New Kickstarter Campaign!

Hey folks, we are really excited to announce we’ve launched a new Kickstarter Campaign: click here for more info!

The goal is $1500 to get physical CDs printed for our latest album “Through The Darkness”. We have some great rewards, including free tickets to our upcoming show in May for those who are local. 

We really believe in this CD and its potential to encourage people who have been through a difficult time, and having it in physical form will make it that much more accessible. Please consider backing us and sharing this with your friends!

Stage Diving Without A Net

Today my heart nearly stopped in terror. It was after church and I was having a conversation with a few guys on the worship team. I was standing in front of the stage (we meet in a high school auditorium) which is at about the level of my shoulders. My four year old son had gone around to the side, climbed up the stairs, and walked up to the edge of the stage. He loves to jump into my arms (off of play equipment, usually) and indicated that’s what he wanted to do. I lifted my hands up to tell him that I’d catch him, but he shook his head and stepped a few steps to the side where no one was standing. I told him not to jump and then stopped paying close attention. He’s smart enough to know not to jump off of a stage without someone to catch him.

Or so I thought. He took a flying leap- not feet first, but head first, arms outstretched. There was no hesitation at all- he absolutely knew I would catch him. I did manage to react in time and step into his flight path, but I can tell you it scared me to death. He really had no clue that I might not have made it. To him, I was “daddy” and that meant I can catch or stop anything. I can protect him from any kind of danger. One of these days he’ll realize I’m not that powerful, but thankfully today wasn’t that day. He went on, oblivious to how much danger he’d been in, even when I reprimanded him and he got in trouble. I could see in his eyes that he had no idea the stakes of his poor choice.

Reflecting on this, it made me think of our relationship with God. How sometimes even though he’s told us over and over again the consequences, we just don’t get it. We go off the deep end and make horrible choices, expecting that he will catch us. In his grace and mercy, often he does. Praise him for that! But how much better would it be if we trusted him when he tells us “That course of action is bad”? I recently saw a cartoon of a character leaping over a “fence”, only to realize it was a guardrail protecting him from going off a cliff. This is so true about how we think about God and his “rules”. We resent them, even though they are there for our good and protection. Alex had no clue that when I told him “no” that he was in danger; he just saw it as a place to push a boundary. Some day I hope he will learn that my guidance and direction are for his good, not to limit him. And I hope I will learn that about God as well.

But there’s another aspect to Alex’s aerial adventure that gives me heart. There is no doubt in my mind that he would have never attempted what he did without me standing there. No one else in the world gives him the confidence to leap with complete trust that he’ll be caught. Was his trust misplaced? Of course, and that’s something he’ll have to learn. But the truth his, he believes in me. He believes in my goodness and he trusts that I will always desire to protect and love him. That is the relationship of a father and son, and anyone who knows Alex knows he feels that relationship deeply.

This moves me, because this is how the scripture describes our relationship with God. We are grafted into the body, and God is our Father. We have that intimate relationship with him where he invites us to trust in his love and provision. We may misuse this at times and do our own share of leaping off the stage, but this itself is a testament to the real connection we have with the Creator of all that is. We revere and fear God, but we are also close to him. Close enough that we can trust he will catch us when we fall, protect us when enemies attack, or even be there when we take a header off a stage.

I praise God for his grace and goodness. I hope that as I am sanctified I will learn to trust God more in the right ways, not test him with risky behavior. But most of all, I’m grateful that I am his son and he is my Father, for that relationship is the most important one I will ever have.

The High Cost of Free Will

I believe that humans have free will. For those who want to argue this with me (knowing I’m a Calvinist), that is a discussion for another time and place. This is not a theological post exploring how the sovereignty of God and human free will can co-exist (though I believe they do); rather this is a personal post about the sad choices we make with our free will and how much damage we can do.

Most people, especially in the U.S., place a high value our autonomy. We want the freedom to do great things, or by contrast self destruct if that is what we choose. We are fiercely protective of this freedom, both for ourselves and others. The problem with is that no one lives in isolation; we cannot make bad choices without hurting those who love us.

When the people we love choose to self destruct, I can say from firsthand experience it is easy to wish we had control over their lives. The answers are so clear, if they could just make good choices so much pain could be avoided. The song “How To Save A Life” by “The Fray” really captures the helplessness so well. The truth is, none of us can save someone who does not wish to be saved. It is out of our hands.

I’ve had the conversation this song describes on multiple occasions. It’s painful to lose friends to bad choices. More than being painful, it’s so helpless. You just want to get into their heads and help them see what you see; know what you know. You will do anything and everything to save them, but you cannot.

This is the high cost of free will. People will make bad choices that hurt us, and we will make bad choices that hurt others. Is it worth it? I believe it was God’s good pleasure to give us the freedom to sin, and I trust in his goodness. But where I really want to focus right now is how this pain brings clarity to our relationships with God. When I watch someone I love self destruct, I can understand a small part of what God must feel when he watches us walk into the sin that destroys us. When I’ve had to put up boundaries and say goodbye to my good friends who have become unsafe, I can see God establishing his own boundaries as he expelled Adam and Even (and all of humanity) from the Garden. We have broken his heart so much. So much.

It’s so easy to focus on the human side of the equation when we read scripture. How much we’ve lost in the fall and how we’ve repeated the sin of our parents Adam and Eve ever since. How much pain we’ve received from the wars we’ve fought that were only necessary because of human rebellion. But we should never miss that God created something for us perfect and we walked away. That he gave Israel a law for their blessing, and they broke it repeatedly. That ultimately he suffered the very effects of this sin by taking on human form and dying on a cross.

Every person has the stamp of God on him or her. No one who walks away from God does it without doing damage to a life that is valued and worth an immeasurable amount to its Creator. The cost of free will is indeed high, and that point was driven home to me again recently. I hope that as I struggle with my own sin and poor choices, I can be reminded of how this must feel to God, watching me walk down roads that hurt myself, him, and the ones I love.

I praise God for the Gospel and that there is no condemnation for those in Christ, but it does sober my heart to remember that there are consequences for the choices we make. It makes we want to do better, not because I want to earn favor with God, but because his way is good and his path leads to the greater, more abundant life he desires for me.

The First Act of Grace

What was the first act of God’s grace recorded in scripture? I would argue (really, R.C. Sproul would argue it and I’m just lifting his exposition here) that it is found in Genesis 3:

And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them. (Genesis 3:21, ESV)

Clothing was God’s first gift of grace to us after the Fall. Before the Fall, humans were naked and unashamed. We were completely vulnerable, physically, spiritually, and emotionally, hiding nothing from God or one another. After the Fall, everything changed. We had shame. We felt shame. We became fearful of others not only knowing what we’d done, but who we were. And thus God, in his mercy, provided clothing. He covered our physical nakedness, but in so doing he also demonstrated a covering of our spiritual and emotional nakedness as well.

I believe this speaks volumes about how we were designed, and also why we need the Gospel so much. We are a people created for intimacy. We require vulnerability to function properly. In a broken world of sin, we can no longer expose ourselves with the freedom we need, and yet in the proper created order of things, we could be honest about ourselves without fear of God or others. There are always people trying to push the limits of vulnerability, exposing themselves more than others, but it is not a comfortable thing to do (borrowing from R.C. Sproul again, he says there is a reason it’s called “streaking” instead of “strolling”!), not for the one exposing or the people who have to observe the vulnerability. We have become separated from one another by sin.

This is one reason marriage is such an important institution for humans. It provides a relationship where two individuals can get closer to our created state of vulnerability than any other, but with it also comes a danger. In a healthy marriage, physical, emotional, and spiritual exposure results in unparalleled acceptance and grace: a husband and wife bound in intimacy can show all of their flaws and be found loved, respected, and cherished. In an unhealthy marriage such exposure can result in abandonment or abuse, which is why marital violations are so hard.

I’ve been thinking a lot about masks recently, and while everyone seems to decry masks in the church, more often than not people are punished for not having them. If we do not show the right kind of spiritual life, or if we are too vulnerable with people, we can easily make them uncomfortable and not want to be around us. And in a sense, this is a place where we need to take a cue from God’s first act of grace: though in a perfect world we were created to be vulnerable, it is appropriate to cloth ourselves and shield some of our nakedness. Does that mean that we should happily put on masks and live out false lives before others? I don’t think so, but it does mean we need to respect boundaries and realize that not everyone needs to be subject to every intimate details of our lives.

But having said that, as a church I do think it is our charge to make people more comfortable with vulnerability than they are in the world. When someone enters into a worship service, they should feel more open, not less, to letting people in. Looking at the life of Jesus, one episode (recorded in all four Gospels) stands out:

One of the Pharisees asked him to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was reclining at table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment, and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment. Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner.” And Jesus answering said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” And he answered, “Say it, Teacher.”

“A certain moneylender had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When they could not pay, he cancelled the debt of both. Now which of them will love him more?” Simon answered, “The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled the larger debt.” And he said to him, “You have judged rightly.” Then turning toward the woman he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” And he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”Then those who were at table with him began to say among themselves,“Who is this, who even forgives sins?” And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” (Luke 7:36-50, ESV)

What strikes me here is the vulnerability of this woman and the discomfort it causes others. She comes before Jesus giving herself over to him, and the Pharisee is concerned about “what sort of woman this is who is touching him”. The Pharisee is wearing a mask, and she has none.

We need and crave intimacy. It is part of our DNA and how we were created. If we spend our lives surrendered to making our outward appearances match expectations, we will never be completely whole. We will constantly live in fear of being found out and rejection. We will never be able to truly live out the Gospel, which says we are free based on a foreign righteousness. This woman accepted that she was vulnerable before Jesus, and she came with everything exposed. He knew her sins (as did most, it seems), and he accepted and loved her. He even commended her ability to love.

The Gospel sets us free from the curse of sin. Though we are still making our way through this broken world and that means we will never in this life be able to get to the true kind of vulnerability we were created to need, we must strive to be a people of intimacy: a people where we can invite honesty in worship, service, our relationships, and every other area of our lives. Because while God’s first act of grace was to protect us in our vulnerable state, it was also to accept us as we were, broken and sinful, in need of his restoration.

Teaching The Rebellious To Rebel

Recently I had a conversation with some friends about some very popular teachers in the evangelical world who we believe are teaching false doctrine, and we considered why these men are so popular. Why do people flock to hear these teachers who claim to represent classical Reformed Theology, and yet seem to undercut it with their applications, returning to a very works orientated type faith?

This post is not about those teachers so I’m not going to name names, but about us and why we find them compelling. Why do so many of us (and I say “us” because I know I’ve been guilty of this) like to follow and trust men who will teach us how to earn our way into God’s grace, when the Bible makes it clear that such a thing is impossible and that our works are of no value toward attaining salvation?

Personally, my suspicion is that it has everything to do with the American ethic of ego and rebelliousness. By that, I mean that that it is very much in the typical American D.N.A. that we want to one up each other and just prove how tough we are. We want to stand out among the crowd and be seen as rebels who fight the system, proving our importance; nothing serves such a spirit as well as a tough works-righteousness message: “Show me the hard rules, pastor, I can take it- and I’ll do it faster and better than anyone else”.

Wait a minute, how is following rules rebellious? Surely I picked the wrong world there? Legalistic certainly, but rebellious? Nah.

No, I mean rebellious, and I’ll illustrated with a true story from my past.

Several years ago I was involved in a very powerful youth ministry. My band led the music for the Sunday evening youth service at a small church, and the youth group absolutely exploded within months. The youth pastor had a radical vision for growing his ministry, and it worked! Fun games? Nope. Pandering to their tastes and cultural designs? Not that either. What then?

It was a simple plan: he preached the scripture expository style, we spent hours in prayer with the youth, and we focused on worshiping God. There was nothing else. The focus was pure and awesome. I was hooked, and so were the youth. This was not a typical youth group, and we all knew it. The youth pastor just kept on preaching and more and more youth came.

Sounds great, doesn’t it? It did seem that way at the time. It seemed like this was the recipe for success. How could anything so purely focused on God be wrong? And yet, there was a sleeping dragon; I never saw it coming. Disunity grew between the youth and the adults. The youth pastor grew increasingly dissatisfied with the church, “abandoning” everything except for his own ministry. He convinced many of the youth that their parents might not even be saved. In his mind, the adults certainly didn’t have authentic worship. And then one day, the youth pastor didn’t show up to church. His wife came instead, and said he wasn’t coming back. The youth group fell apart completely after that, many returning to (or adopting new) bad habits.

What happened? I was bewildered. We were doing all the right things. We would spend hours in prayer with these kids, preaching directly from the scripture, line by line (and make no mistake, they were good sermons- for all his faults, the youth pastor was a fantastic expositor), and we didn’t pander to “entertainment”. How could that have ended so wrong?

I posed this question to the Senior Pastor of the church, and his words will remain with me forever: “It turns out that it is no great trick to teach teenagers to be rebellious”.

And that’s when it clicked: I got it. There’s no doubt that we were doing all the right things: the prayer, the preaching, etc. I wouldn’t change a thing if I went back. But we were deceived about our “success”. We didn’t grow because of the attractiveness of these things (though undoubtedly there were some who genuinely saw the value in what we were doing), but because we were counter-culture. We were different. We were rebellious. And what attracts a teenager like rebellion? Whether it is rebellion against parents or rebellion against the norms of the world, in those angst ridden years nothing pulls in a teenager like the idea of doing something different and radical.

And so, the truth was, we attracted many who liked the idea of rebellion, and that it was rebellion in the name of Jesus probably didn’t matter than much. And as the group grew and the youth minister attributed our success to the righteousness our methods were cultivating, a feedback loop began because he started pitting youth against their parents. When that happens, boy then you really have an attractive ministry. As the youth grew, more contempt for the adults came right along with it. Of course it all fell apart, because the hearts of the youth weren’t grounded in Christ, they were grounded in rebellion.

Was this an indictment against our methods? Hardly- what we did was good. But where we erred was believing our success was due to our methods. A heart of humility would have gone a long way toward preventing the breakdown of the ministry. We shouldn’t have been so naive as to believe that the group “got it” and measured ourselves by such success. If we had been a little more humble, no divide between the youth pastor and the parents would have occurred; instead, the families could have grown together, with parents leading their teenagers while we added the meat of authentic worship and serious Bible study.

So what does this have to do with why popular teachers are able to mislead so many? It’s because for many of us, as much as we’d like to think we’ve left the rebellious years back in the past, rebellion is still attractive. We love to prove our worth through how counter-culture we are to the world. We can show that we are big and strong by the “hard teachings” we are willing to endure “for the sake of the Gospel”. And there’s no doubt that some of these teachings are good, but I can say from experience that often my motives stink.

When you add into the mix a false teacher who will provide even more rules and a higher standard in order to receive God’s grace, then our rebellious natures kick in to overdrive. We don’t want to settle for average or what everyone else does. We want to be the big bad Calvinists (or pick any other doctrine people argue about) who can proudly speak of how awful our sin is and how we don’t know anyone as bad as us. Our self images might as well be in leather jackets and eye patches as we growl at those who won’t live as righteous a life as we do. False teachers just egg this on, allowing us to be proud of how different we are and how much disunity we can sow between ourselves and the world. Because really, they are just teaching rebellious people to be rebellious, which is not so great a trick.

What is a great trick is to humbly teach people how to work out their salvation in cooperation with the Holy Spirit, not rebelling against the world in contempt, but lighting the way for those who do not yet have the truth. Yes, part of the Christian life is living counter culture, but not to add battle scars we can brag about, but rather to increase the light around us. We are not leather-wearing spiritual soldiers destroying everything in the culture that opposes us, but rather a redeemed people rising out of our rags with humility and loving the world as God does, so much that he sent his son to die for it.

Let’s be careful about allowing ourselves to be motivated by rebellion; even if the methods and cause is right; if our hearts are proud and ready to fight, we are missing the point. This is my own struggle and I’m a susceptible as anyone, but my prayer is to be a person of a different nature, transformed and operating to a new code, not one of rebellion, but of meekness and grace, finding strength and power in the giver of all life.

February 2014 Newsletter

Hey Steady On fans!

Already 2014 is flying by. It seems like we just did Christmas and already we are gearing up for Valentine’s day! (quick random fact: February 14th is Jeff’s Birthday!)  We didn’t play out this month, but we did practice for some new shows we’ve booked, including one with the full band. We’re really excited about being able to do some of the songs the way they were recorded on the CD.

We also got some of our photos back, and it’s safe to say that Jenny is overjoyed to have a picture where she’s smiling! Those of you who have seen us play live know that original pic we were using from the video doesn’t characterize her bubbly personality at all. So now we have some better photos. And coming soon: a poster! We’ll let you know when that’s available.

We are still working out plans for printing physical CDs for those who are interested, which may include creating a small Kickstarter campaign. Be on the lookout for more info on that in the next month or so.

New Dates On The Calendar

We have two new dates coming up. The first is that we will be leading worship at Jeff’s church on March 30th.

The second date is a the full band concert mentioned above at Boudreaux’s on May 18th. For more info check out the event on Facebook. Please share and invite your friends: tickets will be $10 or $15 for a “group pass” (for couples, families, or whoever wants to come in as a group).

More Blog Madness

Jeff continued to write weekly, this time writing a little bit about the joys and challenges of being a musician along with examining some trends in the evangelical church. Here’s brief recap of the last month:

Why I Love Being A Musician: Jeff talks about the great joy he has writing and performing music and why it’s so important to him.

When Worship Is Great: Reflecting on his experience as a worship leader, Jeff discuss our focus in worship and the struggle to keep the main thing the main thing.

Good Vs. Godly: Stemming from a conversation between friends, this post explores whether “good” and “Godly” can be opposing ideas.

Marriage And Children: Idols?: The most popular blog entry thus far, Jeff questions the focus of the church on family to the point that people who don’t fit the profile can be left out.

What’s Coming February 

We hope to finalize plans for printing CDs as well as start promoting our concert in May. Also more rehearsals with the full band, so we’ll try to post some pics! Posters might possibly be coming, but we’ll be sure to let you know if/when that happens.

Final Words

This is newsletter #3- we’ve seen a few more visits and shares for the Steady On Blog, so keep em coming along with the comments.