Written by: Laura Chambers (9/15/2016)
As children, we are encouraged to dream big. Between the fantasy worlds we encounter in the pages of fiction and on the television screen, and the stories of heroic men and women that fill our history, we certainly have no shortage of inspiration. We long to accomplish things that will give our lives meaning and make a real difference in the world.
Sometimes that longing makes us get ahead of ourselves; we expect to be able to run before we can walk. This is especially true in our spiritual formation. Although we become transformed at the moment of our conversion, this doesn’t translate into instant perfection. Nor do we walk into an elevator, bypassing all the intermediate floors on a one-way ride to the top.
Casting Crowns, as anyone who has read my past reviews of their music will know, has been one of my favorite bands for years. Their songs have had a special place in my heart since I found a copy of The Altar and the Door in the music section of my local library. The Very Next Thing is a reminder that God isn’t asking us to become a hero of the faith overnight; He just wants us to trust Him throughout our rough-and-tumble journeys.
“Hallelujah” takes a minute to get warmed up, but once it does, it chooses a natural place to begin; creation and the fall. From the moments before man existed to his first rebellion, from our redemption to Christ’s coming, the common thread throughout is glory to God. It’s important to get a clear picture of where we’ve been and where we’re going before we can appreciate where we are. Daydreams can steal our power to act today, as “The Very Next Thing” shows us, a reminder that we’re missing out on our present if we focus on the future. We’re so eager to leap ahead that we’re liable to skip a necessary step in our zeal. Instead, we ought to ask God what He wants us to do next; tomorrow can wait. Could have done without the crowd vocals; there’s no punch to them, and I was looking for that. “One Step Away” asks us which decision we would wish to change if we could do it over. Even if we’ve drifted from where we ought to be, all it takes to return home is a single step; surrender. Classic CC, with an encouraging message that may just provide that last shove towards the throne. “Oh My Soul” gets contemplative and comforting with an inner dialogue in which the individual simultaneously confesses pain and weakness, while attempting to bring peace to their own broken state. By reminding ourselves of God’s promises, our perspective changes from despondency to assurance.
“What If I Gave Everything” presents a common dichotomy; the difference between what we long to become and the ways we eventually wind up failing God. He asks us to walk forward in faith and we can’t make ourselves move an inch. What will it take for surrender to stop being a rhetorical question? “God Of All My Days” shows that God is the answer for every need, every moment. No matter where we are in our journey, whether we’re floundering or flying, He accompanies us and completes us. He does not change. Certainty permeates the music; you can tell it’s not just something to sing about with these people. Stepping out with a little acapella intro, “When The Godman Passes By” raucously celebrates the stories of those who encountered Jesus during His ministry on Earth, particularly Zacchaeus and the woman caught in adultery. There’s no telling what can happen when He walks into our lives. Joyous fiddle accompaniment makes this seem more like a romp than a Bible story, but God is awesome. Why not? “For All You Are” pauses for a moment in the ashes of shattered dreams to lay down ourselves in exchange for Jesus’ power and blessings. Confident that He will finish all that He began, we can be healed by His wounds.
The ladies take the lead on “Song That The Angels Can’t Sing”, celebrating the redemption that uniquely belongs to the children of God. Because He came in the form of a man and died for our sins, we can break loose from our imprisonment and follow after Him. Borrowing from “Amazing Grace“ ought to feel like a cliché, but it just fits here. “Make Me A River” earnestly prays for our days to begin with God’s vision and heart replacing our own selfish outlook. We desire to be a tributary of His living water for the people in our world. We can only dispense grace when we are overflowing with it ourselves. “No Other Name” declares the preeminence of Jesus’ name above every other. When every other avenue is exhausted, He still endures, powerful and holy. Clocking in at 6 minutes 21 seconds, it’s the longest track of the album, but appropriately so, as it’s a worship song. Not that the others aren’t, to one extent or another, but this song throws off all baggage in every direction and focuses simply on Jesus. “Loving My Jesus” closes out with a sinner’s ballad, the kind of song you hear as the credits roll by slowly at the end of a film. Ultimately, we would love for all of the people in our life to love Him as we do. When we recognize who we are in light of His love and how far we’ve come, we can only express our gratitude in love. The one thing we want to be remembered for is how He touched our lives.
If you’re familiar with Casting Crowns’ prior projects, you’ll be able to recognize some of Mark Hall’s earlier themes intermingled with the new material; drawing from the well and high/low lights from the life of Peter, in particular. While some may go the cynical route and consider these instances a retread of their past projects, I choose to see them in a positive light. Some things bear repeating in order for them to sink in; we are quick to forget and slow to trust.
From the first song to the last, the message of The Very Next Thing rises from the inmost depths of God’s heart and flows down into ours; He responds to our cries and we respond to His grace. We don’t have to get it right from the start, or, upon redemption, achieve perfection thereon in. The struggle is not ours to fight alone. Here He comes down the road toward us; all we have to do is run towards Him one step at a time, and He will carry us through all of the ups and downs.
Released: September 16, 2016
Label: Beachstreet Records
- Hallelujah (5:14)
- The Very Next Thing (3:30)
- One Step Away (3:37)
- Oh My Soul (4:16)
- What If I Gave Everything (3:23)
- God Of All My Days (5:03)
- When The God Man Passes By (4:34)
- For All You Are (5:24)
- Song That The Angels Can’t Sing (3:22)
- Make Me A River (4:44)
- No Other Name (6:21)
- Loving My Jesus (4:33)
12 Tracks, 54:01
Buy on iTunes
More from Casting Crowns:
- Casting Crowns (2003)
- Live From Atlanta EP (2004)
- Lifesong (2005)
- Lifelong Live (2006)
- The Altar and the Door (2007)
- Peace On Earth (2008)
- Until The Whole World Hears (2009)
- Until The Whole World Hears Live (2010)
- Come To The Well (2011)
- The Acoustic Sessions Vol. 1 (2013)
- Thrive (2014)
- A Live Worship Experience (2015)
- The Very Next Thing (2016)
Links for Casting Crowns: