“Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.” Romans 13:8
There is a debt of love owed between believers in Jesus Christ. It’s wise to be debt free, but the debt of love is never paid off. Love is a mortgage we take out to our Landlord Jesus to pay back on His behalf. It is an interest rate of integrity based on our consistent interest to love well. Indeed, love is an appreciating asset that never declines in value. We experience true riches when our wealth is measured in how well we love one another.
The job description of Jesus followers is love. The qualifications are: a child of God who regularly receives the love of their Heavenly Father—who then loves freely from the overflow of their heart. Like showering, sleeping and eating—love becomes the habit of your heart. Because gratitude grips your soul, your love for others spontaneously erupts in enthusiastic generosity. You love much, because you have been forgiven much by Jesus.
“Therefore, I [Jesus] tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.” Luke 7:47
The love of Christ for us, constrains us to love in Jesus’ name. His love does not harm—it heals. The Lord’s love is long-suffering, not intolerant. The love of Jesus gives joy, not ill will. God’s love goes the extra mile—it doesn’t give up. So, since your Savior has filled you by faith with His great love, you replace: hate with love, hurt with love, judgment with love, anger with love, ego with love, manipulation with love and lust with love.
Who in your life needs your unconditional love? What is their love language? Perhaps they crave affirming words, kind deeds, generous gifts, warm affection or a sense of security. Look to love others like they want to be loved, which may not be like you naturally prefer to be loved. Moreover, be open to a loved one’s love for you. Let your cold shoulder warm, receive the love of your friends and family. Your genuine love invites love from others. Therefore, love and be loved for Christ sake!
“And walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” Ephesians 5:2
Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank you for loving me well, so I can love others well.
"Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited." Romans 12:16
Relational harmony comes from humility. Yes, there are times for confrontation and clarity, but a chronic state of conflict is not healthy. Pride drives disharmony, but humility disarms discord. Fighting is not the forte of Jesus followers. A world caught up in conflict needs a safe, secure and stable environment. Indeed, faith facilitates harmony.
Are you tempted by Satan to slight, even slander another brother or sister in Christ? Words that sow discord reap division. Has gossip caught you in a lie? If so, humble yourself and ask your offended friend for forgiveness. Or, if you have been talked about behind your back, don't pay back. Instead, pray for those who threaten harmony at home or work. Humility avoids destroying friendships.
"Love your neighbor as yourself.” If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other." Galatians 5:14b-15
Without harmony at home we walk with trepidation, even fear. We are afraid to speak truthfully lest we are made to feel little. So, during this season of emotional separation someone has to be the adult, someone has to model Christ. You have the opportunity to bring harmony to your home by replacing hurtful words with kind words. Forgive fast and do not fight in the flesh. Hold hands and pray together.
Perhaps a respected third party needs to mediate between you and a work associate. Your severed relationship needs healing before others take sides. Resolve this relational disconnect sooner than later, so that emotional energy can be channeled into eternal efforts. Christ connects hearts with humility. A conceited countenance looks down on others, but an ego-less eye looks to heaven for forgiveness.
Therefore, be a harmonizer, not a demonizer. Be a team player not a stubborn troublemaker Be a character builder not a character assassin. Be a uniter not a divider. Be a life-giver and generous giver full of mercy, grace and forgiveness. You are a connecter for Christ. So, connect first with your Heavenly Father, then you can connect with other Christ followers. Harmony brings heaven to earth.
"My [Jesus] prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in Me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in Me and I am in You. May they also be in Us so that the world may believe that You have sent Me." John 17:20-21
Prayer: Heavenly Father, make me an agent of harmony for heaven's sake.
“Honor one another above yourselves.” Romans 12:10b
To honor is to give preference to another. It is the act of extending to another the first opportunity. Giving preference is more than good manners; it gives preference of another person’s needs over your personal needs. For example, deferring to another’s choice for a meeting time and location or allowing a person to go ahead in line shows respect and courtesy. Honor is incubated in a heart of humility. It is the art of serving someone else, even at personal expense.
We can disrespect the process, but still honor the person. We may have been left out of the decision-making loop at work, but we can still honor those who made decisions that disturbed our work. How do we honor them? Honor does not gossip or make disparaging remarks about those who brought us despair. Honor thinks the best and does not assume the worse. Honor values the relationship over being right. It looks for potential in others.
How else can you honor those in your circle of influence? One wise habit of humility is to ask a friend for advice and then act on their advice. A spouse or colleague feels valued when their suggestion makes a positive impact on your life. When you truly listen to another’s opinion you give oxygen to their esteem and you give respect to the relationship. Honor accepts a person where they are and looks to discern their heart.
Therefore, give others the honor of knowing what you really think and feel. Your authenticity is a gift of honor given to those who want to know you in an intimate way. Dishonor is shallow and sentimental, while honor is deep and substantial. Furthermore, make sure to give honor to the people, places and things that those you love honor. A loved one’s objects of honor, become your objects of honor, as you grow to know them.
Put off the fear of embarrassment and put on trust in God. He shows honor to those who extend honor. The Lord Jesus Christ is the most honorable example. His standards for honor are the good housekeeping seal of heaven. Thus, honor the Lord in all you do and say. His ways reap respect and the right results. It is the greatest honor to serve God and people above yourself. Invite others to the seat of honor—Jesus will find you a seat with Him!
“But when you are invited, take the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he will say to you, ‘Friend, move up to a better place.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all the other guests. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” Luke 14:10-11
Prayer: Heavenly Father, show me opportunities to honor others above myself.
“Be devoted to one another in brotherly love.” Romans 12:10a (NASB)
Disciples of Jesus are devoted to Christ, but they are also devoted to each other. Devotion to divinity becomes devotion to humanity. There is a worldwide fraternity of faith and a sorority of salvation that enjoys a brotherly and sisterly love for one another. For some Christians their intimacy with other believers is much more real than their relationship with blood relatives. Those washed in the blood of Christ can be soul-mates in the faith.
We see this devotion when we mess up and another spiritual comrade helps us through our sticky situation. We lose our job and they help us network a new beginning. We suffer and they suffer with us. We rejoice and they rejoice with us. The kinship with other Christ followers is a humbling benefit of being a believer, but it does require fidelity both ways. Our devotion back to believers is a signal of loyalty and love—it provides security
“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” Acts 2:42
Who in your circle of influence needs your unconditional devotion? A friend? A spouse? A supervisor or subordinate? A family member? Do not underestimate the value of your loyalty during lean times. Perhaps an unhealthy person needs your helping hand. A church or ministry leader may need you to volunteer for a season with your seasoned support. Your dependable devotion during difficult times is refreshing to the recipient. So, refresh often!
Your life is like a written devotional of encouragement and conviction for other Christ followers to read. You have your own bumps and bruises and victories that make you attractive for another to confide their concerns in. Your devotion is a spiritual lifeline for the lost. It is an anchor for the drifter and a reminder for the forgetful. As you remain faithful, you raise the faith in all other boats of belief. Your devotion inspires another’s devotion!
Above all else, keep your devotion to Christ fresh and foremost. He is your Master and Motivator. He is the reason for your righteous zeal and your energy to endure. Love Jesus well and you will love well. Be loved by Him, and you will love for Him. Be a dedicated disciple by remaining in Him. Devotion to Jesus Christ becomes devotion to one another.
“Before God you could see for yourselves how devoted to us you are.” 2 Corinthians 7:12b
Prayer: Heavenly Father, keep my heart devoted first to You and then to others.
“So we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.” Romans 12:5 NASB
Committed followers of Jesus are called to community not seclusion. Jesus had His disciples, Paul had the church—even monks have brothers in the monastery and nuns have sisters in the nunnery. Men and women of faith are not islands of isolation, but a beautiful Body of Christ intricately woven together by God’s grace. Just like a physical body relies on a variety of organs and appendages, so the spiritual body is interdependent.
Christ calls us to one another. We need one another. Yes, we are complete in Christ, but we are incomplete without a Christ-centered community. When Christ called us, He called us to Himself and to His body of believers. Spiritual growth slows absent engagement with other sincere souls. We are part of a worldwide movement of faith and good works initiated by the Spirit through the Church of Jesus Christ and His disciples. Our vision radically expands when we are part of a mission much bigger than ourselves.
“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common.” Acts 2:42-44
United by faith we flourish by faith. What the enemy seeks to divide, Christ unifies. We align with each other around the Almighty’s agenda: share the gospel, feed the poor, plant churches, heal the sick, make disciples, educate, preach, teach and care for widows and orphans. Christians who serve together have no time for the sideways energy of irrelevant arguments. We need one another—like an army we cover each other’s back.
