“I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.” Revelation 3:15-16
Institutions of God can lose their intimacy for God. Like the marble floor of a stoic cathedral, the culture of a once vibrant ministry can become cold and hard. Indeed, Christ calls out His church to make a clear commitment to His commands and not waffle like a reluctant bride or groom at the altar. A community of faith fossilizes for a lack of faithfulness to the tenets of the truth. Lukewarm disciples are repulsive to the Lord.
Is your faith on fire or is it simmering under the influence of sin? There is no room for neutrality toward religion rooted in Christ. Are you for Him or against Him? Apathy is a vote against Him. Passivity to prayer and public worship is lukewarm leadership for your home. Thus, use the beginning of the new year to attend church with your family. Join a friend in a year long Bible reading plan and/or sign up for a mission to serve the poor.
“This is war, and there is no neutral ground. If you’re not on my side [Jesus’], you’re the enemy; if you’re not helping, you’re making things worse.” Luke 11:23, The Message
The world wants us to make everyone happy, but how can we at the expense of disappointing our heavenly Father. Companions who cool our commitment to Christ are not wise to be around. It is our red hot heart of righteousness that needs to rub off on those unsure of their salvation. Our humility and compassionate care are like kerosene to another’s flickering flame of faith. Our combustible love explodes another’s faith in God.
Therefore, come out of the closet with your commitment to Christ. Do not be ashamed of the gospel, but instead proclaim it. Because you have been given so much--you can give much! Be bold in your faith without being obnoxious. The cross of Christ carries its own offense without any added judgments. Look to your heavenly Father to fuel your faith and to the Holy Spirit to ignite it. Burn hot and bright for God’s son Jesus Christ!
“Elijah went before the people and said, “How long will you waver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him.” 1 Kings 18:21
Prayer: Heavenly Father, create in me a hot heart for what is important to You.
"Let all that you do be done in love." 1 Corinthians 16:14 (NASB)
Hurry had a tight hold on me.
When my children were young, you would have found me rushing from one task to another, usually pushing or dragging a frustrated child. I was either in high gear, or crashing in the aftermath of the frenzy ... often holding back tears, and berating myself for not being able to get it together.
It was an exhausting way to live. But an inner drive to achieve fueled the fury of my days. Refusing to admit I couldn't do it all, I tried to keep up the same pre-child schedule. Sadly, everyone in my family paid the price, especially my little boys who weren't genetically wired to sit quietly and color while Mommy attended a meeting.
During that time, "hurry up or we'll be late" was commonly heard, yelled from the kitchen or hissed while we scurried into the back row at church. There was too much to do, in too little time. Life was blurry with hurry.
Sadly, I thought everyone lived like this. That was until I read about hurry sickness in The Life You've Always Wanted by John Ortberg. My heart was skewered when I read one of the symptoms is a diminished capacity to love. My children could have told you I had a problem. Only it wasn't hurry sickness, it was hurry addiction.
I didn't want to be that woman who rushed through life. I didn't want my children to look back and say, "Wow, Mom got a lot done!" I wanted them to be convinced, thoroughly and utterly, of my love for them. And not just my children, but my husband, parents, sisters, and so on.
The Bible is clear that loving others is critical. And not just in public. First Corinthians 16:14 says, "Let all that you do be done in love" (NASB). Which means when I'm trying to get out the door in the morning, or finishing up a project before a deadline. God clearly was telling me to slow down, and prioritize the person in front of me rather than the task on my to-do list.
Eliminating hurry from my life took years of hard work. I had to choose to walk and talk slower. I had to eliminate responsibilities from my life, and plan ahead. Most importantly, I had to deal with the hidden issues that motivated me to hurry.
In the process, I learned hurry is not a required byproduct of one type of lifestyle. We can't point our fingers at anyone and say, "Look sister, here's your problem – you need to quit _______."
The truth is, a homeschooling mom can be more hurried than an executive. And a retired person can be more hurried than a working mom of five. Hurry is a condition of our hearts. It's the result of following my to-do list, rather than God's. And loving those around me is always on God's to-do list.
Hurry has different roots. For some it's procrastination. For others it's people-pleasing. For me it was a need to prove I still had it, even though my life had been slowed down by the blessings of children. Whatever the root, the result is the same: a rushed woman who doesn't make time to show love to those around her.
You'll still find me hurrying at times. Especially when my husband or children spontaneously invite me away from my work to spend time with them. But now I'm hurrying to love, not to finish a task. And that makes all the difference.
Dear Lord, thank You for patiently showing love to me. You always have time for me. Help me to give that same gift to those around me. Please show me the root of my own hurry issues. I want to be more like You. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
For more practical help on managing your days, you might enjoy I Used to Be So Organized by Glynnis Whitwer.
A Confident Heart by Renee Swope can help you deal with some of the heart issues causing hurry sickness.
Reflect and Respond:
What times of the day, or situations, cause you to hurry?
Besides a diminished capacity to love, what other negative side effects does hurry sickness cause?
Galatians 5:13, "You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love." (NIV)
John 13:34-35, "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." (NIV)
“For God has put it into their hearts to accomplish his purpose by agreeing to give the beast their power to rule, until God’s words are fulfilled.” Revelation 17:17
God will accomplish His purpose. It may be with or without us, but He will execute His will. God does not back down or hold back when it comes to the fulfillment of His wishes. He knows what is best and is bent toward carrying out His good will. Nothing can stop God from accomplishing His purpose. War cannot stop His purpose because He will draw people to Himself during the atrocities of war. Illness cannot stop His purpose because He will reveal His care, compassion, and sometimes, healing, during the eventual breakdown of the body. Death cannot stop His purpose. God will graduate believers in Christ to heaven and non-believers in Christ to hell.
Sin cannot stop His purpose because Christ forgave sin by His death on the cross. Sinners cannot stop His purpose because there are consequences for wrong, and ultimately, judgment by God. Satan cannot stop God’s purpose because what the devil means for evil, God can use for good. God’s purpose is a freight train that travels down the tracks of obedience and disobedience, saints and sinners. Its momentum on behalf of mankind cannot be stopped. He will not be denied. Even the delay of His ultimate purpose gives more lost souls the opportunity to get on board by placing their faith in Jesus. He will ultimately reign on earth as King of Kings and Lord of Lords! In the meantime, there is still time for others to voluntarily bow to His kingship, instead of ultimately being forced to bend their knee to God. His purpose will happen, so it makes sense to work with God, not against God, to accomplish His purpose.
So what is God’s purpose? One purpose of God is to adopt everyone into His family who believes Jesus is His son. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). Anyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved and this accomplishes one of God’s greater purposes.
Another purpose of God is seeing you complete the work He has given you to do. Jesus said it best: “I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do” (John 17:4). Your individual obedience to God accomplishes His purpose for you. This is a significant thing. Your obedience matters. You are contributing to the greater heavenly mosaic of God’s glorification. Your fulfillment of God’s purpose helps others to do the same. So, do not apologize for this. Stay laser-focused on executing God’s purpose. Pray about it and seek the Scripture to better understand God’s purpose for you. Equity in eternity never depreciates, so buy a lot—and buy early. His purpose will be accomplished. Find out where He is working, and join Him to fulfill His mission.
Post/Tweet: Equity in eternity never depreciates, so buy a lot—and buy early. #eternity
“Do two walk together unless they have agreed to do so?”
Sometimes it is difficult to agree upon expectations, and in reality, we deal daily with expectation management. We are expected to do certain things at work, at home, and in friendships. We also project expectations on others. We know God expects faithfulness from us, and we have our expectations of Him, but expectations can get us into trouble.
We can expect the wrong things Our expectations can be unclear or unrealistic or unrighteous. The same can be said of what others expect of us. At work you thought one outcome was expected while your supervisor expected something different. Even after the goals were put into writing, there were still different interpretations of the facts.
Indeed, it is easy to corral expectations of simple tasks. I can expect or even require my children to complete their homework. This is not unreasonable. I would be an unfit parent if I did not provide some framework of expectations for my children. However, I would be an equally ineffective parent if I had expectations of my children but did not communicate them with grace and understanding. Clarifying expectations takes time.
“Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4).
Furthermore, the more your trust grows in a relationship, the fewer the expectations Trust precludes the need for expectations. Trust causes many expectations to expire. When you place your total trust in God, you default to character expectations. You expect His love to be unconditional. You expect His forgiveness to be infinite. You expect to avail yourself of His wisdom. Your expectations are character driven rather than cynically driven.
It becomes about God’s will, not our wants. Healthy expectations revolve around God and His desires. The focus is off me but on God and others. He orchestrates the concert of life; so the goal is to discover His role for me and follow His lead. Then the motive with people becomes one of serving them in order to carry out God’s plan for their lives.
How can you facilitate understanding God’s will for your spouse, child, or work associate? This is not always easy to discern but character-driven expectations can get to the point of their true need, and you can help meet that need. Focus on building trust in the relationship, and communication will flow more clearly and compassionately.
Focus on fewer expectations and more on trust. Allow your expectations to begin and end with the character of God. Expect less, you will receive more. You can expect His faithfulness. Agree to expect what God expects, and allow your expectant desires to birth God’s will. “And they exceeded our expectations: They gave themselves first of all to the Lord, and then by the will of God also to us” (2 Corinthians 8:5).
Prayer: What does the Lord expect of me in the life roles He has assigned to me?
“Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.” John 15:9-11 NASB
Love requires love or it will not last. There is a limitation to loving well, without drawing on the deep well of the Lord’s love. Like an adult child feels at home in the house of his or her childhood, so followers of Christ are comfortable remaining in His love. As they abide in His abode of love they feel the secure embrace of their heavenly Father. Love will languish without being loved by the Lord. Love is loved, so it can love long.
How did your heavenly Father love His son? What is the essence of Christ’s love for you? The Lord’s love for you is tender and tough--it is patient and productive. His love will not allow you to stay stuck in bad habits or unhealthy relationships. Because He loves you He disciplines you, because He loves you He forgives you, because He loves you He pursues you, because He loves you He gave His life for you. His love gives life!
“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” John 15:13
Are you tired of loving loved ones and not being loved in return? If so, return to the restful love of your heavenly Father. Engage with eternity’s agenda and love will energize your actions. You remain in Christ’s love as you remain faithful to His commands. Love becomes shallow and sentimental if sin soils your soul. So, like a blanket of fresh snow let the Lord’s love cover your sins and free you to freely love. Confess and be refreshed!
Furthermore, Christ’s love for you causes you to sacrificially give in His name. His compelling love for you compels you to share the love of Jesus. He laid down His life for you, so you can lay down your life for your wife, husband, children, parents and friends. God’s love disciplines you to be disciplined, so that you can discipline your children to be disciplined. Indeed, let your love be loved by the Lord and you will love like the Lord!
“The LORD disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in.” Proverbs 3:12
Prayer: Heavenly Father, I invite you to love me, so I can love others like You.
"In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps." Proverbs 16:9 (NIV)
I sat with pen in hand, surprised by the words on the page in front of me.
"You will not find my Peace by engaging in excessive planning; attempting to control what will happen to you in the future. This is a commonly practiced form of unbelief." (Sarah Young, Jesus Calling)
Planning is one of the things I do best. I have my list of things to accomplish every day. I have a list of goals in ministry. I even have a bucket list!
Planning is a good thing, right?
However, as I read those words in my devotional book, the Holy Spirit revealed to me the way I must often appear to my Heavenly Father.
There are so many things I want to do. Instinctively I know that God's timing isn't mine, but sometimes my litany of lists are in the hopes that if I work hard enough and plan long enough that God will get on my schedule.
It's not that planning is wrong. With our busy lifestyles, our lists keep us from dropping off our young daughter in a cowgirl costume at the neighbor's house ... when the party is scheduled for the next Friday (yes, it really happened).
But this was a deeper heart issue. How many times did I plan and plan and plan some more, only to be disappointed as my lists got longer and my goals farther away.
My planning was less about organization, and more about worry. I felt more in control if I made lists because I felt like I was doing something.
I sensed God saying, "Lay it down. All the planning, all the worry about how things will work out."
In 1 Peter 5:6-7 we are encouraged that, "God's strong hand is on you; he'll promote you at the right time." In the very next verse, Peter warns us to be aware that, "... the devil is poised to pounce..." (The Message)
It's no accident that Peter shared a promise, but also a warning.
The promise is that God is in control. He knows exactly where He is taking you, and as you trust Him, His promotion may look very different (and far more fulfilling) than your carefully drawn plans.
When we are trapped in excessive planning and things don't work out the way we want, it can create anxiety, frustration, or anger towards God—all traps the enemy would love to use to discourage and distract us.
I didn't stop writing lists. They keep me from forgetting what I need to do.
But I have stopped excessive planning.
God's ways are higher than mine. And if I keep that truth above my planning, then I am open to go in whatever direction God leads.
I didn't have to sign up for Overplanner's Anonymous. Instead, the first thing on my plan every day is to simply "trust God."
Dear Lord, I know that being organized is a good thing, but my excessive planning is tied to worry. Today I give You all my cares. You have my future in Your hands. I trust You. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
Reflect and Respond:
Planning is a valuable tool as we map out our day or figure out how to accomplish a huge task. But Jesus often led His disciples to investigate the heart issue beneath their actions. In light of that, ask these questions:
Am I organized or do I plan excessively?
What is my reaction when things don't go as I planned?
Do I believe that God orders my steps?
Take those answers and get alone with God as you hand your future plans to Him.
Luke 12:25-26, "Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest? " (NIV)
Proverbs 16:3, "Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans." (NIV)
“Then a cloud appeared and covered them, and a voice came from the cloud: “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!” Mark 9:7
A heart full of love listens first to the Lord. There is a humility that remembers God created two ears and one mouth for a reason. The tongue, untempered by love, is a prime target for the tempter, Satan himself. However, love longs to listen and understand what Christ says, before making conversation. Words incubated in a heart of love have a positive affect on hearers. Love listens to Jesus before jumping to judgment.
We need the words of our heavenly Father to work out our wrong thinking, before we share potentially abrasive words. For example, we pause during family conflict to contemplate Christ’s teaching to be peacemakers. We become a voice of reason and patience where angry words have broken trust and erased respect. We listen to both sides and then offer solutions based on forgiveness and an ongoing process of godly counsel.
“But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you.” Luke 6:27
Furthermore, listen to others even when you don’t feel you are being heard. Your patient love does not have to make its point, because listening to and understanding the other person’s viewpoint is more important. As you lovingly listen you learn, from friends and enemies alike. Your quieted spirit becomes a student of anyone you meet. Perhaps you learn kindness from a cashier or acceptance from a greeter. Love listens and learns.
Love is slow to speak and quick to listen. It doesn’t seek to impress people with its smart and clever speech. Instead, it carries a conversation with emotional comfort and caring words. You are most comfortable in your own skin when your goal is to first listen to the Lord and then His precious children. Lovingly listen, some will invite your influence into their life. Consecrate your conversations to Christ and He will speak.
“But in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe.” Hebrews 1:2
Prayer: Heavenly Father, use me to lovingly listen to You and Your children.
"Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves." Romans 12:10 (NIV)
I had a favorite sweater I loved wearing. It wasn't too bulky but was still warm and cozy. The only problem was the threads were loosely woven together. It would snag on things, so I had to be careful.
I was mindful of the delicate nature of this sweater so I could protect it, make it last, and enjoy wearing it time and again.
Until one day I was in a hurry, grabbed some things I needed and rushed to my car. I tossed my stuff on the passenger seat, including a spiral notebook whose metal binding wire caught on my sleeve. As I pulled my arm toward the steering wheel, the notebook came with it and pulled a huge snag in my sweater.
I unhooked myself and assessed the damage. I should have taken the sweater off and later taken time to repair the snag the correct way.
But in my rush, I made the decision to do what seemed easiest in the moment. I snipped the lose threads and hoped for the best.
That decision started an unraveling process that ended the life of my beautiful sweater.
Recently, my husband and I got into an argument. In front of the kids. Over something so stupid. Right before we were about to head out the door to go on a date.
In the heat of the argument he announced the date was off. He no longer wanted to go. Honestly, I didn't either.
I wanted to sit in a coffee shop by myself and make a mental list of all the reasons I was right. All the reasons he was wrong. And justify my perspective.
But it's at this exact moment of resistance an unraveling can begin.
Doing what seems easy in the moment often isn't what's best for the long term.
I pushed for us to still go on our date. It wasn't fun. It wasn't easy. There were tears.
There were awkward stretches of silence. But we pushed through the resistance we both felt, and eventually talked.
Talking through the snags. The pulls. The things that threaten to unravel us.
There is a delicate nature to marriage. It's so easy to forget that. It's so easy to take it all for granted and stop being careful. Stop being mindful. Stop being protective.
The unraveling can happen so quickly. And the unraveling doesn't just happen in marriages. It can occur with best friends, children, in-laws ... especially during the holidays.
Yes, during what's considered the happiest season of the year, stress levels can be at an all time high. Between coordinating family get-togethers, shopping blow-out sales, and spending time with that relative you might not be friends with if you weren't related, Christmas can feel anything but merry and the New Year anything but happy. And all that's pulling at you can make tempers flare and your relationships feel like they're coming apart at the seams.
Be intentional about catching the snags in these relationships. Today. Right now.
For me, being intentional required an apology to my husband. By admitting I was wrong and asking for forgiveness. Repairing the snags the correct way—tying a knot and tucking it back into the weave of our relationship fabric.
Dear Lord, thank You for special relationships. I let my emotional state get the best of me sometimes, but I want You to be in control of how I react. Please give me the spirit I need to build up people around me instead of tearing them down. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
In her New York Times best selling book Unglued, Lysa TerKeurst shares how to respond with no regrets by managing your tendencies to stuff or explode. Click here to purchase your copy.
Do you have a few friends drowning in relationship stress? The UngluedBible study bundle makes a great gift you can all enjoy together and study in the New Year.
Reflect and Respond:
What's something you can do today to invest wisely in your relationships?
Write down two people you will commit to improving your relationship with this month. Note things that are special to them such as favorite hobbies, ways they are encouraged, places to eat, etc. Use this information to bless them in the time you spend together.
Hebrews 10:24-25, "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." (NIV)
“In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome.” 1 John 5:3
Christ’s commands are not burdensome, but a blessing. Man’s expectations can be an unbearable weight of unattainable actions. Like a backpack of bricks, the rigid control of proud leaders enslaves hearts. But joy and peace are the fruit of following hard after what Jesus wants. The yoke of Christ brings freedom, security and rest. Thus, the ultimate expression of love for God is obedience to God. Genuine love gladly obeys the Lord.
Furthermore, our love for the Lord matures as our love for His law grows in intensity and intimacy. How can we say we love God if we remain ignorant of His Word? Our precious Bible is a manual of how to love the Lord well. He defines what makes Him feel loved: reverent worship, joyful praise, humble prayers, forgiveness, generosity to the poor, caring for widows and orphans, proclaiming the gospel and training up the faithful.
“Great peace have those who love your law, and nothing can make them stumble.” Psalm 119:165
Is your love for God an expression of your obedience to God? Indeed, you will be tempted to try the world’s ways and wander away from the Almighty’s path of purity. Grace is the gravel God places under your shoes of faith so you won’t stumble on Satan’s slippery path of deception. Trust gives you traction to follow Jesus. Do what Christ expects and you can expect His energy to empower your actions. Obedience pays!
What command is Christ asking you to keep? Perhaps you need to forgive another as God, for Christ’s sake, has forgiven you. A money matter may be haunting your happiness and it is time to write off the debt without writing off the debtor. Pray without ceasing, give without regrets, believe without doubting, love without conditions and forgive without expectations. Your obedience to God is an indicator of your love for God Thus, by grace, obey well. Freedom is the fruit of following Jesus. Your obedience helps others obey!
“If you love me, keep my commands.” John 14:15
Prayer: Heavenly Father, give me the courage to follow the commands of Christ.
After nearly a decade of success as a band, Hawk Nelson has entered a new era: new lead singer, new label, new mission, new music. But as Jonathan Steingard assures us, you can expect the same up-tempo you’ve always gotten from the band… with a slightly deeper meaning.
Family Christian: Ok Jon, before we get into the really tough “Barbara Walters style” questions, I sent out a message online and a mutual friend of ours responded by asking the question “do you have any pet chickens?” Does that ring a bell?
Jonathan Steingard: The only thing I think that would be referencing is that our manager, Ryan, has six chickens and we did a photo shoot recently where we actually were holding some of the chickens. It was pretty random. (laughs) So no, I don’t have any pet chickens but Ryan does.
FC: Alright. Ok, second question is from Twitter today… “When will Hawk Mart re-open”?
Jonathan: Oh, that’s a good question. So Hawk Mart is how we branded our online store. We’ve been going through a bunch of changes as a band the last year or so, and I think somewhere during that time we took it down. It may go up as a re-branded thing at some point. I think the biggest trick with that is finding someone to run it. Not a very interesting answer, I know… (laughs) so, I don’t know exactly when that will be back up, but hopefully sometime in the new year.
FC: Ok, now on to the ‘fun’ questions. Did you join the band right when they signed with Tooth and Nail Records, or did you join a couple of years after they were running?
Jonathan: I joined just after they signed. They recorded [the first] record with Aaron Sprinkle in Seattle in 2004 and then I joined mid-2004, so I joined right around the time that record was coming out. So I wasn’t on the record, but I toured for it and I was involved with every record after that.
FC: As a band they were doing some stuff before they signed, so they’ve been together about 10 years, which is pretty remarkable.
Jonathan: Yeah! Definitely, and that’s one of the things we’ve talked about recently. We feel pretty blessed to have had that much time. It’s not lost on us that a lot of bands don’t get to be around for that period of time. So that’s kind of special to begin with and then now we feel like we have a new lease on life in this new season…
FC: I was reading something in your bio that Daniel Biro, your bassist said “This time around we’re going through all this emotional and physical change and God breathed some new songs that channeled all those feelings and doubts and emotions into the lyrics.” So Jason Dunn, the former lead singer, is on his own now. Two-part question… Why did he leave? And what changes can we expect from Hawk Nelson?
Jonathan: I’ll try not to give you the super long answer. Basically when you start a band that young (right out of high school), there’s not necessarily a plan in place, ya know? You’re making music, having fun and it’s a great adventure. And all of that stuff is true and good. But as things progressed and we were getting older, I think we started to feel like we were growing apart. It definitely felt like Dan and Justin (who drums for us now, he joined us in 2007), the 3 of us were on the same page and we always found ourselves kind of on a different page than Jay [Jason] a lot of times musically, business-wise, spiritually sometimes, just not always seeing things the same way. But a band is like a marriage and so we were always trying to find as much common ground as we could. I think, about a year and a half ago it kinda became apparent that it just wasn’t going to work anymore. He knew it and we all knew it, but we didn’t know what to do with that, so we’re like, “what does that mean, what do we do with it?” So Jason I think decided to take the initiative – because he really wasn’t very happy – I think he wasn’t really where he wanted to be, and so he took the initiative and told us he was going to move on and do his own solo thing. I think he just wanted something that was his, where he could have the freedom to have it be whatever he wanted it to be.
FC: Was it hard for you guys to accept?
Jonathan: Oh, it was really difficult! I mean, we had been together for almost a decade. On so many levels it was all we knew. So now it was just this big unknown, like well, “what now?” For the most part if you’ve been in a band for a decade and your singer leaves, you’re done. I mean, there can be life for a band beyond that, but it’s very difficult. So we were processing all of that stuff. We had a little time off last Christmas to process this and figure out, “do we still want to be a band, or do we move on to other things?” We really felt like the answer to that question when we prayed about it was that we still really wanted to be a band and the idea of moving forward without some of that tension internally – to all be on the same page – was really exciting. Like what’s possible if we all actually want the same thing? So once we decided to move on as a band, that just meant finding a singer. We were talking to three different guys, and I think any one of those guys would have done a good job and I think it would have been great, but it just didn’t feel like it was ‘it.’
Jonathan: (laughs) Yeah, he would have been a good one.
FC: Kidding, of course.
Jonathan: So yeah, we were just kind of in this weird spot where we really felt like this was what God wanted us to do, and we just didn’t know who it was going to be with. We were so caught up in the notion that we had to bring someone in that it didn’t occur to us that maybe we didn’t, until we were on tour with MercyMe, Tenth Avenue North, Lecrae and a few others on Rock and Worship Road Show this spring.
So Bart Millard [lead singer of MercyMe] had gotten a hold of a record I had done on my own 5 or 6 years ago. I had put out the record mostly because I started producing and I needed something to work on. I had really no aspirations to be a full-time artist on my own, I love being in a band. So he was playing it in his dressing room and he hauled me in there and he’s like “Why are you not the singer?” And I was like, “I just don’t think that’s my role, I’m more of a support role” and he was like “Dude, you don’t need to bring in a singer, you’re the guy.” I argued with him for awhile and eventually he kinda persuaded me to consider it. So I started talking to the guys about it and all the guys were like, “this is brilliant.” It was this idea of starting a band with guys you’re already in a band with. Because we’d already talked about how much unity we felt between the three of us and that idea that we didn’t have to bring another unknown into that was amazing. So we started doing rehearsals as a three piece kinda secretly backstage while on tour still. We’d find little dressing rooms that weren’t being used and we’d set up a little tiny recording rig and just go through songs as a three piece… and it didn’t feel weird! It felt totally natural, which was just bizarre to us. So that’s how we got to this lineup. And then we started writing for this record. I think everything that had been pent up just came out. A bunch of the songs are just really fun pop songs, there are a few rock songs on the record, but there are also a few really aching, heartfelt God-what-are-You-doing type songs. I actually wrote a song with Mike Donehey from Tenth Avenue North called “Through The Fire” that will be on the record. It’s one of those songs that basically says “God I know that You’re there and I know you love me, but I don’t see that right this second, and I want to.”
