The Paradox of Faith

When the inspiration to write is given, but not what to write about, what is the solution? I could write a story and recount what has happened in my life, but that seems too trivial for now. It might be an interesting read but would lack the substance of how I feel at the moment. A list of where I’ve been and who I’ve met doesn’t share the important stuff. When people read, they want to learn. They want to learn something about the Human Condition, another perspective on life, or something that challenges their worldview or their morality. In the process of reading, as they expand their understanding of life, people want to learn a little bit about themselves. I’d like to suggest that, for this same reason, that is also why the author writes. So, if the author writes to learn about himself, nothing would be better to write about then what he has learned.

Foremost, I have learned that being a Christian becomes increasingly difficult but increasingly important as I grow up. It becomes increasingly difficult to be accountable to my knowledge of God. As I understand God more, I understand the importance of living up to his Holy standard as well as the depravity of not living up to it. I cannot live up to it but I must. The more we know God, the more responsible we must be. As I grow out of my ignorance, I understand my sin more and its consequences, and yet still I do not understand it enough. Truly, the more you know, the less you know. It’s a paradox to know the living God, to understand that the path to righteousness is drenched with sin. When we feel the weight of sin and its power to separate us from God is when we are closest to Him. To whom much is given much is required, and our knowledge is not exempt. This is why it becomes so much more important to follow God, the more we know about him. It is how we live with integrity and not in hypocrisy. We are held accountable by God for what we know and what we do with this knowledge. What I am learning is that I have to live in such a way, that I can live with calling myself a Christian.

I have also been learning, and will never stop learning, that the life of a Christian is a pursuit of discipline. As my knowledge of God increases, and the standard that I am held at increases, so must my discipline. When I was a younger Christian, it seemed that I could coast by with a low level of discipline and not feel the weight. But now, it is not enough. Lack of discipline leads to a substandard walk of faith. When we operate on feelings and emotions, we are subject to their ebb and flow. We only read when we find ourselves with some spare time. We only pray in the in-between times. Without discipline, we don’t fight for our faith. I have learned this the hard way and because of my lack of discipline, I have found myself not living up to the standard that I should be held at. Really, what drives me to be more disciplined is the desire to walk with a clear conscience; to call myself a Christian and not feel the hypocrisy. Discipline is the key and yet it’s still so hard to be disciplined. We have to fight for discipline with discipline, another paradox. The more you know, the more you understand what you need to do. The only way you will further your walk with Jesus is with discipline. Instead of reading in our spare time, let’s set aside prime time to learn from Jesus himself. Instead of praying in the moments between tasks, let’s make time to talk to Jesus himself. There are many things to be disciplined about but our walk with Jesus must be first.

As I said, the writer writes to learn about himself. He learns about himself to instruct himself. I am not a professor teaching from mastery and expertise, I am the student learning and evaluating his life with Jesus. I still feel like a hypocrite and I am still not disciplined. I don’t think I’ll ever succeed in living up to the standard because as my knowledge increases, so will my standard. And with my standard raising, my discipline will also have to raise with it. It won’t stop so long as I live but I know who I do it for and I know what is at the end of the road. I know this life is temporary and eternity lies beyond death, so I live looking forward.  I write so that I can learn to grow but I also hope that someone can learn to grow by reading. Maybe that’s the real reason to write after all.

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Ice Cream

 

I find that I usually put myself in a situation to make myself write. A situation that seems poetically right, like I’m a classic writer that does this all the time, sitting in a coffee shop at an airport with my MacBook out and headphones in. What I like to imagine though is that I’m sitting with my friends C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and the other Inklings at the Eagle and Child writing this measly update while they’re busy writing what will be legendary stories for the ages to come. I’m not in the midst of writing a novel but here I sit and here I write in Istanbul waiting to catch a flight to Beirut. 

There’s so much that I’ve missed out on sharing but luckily, they’re very well captured and told through the official tour video updates. All I can say is that I’m blown away by this opportunity. With 5 days left, its the perfect time to reflect on what my time on tour with No Longer Music has taught me.