We need one another for prayer and perspective. We need one another for protection and encouragement. We need one another because we are in a spiritual war. We need one another because we are weak and vulnerable. We need one another because we are strong and proud. We need one another to protect us from ourselves. We need one another to know one another and to be known. We need one another because God says we do.
Religion is not solitary with your Savior Jesus. When you are with other followers of Christ you are encouraged, prayed for, and held accountable. Yes, you can worship in private, but when you gather for public worship you experience the diversity of God’s children. The energy and education you receive when you engage other brothers and sisters in Christ is necessary for spiritual growth. If you had a bad church experience, prayerfully participate in a new place of worship. Go where you can better know God.
“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Hebrews 10:24-25
Prayer: Heavenly Father, I pray for the humility to recognize my need for other brothers and sisters in Christ. Show us ways to be a blessing to one another.
But I trust in you, O Lord; I say, “You are my God.” Psalm 31:14
God is accessible and personal to those who call on His name by faith. He is not an aloof Almighty, but an engaging One. God governs the universe, and He takes time for those who come to Him. Trust in Him is a ticket to a personal relationship with Providence. Trust is a bridge of belief that spans the canyon of Christlessness. It is when we trust Him that we are positioned to know Him. Relationship without trust is incapable of intimacy and the feeling of closeness. This is why we place our faith in Him and not in our faith. Our faith is undependable, but our God is ever dependable. We stay steadfast in our faith in God even in the face of suffering, temptation, and dire circumstances. He is still our God who can be trusted in our times of trouble. Our hope in God is so strong that we do not cease to call upon His name in our sorrow. When we know Him we trust Him.
Adversity and challenges, great or small, compete with our trust in God. When it seems as though our brand of Christianity is not working, we are tempted to give up. We want to re-brand God to fit our shallow beliefs. Because He is personal, we expect Him to bend toward our immature behavior. Actually, giving up can be good if it is giving up on our own solutions. But we cannot give up on God. Christians will let us down, but Jesus never will. Christ’s care is personal and persevering. He is not going anywhere. Our anger may cause us to retreat from the tender touch of our Lord, but He patiently waits for us to come back to our senses and back to Him. Do not project your dysfunctions on your personal relationship with Jesus. Instead, ask Him to make you a reflection of His grace, mercy, forgiveness, peace, and holiness. Get personal with your God. You can laugh with the Lord and cry with Christ. You take on the attributes of those with whom you are personal.
He is “our God” in the sense that He owns us. We do not own the Almighty. Our actions sometimes dictate to God. We make decisions and then ask Him to bless our mess. Or we don’t make decisions and we ask Him to bless our irresponsibility. Either way, we sometimes try to manage our Master. This is not healthy. It doesn’t work. Our role is not to change God and others so our lives will be better. Our role is to surrender to our Savior Jesus, asking Him to change us. We are in a personal relationship with Christ because we need to reflect His ownership of our lives. He is “our God” in the same way that a person is our mayor, governor, or president. We are under their authority. We submit to the laws of the land for the sake of the whole. We submit to God because He is our ultimate authority. Our rights are relegated to what God says is right.
Therefore, avoid mistrust and embrace trust in the Lord. Doubt leads to death and trust leads to life. God is personal and trustworthy. Our personal prayers are directly to Him. When you do not know what to pray, ask Him to align your heart with His. Then your desires become His desires. This is the best outcome of our personal prayers. Intimacy with the Almighty leads to alignment with the Almighty. God gives us easy access so we can understand and apply His principles. He is personal for His purposes. So do not shun seeking out your Savior. He can be trusted. He is your God for His glory.
Taken from Reading #21 in the 90-day devotional book, “Seeking God in the Psalms”… http://bit.ly/bQHNIE
Post/Tweet this today: Intimacy with the Almighty leads to alignment with the Almighty. #intimacy #God’s Will
“I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do.” John 17:4
Focus is the fuel for productivity, it frees you to stay on task. Focus facilitates God’s will, and has the ability to bring intensity to a situation, problem, or opportunity. There is a sense of urgency that pushes out distraction and brings clarity to the matter at hand. Focused individuals understand that some things naturally drift out of focus, so they intentionally refocus. “Mission drift” ensues when the leader becomes distracted and unfocused, as well-meaning activities can distract the team or the individual from the original purpose.