FC: So you touched on the songwriting process for this new record. How is that different than the previous process with Jason involved?
Jonathan: Well, in the old Hawk, Jay was the main songwriter and so much of the personality of the band came from his personality, sort of goofy and quirky. Those who know him know he sometimes has a hard time being serious and that’s part of his charm. That sort of quirky thing he’s really great at. So a lot times when we sat down to write a record, the rest of us would kind of search for ways to go beyond that, and that was one of the things that was difficult. On this record there was so much going on in our lives. Sometimes I really feel like (for people that write) God uses those times to really do things that are redeeming. So when Jay left the band I moved into the role of the singer and the main songwriter. I’ve written a ton for this record. I actually did a count the other night and I’ve written fifty songs for this record. (laughs) Part of that was [because] for the first 20 or 30 songs we didn’t know what we were! We are rediscovering who we are as a band. Ya know, we’ve always been a really fun band and we still really love that. This record has tons of songs that are just a blast. But we were also sort of going through this really difficult time and God was shifting things in our lives and in our hearts that were heavy. I know that we’re not alone in that feeling. I don’t know why but I feel like the last 3 or 4 years with the recession… there’s been something about 2012. I have so many friends who are just going through massive life changes this year and I don’t know what God’s up to, but I feel like we can all identify with that. Times when the tables just turn in our lives and we go through stuff that we never saw coming. In those moments it’s like, God what are you doing!? But then you look back and go, wow God, You really had a plan and I just didn’t see it. So I think all of those feelings are pretty injected into this record for sure.
FC: So, would you say you guys are growing up?
Jonathan: I think we’ve been in the process of growing up for the last few years and this is a big part of it. I think this is a period of accelerated growth – we’re relearning some things, we’re learning things that we didn’t know before. Justin’s wife just had their first baby in May, the first Hawk Nelson baby, so that’s a new phase of life for us. Justin’s a dad and Dan and I are honorary uncles.
FC: So, would you say that Hawk is still a youth group band?
Jonathan: Definitely. We’ve been playing under the new line-up for about 20 or so shows, we’ve been mostly writing and recording this record, but we’ve been playing a few shows this year. Ya know, we’re still the band youth groups will book when they want to have fun night where they can let loose. Or if we’re playing conferences or festivals. We still are that band. The way I kinda look at it is the DNA of the band is still the same. [But] when the record comes out and people hear it, it definitely sounds different. Ya know, my voice is different than Jay’s and I think that a lot of the substance is a bit more grown up but I still think it’s something our audience will connect with. There are moments that are really fun that you can crank in your car and then there are moments that will hopefully connect in a way that we haven’t before.
FC: So, not only are you going through a lot of transition as a band, you’re also on a new label. How has the transition from Tooth and Nail to Fair Trade Services been for you guys? They’re local to where guys live as opposed to in Seattle where Tooth and Nail are located. Do you find yourselves interacting with them more?
Jonathan: Definitely. It wasn’t a bad parting of ways with Tooth and Nail at all. We had a five record deal and we fulfilled that record on our last album. It was honestly just when Jay decided to leave and we decided to move forward with the sort of newversion of Hawk Nelson, it was just a natural turning point to have a clean slate in a few different areas – and one of those was the label area. We always had a great relationship with Tooth and Nail, but we had sort of been getting to know some of the people at Fair Trade casually over the last little while and we really just love the way they operate. They’re all about people; they’re relational, thoughtful and very purposeful. They’re a small company, independent – just really smart and purposeful about what they do. They really believe in the power of music to influence lives for the better. It just has been a really productive relationship. I would say they are more involved in the process than we’ve experienced with a label before, but because of who they are I really enjoy that involvement honestly. The A&R guy, James, he and I are talking probably every other day or so. We’re just in constant communication about how the record’s progressing. I can’t say enough good things about them honestly.
FC: So besides the new record being available on April 2nd, what else are you guys most excited about this year?
