Casting Crowns – Healer (Deluxe)

Reunion Records / Beach Street Records

Release Date: August 26th 2022

Reviewed by: Joshua Andre

Casting Crowns– Healer (Deluxe) (Amazon mp3/iTunes)

Track Listing:

  1. Desert Road
  2. Healer
  3. Jesus At A Distance
  4. The Devil Is On The Run
  5. Scars In Heaven
  6. No Hurt
  7. Crazy People
  8. Anything But Easy
  9. All Because Of Mercy
  10. 2nd Opinions
  11. The Power Of The Cross
  12. I’m Still Out Here
  13. Song Of A Broken Heart
  14. Gentle Healer

If there’s a singer, a songwriter and someone in the CCM industry who has gone through hard trials, without question the lowest of lows, and has come through the other side somewhat relatively unscathed- it’s probably Mark Hall of Casting Crowns. The band has been around for a very long time, with their 2003 self-titled debut marking plenty more albums and hits, as well as awards and accolades- and with each listener and critic praising the 7-piece worship/pop/CCM band, Casting Crowns takes it all in their stride. Unassuming in the delivery of their songs (I don’t think they care very much for the flash, the big nor the grandiose!), it’s not really the music that they’ll be remember for so much, but it’s the lyrics. Biblical lyrics rooted in spiritual truth about a God who loves and adores us for all eternity. And about practical things that we can do in our daily walk with God so that we can stay closer to Him. Casting Crowns, for all their good songs such as “Who Am I?”, “Voice Of Truth”, “If We Are The Body”, “Praise You In The Storm”, “Lifesong”, “Slow Fade”, “East To West”, “Until The Whole World Hears”, “Glorious Day”, “Courageous”, “Jesus Friend Of Sinners”, “Thrive”, “All You’ve Ever Wanted”, “Just Be Held”, “Oh My Soul”, “One Step Away”, “Only Jesus”, “Nobody”, “One Awkward Moment”, “Scars In Heaven”, and “The Power Of The Cross” to name a few; are still doing this artist and music thing as part-time. And that’s…quite remarkable, that they can keep going at this pace, and be full time youth pastors at all of their respective churches, yet still churn out high quality albums. But if that doesn’t wow you, then I’d have to say that their latest album Healer (Deluxe) will.

For the band, I’d have to say that The Very Next Thing from 2016, was probably, and still is probably going to be the most personal of the band’s career, in that the bulk of the songs were written and recorded in light of Mark Hall’s cancer diagnosis. We reviewed the album here, and we concluded that there was this honesty and vulnerability there that isn’t present in many other Casting Crowns’ albums. Later on in 2018, we also reviewed Only Jesus; and Only Jesus has a kind of fearlessness to it overall, and a sense of ‘ok, we know where God is leading us, so what do we do now, and what are the things God is telling me to do in our lives to get to where He wants us to go?’ Mark was literally teetering on the edge of death- and he could have died at any moment, so I guess the boldness and courage displayed in that album was warranted. Mark has got a new lease on life, so why not use it actively to spread the gospel more and more? Only Jesus is the culmination of possibly the most difficult two years to song-write…for Mark at least. In the end, I personally was so touched by the album- and I find it as transparent and as hopeful, powerful and inspiring as my favourite Casting Crowns album of all- The Altar And The Door, which is a perfect Casting Crowns album in my mind.