The opposite of focusing on a task is to ignore or disregard it. We lose focus when we lose interest or assess a lower value to a person or opportunity. We lose focus when something else more attractive draws us away, and, like a moth to a flame, we can get burned if we are not careful. We are forever fighting to stay focused because of bad distractions and good attractions. But we don’t have to remain unfocused or get focused on the wrong things. When we stay laser beam-focused on the Lord, important things become priority, and our minds become centered on Christ.
We focus all the time. We may not focus on our most important options, but we focus. We focus on sports. We focus on having fun. We focus on finances. We focus on fitness. We focus on frustrations. Indeed, your mind and your heart tend to follow your focus. Your life aligns around where you focus, so, by God’s grace, stay focused on Him and His will for your life. Focused faith goes a long way toward experiencing God’s very best. Focused intensity on the Almighty’s agenda leverages His plan for your life. Focus brings freedom to do His will without reservation; so stay focused on the one thing He has called you to do, you will be amazed at the results. Become an expert in your field.
Above all else, become an intensely focused person of faith and character. Your character determines your credibility with people. Your influence grows as your character grows; so stay focused on becoming more like Jesus. Laugh more and complain less. Relax more and worry less. Pray more and talk less. Give more and control less. One idea is to focus on your family. Focus more intently on your family than you do your work or your hobbies. Put a puzzle together, take scuba diving lessons, plan a family reunion, organize a trip, or take care of a pet. Intentionally focus on your family now while you have the opportunity and while your family is still interested. Your children deserve your intense focus. They will be gone soon, so zero in on them. Finally, focus on God in prayer. Prayer brings into focus what matters most. Prayer dismisses distractions and invites priorities.
Jesus says, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33).
Taken from September 2nd reading in the 365-day devotional book, “Seeking Daily the Heart of God”… http://bit.ly/bQHNIE
Post/Tweet this today: Our influence grows as our character grows; so stay focused on becoming more like Jesus. #influence #character
“Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6
Faith in Jesus Christ is the only way to God. There are many types of experiences and various expressions of worship and religious tradition, but Christ is the “only name under heaven where mankind must be saved” (Acts 4:12). Heaven comes from Jesus, not a denomination. He is the Son of God who died for the sins of humanity. His death on the Cross created a bridge between God and man. No one gets to the Father but by Him.
Jesus is grace—His gift of heaven is not earned or deserved. Jesus is the forgiver—no one can forgive sin but Him. Jesus is God—when we see Him we see the Father. Jesus is King—we bow to no one else in awe and worship. Jesus is the one and only true God—no other gods share His glory and fame. Jesus on earth was fully man and God. He wept, walked on water, healed the diseased, taught, resurrected the dead and rose from the dead.
“Beyond all question, the mystery from which true godliness springs is great: He (Jesus) appeared in the flesh, was vindicated by the Spirit, was seen by angels, was preached among the nations, was believed on in the world, and was taken up in glory.” 1 Timothy 3:16
Just like blood travels one way through our body—the blood of Christ must flow by faith through our sin scarred soul to be saved. Other names like Confucius, Buddha and Mohammad can give good thoughts, but only Christ can give salvation—Jesus is the only way to God. Human leaders are limited, human efforts fall short, only belief in Jesus Christ as the only begotten Son of God gets us to God. Salvation is a one-way street named Jesus. Travel here to enjoy peace, hope, holiness, forgiveness, love and healing.
Since Jesus is Lord, be sure you have humbly submitted to Him as Lord. You are a living sacrifice for your Savior, because He sacrificed His life for your life. Because you believe in Jesus, you behave differently—some radically so. Your Master, Jesus, molds your motives and your gracious words bring Him glory on earth. The most compelling apologetic is your life transformed by Christ. He is the only way to God and real living!
“For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus.” 1 Timothy 2:5
Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for giving Your Son Jesus as the only way to You.
He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward. Hebrews 11:26
Eternal rewards are based on a disciple’s effort on earth. Believers who ignore their spiritual opportunities and obligations will miss out on their Heavenly Father’s affirmation and remuneration. But those sober saints who take seriously their Savior’s expectations will enter into the joy of their Master. Christ rewards obedience to Him.
Rewards in heaven are meant to be godly motivation. Yes, our first response is to serve Jesus out of love and our overflowing gratitude for His goodness and grace. And it is wise to fear the Lord and allow our holy awe of the Almighty to be foundational for our life of faith and works. But there is an end in mind: Jesus wants His children to be devoted and compelled by anticipating His generous gifts.