Jonathan: We are just really excited [in general]. It feels kind of bizarre because we’re technically on our 6th album, but it feels like our first in a lot of ways. We kinda have that honeymoon phase thing going on right now. The three of us have always enjoyed hanging out – we’re not one of those bands that don’t like each other. We love hanging out – we’re best friends. We really genuinely are. We’re going to do a tour in the spring. We’re taking Hyland and The Wrecking so we’re excited about that, but honestly, I think we’re just really excited to get this music in people’s hands. We’ve been crafting it for almost a year now. There’s so much going on behind the scenes that we can’t wait to get out there. The record is called Made and that comes from the title track. It’s basically this idea that when something is fashioned intentionally instead of just sort of happening and everything about it is on purpose – it comes back to the way that God made us. If something is created with purpose, the only appropriate response to that is to live with that same amount of purpose. On a personal level that is true, and then also as a band, it’s really what we feel right now. More than ever we are really enjoying having a purpose behind what we do and I think the record will show that. We’re also reaching out to a few people that we haven’t worked with before to maybe do some cool things we haven’t done before. It’s not official yet (I don’t think), but we have been talking with Food for the Hungry about getting involved with them to help build infrastructure in a specific community, probably in Central America. The cool thing is that they work through a child sponsorship model, but that money doesn’t go directly to that child, it goes to the community [they live in], and Food for the Hungry has a 10-year plan to build up infrastructure so that the community is completely self-sustaining by the time they leave. It’s a pretty cool process and the idea that we could partner with them to help one specific community and maybe over the course of a year see the funding go from start to finish is pretty cool.
Also, I told you the story of Bart encouraging me to step up and be the singer, so we asked him to sing on our first single. It’s called “Words” and we’re really excited about it. It was kind of a function of us wanting him to be a part of it because he was such a big part of really encouraging us to move in this direction and he’s been a huge part of our lives this year. It’s really a special thing for us.
FC: That’s great. We’ve heard the track and it’s awesome. So knowing your audience, when you’re up on stage, what are you hoping they see? What’s your goal as a band?
Jonathan: Mmm, that’s a good question. I feel like on any given night it might change in small ways but more than anything, man, I just want people to know that they are loved and that right where they are God has a plan for their lives. That even if it doesn’t look like it right this second, God is always working behind the scenes. And that they could just take a step forward in life joyfully and confidently knowing that God goes before and behind them. That purpose might look a little different each night, some nights the show is just an absolute party and those nights I wonder if maybe God uses those times to just give people a night to let loose and remember that life is full of joy. And other nights… There was a show recently where we did an encore acoustic song and we’re not a band that normally does worship music – we love to partner with other events that have that element in them, but it’s not usually what we do – but on this particular night, for whatever reason, I just felt super prompted that we were supposed to have a moment of worship and so we did that… and it was awesome. It was unplanned and we just sang through a couple of songs and it was a special moment for me, maybe because it was unplanned. We all grew up in youth group and I see a massive amount of value there, it’s such a crucial point in the lives of people that grow up in the church. There’s so much to figure out because not everyone’s church experiences are all that awesome, sometimes they’re scarring, so I love getting to know youth pastors and coming into churches and serving them in a unique way where we’re hopefully able to bring something new to what they do. I really think that youth groups are an area we feel pretty passionate about. We’ve always kinda connected with a younger audience and we haven’t always been good at growing with that audience. We’ve always sort of been that fun band that does that punk rock song or whatever, and while we still are that band, we are keen to really grow with our audience. A lot of songs on this record will connect on that level hopefully.
FC: So what do you guys do to get ready for a show?
Jonathan: (laughs) Well I’ve started warming up vocally which I didn’t used to do because now I’m the singer and I’m terrified of getting sick. When it didn’t used to be a big deal I was the guy that if I had the flu, would just put a bucket on the side of the stage and rock it… but now it matters. (laughs) So I have a few vocal exercises that I do. Justin does some rudimental exercises on a drum pad and Dan mostly just hangs out with people. (laughs) We do have a coffee road case and we told our road manager that it’s the most important road case in the whole lot, so he knows to keep it around so we can make coffee whenever we need to.
FC: Have you turned into a coffee snob?
Jonathan: I’m not a snob necessarily; I still do Starbucks and some of my friends who are coffee snobs feel more like that’s a corporate offense. Mostly it will be right before the show that we’ll connect with the youth pastor of the church we’re at or the promoter who may have brought us in. That’s a lot of times where the more personal connections and meeting people will be, right before the show.
FC: Well Jonathan, thank you so much for talking with us today. We’re just thrilled for you guys and know that good things are ahead. We hope you guys have a great
Dekalb High School Choir from Waterloo, IL performs Hawk Nelson's "The Show"