Petra’s albums: #12 – No Doubt

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.

No Doubt (1995, Word)

Lineup: John Schlitt (lead vocals), David Lichens (guitar), Ronny Cates (bass), Jim Cooper (keyboards), Louie Weaver (drums)

This was the beginning of a new era for Petra, one which began, in my opinion, with promise, but was very short lived. Bob Hartman stopped touring and his work with Petra was behind the scenes, and legendary keyboardist John Lawry left the band after over a decade with them. By the time their preceding album – Wake-Up Call – was released and had its run, the music scene had changed dramatically. The arena rock sound that had permeated their successful run of previous albums had given way in the culture to a more alternative sound. In this album we see signs of that, with lower mixed drums and a sometimes grungy guitar. The Elefante brothers were back producing after Brown Bannister produced the previous album. The result in the end is a mixed bag.

But one song stands out, and it’s probably not the one of which you’re thinking. The title track received a lot of radio air play and was even featured on that year’s WOW CD set (remember when those were the thing?). No, I’m talking about the opening song, “Enter In,” which in my mind might be the best song Petra has ever put out. That song, alone, raises this album at least two spots higher than it would have been had it not been on the album. “Enter In” is Hebrews 10:19-23 in musical form, and it’s a thing of beauty, pointing the listener to the fact that in Christ we have access to a holy God. Through Christ we sinners, who so often forsake the magnitude of the cross, have access to the Holy of Holies.

Here are the lyrics:

Once a year for sacrifice just one priest could pay the price
And step inside the inner veil to make the people free
Temple stood the same for years till the Nazarene appears
Things will never be the same since 33 A.D.
When He spoke and bowed Hid head
He who saved the world was dead
Then the earth began to shake
Heaven’s wall began to break
Opening the Holy Place
The temple veil is torn in two
The way is clear for me and you

(Chorus)
We can enter in, enter in
Into Heaven’s Holy place
We can enter in, enter in
Boldly by His blood we can approach His throne of grace
We can enter in a new and living Way
By our faith He will receive us when we pray

Now without a second look we forget what all it took
To be seen as innocent by His Holy eyes
Never thinking foolishly there is something He won’t see
For our lack of righteousness there is no disguise
He won’t look the other Way
Someone’s life will have to pay
Once for all it has been done
Taken out upon His Son
He remembers it no more
Now for us He is the Door
Opened up forevermore

We can enter in, enter in
We can enter in His gates with thankfulness and praise
Into the once forbidden Holy place
We can live in goodness and in mercy all our days
We can enter in a new and living Way
By our faith He will receive us when we pray
We don’t have to be afraid to seek His face
We can enter in

Needless to say it’s a personal favorite, and again, if it’s not the best song Petra has done it’s got to be in the top five. You don’t get songs, especially rock songs, with this kind of theological depth very often anymore. It’s the leadoff hitter for the album.

“Think Twice” is a steady rocker about the guarding of the Holy Spirit upon the believer that might be tempted by sin. “Heart of a Hero” is essentially about biblical courage, making reference to David facing Goliath and the three Hebrews renamed Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, but I’m not crazy about the ‘hero’ language.

I like “More Than A Thousand Words” lyrically. Musically there’s something missing, but the lyrics which are essentially about the imperfection and insufficiency of our worship and words in this life are solid. It’s pointing the believer to worship God.

As noted before, the most famous song on this album was the title track, which is softer than most Petra ballads and about how faith in God is what you need to get through life’s trials. “Right Place” is a faster song that follows “No Doubt” well lyrically, as it is about the believer realizing that following Christ is always the right place to be in, even when everything else says it’s not worth it. “Two Are Better Than One” is about the value of Christian friendship when you need to get through tough times. Are you sensing a theme in some of these songs? There is a lot about standing firm in faith in the midst of whatever.

The lyrics take a bit of a turn with the ballad “Sincerely Yours,” in which a believer is saying to God, “Here is all I have to give / I offer up this life I live / I am sincerely Yours.” “Think On These Things” recalls Philippians 4:8, mentioned in the liner notes, and its placement in the album suggest that the alternative to giving into sin in the hard times is to devote oneself to Christ and to those things which are pleasing to Him. “For All Your Worth” reassures the listener that he or she is important, worth something very costly, to God. The album then closes with “We Hold Our Hearts Out to You,” which I particularly enjoy, and it’s about collectively giving over ourselves to and relying on God who is our strength.

So lyrically, with the possible exception of “Heart of a Hero,” I am very pleased with the lyrics on this album. The music just isn’t quite there in several places. I would’ve liked to have seen this lineup have time to gel through what was essentially a transition album. As it stands, I still recommend the album for “Enter In” and a few other tracks.

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