Christian Music Reviewposted by Crowns News on January 25, 2014
What a winter it's been up north! First we had a pre-Christmas ice storm that devastated trees and knocked out power for many (not my family though), then the bone-chilling polar vortex part one and two…..I've been staying home from the library and even church a lot as a result. Needless to say, I'm looking forward to spring warmth and green leaves on the trees. Being stuck in the house most of the time, the days tend to run into each other.
For many, maybe even you, this cold weather outside mirrors what's happening on the inside. So how can we break free from a barren winter of the soul and feel the sun on our faces again? How can we grow deep roots, vibrant leaves and delicious fruit? Casting Crowns attempts to answer that question in their latest album, Thrive.
The title song begins this album with a burst of joy. As believers, our lives are supposed to be filled to overflowing with God's power and new life. "Thrive" praises God and pleads for more of Him so we can have a life that goes beyond survival instincts and slogging through the days. "All You've Ever Wanted" is a confession of all the vain pursuits we're chasing that won't endure, all the battles we're fighting that have been won. The distance between us and God disappears when we give God the one thing He doesn't have that is in our power to give Him; our hearts. A powerful surrender of our lives to His love. The comforting "Just Be Held" encourages us to let go when we're in crisis mode, scrabbling to find purchase. Our strength is not enough to save us from plunging over the cliff. God's love alone will catch us and keep us from falling. The miracle of trouble is that it's when we're going through the valley that things are actually being made right in a roundabout, beautiful way.
"You Are The Only One" presents God as the sole solution to all the world's ills, reminding us that for every tragedy and hardship, there are glorious things that can come out of them. You could almost say (and I borrow this analogy from Kevin Alan Milne's The One Good Thing) that the rough, unfinished rocks in verse one that pass though the praise in the chorus become the smooth, refined stones of verse two; polished and perfected for God's purposes. "Broken Together" softly cuts through the lies we've told ourselves about what a marriage has to be for a man and his wife to remain together. We don't have to be perfect; in fact, it's when we lay bare our weaknesses and stop running in two different directions that we can finally heal and be as one. The honest urgency of "Love You With The Truth" shows us the folly of holding back the gospel in order to retain a good relationship with someone. Jesus said that his message would create strife and separation between believers and unbelievers, but He also charged us to throw His word out like a lifesaver to a drowning man. Whether or not he takes it is his decision; we have the obligation to at least make it available.
"This Is Now" is Peter standing on the other side of his betrayal of Christ, not sure how he wound up there and certain there's no way to go back. Musing about all he had seen and how tragic that when it really mattered, he failed his Lord. Yet despite his failure, Jesus still loved him and was willing to restore him. It's really the story of anyone who's walked away from God, and His response is still the same. "Dream For You" uses the stories of David vs Goliath and the virgin Mary to remind us that God's dreams for us are greater than any visions we have for how our lives should go. Every now and then, God throws us a curve ball; will we swing and risk striking out or fouling, or will we head back for the safety of the dugout? If we trust God's plan and go with it, we'll accomplish things beyond our wildest imaginings. The gentle refrain that entitles "Follow Me" answers the aimlessness, debauchery and stubbornness of our past with the same call in the present. No matter who you are or where you've been, He wants you to come to Him. He can restore, redeem and heal all who seek after Him.
"Heroes" debunks the myth that you have to do something flashy or glamorous to be living a courageous life. Rather, it is those who sacrifice their comfort, time, and lives to make someone else's life better behind the scenes that are truly deserving of our admiration. They never try to seek their own glory but rather God's, doing His will day in and day out, patiently, not losing hope, knowing their reward is eternal. "House Of Their Dreams" revisits the tragic territory of "American Dream", taking a poignant look at the cost of getting what we think we want. We may gain the world but if the price is our souls and each other, it's not worth it. Only surrender can reunite our separate lives and heal the wounds of too much time apart. "Waiting On The Night To Fall" warns us of the dangers of letting our guard down and compromising. If we allow even a shred of our old self to intrude on our new one, that's the only foot in the door the devil needs to sneak in like a thief and sabotage your witness as a Christian. We must be vigilant and rely on God's word to guide our actions and attitudes.
Thrive has got to be one of the best albums I've heard in a long time. The beauty of this album is that it doesn't just tell us what we need without scattering the bread crumbs we need to find it. Despite going over subject territory Casting Crowns has previously covered, it actually doesn't hurt Thrive one bit; it's less of a rehash and more of a reminder. For excellence in calling us to deeper, vibrant life, the 4.9 goes to…….Casting Crowns. (Sorry. It's award season.) 4.9/5
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Thrive has got to be one of the best albums I've heard in a long time. The beauty of this album is that it doesn't just tell us what we need without scattering the bread crumbs we need to find it.