This past weekend, I went down to visit the family in Texarkana, and my older sister had purchased the new Casting Crowns CD, "The Altar and the Door," and she was so kind as to give me a copy of it. So on my drive back to The Rock Sunday afternoon, I did something I never do. I put in the CD and listened to the whole thing, from beginning to end! (It is a two-hour drive, after all, so I figured, why not!)
Recently I read a comment on someone's blog about more contemporary worship songs, as opposed to older ones. He said "I do find a fair number (but certainly not all) of contemporary praise songs to be of the 'Jesus is My Homie' variety, with that incessant refrain of 'Me, Me, Me, and Jesus too.' " I'll grant him that; some songs do seem rather shallow.
Which is why I was so surprised by how much "meat", if you will, was in the songs on this album. It speaks so deeply of the struggles we face as Christians, and it challenges us to live the life that Christ has called us to.
The CD starts out by challenging our walk as Christians with its first track, "What This World Needs", by saying that it doesn't need "another prophet in an Armani suit." Rather, we need to stop "blending in so well that people can't see the difference"--so that we can show the world the Father and Savior that they really need.
The third track on the CD is entitled "Slow Fade," and to be quite honest, I was shocked when I heard it, because it serves as a warning. It reminds you that as a Christian, the things you say, the things you do, the things you see, and the places you go...they really do matter. The song is reminiscent of the Sunday School song you learned when you were a kid, "Oh be careful little eyes what you see..." Powerful song, you gotta hear this one!
Next, of course, is "East to West." If you listen to any amount of contemporary Christian radio, you've probably already heard this one, as it was the single that was released awhile back. It deals with the emotions we all feel from time to time, when we have difficulty accepting God's forgiveness and allowing Him to change us into Christ's image. Beautiful song...I blogged about it here.
The title track, obviously, is "The Altar and the Door." When I first heard the title of this CD, I couldn't help but wonder what it was about. After hearing this song, I understand completely, and I believe it makes an excellent title track, as it encompasses what the entire CD is about. This CD deals with the struggles we all face as we try to turn our faith into fact, and live out our Christianity in a real way. This song speaks of that struggle. It laments how often we come to worship, and we come to His altar and lay our hearts out for Him...only to reclaim them for ourselves before we make it out the door. You'll hear the prayer, "Lord, I cry like so many times before, but my eyes are dry before I leave the floor! Oh Lord I try, but this time, Jesus, how can I be sure I will not lose my follow-through between the altar and the door?"
Another song also speaks to this paradox that we are caught up in--the struggle of putting our own lives aside in order to find life in Christ. The question is asked , "Just how close can I get, Lord, to my surrender without losing all control?" We try to hang on when we are called to let go. I like how fellow blogger Patrick Mead described this struggle not too long ago, as he said we are trapped in Romans 7, but called to live in Romans 8. We all feel like this at times, but God loves us still. The title of the song is "Somewhere in the Middle" and it is very quickly becoming my favorite song on the CD!
There is a very interesting song on the CD entitled "Prayer For A Friend." Mark Hall, lead singer of Casting Crowns, and author of this song says of it, "This may be the earliest of any of my songs to be used on a Crowns record. Maybe 15 years old. I was heartbroken before God for a friend who wouldn’t listen. God showed me that nothing is impossible with God." If you've ever poured out your heart to God for the sake of someone that you love, then this song will speak to you.
Yet interspersed with all of these songs that speak of the struggles that we face as Christians, you will also hear songs of praise that are often on our hearts as well. "Every Man" reminds us that there is, indeed, hope for every person. Jesus is that hope, and it is our job as Christians to make sure the people we come in contact with know that.
"The Word Is Alive" celebrates how God chose to make Himself known to us. His Word, living and active, has a message of hope for us that will not pass away. Yet the song "I Know You're There" also celebrates that He is not only in His Word, but He is active in the world. Mark Hall says of this song, "What a moment, when we realize that God is not a book, and we can have a relationship with Him."
Finally, the CD ends with the song "All Because Of Jesus." Truly, every good thing...even our life itself...is because of Him.
For more information about this wonderful CD which walks with us on our journey from the altar to the door, visit http://www.castingcrowns.com/.