“For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done” (Matthew 16:27).
It is a process of renewing your mind with an eternal decision-making filter that facilitates biblical thinking and doing. Ask the Lord in prayer how He wants you to invest your life in others. How does God want you to use your experience, your assets, your time, your money, and your influence for His purposes? In other words, how can you make eternal investments on earth that bear fruit for God’s glory?
What you do does not get you to heaven—this comes only by faith in Christ and God’s amazing grace. But what you do after becoming a follower of Jesus does determine the quality of your eternal experience. The persecuted and martyred in this life have a great reward waiting in the next life. Those who initiate resources and influence on behalf of the poor and needy bring great satisfaction to Jesus which He expresses in bountiful blessings. Indeed, He rewards all those who diligently seek Him by faith.
“And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him” (Hebrews 11:6).
Love God and your reward will be great. Be a faithful witness who plants or waters the gospel of Jesus Christ and you will be rewarded by spending forever with eternally grateful souls. Send your investments ahead to heaven, by aggressively giving it away on earth. Resist; even reject rewards from the culture, so you are positioned to receive Christ’s rewards. Remain faithful to God’s call and look forward to His reward.
Jesus said, “Look, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done” (Revelation 22:12).
Prayer: How can I live my life in a way that honors the Lord and looks forward to His rewards?
With strokes of his upbringing, faith, experiences and relationships, Andrew Peterson creates art. Like an intricate oil painting, the nuances, layers and textures combine to create something distinct and deep. But to Andrew, it’s just part of the process… down to the very DNA of the lyrics.
Family Christian: So tell us a little about Andrew Peterson. Where are you from, what’s your family look like?
Andrew Peterson: I’ve been married 17 years and have 3 kids who are 13, 12 and 9. I was born in Illinois (basically in a corn field), then when I was 7 we moved to what I lovingly call “redneck Florida.” So I went from having a sort of golden-boy-Midwestern childhood to [the] deep south, ya know? [With] all of the good and bad and wonderful things that come with a southern childhood. My dad is a pastor and he still preaches at the same town that I grew up in north Florida. I ended up randomly going to Bible college. Not for any noble reason, mainly because it was affordable and I couldn’t think of anything else to do (laughs). So I went to Bible college and fell in love with it almost immediately. I met my wife there, got a Bible degree, put out an indie record then moved to Nashville where I’ve been making records ever since.
FC: Which Bible college? Andrew: It was called Florida Christian College in Kissimmee/Orlando. Just a small, really conservative Bible college within my “non-denominational denomination.” (laughs)
FC: (Laughs) You may be the first person who has publicly made that into an official denomination…
Andrew: I coined it! Yes!
FC: Would you consider Florida to be southern living?
Andrew: Oh yes, at least the part of Florida that I lived in. Florida is a funny place. I maintain that it is the weirdest state in the United States – and I mean that in a good way. I didn’t like it when I was a kid, but now that I’m a writer and part of my life involves telling stories, I feel like I could not have grown up in a richer story-telling culture than Florida. It’s this kind of strange convergence of beach culture and retired people and snowbirds and Cuban-Puerto Rican culture. If you drive about 15 minutes inland from the beach or out of any town, you’re in this swampy, unique kind of country, [with] racism and southern hospitality and Bible belt stuff and it’s just a really fascinating place. I’ve gotten to [this place that] now that I’m older, I’ve started reading books by southern authors because I’m so fascinated by the cultures there. Everybody from Flannery O’Connor to Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings and people like that. And so I’m really grateful. I never want it to sound like I’m talking bad about my home state but it is bizarre and I’m just delighted by that.
FC: Do people in north Florida eat grits or biscuits and gravy?
Andrew: Oh yes, as often as possible. My little town is called Lake Butler and it has three generations of family sheriffs. There’s a railroad track and the white people lived on one side and the black people lived on the other. There was a poured house and a little drug store where farmers in overalls would talk in the heat of the day and my dad is a southern preacher which means that he paces a lot and occasionally little flecks of spittle. It was exactly what you would imagine a “deep south childhood” would look like. So yeah, I think that may be part of where my love for storytelling came from. All you have to do is sit on the porch for a few minutes and eavesdrop on my dad’s conversations and you hear the most colorful, beautiful language – good stories. It’s a farm culture and yeah, I couldn’t wait to escape it when I was a boy, but now that I’m a grown up I live in a metropolitan area and the older I get the more I’ve started calling my mom and dad and asking them how to grow tomatoes and how to keep the deer out of the pumpkin patch (that sort of thing), and so yeah, I feel like it’s a part of who I am.