But we’re not here to rehash the past, no matter how brilliant and exquisite Casting Crowns’ albums are. There’s always Jon’s blog about the group for you all to read if you want a deep dive into the history of the group and how the group has influenced us in our walk with Jesus. We’re here instead, to speak about Casting Crowns’ latest album Healer. I know, I know, Jon already wrote about this 7-track album in January this year. And yes… it’s true. But since that time, Mark and co. have added 7 more songs and rearranged the order of the track list. And so, it begs the question- does the 14 track project, which is essentially a new 7 song EP, deserve to be ‘reviewed’ in the traditional sense, with the tracks talked about in order, or only glossed over, with the ‘new’ tracks to be written about more in depth? Well… like Jon, I’ve been tremendously blessed and impacted by this group- and Mark Hall & co. are one of my favourite Christian bands out there, ever…alongside others like Tenth Avenue North, Switchfoot, Skillet and for KING & COUNTRY, to name a few. Even though the music is standard CCM, as Casting Crowns write music that is primarily radio friendly and accessible to the average joe person; it is the lyrics that astound and amaze me deeply- these guys carefully craft some of Christian music’s most emotive and poignant lyrics. In essence and to put it bluntly; lyrically- the band is top notch, with all of the lyrics grounded in the Word of God, and reminding us of the qualities of God and who we are in light of that. And so, as I have not had the pleasure of giving you my thoughts on the 7 already released songs from Healer, I will do so quickly (only because my sentiments echo Jon’s which have already been written, and written in a way that I reckon I don’t even need to really expand upon!), but then I’ll dive deeper into the 7 songs we haven’t heard as much. all in all Healer (Deluxe) doesn’t reinvent the wheel musically, or even lyrically. But it does present to us what we all know- solid biblical lyrics from a band that is revolutionary within CCM. Casting Crowns are here to stay, and although they haven’t released my favourite album, they do still remind us of the need for songs that are overt about Jesus, and songs that are full of passion, heart and love for our Almighty Father and Friend.

‘…I began to write the song [while] watching my mom care for her mom and dad as they were passing away. They passed away within a year of each other. And, seeing sickness change the people that raised her, seeing their minds change, and so many things were just taking a turn, and watching her bear the weight of that. My mom is a believer; she loves Jesus. She’s the one I go to first when I need somebody to pray for me. But watching her deal with this as they passed away — that was tough. And being a pastor for a long time, walking people through loss; there’s this moment when we are suddenly very aware of their absence. The world seems quieter. You realize you’re not going to hear their voice again. In those moments, along with that, you feel the last moments of their life here. And there was pain, and there was suffering, or there was tragedy, or there was weakness, or there were wrong choices, and your mind is cluttered with the last thing you remember. And then your only hope is in something you’ve never seen. And as believers, we have a lot of faith for ourselves, but sometimes it’s hard to have faith for others, especially when we’ve never been where they’re going. And all we have is God’s Word to tell us. It’s in those moments, I’ve got to make sure that I’m in God’s Word for Him to tell me what the truth is…when we lose someone, our only faith and comfort has got to come from the Father. It’s not going to come from here because all we see are reminders that we don’t have. So, what we’ve got to do is, we’ve got to ask God to help us release our ideas of who I knew that loved one was, and I’ve got to start focusing on who they are now. They are with Jesus. They are being held by the hands that bear the only scars in Heaven…’

Story behind “Scars In Heaven”

‘…I think one of the things that makes us thankful and passionate as believers is remembering who we were without Jesus. Ephesians 2 is probably one of the best descriptions of who we were without Jesus. Dead in our sin. There’s no finding our way to Him, there’s no figuring out a way to Him. There’s no knowing enough about Him; or doing enough for Him. A dead man don’t do anything, right? But He has rescued us, from a dominion of darkness, and He’s delivered us into the kingdom of the Son that He loves. Colossians chapter 2 says that He took the record of debt that stood against us, and He cancelled it by nailing it to the cross. Jesus said on the cross, He said ‘tetalestai’ right? That’s an accounting term for ‘paid in full’. It’s a stamp they would put on things- ‘this record is cancelled’. It’s been taken care of. That’s what Jesus did for me, on that cross. That is power. That is life-changing power. And the thing about the power of the cross, what God did through His Son on that cross, not only saved me, but now it sustains me. I still need Jesus, right? Yes, I belong to Him but now I’m in the process of becoming like Him a little more every day. And when I get a hold of the fact of who I was and who I am now because of Jesus, now I start seeing other people like Jesus sees them. And now instead of being mad at the world for being lost, I become broken for how lost the world is. I’ve gotta get them to the cross. I’ve gotta show them what Jesus did in me. I’ve gotta tell them my story. I’ve gotta point them to what only Jesus can do. The power of the cross can change lives, and it’s changed mine…’

Story behind “Power of the Cross”

‘…one of the things you’ll notice in Scripture, when people encounter Jesus, they really loved the things that He could do. They really loved what He had to offer, and they came from miles, for that. As a matter of fact, it seemed like He began starting to point that out to them. That everybody came to Jesus for stuff. It was Jesus Himself that they started to struggle with. I think they liked the healing, but it was the healer that they struggled with. They wanted the comfort, but they weren’t sure they wanted a King. You know when you read stories in the Old Testament of people making golden calves and worshipping a statue, that sounds just out of this world. But when you boil it down, what you see is a people that loved moments, they loved unity, they loved gathering around something, that they could roll out when they wanted it and roll away when they were done with it. And that’s what religion is. It’s something you can pick up and sit down, anytime you want. And people were starting to do that to Jesus. They would come to Him and say, ‘give us this bread’ and what would He say? ‘I can’t give you the bread, I am the bread’. They’d say, ‘give us this water of life’ and He says, ‘I am the water of life’. Even the disciples said ‘how do we know where to go? Show us they way!’ What does Jesus say? ‘I am the way. I didn’t come here to give you these things. The answer is me’. Jesus isn’t life enhancement, Jesus is life. And that’s why we shy away from the healer Himself. We’d much rather have delivery from the moments and rescue from situations, but to have a king is a whole new website. And I’m just telling you, we’ve seen a couple of years, of everybody coming up with this idea that if we could just get this president, if we could just get this hashtag, if we could just get this law passed, if we could just get these things, everything’s gonna be better. And it’s all left us in a big hole of despair. What we need more than healing as a nation, as a family, as churches, as people, what we need more than healing, is we need the healer, we need the shepherd, we need the King that Jesus is…’

Story behind “Healer”

Of the 7 already-heard songs from Healer, the 3 that epitomise the heartbeat of the album are “Scars In Heaven”, “The Power Of The Cross” and the title track. Above, I’ve written down (in full!), Mark’s thoughts and musings and story behind each of the three songs- and as they’ve all struck a chord with me over the past year or so; I figured that it’d be fitting to let Mark outline how he perceives the songs to be. And really… these melodies are self-explanatory. “Scars In Heaven”, the lead single, speaks about how the persona is grieving because of the loss of a loved one- whether it is a spouse or parent or sibling or friend or child… well that isn’t really clear in the lyrics; and hence the melody can and probably does relate and apply to probably all of us who have gone through some traumatic loss of some kind in our lives. In this song, Mark is reconciling the fact that he can’t see this person again this side of heaven, with the comforting and confronting truth that this person is now in heaven. As believers, we should be rejoicing when someone we know and love enters the kingdom of God the other side of eternity; but that doesn’t mean that we don’t, or even shouldn’t, miss them that much or at all. We all are human and we all have human emotions, and hence this melody makes sense of trying to cope with the loss of someone while simultaneously knowing that they’re safe in the arms of Jesus at the moment; and as Mark eloquently and vibrantly relays that ‘…the only scars in Heaven, thеy won’t belong to me and you, there’ll be no such thing as broken and all the old will be made new, and the thought that makes me smile now even as the tears fall down, is that the only scars in Heaven are on the Hands that hold you now…’, we are presented with probably one of the most profound and powerful melodies over the past few years.

Similarly, “The Power Of The Cross” is rich lyrically, and also strikes a chord, as Mark passionately and ardently sings out to us about how our life will drastically change for the better once we become believers in Christ, outlining that ‘…I am forgiven, no longer lost, now I am living in the power of the Cross, goodbye to sorrow, welcome, my joy, now I am living In the power of the Cross…’. The title track is another winner lyrically as well, as Mark calls out people who believe more in people than in Jesus, and who want ‘things’ to make them feel better, than the actual presence of the One who is above all things. And as Mark unwaveringly cries out that ‘…more than comfort, we need the king, more than gifts, we need the giver, more than blessings, we need Your presence, more than the healing, we need the healer…’, we are subtly posed this question: that even if we do not receive everything we’ve been demanding from God, but we instead receive the presence of God and the realisation that He is everything we need… will we really be complete and will we really be satisfied? Because if the answer is ‘no, I need Jesus plus x, y, z and ____’… then we really need a look in the mirror and a reality check. We need a paradigm shift, and Casting Crowns have beautifully conveyed the concept of Jesus being the only thing we need- this melody is a must listen, and a track that I’m sure will bring up controversy and healthy discussion.