God wants to be our friend.
Ive saved the best for first. If I’ve learned anything in these last few months, it’s that God doesn’t desire our job well done, our systematic theology, or our sacrifices. I’ve changed on this trip from wanting to do great things for Him to wanting to be his friend. That’s it. It’s not because what I do for Him doesn’t have value, but its because He’s the one that gives it value. My being able to do great things for him are purely a grace. When I realized that doing ministry is a gift is when I figured out that God above all desires our friendship. Because this amazing tour is a gift. It’s God’s ridiculously roundabout way to spend time with me. And while I spend time with him, I’m able to tell people all over the world about what He did for them because I’m overwhelmed by what he did for me. Missions is Gods version of “Take your son to work day.”

God wants us to have ice cream.
I fear that many people have shared the same mindset as me. That based on our choices, God will punish or reward us. He will surely discipline us, but He’s a father. It’s not Karma. God just wants our obedience. It’s not because he wants a bunch of slaves on Earth, but because he truly knows what is best for us. If he knows what is best for us, of course he wants us to be obedient. He knows what is best and he wants what is best. I choose to follow that God. He also wants to bless us with good gifts that we like to call ice cream. This tour is ice cream. One time I prayed a simple prayer for coffee when it wasn’t in the normal spot. After giving up and sitting in a couch waiting for our daily meeting to start, Caleb walked in with a fresh French Press and some extra cups. Ice cream.

God wants to answer our prayers.
On that note, God wants to answer our prayers. He wants us to pray for our daily bread (and ice cream for dessert) so that he can give it to us. John Wesley once said “God does nothing but in answer to prayer”. Do I think that if everyone on Earth stopped praying at once that God would stop working as if he derives power from our prayers? No. But this is a good and healthy reminder that God will act with our without our prayers but He would much rather act in answer to the prayers of his saints. He enjoys it and it sustains us. The first lesson I learned on this tour was on the first day of rehearsals in Minneapolis when we met for prayer before practice. No more token blessings and prayers! Really share your heart and needs. Honestly, I still find an hour or two of prayer to be exhausting sometimes! But I’ve seen it work. We have been provided for in so many ways when it would have been reasonable to give up on it. God wants to test us with little so He can trust us with more. 

No time for a thoughtful ending, I have a flight to catch!

The West Endeavour

It’s hard to remember everything that has happened since we left our base in Krogis, Germany for the second leg of our tour in Spain and Portugal. To start off our trip, we spent 3 days driving through France and camping for 2 nights in random fields along the highway. If you thought we lived the high life in hotels, let this be proof enough that we don’t! We weren’t allowed to start a fire the second night because the mayor of the city happened to drive by and see us. He was kind enough to let us stay there for the night and cook our sausages at his house. He even lead us to a cafe in the morning.

The more shows we play, the more mixed up they get to me. I can remember the conversations I had and the site of the venue but I forget the order of shows and what cities they were in. I remember a show in Portugal where it was unnaturally cold and the Portuguese soccer teams were playing each other at the same time as our show so the crowd was relatively small. As David finished preaching, a guy turned around to Steve and I and without us saying a word, he tells us how he loved the music and how ingrained the message of Jesus is and he admires how strong our belief in it is but he is an atheist. We talked for quite a while about what he believed and the obstacles in the way of him believing what we preach. By the end of the conversation, I gave him a couple references to look up including a Christian Philosopher that I admire, William Lane Craig since he was very interested in Philosophy. His son was with him and was also very intelligent himself, often correcting grammar mistakes and offering opinions of his own. They told me I could be certain that they would look these references up. There are some conversations that can’t be concluded even in a generous half-hour and he had to leave so I’m very happy that he gave me his word that he would look into it more. I told him like I tell everyone else that what he thinks about Jesus is the most important decision he will ever make.

Some of our locations were absolutely prime and I couldn’t believe we played right on the edge of the river next to the Puente de Isabel II bridge in Sevilla Spain. A famous DJ played before us and at least a thousand people stood by and watched our show and many more thousands would have heard us as we blasted our 26,000 watt sound system over the water and to the surrounding area. We were right in the middle of the night life with bars and clubs lining the streets above us. We played two shows in a prison in Spain but they wouldn’t let us record video. We had to arrive early for security and get 7 tons of equipment out of the trucks in under 30 minutes. On the way out, they had to open every box and look inside before we loaded it back on to the truck. I wasn’t sure what to expect from the shows but it was the best response so far. We weren’t allowed to go talk to the prisoners after but God made it clear that He moved. They wouldn’t stop clapping and cheering and saying thank you when it was all done. The last show of our western endeavor was in the church that had been housing us for our Madrid shows. It also served as a rehab center and by the end of the week, they told us they were our new home base in Spain. Hundreds of people packed the sanctuary and David called them to kneel if they wanted to know Jesus. I watched as people intentionally walked from one side of the room to the other to kneel and pray with David. As I watched, I couldn’t help but laugh. The kind of laugh that Abraham laughed when he was told He would have a son in his old age. None of the shows would have been a better way to end that leg of tour and to reminisce on while we drove for 3 more days back through France to Germany.

In a few more days we will return to Poland for 9 back to back shows and then move on to Ukraine. I’ll leave you with a recap video of the last couple weeks.

http://http://vimeo.com/97679002

I’m not a drummer

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Here I am, sitting in the aisle of the mini bus we have in for this leg of the tour. After getting in last night, taking a shower, and quickly checking messages, I got to sleep around 1 and woke up at 7. We are driving 6 hours to the 4th show in a row in Poland, and the tour finally feels like it’s moving. Ten members of our team drove through the night to arrive and set up the stage before 1 for the festival we are playing at. I’m thankful I was able to sleep in a bed last night!

Poland is beautiful. I’ve been here before but have never seen so much of it. My emphasis has always been in the Czech Republic but I’m learning to love it here too and have tried picking up a few phrases along the way. We’ve had amazing support so far from the church, so much so in one city that after the show, only a few of us were able to talk to anybody because the youth group was already talking to everybody. We prefer this much more than doing it ourselves, not because we don’t want to but because we leave the next day, the Church doesn’t. I have already had great conversations though after the show, one with Mark in Krakow, and another with Matthew last night in Chorzow. Matthew doesn’t know God but he says he’s “taking steps to get there”. He was in a group that he called his “foster family”, but he’s not adopted, he is just that close with them. The parents and actual son are Christians and they brought him from another city to see the show even though he didn’t want to. He was very nice, and I was able to explain that what he thinks about Jesus is the most important thing in his life, and it will be the most important step. I challenged him to read James and consider that the Bible is not one book but many books and shouldn’t be discarded as fiction but real historic records from people who saw this man Jesus of Nazareth who claimed to be the son of God. He has three choices of what to think about Jesus. Either He was crazy, a liar, or really who he said he was. I left Matthew, praying for him and his foster family, and he prayed for me as well. He is surrounded by Christians who will help him take those steps, and I told them to make sure he reads James!

I really enjoyed talking to Mark from Krakow and I couldn’t imagine a better start to the tour. I’m not here to be a drummer, I’m here to talk to people after the show like Mark and Matthew. (Luke and John are next). When David asked who wanted to know this Jesus he preached about, I saw Mark from the stage throw his hand up and start asking for David to come over. His friend did the same but later I realized his friend was mocking but Mark wasn’t. When I found him after the show I asked him what he thought and had a translator to help him, but he didn’t need one. His English was slow but good. Before I even talked about Jesus, he was speaking of wanting and needing redemption (his own word) so I told him Jesus is that redemption he is looking for. He thought he needed to give something in exchange for this gift but I pressed against it and told him it was a lie, and this gift is free, otherwise it would be pointless because we can’t do anything to receive it. We were hopeless and Jesus came to change that. We talked for at least half an hour and as it was getting late, I wanted to know what he believed about Jesus and our message. He said he wasn’t sure what he would tell his friends yet but “deep down in his heart, he thinks what I said is truth”. God used me to speak truth into his life even when his mocking friend walked by and said in Polish, “They are brainwashing you”. The translator was from the local church and he exchanged contact information with Mark so I’m confident that God will continue to change Mark. I promised him that if he sincerely wanted this redemption from Jesus, He would be changed.

Admittedly, I’ve been very cold lately. Not depressed, just drained and dry. Talking to Mark and then thinking about it the next day and even now gives me refreshment. It had eternal significance, importance beyond death. I wonder if I was wired to seek out these encounters, that they would have impact and that I would be satisfied by them and be given new energy. If we have 50 shows, I want to have 50 conversations that change lives.

