Struggles, this EP is about all sorts of struggles.
"Neon Signs" gets off to a fast and intense start with "We Are Under Attack". W.A.U.A. is speaking directly about how backwards things are in our world and how we are in the midst of a battle of epic proportions whether we know it or not. The song speaks to the fact that people think following Jesus is insane but AJ points out that the true insanity is in not following Jesus.
W.A.U.A. is followed up by "Identity". "Identity" deals with AJ's life pre-Christ as he was sorting a lot of life out and also wrestling with depression, suicidal thoughts and worthlessness. By the end of the song we come to understand that we can only walk in our true Identity by believing in and following Christ. "SwitchPoint" immediately follows and is about the struggles we can encounter as a believer as we wrestle with our flesh/sin. As believers we have a tendency to walk in our old identity, our old self, rather than our new identity, our new self. It is easy to find yourself lost in a cycle and begin to feel overwhelmed, defeated, depressed and confused. The great thing about this EP is that thematically AJ takes us from one place to the next as "SwitchPoint" is followed up "Take The Exit" which is related to 1 Cor 10:13, which states that God is faithful to provide us an exit so that we may endure the temptation we are facing. The thing is, we need to take the exit and flee from the temptation... This is where the battle is most intense... Praise God that we have an advocate in Christ Jesus, and that if we don't take the exit and fail, praise God for His grace that we are in desperate need of. The call here is purity, we are not to cheapen the grace of God but rather strive for holiness, and strive for Christ-likeness.
"Dimensions, Ep 2" is the second part of the saga which got it's start on A.K.A. Fisher's album "Otherworldly Weapons" (if you haven't heard that album you are greatly missing out and need to go check it out immediately... www.tentmakermusic.com/akafisher). Dimensions is following the life of a young man named Ulysses as he is bent on vengeance but God has placed people in his life that are pointing him to a greater end and that is Jesus. After the skit ends we are launched back into the music, AJ comes back in with "From The Dead" which features The Legend of Xero and is hard hitting both in lyrical content but also in beat and style. "From The Dead" makes the gospel clear and challenges people that don't know Jesus to make the decision to follow Him and to not wait as now is the time. This brings us to the final song on the EP "Each Passing Day" which features Jon Payne. "Each Passing Day" picks up right where "From The Dead" Leaves off and is a plea for people to turn from sin and turn to Jesus. "Each Passing Day" shares the reality that each day that passes brings us closer to death and that we need to make a decision about Jesus, that we need to not sleep on Christ but rather examine the claims and pray we see the signs that are all around us. Jon Payne reminds us that we are not to far gone and that we can turn to Jesus no matter what we have done, that we don't need to clean up first but rather we can come as we are scars and all. The EP ends with a powerful call to choose Jesus and to choose Him now.
"Neon Signs" is for sure a journey. Average Joe wants us all to be reminded and to know that there is a God and that through the death and resurrection of Christ we can walk in new life, we can walk in the victory that is only found in Jesus and experience true life. In the words of William Wallace "Every man dies, not every man really lives." True life is only found in Christ.
"Neon Signs" drops February, 26th and will be available on all major digital outlets.
If you’ve ever set out to do something special, something you believe God called you to do, and been disappointed when the result of your efforts fails to meet your expectations, the problem may be with your definition of “success.” This is quite common among Christians, especially Christian artists and ministers, in part because we’ve so often failed to define the word “good” correctly. Because we consider success to be something good, failure to properly define “good” can lead to a confusing conversation. So, let’s go back… back to the beginning…
(insert “flashback” harp here).
In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth and called them “good” according to the book of Genesis, perhaps we should have paid closer attention. The step-by-step account of the creation of matter and energy and space and animals and plants and humans described in chapter 1 is so fascinating that the seemingly minor detail of how God defines the word “good” is often overlooked. God, being the all-knowing, omnipresent designer and creator of the universe, would be the only one qualified to say for sure what is most beneficial for creation, so what could be more important for someone who seeks to honor and please God to know than what God considers good.
This is where I think we as Christians so often mess up and create for ourselves sources of disappointment unnecessarily. We take words like “useful” or “convenient” or “prosperous” or “popular” or “celebrated” and we treat these words as synonymous with “good.” And I understand that it is normal to use the word good very loosely in regular conversation. The food is “good,” my day was “good,” that TV show is “good,” that song was “good,” so on and so forth, and I’m certainly not trying to suggest that you are doing anything sinful by using this word in that way. The problem, however, arises when we forget that this “good’ is not identical to God’s standard of or definition for “good” and begin confusing the two. You see, just because something is “useful” for a given purpose does not mean that the omniscient God, the God who created you and knows you better than you know you, considers that thing to be beneficial to you. It all starts with our motivation. Are we serving God’s purposes, or our own?