Andrew: I did. Just 2 or 3 times, and each time it was in a really unadulterated fan context. I shook his hand and told him I loved him and passed him a demo. That kind of thing. It’s funny, I had just finished recording my independent record in college. I was 22.
FC: Was that The Walk?
Andrew: Yeah, and it’s terrible. When I go back and listen to it, I can hardly listen to it because it’s so bad in so many ways. But at the time, when you’re 22 you feel like you’re the king of the world and I thought “Man, I’m going to give this CD to Rich Mullins and he’s going to love it and we’re going to become friends!” But he died a year later so I never had a chance to live down how bad the demo was. I later became friends with Mitch McVicker who was friends with Rich’s touring partner back at the time and I was always really self-conscious that I had met them both at this geeky fan phase so I didn’t let on that I’d already met Mitch before. Years later when we started doing shows together I was like “man, do you know that we met before we started traveling together?” and he was like “oh yeah, I remember, it was at your college in Florida” and I was horrified! I said “Ahhh! No! You don’t by chance remember that I gave you a demo CD do you? And he said “yeah”, so I said, “you guys didn’t ever hear it did you? And he goes “yeah… we hated it.” (laughs) So I thought that was delightful. There’s a part of me that’s like maybe it’s a small mercy that I didn’t meet Rich because it would have been the worst thing to find out that he couldn’t stand me, ya know? (laughs) [This way] I can pretend that maybe we would have been friends.
FC: You’ve carried the storytelling trait from your dad, which Rich had too. Was that something unique in his music that drew you?
Andrew: Yes, definitely. I’ve kind of jokingly said that Rich’s music rescued me from Lynyrd Skynyrd. I was in a rock band the year after high school, touring around, but it never ever would have crossed my mind that I wanted to do Christian music because I grew up in this goofy paradigm that meant being in the ministry meant being a pastor, or a missionary. And I didn’t want to be either of those things so I just thought, well, I guess I don’t want to be in the ministry. So hearing Rich’s music around that time opened my eyes to how powerful a song can be. C.S. Lewis described stories this way, he said that stories could “sneak past peoples’ watchful dragons.” The idea is that a sermon will hit you head-on but art can flank you, surprise you and flip truth behind your lines when you least expect it. I think that’s what happened with Rich’s music and me. I wasn’t terribly interested in the Gospel. Ya know, I would have told you that I was a Christian but I was really struggling and really trying to find my way and then I heard this Rich Mullins song that captivated me with its poetry and the roughness that I heard in his voice. He was a smoker – I didn’t know it at the time – but I heard something broken in his voice. Emotionally and physically for that matter. So that brokenness was more beautiful to me than any of the slick stuff I had heard in Christian music. And it really drew me in. What I heard was loneliness and some sadness and a deep longing, and all of that resonated with me. I felt like he was singing the way my heart felt. It was because he was willing to be honest about his own struggle and the truth about Who Jesus really is. That woke-up something in me. It took all of those Bible stories that I had grown up with over the years and my love for The Lord of the Rings and adventure stories and all of those things converged in the songs of Rich Mullins and I found something that I’d never found before. So ever since then, every time I sit down to write a song, I’m trying to get close to the feet of those mountains. If I can write something like “The Color Green” by Rich Mullins or “Copperline” by James Taylor or “Graceland” by Paul Simon I think it’s good for a songwriter to keep listening to the masters. To ask yourself “well how in the world did they write songs that move me like this?” Every time you sit down you’re probably going to fail but you gotta at least try, ya know? So I’m always trying to get back to the way that I felt sitting on the side of a mountain in east Tennessee and listening to Rich Mullins music. So that’s what I’m shooting for, whether or not I ever attain it.
FC: So then you met Derek Webb… or he found you? How did that work?
