"Dear children, let's not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions." 1 John 3:18 (NLT)
She held out the soft white blanket scalloped in pink ribbon. "I'm not sure I want to give it to her," my mom said. The stitches were a bit looser than my mother's past handiwork, but I could see love in every crocheted inch.
I held her hands in my own. Her once slender fingers were bent and swollen at the joints. I imagined her holding the crochet needles and weaving the yarn in and out for hours and days, until the blanket was complete. It is an heirloom for her first great-grandchild, one created with pain and love.
I think I take my mother's hands for granted. They have caressed my cheek. They have made me wear a coat (even when I protested that I was a mother of three grown children). They have dialed the cell phone she loves, and hates, so she could talk to "her Suzie." Her hands have penned cards that showed up in my mailbox saying "I love you."
An old 70s song says, "Time keeps on slipping, slipping, into the future." There is truth in those lyrics. I see the passage of time in my mother's hands. I also see it as moments pass into hours and then into days in a whirl.
Life is always busy, like this month when the white board on the refrigerator lists church events, dentist visits, showers and weddings and graduations, as well as other details like pay the bills, mow the lawn, clean the house.
Recently I realized that my mother was moving further down on that list. A week passed. A month flew by. The phone calls came. "Hey, Suz, just calling to say I miss you."
One day I received an email from a friend. Her mom was sick. For the next few weeks I prayed, reading every update. One night I read the email from my beautiful friend that expressed her love for her ailing mom, and prayer for strength to say goodbye.
Suddenly it hit me how little time I actually devoted to my mother. I looked at the email and wept. The next day I made a date with my mom. She was like a girl; she laughed on the phone as we made plans.
My mom and I had the best time at lunch and I was inspired to make a point to love on her more frequently. So I came up with "Love Points" which include a few things I try to do each week.
Write. Leave a note in an unexpected place.
Give. Spend time with no strings attached (help work in the garden, go to lunch, sit and chat).
Touch. Especially if your loved one is older or widowed and they are not touched in positive ways any more. (Massage their hands. Hold their hand. Touch their face or hair.)
Affirm. Tell them one encouraging thing that you believe about them.
I pray I stay committed to showing my mom love. And that I have many more opportunities to hang out with her. But more than that I pray I don't take her for granted.
Life most likely won't slow down. But as I devote time to worthwhile endeavors, I don't want to forget that in the grand scheme of things, holding my mother's hands is one of the most priceless investments I'll ever make.
Dear Lord, thank You for my loved ones. Life gets so hectic, and sometimes it's hard to slow down long enough to show them how much I care. Please help me to slow down and recognize what is of little value so that I can invest in people with immense value. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
Then Agrippa said to Paul, “Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian? Acts 26:28
Wishes come from a naive delight to become something one day. I wish to be a movie star, astronaut, teacher, fireman, engineer or preacher. “I wish” originates from a romanticism that makes me feel good about going there; but a nice desire without a committed will is wishful thinking. However, my wants have a way of bending my will towards a clearly defined outcome. My will follows my wants until the goal is accomplished. Agrippa may have wished to be a Christian one day, but clearly he did not want to be converted in the moment. Wants work to engage the will.
So, how can we move our wishes to wants? It is the motivation of our heart that makes mere wishes freely submit to the reality of wants. Moreover, it is more than just learning a principle; we can understand a truth and still have our will unmoved. But when we encounter the Truth, the Lord Jesus Christ, He compels us to want what He wants. A close encounter with Christ moves a wishful feeling to a prayerful plan which then blends our will with God’s will.
If anyone is willing to do His will. John 7:17, NASB
When your heart wills to do the will of your Heavenly Father, He works with you at your place of faith. Indeed, as you worship and praise Him in the splendor of His glory, you see Him high and lifted up. Worship takes your wandering heart and brings it back home to do His bidding. The more the Lord increases in stature and the less you are concerned with your cares, Christ takes your wants and molds them into His desires. Your desires and God’s desires become one.
So delight in the One who is the most delightful. Rest in the reassurance that your righteous God has got it, whatever “it” may mean for you. Be wise to not wish away this season of life with self pity or regret, rather see this parenthesis in time as a prayerful process, in which the Lord converts your creative ideas into His action plan. Look into the eyes of Jesus with your eyes of faith and say yes to Him. God gives you what you want, when it's what He wants for you!
You have given him his heart’s desire, And You have not withheld the request of his lips.
Prayer: Heavenly Father make my wants and desires, Your wants and desires for me.
