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Made to Thrive
Posted January 13, 2014
By KevinDavis_NRT, Staff Reviewer

Atlanta-based Casting Crowns has consistently delivered music that points believers back to what truly matters, and the band does so yet again with Thrive. The album includes twelve new songs that connect to lead singer Mark Hall's new devotional book of the same title, which is divided into sections exploring the themes of digging deep and reaching out.

The energetic and infectious title track "Thrive" establishes the thesis statements of the album with the lyrics "Into Your Word we're digging deep to know our Father's heart / into the world we're reaching out to show them who You are." The entire album and book is inspired by Psalm 1, which states: "But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night. He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water that brings forth its fruit in its season…"

"To Know You," which is based on Philippians 3:8, has a similar theme. The song celebrates what it means to know Jesus: it's to know His Word and have a personal relationship with Him, as sung with the words "Just to know You and make You known we lift Your name on high." That's a great way of expressing what it means to thrive.

As Christians, our daily walk is about knowing Jesus and making Him known. The song "You Are The Only One" expresses this truth in its lyrics: "I want to know You more / I want to make You known / I want this world to see that You're alive in me." We are all the hands and feet of Jesus, and we are the temple of the Holy Spirit.

Lead singer Mark Hall writes and sings some of the best lyrics in the business. Often, he sings about not being content with where we are but getting to be where we should be as displayed in previously released song "Somewhere in the Middle."

That theme continues with the excellent song "All You've Ever Wanted," which has a clever inclusion of classic Crowns song titles "The Altar and the Door" and "Here I Go Again" in the lyrics. Like those songs, this song deals with our struggle with failure, the Enemy's biggest trick. On page 115 of the book Thrive, Mark Hall says "We fail because we take a God-given need and try to fill it with the world's answer. That's what sin is." The song answers that struggle with the declaration: "So I'll stop living off of how I feel / And start standing on Your truth revealed / Jesus is my strength, my shield / And He will never fail me."

"Love You With the Truth," co-written with Bernie Herms, is another stand-out song with a challenging and uplifting refrain: "Jesus is the Truth, the Life, the Way / When we love, we earn the right to speak the Truth / when we speak Truth we show the world we truly love… / let my life and my words be the proof / I'm gonna love you with the Truth."

"This Is Now" was co-written with Matthew West, and is another biblically based song with a yearning, prayerful chorus reflecting believers and Peter's doubt. "This is now, I wish I could go back but I don't know how / I remember when I stood my ground, I swore I'd never let You down / I want to be that man again, but that was then, this is now," the lyrics admit. The song switches to the Person of Jesus reassuring us that "My child I bore your Cross, I wore your crown / When you couldn't come to Me, My Love came down, so take My hand, I'll lead you out, that was then, this is now."

There are a few soul-stirring ballads on the album, including "Broken Together," "Follow Me" (sung by Megan Garrett and one of my all-time favorite Crowns songs) and "House of Their Dreams." Mark Hall grew up with dyslexia and God called him to write and sing songs, which led to "Voice of Truth." Hall's personal story and stirring songs challenge listeners in times of self-doubt to listen to "the voice of Truth."

Each song displays the signature tenderness and sensitivity that listeners have come to love about this band with lyrics including the poignant "Maybe you and I were never meant to be complete, could we just be broken together?" I lose it at the end of "House of Their Dreams" when Hall sings "As Daddy prays we're trapped in our own worlds, with our own wars, with our cell phones and our closed doors / God only You can save our family, and on this Rock we'll build / on this Rock we'll build, the house of our dreams." That's one of the best family restoration songs I've ever heard, born from Casting Crowns' commitment to families.

Closing Thoughts:
The Christian walk is a balance of knowing God's Word and being the hands and feet of Jesus, which is what the band has demonstrated in an unwavering commitment to singing songs about. I've always greatly respected their music ministry and have come to cherish that focus. In this era of lyrical ambiguity, it is refreshing when an artist wears their heart on their sleeves. Every song points to the goals of the devotional book and album Thrive, which is to encourage Christians to have a faith grounded in the Truth of the Bible and to live out the words of James 4:17 (NKJV): "Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead."

This album is all about encouraging listeners that we can do more than just survive, we were made to thrive. These songs are an excellent companion for those looking to go deeper than just consuming music and instead want to experience the Truth of God's Word washing over you. Once you allow that indwelling, you can't help but want to "speak the Truth in love," which has been a hallmark of this award-winning band.

These are some of the best songs I've heard from this anointed band, and you'll want to replay this album over and over. All of the songs display excellent examples of digging deep into the Bible and then reaching out and sharing the love of Jesus. Thrive is sure to be one of the year's best.

Song to Download Now:
"All You've Ever Wanted" (Get it on iTunes here.)

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