Andrew: (laughs) That was back when the internet was relatively new and I was waiting tables at the Olive Garden here in Nashville. We had just moved here. Jamie and I were childless, poor and working really hard. I couldn’t get any bookings. One night I discovered this band, Caedmon’s Call, and I really liked their music. I think I discovered them because of their friendship with Rich Mullins. I think that’s how I ended up finding their website. I ended up posting something online about how their songwriting and music was really the first thing that had moved me like that since I’d heard Rich Mullins’ music. I included a link to my really lame website, and Derek followed the link and read my lyrics and he really liked them. He saw something in them and I ended up meeting them later at a concert and he remembered me and I said, can I open for you guys? And he said yes. That was basically the beginning of my music career. (laughs) I don’t know why he said yes, he’d never heard me play a song before. Never heard what I sounded like live. But for whatever reason, they happened to not have an opener like a week later so I got to drive out to west Tennessee and play a show with them. A month later I was on the tour bus.
FC: Wow and now you’re getting ready to release your 12th or 13th album?
Andrew: Well if you included all of the little side projects [I’ve done] it would be about that many, but it’s either the 8th or 9th full-length studio record, I can’t remember.
FC: Ok, before talk about the new album, let’s talk a second about this “Square Peg Alliance” group you created. What is it?
Andrew: Well, it’s funny, The Square Peg Alliance is not as active as it was maybe 3 or 4 years ago. Basically, I didn’t start it – it was just something that grew sort of organically at our little songwriting community here in Nashville. In reaction to how a lot of us had been on Christian record labels, some of us had had radio play and then as the industry started to change we all found ourselves not “pop-Christian” enough to get by in the Christian world and “too Christian-y” to ever have a chance to get by in the mainstream world. And so we didn’t know what to do other than lock arms with each other and just try to help each other survive and stick to the calling of the type of songs we were writing. We kinda jokingly named ourselves the Square Peg Alliance. Ya know, all we did was give a name to this thing that was already happening. The same thing is still happening, we just don’t officially gather under that name anymore.
FC: Did the Rabbit Room kind of morph out of that?
Andrew: The Rabbit Room didn’t morph out of it, but it came for the same love for community. Ya know, I went to England and saw the pub where Tolkien and C.S. Lewis and Charles Williams and their buddies used to get together and read their stories. And around that time I read a book about the Pixar company and I started to recognize that really good art thrives in the confines of community. We had some of that happening with music already, but I was writing my books and I wanted to grow into a better writer – and I knew a lot of people who wanted to do that same thing. So The Rabbit Room was kind of an experiment in community. We thought, what happens if we get some authors and pastors and songwriters and artists all joined together with the hopes that we’ll learn to make excellent work? And invite people into that conversation and see what happens? So we didn’t really have a clear direction, I just bought the domain name and made the website and invited some friends to be a part of it, and that was about 5 years ago. It’s doing really well. It’s been a pleasant surprise at almost every turn.
FC: And so now you’ve written 3 books?
Andrew: I’m [currently] writing my 4th book.
FC: Obviously you’re an artist, but do you have a preference between writing music or books? Is one easier for you?
Andrew: Um, I think that the easier one is whichever one I’m not doing. (laughs) Yeah, it’s all hard. There’s a part of me that really loves the book making process. Part of that is because I can stay home, it doesn’t involve a lot of travel, [it’s] a slowing down. It’s work, but it isn’t frantic work. Being on the road, playing music, there’s a lot of travel and deadlines and craziness, whereas book writing is probably more diligent work. It just doesn’t take me away from my wife and kids, so I really love that. With that said, I’m supposed to be writing book 4 right now but it’s been like trying to push-start a semi truck. Like I’ve had a really hard time mustering the discipline to really dig into it, so ya know, it’s all really hard, man. (laughs) It’s like planting the garden, the only way to get good fruit is to sweat and bleed for it, so that’s where I am right now.
FC: But maybe that’s due to the fact that you have a new record coming out too…
Andrew: Well, that’s part of it. I have been pretty busy with the record thing. I feel a little bit creatively capped ya know, from writing the songs probably too quickly. So that’s part of it. If I’m really honest with myself I am also just trying to avoid it because it’s a lot of work. (laughs) When I was in Bible college I wanted to be a youth minister because I thought he was the one who did the least amount of work in the church. (laughs) I did it for a year and realized that the opposite is true. So I quit [youth ministry] thinking, well maybe I can get out of doing work if I play music. And that wasn’t really true either.
FC: You’ve touched on various themes in your previous records… What is the name of the new record, and is there an overarching theme?
