“…and as I passed the fire I did not know whether it was hell or the furious love of God.”
- GK Chesterton, The Diabolist
A certain, magnificent comfort exists in the resolve that, of man’s innumerable conquests, fully grasping God’s love is one that will never be actualized. Such truth has left Christians scouring for words to best describe this holy affection since the Old Testament.
As Chesterton’s quote rattled around in Jeremy Riddle’s mind over a recent period of time, it was decided “furious” was the closest expression he was going to get regarding his experience with a divine love.
“It’s hard to come up with words that depict the magnitude of Christ’s love – the depth and width of it,” Jeremy says. “‘Furious’ doesn’t work outside of the context of love; we tend to translate the word as angry, but I see it as a super-powerful force; stronger, deeper, broader than our vocabulary can fully describe.”
So if each new album should serve as the next chapter in an artist’s life story, “Furious” is a well-suited project title for a man who’s spent much of the past year struggling to accurately express his experience of a passionate God amidst some life transition.
Four years on the road as a touring worship leader eventually took its toll on Jeremy, so in January 2011, the former Jr. High youth pastor came on staff as worship community pastor at Bethel Church in Redding, CA. Working under pastors Brian and Jenn Johnson, Jeremy facilitates a worship community of over 200 people within the church.
“My wife (Katie) and I have always had a heart to serve the local church and never wanted to do the full-time travel thing for very long, so it felt like a good time to transition into something different,” Jeremy says. “I’ve developed such an appreciation for the fruit that has been sowed from my life – personally and artistically – by being part of a local community.”
Consequently, Furious, Jeremy’s third studio project on Vineyard Music, came into fruition while coming to discover how closely (if not directly) correlated worship and community truly are with each other.
“These songs are a reflection of being part of something bigger than just me,” Jeremy says. “Through some significant growth in understanding and living out humility from a very independent place, I’ve shifted into a place where I can’t even claim this record is completely inspired by me. There are so many elements of the album that could never have flowed from me had I not been connected to people walking out life with me.”
Of all adjectives in the English language to title a worship record, “furious” – also the name of the album’s lead single – will certainly draw some attention and, perhaps, even some misperception of Jeremy’s emotional state. “It’s pretty hard to confuse what the song’s all about when listening to it in context,” he says. “Part of the wonder of our relationship with God is that it’s not predictable…and often confusing. It’s how Aslan – the iconic C.S. Lewis character – is described: ‘He’s not a tame lion; but He’s good.’ In the Bible, Job never got answers to his many questions, but he ultimately saw God and came to understand what He was doing – and it led him to repentance. I’m hoping ‘Furious’ will have that impact in a worship setting.”
As a worship leader devoted to and known for meticulously crafting songs with depth and hymn-like reverence on past projects, Jeremy stepped into the new album with the intent to write with greater simplicity. Leaning on the rawness of his heart, rather than his poetic acumen.
“This record is different because I wasn’t intentionally seeking out songs for specific needs or situations,” Jeremy asserts. “Worship songwriters should always ask if the content of their songs is really the word offering of our heart or simply a well-crafted lyric. I continuously tried to direct my focus onto delivering authentic expressions of my heart over something catchy and quotable.”
Never one drawn to the performance-centric realm of leading worship, Jeremy’s self-described recent “desert period” came to a gradual end as he began breaking away from “Jeremy Riddle events” that he encountered perpetually on the road. Concert events that, to him, felt more about selling tickets and entertaining a crowd than getting people into a deep, sacrificial place of worship.
The Riddle’s short time at Bethel Church has allotted plenty of opportunities for Jeremy to test-run a handful of tracks from Furious in corporate worship settings.
“Two songs from the new record – ‘Love Came Down’ and ‘One Thing Remains’ – have made it into the set almost every single time I’ve led worship this year,” Jeremy says. “I’ve seen the power these songs have had on people and I know how they connect. There’s a great hope in me that these will be sung in church for quite some time.”
Jeremy’s favorite tracks on Furious, however, end up at the end of the album: “Fall Afresh”, “Here” and “Always”.
“I love these songs, not for the corporate worship value as much as that they’re anthems of my own heart. They sum up the emotion of what my heart was trying to say during a lot of quiet time and direction-seeking over the past year.”