The rest of the 4 already-released songs from the January EP, are standard Casting Crowns melodies- but each remind us just how powerful and inspiring Mark Hall is as a songwriter and a singer. “Anything But Easy”, an emotional and heart-warming plea to a friend who is on the cusp of throwing their life away, is a bitter pill to swallow for most of us, but is in fact needed- as Mark reminds us that we ought to get into our friend’s face and speak the truth in love, and speak the truth of Jesus, even when they do not want to hear it. Songs like this aren’t rare for Casting Crowns, as “Here I Go Again”, “Love Them Like Jesus”, “Until The Whole World Hears”, “Prayer For A Friend”, “Jesus Friend Of Sinners”, “One Awkward Moment”, and “One Step Away” have all tackled this issue of trying to witness or speak love, grace and truth to our unbelieving friends; and “Anything But Easy” is another such melody that is tough, sometimes confrontational and uncomfortable to listen to, but really is a melody that friends who don’t agree with us should understand. We love the friend and so we say our piece because we love them too much to let them walk away.

“Desert Road”, co-written with Matthew West and Nichole Nordeman, is a moment of clarity and surrender- as Mark speaks about being on a proverbial ‘desert road’, like we all have been on at times, and then realising that even though he didn’t want to be wandering in the ‘wilderness’, he needed to be there because God showed Him things about the world, others and himself that needed to be shown at the time, for him to grow and understand and appreciate things from another perspective. “Desert Road” is a song that may be tough for us to sing while we’re in the midst of our pain, suffering and trials; however it is a song that becomes clearer once we’re out of the wilderness and the wandering. “Crazy People”, another song co-written with Matthew West, is an upbeat pop melody that reminds us that even if the world sees us as crazy people; we ought not to shy away from what we believe. By human opinion and standards, we are considered ‘crazy’, and that maybe that’s ok to be referred to as such. “2nd Opinions” then rounds out the songs we’ve already heard, as Mark pleads with us to follow the Bible and not our favourite singer, YouTube content creator, pastor, podcast, or author. These things can be great and actually edifying in our lives though- but the Word of God never changes while things of this earth do. And so, if we are replacing Jesus’ Word with anything and everything else… then will our faith be as strong as it can be, or will our faith be based on second opinions?

‘…one of the things, if you’ve walked with Jesus for a little while, you’ve probably discovered- people look at us like we’re a little different. As a matter of fact, Paul, I believe in 1 Corinthians 1, says that the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing. It’s only seen through faith. We follow a God we’ve never seen, we’ve prayed to a God we’ve never heard, and on faith we put all the weight of our life in this God that we’ve never seen that we know is real…that looks a little crazy to the world. Hebrews chapter 11, I’ve always called it the hall of faith. It walks through the faith of Abraham, Noah, Moses, all these people who stepped out- I’m just telling you, Noah, number one; you come home from work and your neighbour is building a giant boat the size of a football field in his yard, and he tells you God told him to do it? What are you going to think about your neighbour? ‘That guy’s crazy!’ I think all the people we would consider heroes in the Bible, the things that they would do, the steps that they would take to follow a God that they’ve never seen…the world sees that as crazy. And I say this world could use some more crazy people. We need some people who start loving people like crazy, we start serving like crazy, we start stepping out and giving like crazy, being the people that God needs us to be, to reach the people that God loves, is going to take us stepping out of the ordinary and doing stuff somebody might just call crazy. Maybe it’s time you get crazy…’

Story behind “Crazy People”

And now… here we come to the melodies that we are virtually unfamiliar with. Did I need to write that much about the 7 songs you’ve probably sick of reading about? Well, these melodies are some of the most powerful and inspiring songs I’ve heard all year (and I haven’t actually written about them before!); so, I guess you all can be the judge as to whether I went overboard or not. But even if I did… you all were blessed and inspired and impacted, am I right? “No Hurt”, the band’s most recent promotional single, is a captivating and compelling gospel infused pop/CCM melody, where Mark effortlessly and seamlessly reiterates that there is absolutely no hurt that Jesus can’t fix, and that when we are in pain, we just need to remember that ‘…I know it looks hopeless how divided we are, only nail-scarred hands could ever reach so far, where hatred runs deep, His love runs deeper still, there’s no hurt my Jesus can’t heal…’– although that doesn’t mean that Jesus will heal straight away or in the time frame that we demand, or that He even will. But knowing that Jesus is powerful enough to heal, should comfort, as knowing this should encourage us in the promises that Jesus knows what He’s doing and that He has a plan for everything. “Jesus At a Distance”, a piano prominent ballad, speaks about somebody living a dichotomous life and all of a sudden coming to the conclusion and the realisation that they need to live a wholehearted life with Jesus fully integrated- similar in theme with “The Altar And The Door”; as Mark encourages us to be the same person everyday of the week, and to be the same person by yourself as you are in a big group of people. Authenticity is key, and this song champions that; while “The Devil Is On The Run” is a loud, raucous, joyous, passionate and energetic celebratory declaration that Jesus has won against Satan and the He is retreating and cowering in the presence of Jesus Christ.