Andrew: The name of the record is Light for the Lost Boy. And if there was a theme (I think the title kind of sums it up), [it’s that] a lot of the songs on this record are about growing up. There are a lot of aspects to what it means to grow up. There’s the exit from Eden, this aspect of childhood that we are all kind of exiled from as we sin and grow old which creates this longing for restoration. There’s this longing for Jesus to hurry up and come back, to let us enter this Kingdom where we’ll have undying bodies [without] the pain of age or wasting away. Ya know, the effects that occur. There’s a lot of longing wrapped up in [this record]. I’m just trying to figure it out myself too. I don’t know. I’m watching my kids teeter into adolescence and the conversations with them have gotten more difficult. It’s not like we’re having problems with them, [it’s just the] preparing them for the world they’re growing into. It’s been pretty sad for me. I mean, I’m excited because they’re amazing kids and I think they’re going to do great things for the Kingdom, but at the same time, I’m grieving a little because I know that part of the process, the discipline that we receive as children of the King is sometimes painful. They’re going to make mistakes. The older they’ve gotten the more I’ve remembered my own childhood, ya know? I remember the sweetness of it, but I also remembered some of the moments that have continued to cause me pain over the years. So I’m guessing that’s why so many of the songs deal with childhood and the longing for restoration. But honestly I don’t know. I’m trying to be better about writing the songs I write and letting the listener add his or her own DNA to the thing. Most of us have seen the movie Jurassic Park, but I don’t know if you remember the scene where they’re going through the ride and the little computer thing is animating how they recreated dinosaurs from the DNA they found in the mosquitoes. And it shows these cartoon DNA strands and they’re like, well, we couldn’t really complete the DNA strands from the dinosaur so we used some from a turtle (I think or maybe it was a lizard) to complete the DNA and we created these dinosaurs. And I think songwriting and art are like that. My songs are these strands of my own DNA but there are all of these holes in them, like the songs aren’t a complete story. So the listener then brings his own DNA to the song and it begins to mean something specific to him or her. I remember that happened with “Dancing in the Minefields” this song about my marriage. The first line is “I was 19 and you were 21 the year we got engaged…” And I’ve gotten so many emails from people who are like “your story is just like my story, she was 19 and I was 21 the year we got married” and those details aren’t right at all! (laughs) They got the numbers backwards and they got the engagement and the wedding different because these people have brought their own story to my song so much so that the details of my song becomes irrelevant. So I’m hoping that with this record that whatever I meant by it will only be the beginning of the story for what the songs do in the heart of the people who are hearing it.
FC: What music are you enjoying lately?
Andrew: I have been listening to a lot of the new – I’m trying to be careful not to say anything “bad” because I’m talking to Family Christian (laughs) – I’ve been listening to the new Bon Iver record a lot. As soon as I said that I remembered there’s a bad word in one of the songs. There’s a band called Fleet Foxes that my sons and I really like. It’s really creative, almost classical sounding folk music, “chamber folk” is what some people call it I think. And then there’s this new Ben Shive record, he’s the guy who produced my new album – he’s really great. There’s this guy Josh Garrels, he’s great. We’ve connected and I tried to talk him into the Christmas tour this year. His wife is going to have a baby right before the tour so he couldn’t do it, but I’m a huge fan of his. Josh makes me feel the way I felt when I listened to Rich Mullins, I think Jon Foreman (of Switchfoot) is like that too. There are very few people who have such great music that is so unabashedly about the gospel. I think Josh is one of those guys. Man, when I’m jogging and I hear his music, sometimes I “ugly cry.” (laughs) He’s so explicit about the God that he’s singing to and about. I’m deeply moved by that. So there’s a short list.
FC: What kind of dog is your pet, Moon Dog?
Andrew: (laughs) He is a Great Pyrenees. He’s a white, bushy, sheep-herding kind of dog. That’s Moon Dog. He’s white so he’s easy to see when he runs around at night. I also have to say, my father-in-law worked for NASA back around the time of the Apollo missions, he lived right there in Cocoa Beach where all of the astronauts were and sort of ‘lived among them.’ So [he] had a dog named Moon Doggie because he was working on the moon mission. And I always thought that was a great name, so when we got this dog I liked the idea of Moon Dog Jr.
FC: Well Andrew, thanks for talking with us today. We can’t wait to hear the new album.
Andrew: I can’t wait for you to hear it either. Thanks so much for doing this.
Andrew’s new record Light for the Lost Boy hit stores this week! Pick it up here and check out his previous works here.
To look into some of the artists that Andrew mentioned in the interview, follow these links:
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