songs, “Hello Again” points to the reunion we’ll have with saints in heaven. “A Matter of Time” implores the listener not to wait to follow the Lord because we only have a little bit of time to do so. “Falling Up” speaks to the way in which we always fall down on our own, but in Christ we are actually falling up, not with Him because of ourselves, but because of Him. “Over the Horizon” points to the glory that awaits after these days which are hard.
The title track, “God Fixation,” is a steady rocker about having “a singleness of heart, an undistracted mind.” “Set For Life” points to the satisfaction we find in Christ. “Magnet of the World” is a powerful song, with these lyrics, “When will I be free from this, the unfulfilling counterfeit / When will I learn to resist, the constant pull that does exist / Take me farther from this path of least resistance now / Will You show me how? // And if it wasn’t for Your love that holds me I would give in to the magnet of the world.” “Shadow Of A Doubt” is a song about how Christ is found whenever our doubts go away.
The leads to what is personally my favorite track on the album, “St. Augustine’s Pears.” The majority of Bob Hartman’s lyrics have been accompanied by Scripture references in the liner notes, but this one refers to Augustine’s Confessions, and relates a story told by the Bishop of Hippo about how in his youth he stole pears just to, for no real reason or need, and it haunted him with guilt because it was by doing things like that he traded away his dignity and integrity, for practically nothing. He concludes, “Why do we love all the things that are wrong? Forbidden fruit has a strange siren song. Why do we do what we don’t want to do? When we live with regrets our whole life through.” There’s a very Romans 7 feel to it.
The album concludes with “The Invitation,” a song playing upon the parable of the king who invited others to the wedding of his son. It is a beautiful song pointing to disciple to invite others and inviting those who aren’t disciples to accept God’s invitation.
Just typing this out has me appreciating this album more than I did, but I’m keeping it at this ranking because what follows is just that good. But chances are you have never listening to God Fixation. I recommend you remedy that situation soon. You won’t regret it.