Related Readings: Deuteronomy 14:26; Psalm 37:4; Matthew 16:24; Romans 10:1
Post/Tweet today: Worship takes our wandering heart and brings it back home to do His bidding. #worship
The brand new record from Josh Wilson, Carry Me, his fourth project with Sparrow Records, finds Wilson opening up his heart more than ever. Sharing about a very personal health issue dealing with anxiety and panic attacks, these new songs ultimately spread the message that through life’s difficult trials, it is only God who can carry us through it all. Released April 9th to much acclaim, numerous reviews and fan comments are pouring in, showing there’s no doubt that people love the music of this multi-talented singer, songwriter, musician and storyteller.
With comments such as "rich with truth," "authentic," and "effortless," the feedback and reviews have only been outstanding when it comes to talking about Carry Me.
"...An engaging, thought-provoking, and ultimately uplifting collection of songs that should, if there's any justice in the world, go great lengths toward earning its talented creator an evening's worth of peaceful, uninterrupted sleep." - Jesus Freak Hideout
"These songs are so rich with truth and full of life and God's grace....One of the best and well-rounded records I have heard in a long time." - Worship Leader
"In a genre where many contemporary Christian music artists recycle hooks and regurgitate lines without any plagiaristic shame, Wilson knows how to pierce through boredom with his ingenuity." - Breathecast
" Josh's poignant song writing is coupled with musical excellence...This album is sure to connect with all listeners who like catchy songs filled with truth and yearning for God. Josh invites you into his life in such an authentic and relatable way, you’ll feel like you are a lifelong friend after you hear this album. - New Release Tuesday
In the midst of writing songs for Carry Me, Wilson began experiencing severe chest and shoulder pain as well as difficulty breathing, believing he was actually having a heart attack. Yet after numerous negative tests, he tried to get back to his normal life but soon began waking up frantic in the middle of the night, even canceling scheduled performances out of fear. Reconciling these unexpected emotions with his long held beliefs defines Wilson’s intentionally joyful and honestly raw new record. Carry Me was produced by Matt Bronleewe (Chris Tomlin).
“Philippians 4 says, ‘Do not be anxious about anything . . . the peace of God will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus,’” Wilson shares. “I prayed for that and each day would say, ‘God, I can’t make it without you. I need you to carry me.’ And He did, and He still does. He carried me through each day even before I experienced the anxiety, but I just didn't realize it. It took these difficult moments for me to realize how much I need Jesus.”
To support the new album, Josh Wilson is currently touring with Third Day and Colton Dixon on The Miracle Tour through the spring. In the coming weeks the tour is hitting the midwest. For the most recent tour schedule and to connect with Wilson, please visit:
"The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love." Galatians 5:6b (NIV)
My daughter Hope is one of those people who knows how to dress.
She'll put on a blue and white striped shirt, throw on an army jacket and black pants, finish the look with brown ankle boots and look like a fashionista.
Me on the other hand, I get all stuck in a "Garanimals" state of mind. Did you ever wear Garanimals, the pants and shirts that match perfectly? It made me resistant to the delight of the unexpected.
Matchy-matchy became the curse of my closet.
Until Hope set me straight one day. "Mom, your outfits need a little pop!"
She started whipping my outfits together in a way I'd never dreamed.
An orange necklace with an outfit that had not a stitch of orange.
Leopard flats with a dark blue shirt, teal necklace, and black skinny jeans.
Are you sure?
She was more than sure. With great confidence she introduced me to the world of adding a pop-a little something unexpected. A new way of expressing myself. And it has been delightful.
So, I started thinking, what if I did this with other areas of my life? Other places where I've slipped into the "same old, same old" ruts.
Might the delight of the unexpected make other aspects of my life more fun?
Our key verse Galatians 5:6b says, "The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love."
Might this be an invitation to discover another new way to express myself? Express my faith? Through acts of love?
Yes. I think so.
So, I did a little experiment. I started reading Bible verses by adding on a little question/challenge to myself at the end: "... so that I can love who?"
For example, Romans 12:2a, "Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind" (NIV) ... so that I can love who?
There is someone in my life who needs my love but I'll only be able to do it if I let God change my mindset. I need to add this little pop - a new expression of my faith through love.
Philippians 4:19, "And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus" (NIV) ... so that I can love who?
There is someone in my life who needs something that I don't think I can give. My time. An emotional investment. A financial gift. Things I sometimes feel are in limited supply. But I can freely give those things when I realize God supplies all of my needs. I just have to open my hand and send some of my blessing in this person's direction. I need to add this little pop - a new expression of my faith through love.
Why not try this yourself? No, not the leopard flats and teal necklace ... although that is quite the charming combination. But rather adding the question, "... so that I can love who?" to the end of the verses you read today.
It will certainly give you a new way to express your faith. A way that God says is the only thing that counts.
Dear Lord, thank You for showing me how to express my faith in a fresh way. Help me to love others with the same love and compassion You so freely lavish upon me. You are my rock and my redeemer. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
Is there a young woman in your life who could use a fresh way to look at her faith? Check out Lysa TerKeurst's new book What Happens When Young Women Say Yes to God, co-written with her teenage daughter Hope. Filled with interactive sections and ways to get into God's Word, this book will leave any young woman feeling encouraged and equipped for her walk with the Lord. Click here to purchase your copy!
Reflect and Respond:
Who can you love today?
Choose someone to really bless. Commit to pray for and reach out to that person often. Do things that will make them feel loved. For example, surprise a friend with her favorite coffee drink one morning.
Ephesians 5:1-2, "Follow God's example, therefore, as dearly loved children 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." (NIV)
1 John 4:7-8, "Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love." (NIV)
I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.
2 Timothy 1:5
Your parents’ faith is a gift from God and is not to be taken for granted. What a rock of reassurance you have in a legacy of love for the Lord. They stand for the truth of God and they live it with humility and grace. It is because of their faith that you have faith. They instilled the fear and love of God in you early on. Their awe and respect of God inspired your soul to do the same. Your parents’ faith has been a flame of passion lighting the path of your own walk with Christ. You watched them pray, so you pray; you watched them trust God, so you trust God; you watched them love people, so you love people; you watched them forgive, so you forgive; you watched them do the right things, so you do the right things; you witnessed their generosity, so you are generous. Your parents are models of faithfulness in the ways of God. What a gift! What a reason for joy, thanksgiving, and celebration.
Have you loved your parents and thanked them lately for their gift of sincere faith? Take the time to tell them how grateful you are for your upbringing in the faith. Thank them and God for your training and teaching in the great truths of the Bible all those years. Their faithful teaching and modeling of truth made it easy for you to embrace truth. Now you have the opportunity to do the same for your children. The Bible says, “For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting, and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into His kingdom and glory” (1 Thessalonians 2:11-12). Model for your children what has been modeled for you: service, selflessness, confession and repentance of sin, faithfulness, and forgiveness. Keep the faith alive by putting to death the devil’s attempts to derail your legacy of love for the Lord. Be a legacy builder not a legacy killer.
If you have failed in your role as a parent of faith, now is the time to return to your roots. It is never too late to pick up your parental baton of faith. In your heart, you know it’s the right thing to do. You have explored the other road most traveled. That faithless road is full of sin and deception, hurt and harm. It is a passageway of pride and ego. This unrighteous road is so crowded that you learn quickly that it is filled with peril and life accidents. Now you are back on a search for your father’s faith. Your mother’s prayers have wooed you back and encouraged you to pray for your own children.
It is time to put away foolish and immature ways. Your deep desire is to imitate the sincere faith of your parents. They were smarter than you realized, so unleash the faith of your childhood that was endowed by your parents. Appreciate and accept their indoctrination of God’s wisdom and allow it to serve you well in your adult responsibilities. However, do not lament your lot in life if your parents lacked faith. Instead, apply the faith of surrogate spiritual parents. You are positioned on a faith walk for your kids, so walk wisely. Keep giving the gift of faith to your family. Sincere faith can be passed on from one generation to another. So, by God’s grace, be relentless, passionate, and disciplined to keep the faith alive.
Post/Tweet: Thank your parents whose faith is a flame of passion lighting the path of your walk with Christ. #parents
“To one he gave five talents of money, to another two talents, and to another one talent, each according to his ability” (Matthew 25:15).
Capacity is the ability Christ gives me to carry out His commands. And capacity varies from person to person. Some people can get by on five to six hours of sleep while I require seven to eight. Where I get out of balance is when I compare my capacity with someone of greater capacity. Indeed, capacity is meant to provide guardrails, not guilt.
So how can we use capacity to our advantage instead of our disadvantage? How can we understand our limitations and trust the Lord with the results? It starts by being honest about how God has made us. If we can only execute one project with excellence, then we limit ourselves to one. If we only have the time, money, and love for two children, then we accept this as the responsible decision. Honesty about capacity is freeing for parents.
But isn’t there a way to build capacity at work, at home, and in relationships? Yes, indeed! As you remain faithful with small responsibilities, the Lord and others can trust you with additional tasks. When you manage a small amount of money on a budget, you can be trusted with more resources to steward well. When you treat one individual with a full complement of grace and truth, you build relational capacity for more quality friendships.
Furthermore, you are over capacity when cash in your bank account is overdrawn or when you have written a relational check your emotions cannot cash. Therefore, monitor your capacity in prayer before Jesus. Ask Him for courage to say no to something new so you can say yes to current obligations. As in weight lifting, you can increase your mental, emotional, financial, and relational capacity, but it takes time, focus, and discipline.
The Lord has unlimited capacity for empathy, wisdom, and character. So go to Him for your character-capacity building. Make sure your character capacity keeps up with your success, and you will be able to handle success. Does your heart have the same capacity for humility as your mind does for truth? Build capacity around Christ’s gifts to you.
“We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise. We, however, will not boast beyond proper limits, but will confine our boasting to the field God has assigned to us, a field that reaches even to you” (2 Corinthians 10:12–13).
Prayer: What capacities do I have that Christ wants to grow? To whom do I need to say no?
Related Readings: Job 15:18; Psalm 147:5; John 3:34; 1 Corinthians 10:23
Post/Tweet: Our character capacity needs to keep up with our success for us to handle success. #charactercapacity
Then Jesus asked, “What is the kingdom of Godlike?What shall I compare it to? It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his garden. It grew and became a tree,and the birds perched in its branches. Luke 13:18-19
The Lord loves to take a little and make it big for His Kingdom’s purposes. He takes a little faith in His provision and produces an ongoing supply, possibly even surplus. He takes a little love of family and grows a lasting legacy for the Lord. He takes little, but consistent financial investments and compounds them into recurring support for those who steward wisely. He takes a little obedience and multiples His influence globally. He takes a little vision and grows it into a God-size idea.
However, to grow something for God takes disciplined faith and obedience on our part. We can’t quit in the middle of the maturation process, otherwise we miss out on the Lord’s lasting outcome. Like a beautiful baby takes nine months to come full term, so the blessings of God gestate by grace, mature by prayerful obedience and are birthed by trust in His timing. Thus, we stay in the process with Jesus. In His good time, He grows our big vision that brings Him glory!
You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. Hebrews 10:36
Will you run away when things get rough? Or will you stay in the game by God’s grace? Anyone can quit, few are the faithful. The process is as important as the progress and the end product. Therefore, stay engaged with Jesus and enjoy Him as you journey though stages of life. Your consistent acts of obedience, as little as they might seem, lead to the Lord’s bigger opportunities.
Most of all, take a little time each day to spend with your Heavenly Father. The tap root of your trust in God deepens and expands, so the trunk of your life becomes like a broad and bold Sequoia. The sturdy branches of your beliefs are a safe place to sit and rest for those who need the sanctuary of your encouragement. Yes, you may have just started with an acorn of salvation, but God will grow you into His bigger oak tree of blessing. Grace keeps you growing in Him!
But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen. 2 Peter 3:18
Prayer: Heavenly Father grow me into Your big blessing for those I meet day to day.
Related Readings: Daniel 4:21; Zechariah 4:10; Luke 17:6; 2 Corinthians 2:14; Colossians 1:6
Post/Tweet today: Consistent acts of obedience, as little as they might seem, lead to the Lord’s bigger opportunities. #obey
"As the Father has loved me, so have I 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." John 15:9-10 (ESV)
Miss Emma's wrinkled hands cupped my chin—her palm a reservoir for my tears. I walked down the hallways saying tearless goodbyes to 119 other residents, and yet my farewell with her released a levy of emotions.
The scattered pieces of my heart felt like they were blown about by the scurrying of nurses' footsteps and doctors' orders resounding off the walls of the nursing home.
It felt wrong to leave her alone, forsaken in this dark place.
Her family, or lack thereof, had rendered her anchorless; adrift in the lonely sea of a 120 bed facility. A drab place where my Activities Department team and I were brought in to dispel the dreariness. My job at "The Brick" would have been more bleak if not for Miss Emma and a few others.
I didn't allow many details of this place to sink in further than the surface of my heart. Stories repeated ten times each day rolled off my back. Routines of medicine and meals and the wandering of hallways became mundane tasks. Yet one name, one person, chiseled deep into my heart: Miss Emma.
I perched on the edge of our goodbye, on the edge of her bed, hesitant to leave her. "Who'll sit in the sunshine with you? Who'll listen? Who'll sing hymns with you?"
Worry wrung my heart. Visions of Miss Emma, alone ... lonely ... made my jaw tense and ache with pain for her. A square punch by sadness will do that to a girl.
But not her. Beautiful brown saucers brimmed with confidence. I waded in the refreshing waters of her eyes, rich pools of wisdom.
"I'll be fine sugar ... I'm never alone. Don't you realize the One who created the sun sits with me? He listens always, hearing my prayers and needs. His presence is in the very praises we sing to Him. Child, we're never alone."
Tucked away from the world, Miss Emma changed mine. She lived tightly knit to the Vine. Abided in Jesus' love through His Word and worship and prayer. Miss Emma dwelled in this truth:
Christ beside me, Christ before me,
Christ behind me, Christ within me,
Christ beneath me, Christ above me. ~St. Patrick
Though abandoned by her earthly family, she rested in the knowledge that her Heavenly Father never would leave her. Indeed, He made a home in her so she could nestle in Him.
Her solid assurance lifted my chin, calmed my heart. The strength she found in the truth that Christ never leaves us left a lasting impression on me. I began looking for ways He was with me: by giving me the wisdom to hold my tongue, or helping me sleep at night, or steadying me when anxious.
Might we find hope in Him today as well? Curl up in His love by writing a Scripture verse on our heart. Lean into God's sure presence through lifting our voice in praise. Abide in His peace with a time of prayer ... sharing and listening.
Christ is within us, before us, behind us. And as Miss Emma so confidently knew, He will never leave or forsake us. We're never alone.
Dear Lord, thank You for calling us Your children. And for making a home within us, so we may rest secure in You. Because You are our dwelling place, we are never alone. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
We’d love to be a "Miss Emma" for you! Our team’s daily devotions are sprinkled throughout our brand new NIV Real-Life Devotional Bible for Women, explaining passages a bit more and relating them to your real life.
Reflect and Respond:
Spend time today in our dwelling place, Jesus, through studying of the Bible, worship and prayer.
Deuteronomy 31:6, "Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the LORD your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you." (ESV)
Matthew 28:20b, "...and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." (NAS)
Then he [Jesus] told this parable: “A man had a fig tree growing in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it but did not find any. Luke 13:6
The expectation of the Lord is for His children to bear fruit. Indeed, a life without fruit takes up space, instead of being an expression of God’s grace. Our Heavenly Father is patient, however He does draw a line in the sand of time and says to individuals, institutions and nations, repent or lose My favor. A soul or society that is barren of fruitful faith will eventually see God move on to those governed by His principles. The fruit of faith flourishes in a heart cultivated by Christ.
What fruit is your faith producing? The fruit of peace comes as you plant the seeds of trust in Jesus. Patience’s fruit appears as you prayerfully water the seeds of God’s grace. The fruit of perseverance is produced when you fertilize with faith in the goodness of God. Humility’s fruit blossoms when your Heavenly Father sows His loving kindness into your soul. Furthermore, a harvest of good deeds (enough to fill a barn) occurs when death to self brings to life your love!
I [Jesus] amthe true vine,and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit,while every branch that does bear fruit he prunesso that it will be even more fruitful. John 15:1-2
The mercy of the Lord does include a pruning process. Instead of immediately removing a fruitless faith He gives it time to grow by the shears of suffering. Yes, pain is meant to purge us from unhealthy habits and remind us of our undeniable dependence on Christ. Our Heavenly Husband cuts back our branches diseased by sin. Jesus, our Vine of spiritual nutrients, feeds our faith. Then the Holy Spirit creates blossoms in our life by bearing the fruit of the Spirit.
Otherwise, if the compassionate and thorough work of the Trinity is ignored we are in danger of being cut off from the life-giving grace of the Father, Son and Spirit. Furthermore, we are commanded by Christ to spread the manure of His mercy around the base of the unhealthy lives we influence. Yes, our service may smell repulsive to sinful souls, but our relentless love and forgiveness may facilitate fruit with the sweet aroma of salvation. Fruitful faith enjoys God’s favor.
The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor.For we are co-workers in God’s service;you are God’s field, God’s building. 1 Corinthians 3:8-9
Prayer: Heavenly Father prune back my unhealthy attitudes and actions, so I can serve others.
Related Readings: Isaiah 5:2; Jeremiah 8:13; John 15:5-8; Hebrews 6:7
Post/Tweet today: A soul or society that is barren of fruitful faith will eventually see God move on to those governed by His principles. #faithfulness
Without a doubt, Stryper is one of the top Christian rock bands of all-time, and certainly the most celebrated Christian metal band of all time. Comprised of Michael Sweet (vocals/guitar), Oz Fox (guitar), Tim Gaines (bass), and Robert Sweet (drums), Stryper has been rocking since 1983, and is responsible for such '80s metal classic albums as 'Soldiers Under Command,' 'To Hell with the Devil,' In God We Trust,' and such MTV hit singles/videos as "Calling on You," "Free," and "Honestly."
After a sabbatical for much of the 1990's, Stryper returned strong in the early 21st century. But it was not until their 2011 covers set, 'The Covering,' that the aforementioned definitive Stryper was reinstated, as the band welcomed Gaines back into the fold.
Recently, I sat down with Michael to talk through what had transpired in the previous months until now. What I heard amazed me. Michael and his band mates have continued to be on a mission for over 30 years. To point people to Christ. In this interview Michael shares what is on his heart. He is honest and real.
John: Michael, just to kind of start… you guys have a new record out now called Second Coming—which certainly brings back a lot of amazing memories, probably for you guys as well as for us as fans. I want to go back to the beginning. When it all began, when it was you and your brother and a couple of other guys with long hair. You guys wanted to change the world. Take us back. When was that? Was it 1983 or ‘82 when you guys formed the band?
Michael: It was 1983 when we officially formed—the four of us: Tim, Oz, Rob and myself. Robert and I had been doing it long before then, of course, but when Tim actually came and joined forces with us, and the four of us decided collectively to pursue the Stryper thing, that was 1983. And it’s been virtually nonstop since then, with just a few detours along the way.
I left the band in 1992, and then we didn’t head out on the road again until 2003. That was over ten years later; and we didn’t officially reunite again until 2005, and that wasn’t even with Tim. Tim did the ‘03 tour, but he didn’t reunite with us when we did it officially in 2005. He wanted to pursue other things, so we wound up going out with a different bass player. But then Tim came back to the band in ‘09 and we’ve been going with him ever since.
It’s been the original line-up since then, and that’s what you get on this record, Second Coming—which is really unique and rare, I think. Most bands that are 30 years old don’t consist of the original line-up, so this feels really good to us as a group. In fact, we’re very proud to be able to say that.
John: I’m sure! I mean it certainly has been a remarkable story, following your career and seeing how you guys, in a sense, went separate ways, but then somehow came back together again.
Michael: Well, you know, I think that’s one of the misconceptions about the band. I think because we are a band that consists of Christian guys (we’re four Christian guys who have deep faith), people expect us to be perfect and to not have any issues, and to get along 100 percent of the time and that’s just not the case. I mean, we wind up going through ups and downs and relationship issues with each other, even to the point where we need breaks from one another. We really do need time away from each other sometimes. That might sound odd to people when they hear it, but those are the facts. It’s just kind of how life is. And the beauty in that, because of our faith, you know, is that God always restores and heals. So with a little bit of time away, we come back restored and revived, and God works through the band again and incredible things happen.
It’s really been quite a unique story and to be a part of it, I’m blessed. I’m so blessed.
John: How does that transpire? Do you guys just kind of call each other on the phone and say, “Hey, I think we have something again?” How did things start moving in that direction, where God orchestrated the four of you to shift toward coming back together again?
Michael: Well, just speaking for myself… I’m sure if you ask that question of us individually, you might get a different answer or a different reaction, maybe similar but different. But, my answer to that is I’ve always wanted God to lead the way. I felt from 1992 to 2003 like it wasn’t time. He didn’t want me to be a part of it. He had other plans for my life and other things that he wanted me to do, and to fulfill that did not mean at the time rejoining Stryper.
I just followed His lead, or at least I felt as though I was following His lead. I know there were some fans who were upset about it, and couldn’t understand why we split up. Even my brother didn’t really understand. When I left the band, he was probably the most hurt out of the bunch, and it didn’t necessarily make sense to him. He always thought brothers would stick together no matter what, through thick-and-thin. Yes, that does apply in the private life—it should apply—but not always in terms of business—and that’s the thing, we’re a ministry, but we’re also a business. So sometimes when you’re in business with family, as you know, if you’ve ever experienced that, it doesn’t always work.
You kind of need to step back and say, “Okay. I’ve got to clear my head here, because (and not a lot of people know this) we went bankrupt.” I mean, we never incorporated the band, and because of that we were just a partnership. And we wound up building up and racking up this incredible debt, basically spending more than we made night after night for years, all to put on this production and what not. We wound up having this huge debt and as individual partners we had to file bankruptcy. There were a lot of things like that, which I’ll talk about in the book I’m working on. It’s an autobiography, and I get into all the details of those things. So there were a lot of reasons why I needed to clear my head and get away from it all; so much so, that I moved from the West coast to the East coast. Not only did I need to get away from it, but I needed to get as far away from it as possible. So, that’s what I did for a while.
John: To say that there’s new life in Stryper is kind of a misnomer though, isn’t it?
Michael: There is new life in Stryper, and that’s because of Christ. I don’t mean to sound cliché, but there really is.
John: That’s not a cliché. That’s the truth.
Michael: It is. It’s the truth, and only God can do that. Only He can restore and heal, and change men’s hearts—only Him—and that’s what happened. After some time away, healing took place and we were able to come together again. Not only come together, but to love each other more than before, and to work together better than we ever did. It’s really incredible. It demonstrates what God can do and is a powerful testament to His love.
John: I can’t remember what year it was, but I saw you guys a few years back. You played the Wild Horse in Nashville TN, and man, it was as if you had not missed a beat. I literally was standing there going, “I feel like these guys have never left.” Like you’d always been playing together, all four of you guys.
How have you honed your craft as a group in all of these years? How have you guys stayed on top of the game? I mean, you guys sound great!
Michael: Well, thank you, first of all. Thank you very much. I think a lot of that comes from, first, the fact that is Robert and I are brothers. There is something that comes with that in terms of meshing, and we just lock. He goes for a cymbal, I know he’s going to go for a cymbal and I’m going to go for a chord and he’s going to hit a kick and I’m going to stop with his kick. We just kind of know what each other’s going to do. I’ve heard this from other brothers in the music business as well: Eddie Van Halen and Alex Van Halen, on and on. There’s something to be said for that connection, and not just with brothers, sisters or siblings, or what have you. There’s just something to be said about that. So that’s the first thing, and then secondly, we all went to high school together. We all grew up together pretty much.
Even prior to high school, we knew each other. Oz and Robert and I, so growing up together in the same time, in the same area, I think, plays a big part in it too. We just know each other so well, and we know what we’re going to do musically, that we could play it in our sleep. There’s a certain chemistry that happens and so a lot of it’s just instinctual.
John: You guys decided to come out with the Second Coming. You do classic songs—is that the right word to use? Do you like that word?
Michael: Yes, I think so. I mean I would call them classic. They’re certainly fan favorites, and they’re old. Some of those songs date back to 1981.
John: How did you go through and pick those songs?
Michael: That was really easy. The reason, or purpose, rather, for this record was solely for our publishing company. We were going to re-record a handful of the songs—as many as we could afford to and that we had time for—so we could retain the rights to the masters so that nobody else would own them. We would own them, and the publishing company would come directly to us and say, “Hey, we got this movie Mark Wahlberg is in, and we want to use ‘Loud and Clear.’” We’d say, “Cool” or something like that, and the deal could be done in one phone call, versus them having to go to Disney and Hollywood and trying to get someone on the phone for two weeks. Because once they do that, then they would have had to go talk to their boss, and get back to them in two weeks. And then when they finally do get back to them after a month has gone by, the deal has either gone south, or they don’t want to do it, or they want too much money or something.
This happened time and time again, and we got fed up with it, and said, “You know what? This is silly. I mean, let’s just go re-record these songs and make it simple and cut out the middleman.” And that’s why we did it. Once we went and started recording, we kept that in mind. We figured we’d do the favorites. So we did the most popular tunes and tackled the first three albums, and then our mentality was we’ll get to the other albums later.
Michael: When we have the time and the money, that’s what we plan on doing. Right now, we don’t have any set time frame. We don’t know when that will take place; maybe in two or three years we’ll do another Second Coming or a re-record. We’ll hit albums like, In God We Trust, Against The Law and maybe even Reborn and Murder by Pride.
John: You were thinking of all the fans, like, “Hey, these are the songs these guys want,” and I love it. I absolutely love it. It’s fantastic!
Michael: Well, I’ll tell you, honestly, we weren’t initially thinking of the fans at all, because we had no plans to release it to the fans. It was only being done for our publishing company.
John: Well, on behalf of your fans, Michael, thank you. Thank you so much.
Michael: You know what, we’re really pleased that it worked out that way, and that we were able to release it to the fans too. We wound up hooking up with a great company, Frontiers, who has a vision for what we’re doing. They had a super high belief level in Second Coming and they got behind. They made it happen, and they released it and God bless them. We couldn’t have done it without them, no way.
John: So is there a tour planned?
Michael: At the moment, believe it or not, no tour is planned. Here’s what’s going on. This year, we’re going to do a handful of select dates across America starting in June and going through September. But first, we’re going to make a new record. We signed a three-album deal with Frontiers, and they put some pretty heavy deadlines on us. We’re okay with that, though. They’re going to release another record this year—coming out in either September or October. It’s going to be an all-new, original 12-song album. You’ll need to put some head gear on, John, and get in the boxing ring, though, because it’s going to punch you in the face about 10 times, or 12 times I should say!
John: I love it.
Michael: It’s going to be real heavy. We’re going back to our roots, which is exactly what people expect from Stryper, I think. I really believe it’s going to be our best album to date. People are going to hear it and hopefully think, “What in the world? How is this possible?” We’re really excited about that.
Then we’ve got those dates that I talked about from June to September, and then we’ll to do another album, probably a live recording of our rehearsals in Nashville in November. That’ll come out early next year, in the first or second quarter of 2014.
John: You certainly are not very busy, is what I’m hearing. (laughs)
Michael: You know what, brother? I’m overwhelmingly busy! I have a solo record coming out, supposedly this year, with a book. I’ve been asked to sing for another band too (which I actually can’t really talk about at the moment), and maybe do some touring with them in October. It’s been kind of crazy, really. I think about it, and I don’t remember a year in the history of Michael Sweet ever being this crammed full of stuff. It’s just ridiculous. I guess that’s a good thing. I’m very, very blessed.