“All Because Of Mercy”, led by Megan Garrett, is a powerful, moving, and inspiring ballad, where Megan highlights the fact that she is standing here right now alive because of God’s grace, love and mercy; while “I’m Still Out Here”, sung from the point of view of the person doubting, the unbeliever, the person who is deconstructing or has deconstructed, is undoubtedly the most important song on the album. Mark tries to get into the head and the musings of someone on the outer who feels that God may not be real and who reals like Christians have judged them their whole lives. Mark could be singing from the point of view of Audrey Assad or Marty Sampson or Jon Steingard or Kevin Max. But the truth is that he probably is singing from the perspective of the childhood friend or that neighbour or that son or daughter or mother or father or sibling… that does not believe right now. We all know the person in our lives. Mark is singing from that perspective- and while he might not capture the anger or frustration or desperation, he relays that ‘…I’m still out here, I may be hidin’, but I’m still hopin’ to be found here, I’m still out here, and I’ve been waitin’ for someone to listen past the words my hurt is sayin’, and tell me I’m worth savin’ and that I’m still worth fighting for…’, and he also encourages all of us to just love on other people and not ‘shove’ the gospel down people’s throats when they do not want it. When you are in community with someone who has a different viewpoint to you, sometimes the best thing to do is to love others and let Jesus move. This song is a song to let us know that people who do not share our beliefs, may be searching for something more real than they could ever imagine- and probably all they need is someone to love them where they are at. “Song Of A Broken Heart”, an extension of “I’m Still Out There”, is essentially the same song, but sung from the point of view of the believer, providing encouragement to the friend who doesn’t believe, as we declare to them that ‘…I knew right where to find you, I’ve hidden here many times before, I recognize your mask, I’ve worn it too, I’m not here to point a finger, I’m not here to change your mind, just wanna sit here for a while and talk to you…I am here to say, He can take what’s beaten down, and make somethin’ beautiful, even the song of a broken heart…’. Healer (Deluxe) then ends with the powerful, moving, inspiring, emotive, vibrant and enthusiastic Michael Card cover “Gentle Healer”, sung beautifully by Mark and Megan, and sung as an acapella track.

When working on this album, I realized all the songs I was writing dealt with healing in some way, something we all need. This deluxe album is the full picture about healing, about how God meets us where we are and what His healing looks like. Healer is a scripture-filled push forward, challenging us to seek true healing from Jesus, the only Healer we need.

With nothing much more to say about this compelling and deeply impacting album than what I’ve outlined already (except to say that Healer (Deluxe) just eclipses Only Jesus and is second to The Altar And The Door as my favourite Casting Crowns album ever!); let me say that songs like the title track, “Scars In Heaven”, “Anything But Easy” and “I’m Still Out Here”, are some of my favourite songs on the album. As this is the band’s first album in 4 years, the project proves why Casting Crowns will be around for a long time yet, and why they have stayed as long as they have as a band together. So what is next for the group? As long as Mark is alive and cancer free like he has been for years…it’s new music. And tours and growing the kingdom. But for the near future, it’s ensuring anyone with hears to listen becomes immersed in these heartfelt 14 tracks. So, what are you guys waiting for? Let us hear Mark speak the truth in love, and be reminded that we need the Healer more than the healing. Don’t you think that’s a good idea?

5 songs to listen to: Healer, Scars In Heaven, Anything But Easy, I’m Still Out Here, Song Of A Broken Heart

Score: 5/5

RIYL: Matthew West, Tenth Avenue North, We Are Messengers, MercyMe, Hillsong UNITED

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