I’m not here to be a drummer.

Thank you for your support, I hope this gives you a glimpse into what Steiger is all about and what I wish to continue doing with your help. Without your support, I’m not here and as David often prays, “without God, I’m dead”. Please pray for more shows, that I would be given more people to talk to so that I can be used again to speak truth and that by it, I may be refreshed.

Art of Preparation

keiji snow hit

3 whole weeks. I’ve been in Minneapolis for 3 weeks today and it feels like 3 months. 3 days before I arrived in Minneapolis I left my hometown to play 3 shows with Abandon Kansas. We got home from our last show at 3am and my flight left 3 hours later. It took me about 3 minutes to write those 3 sentences [if you don’t count the first one(which is 3 words long)].

Every time we do something here that requires late nights or one thing right after another to get things done, it’s dubbed rock’n’roll. I tapped into my rock’n’roll reserves when I made last minute adjustments to play those last shows with [AK] and I had a blast! The show in Kansas City was on another level as a result of new and recent friends all meeting up and hanging out during the day before the show. The show was at the Conservatory, a really grungy dark place and at least half of the crowd plus the bands agreed to dress up beforehand. So there we were dressed to the teeth and there wasn’t much of a barrier between the stage and crowd. I mean that figuratively. It just felt like we were all gathered to do something collectively as friends. We were privileged to have a couple videographer friends film our set so definitely look forward to that!

That was Saturday. Sunday was a show in Wichita. It was a strange set-up being a class reunion and playing twice, once as AK, the other as a cover band but overall it was good.. A couple good friends came to watch so I didn’t have to awkwardly talk to someone new or on the flip side, pretend to be stand-off-ish so I wouldn’t have to do that. Thanks friends. My flight left at 6 the next morning and arrived in Minneapolis early enough to go straight to Church, then straight to No Longer Music rehearsals. Two solid weeks of full-time rehearsals to get the show down before a weekend of send-off shows in Kansas City and Sterling. That’s what I’ve been doing in Minneapolis.

I’m amazed at the network of people who enable Steiger to do what they do with NLM. People don’t just appreciate what we do, they get behind it and make it happen. Ridgewood Church let us keep our entire set in their main auditorium for rehearsals. Rick and Mavis have let me and Kersten live in their house while we are here. Rick builds props and fixes our cars. Mark is letting Alex and Keiji live in his house. Grace church is letting us set up this week and do a show on Sunday and film a live DVD. They’re letting us use a van. A Ridgewood member let us use his trailer for the weekend. Numerous supporters have brought us lunch and dinner during practice. Jay and Janelle drove 7 hours for a supporter lunch last week. Steve in Des Moine let me and Steve stay at his house. People give their hard-earned money to Steiger so we can tour this Summer. Members of my own church, Westside Baptist, have donated over $1,000 to me so I can tour this Summer. It’s just the snowflake on top of the tip of the iceberg. The support of this thing is massive and it’s growing.

So far my time here has been a LOT of practice with enough time to unwind and relax at the end of the day. I’m staying in a wonderful home and we were invited to join the family for Easter Supper today. Im procrastinating on homework right now but I’ll get it done right before midnight like every Sunday. We’ve had a few days off so I’ve been able to see the city and meet new friends as well as get to know my band mates better and take pictures. Our final send off show is in a week so tomorrow begins an intensive week. The next week will be DVD touch ups and fixes and then it’s time to go. We leave in two groups and I’ll leave in the later one on May 6th for Amsterdam. We’ll drive to the base is Germany and no time to waste, our first show is May 9th in Poland.

No Longer Music 2014 is going to change the world.

Adventure is out there

up movie

I love this quote because it almost unintentionally implies that you have to go on an adventure to find adventure. Adventure is not HERE, it’s OUT THERE. It implies that adventure is not the natural state of the adventurer, but that they are simply an adventurer because they go OUT THERE. Where new things are. Where unseen things are. You have to pick up and just go. The more you plan, the less spark it really has. You plan trips, you take adventures. Sometimes trips turn into adventures. I’m wearing the word out.