John: Michael, as we’re kind of nearing our conversation here, I just want to touch base on that. Obviously, I was kidding you in saying that you’re not very busy. As a man who pursues Christ, how do you challenge either your peers, or the people at your church, or others you come across—like those reading this blog—in the midst of life’s busyness, to stay focused on Christ? What is your process in going through that, and how can we learn from you?
Michael: Well, not only do I challenge everyone, but I challenge myself more than others, because I’m guilty of not doing this. That is, when you put your feet on the floor in the morning, and when you lay your head on the pillow every night, I’d say thank God. Talk to Him, and develop a relationship with God through a simple prayer, a long prayer, meditation, or even going into a closet or into a room and closing the blinds, if you have time. If you don’t, do whatever you can to make time for Christ. For connecting with Him. I think so many times we visualize God as being somewhere else, being distant in heaven, far away, but the fact is that he’s right here in front of us and around us daily at every moment.
I think if we come to terms with that part, that He is with us all the time and as close to us as anyone can be, it might help us develop a close relationship with Him and talk to him more. I try to include him more and to think of him more. Unfortunately, daily life often robs us of that one-on-one time with not only God, but with anyone else who might be close to us. The people we love, unfortunately, kind of get thrown out the window, and we wind up focusing more on our business and the tasks at hand and what we have to do today. It’s the old To-do list. Then we realize after 30 years passes, how much time we’ve wasted, that we didn’t use to focus on loving God and our family.
I would just share with people to just love God with all your heart. Put Him first, and then put your family second, obviously, above all the other stuff that just truly doesn’t matter.
John: So, here are two slightly random questions coming from a few followers, a few friends of ours here. You did a stint with Boston, the band, is that an ongoing relationship?
Michael: It’s not really. I’m in touch with them, mostly with the co-lead vocalist, Tommy Decarlo, I’d say. He and I are dear friends and have stayed true friends over the years. I’ve kind of lost touch with Tom and Kim, Tom’s wife, for no particular reason. I wound up deciding to leave them almost two years ago because I wanted to focus on Stryper. I felt like there were too many distractions, as we were just talking about, from my priority band, the band that I started building as a kid with my brother. I just wanted to focus on that, instead of working with the inconsistency of not knowing when we were going to do this or that, and being a little more on and off, if you will, with Boston.
I just felt like it wasn’t the ideal way for me to conduct my affairs or scheduling, at that point. So I left that, even though some people might think, “What? Are you crazy? And some might think I was crazy for joining Boston in the first place. I mean, I got some flack for that from the Christian community. Like maybe I wasn’t a Christian or something because I joined a secular band. So, you hear all this kind of stuff, and you just think, “Wow. Okay, I guess that’s what determines your Christianity and your faith to some.”
John: Is there ever a moment, Michael, where you or Stryper will not be under the microscope when it comes to the Church?
Michael: I don’t think so, because we’re just so different. We weren’t raised in the church. We were raised in Hollywood on Sunset Strip, and because of that, I don’t think we’re ever going to really fit in or be a part of “the club.” We love our Christian brothers and sisters, don’t get me wrong. Man! We love them to death, and some of my best friends are into that, but Stryper’s just always done things their own way. In saying that, I don’t mean that we do things our own way in the sense that we don’t listen to God. We absolutely 100 percent listen to God. We pray about everything. We wait on everything, and we do everything according to God’s lead. But it doesn’t always line up with how other Christian artists or people in this industry are doing things. So, because of that, we get a little flack. We’ve taken some beatings over the years and that’s okay. We’ve got tough skin. We’re okay.
John: As we close here, I’m wondering, I’m sure you’ve had some embarrassing moments on the road with the guys? Is there something that comes to mind?
Michael: Most embarrassing moment, let’s see. I talk about this in the book. For me, it goes way back to a time when some guy was banging his head in front of my feet at the bottom of the stage. He was banging his head so hard that his glass eye popped out.
John: Oh, my goodness.
Michael: It was at my foot. I didn’t know it was a glass eye and he kept yelling at me and I bent down and flicked the eye. I didn’t know it was an eye! And it went through the audience, and then he was obviously livid for the rest of the show. It was in Australia, and it’s one of the most surreal, oddball stories I’ve ever told, but it’s real. It’s a true story that actually happened. It was crazy.
John: Oh, my goodness.
Michael: I was very embarrassed and it was difficult, but I had to get through another 45 minutes of the set with this guy yelling at me and wanting to jump on stage, and probably give me a good slap across the face, but hey.
John: Wow. Unbelievable.
After listening to The Second Coming, many times, I have to say that I have pleased. This band still rocks. Michael can still hit those high notes. Both Robert and Tim still have rhythm. Don't get me wrong, these guys are not some grandpas trying to sound relevant. They are a rock band that has stood the test of time. They sound great.
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