Continue reading “Adventure is out there”

Embrace Your(single)self

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I’m 22, an adventurous type who prefers spontaneity. I’m in College in my home-town where I’ve made a lot of friends from different groups and I love it. I’m surrounded by my peers becoming men and women as they pursue careers through college and for the first time since my first girlfriend in Middle School, I’m REALLY single. I don’t mean that as soon as one girl was gone, I had another lined up and I gave her the call. It’s actually been a few years since I’ve had a Facebook official girlfriend (because that’s a thing now). I mean the kind of single where I’m not even invested in a girl or focused on her.

I’m the kind of guy that needs someone in my life. I’m dependent on the relationship, the girl to always be there and talk to. Even when I wasn’t officially invested in someone, I had my sights centered on the ONE I wanted. If it wasn’t one, it was another. I wouldn’t have a girlfriend but I’d certainly have a girl I wished was my girlfriend. That changed. It changed because of a girl who was different. This isn’t a story about her but she played a beautiful part worth mentioning. We never dated, actually she was the courting type and we never did that either. We spent countless hours talking and becoming best friends until eventually I wanted to pursue her further and she did as well. For a little less than a year this process happened and in the end it didn’t work out but that’s fine. Here’s the key.

She wouldn’t kiss me.

She won’t kiss anyone except her husband actually. Alright dudes, throw up your red flags, I know this is such an important part of a relationship! No one wants to marry a terrible kisser! You start dating someone because you’re attracted to them and you want to find out if they’re the person you want to marry. Along the way you test out married things and some people even live together to see if it would work. Eventually, once you’ve settled in and you think you’ll be with that person forever, you ask them to marry you.
Right?
No that’s crap.

To tell you the truth, I was really excited when I found out she wouldn’t kiss me. I actually knew it all along but as it became more of a reality that we were interested in each other, this uncommon thing of hers grew on me. I loved it. Why? Because of the unbelievable freedom I had in this growing relationship between friends towards more. I had the ability to invest in her person, not her intimacy. I could talk to her without other things creeping into my mind. The fact is, I wasn’t willing to try and steal this gift for her husband, it just wasn’t an option. And we’re just talking about a kiss! How many of our relationships involve much more than that?

For the first time, I pursued a girl righteously, with intent, and I left proud of the way I conducted myself. The best part; she’s still my best friend. It wasn’t a perfect end, it was really hard honestly. But here I am, a much better man because of it and I left with a mark. I want that freedom in the next relationship I pursue and the only way I know how is to not do that one thing that inspired it all. Kiss. I know this is so counter-cultural but I’m no saint either when it comes to dating. I wasn’t happy with how things went when I dated to date, when I dated solely because I liked the person or was attracted to her. My views on dating have completely changed, my standards have raised and it has left me free from trying to impress every cute girl, free from dwelling on whether “it could work”. It’s much more serious than that! I only want to invest in someone worthwhile. I’m not playing the Stock Market anymore and instead, I’m investing in a Roth.

And now where does that leave me? Single. And happy. I suppose this is the point that I wanted to get to and we took a little trek to get here. See, I have such a different view on dating now. And I have a different approach to dating called courting. I feel incredible because like I mentioned earlier, I’m not with anyone and I’m not focused on anyone. It’s not intentional, I haven’t taken a vow of temporary (or permanent) celibacy. I’m certainly open to considering a girl as a potential wife but that’s my standard now. Future WIFE, not future fun. I don’t take that lightly. At the same time, I’m able to have fun and make new friends including girls without wondering what my plan is to get a girlfriend.

So last stop, here’s my proposition to guys and girls. If you’re in a relationship that you enjoy, awesome! Treat them with respect and be intentional! If you’re single like me, embrace it. It’s a rare opportunity to pursue dreams, make friends, find a hobby, do life as YOU. Make yourself happy, don’t make someone else do it for you. When you can be content with yourself, imagine the overflow of joy you’ll bring to a relationship when you’re intentional with him/her. When you’re REALLY single, you stop doing things to impress others. Make yourself proud! Don’t be lazy, do something! Be adventurous.

In a Letter from Paul to the Christians in Colossae-

Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.”

Complete yourself in Christ.