When God calls his creation “good,” this suggests that there is no part of the world at this point that is inherently “not good.” Nothing in this universe God has just created is bad in and of itself. This would mean that even the tree of the knowledge of good and evil is right where it is supposed to be. This tree is “good,” but just like the snakes and bats God created which were likewise good, that didn’t mean it was good to eat, even if all three of those things are edible. When we step outside of God’s purpose, we step outside of what is good for us, and things which are not in and of themselves bad, such as money or a well-paying job or new opportunities, become bad things whether they appear to be on the surface or not simply because they are being misused or used by someone they were not meant for. Eve ate of the tree in Genesis chapter 3 not because she knew she should, but because on the surface the fruit looked “good for food,” “pleasing to the eye,” and “desirable to eat.” Clearly, looks are deceiving. And the thing is, it technically was good for food IF your only concern is satisfying physical hunger, and it was pleasing to the eye IF you’re not looking at the consequences that come along with it, and it was desirable to eat IF you desire something tasty more than you desire to live. Would we say the words “desirable,” “pleasing,” and “good” here are synonymous with God’s definition of “good?” If we say “good,” in order to know if we mean that word the way God means it, we must ask, “good for what?”
In speaking with my good friend and Tentmaker Music collaborator Xero, I realized something about the nature of goodness. He reminded me of a film called In Time starring Justin Timberlake. The film is set in a dystopian future where nobody ages past 25 and years of life are used as currency. Run out of this money, and you run out of time and die. When Timberlake’s character is given a huge sum of this money/time, making him incredibly wealthy, he gives a portion of it to his friend Borel. Sounds good right? Money is good. Being given a bunch of money is good… right? Well, as it turns out, being given that much money at one time was simply too much for that friend to handle. This friend gives into temptation, goes on a bender and ends up drinking himself to death, something he would not have even had the opportunity to do if he hadn’t been in possession of so much money at once. This brings us back around to the idea of success. Would we be right to base Borel’s success on his bank account or regard the gift he received as a blessing? Was having a ton of money good? Again, we must ask, “good for what?” For tempting him, yes. For buying excessive amounts of alcohol, yes. But we don’t judge Timberlake too harshly because, he had GOOD intentions, right? He was trying to be helpful, and he couldn’t have possibly known how badly it would turn out for that friend, but God in His omniscience would have known exactly how bad it was for Borel.
Merriam-Webster defines the word “succeed” as “to turn out well” or “to attain a desired object or end.” By “well” we mean the end result is good, and Jeremiah 29:11 tells us about the “end” God has in mind for us.
“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”
In other words, God’s version of success means we follow His plan, and because God can never fail to do anything, that plan inevitably results in the end HE has in mind for us, and that end HE calls “good.” Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” If we have followed His plan, no matter how things may look, the final product will be good as God defines “good,” and that means we have been successful. I want to really emphasize this point because I think that our tendency when things don’t turn out the way we expected is to assume we have not been successful and question whether or not it was really God’s plan we were following. We question whether or not we really heard from God, and on a sea of doubt, like Peter we begin sinking. But hold on a minute… How do you know you weren’t successful? Whose definition of success are you using?
Allow me to explain. Sometimes in our excitement about something God is doing in our lives, we begin to imagine and dream and fantasize about what the end result will be of the wonderful new thing God has started. And along the way, we sometimes make the mistake of mixing up what God ACTUALLY said, with what we IMAGINED was going to happen as a result. Now, all these words and ideas have become tangled together, almost inseparable in our flawed minds. 10 years into ministry when we still aren’t seeing what we imagined, we start to believe that we must not have really heard from God in the first place, or that we failed Him, or WORSE… that God has somehow failed. So, we’ve got to take it back to the start, just the facts… What did God ACTUALLY say? He called you to music ministry? Cool. Did HE say you’d be the music minister at a mega church, or is that how you imagined it would work out? Did HE say you’d go platinum and have a record deal and rock stages in sold-out arenas, or did seeing the experiences of others in music ministry lead you to believe that God had the same in mind for you? If you had all those things happen to you, would it make your purpose in life more important or more meaningful than the one God has for you simply because it would appear bigger and more noticeable to others?
You know who I never hear about? The guy who led Billy Graham to Christ. I don’t even know his name. I suspect that is because his ministry was nowhere NEAR as “big” as Billy Graham’s, and I doubt he was internationally known. Should we say that this man, whoever he was, was less successful than Billy Graham if both of them were simply doing what God asked them to do? Did he fail to live up to his potential then? Was the end God had in mind for both of them not equally “good?” If the ONLY reason God called this person to the ministry was so that they could lead Billy Graham to Christ (resulting in the Billy Graham crusades and thousands being saved), and this person we don’t know was obedient and did just that, he was just as “successful” as Billy Graham EVEN IF he never had a big congregation, EVEN IF he never gained any notoriety or fame as a result of his work, and EVEN IF he never lived to see the result of the Billy Graham crusades. We only fail to see this because we fail to apply God’s definition of success in determining value. We assume bigger means more successful, wealthier means more successful, more popular means more successful. We focus on all the wrong things. No wonder so many Christians so often feel inadequate. No wonder so many ministers become discouraged when everyone around them seems to be wondering why their ministry doesn’t look like so-and-so’s ministry.
Keep your focus where it needs to be, brothers and sisters, on God’s promises, not on what you thought He meant or on what others expect of you. Forget what man says about how “success” looks. You already know how things will end up for those who love God and are called according to His purpose. It will turn out “well.” It will be ALL GOOD. You maybe just needed a reminder. If you are doing God’s will and following HIS plan for your ministry and not your own, however it looks, however God decides it should go, however long it is intended to continue, it is most assuredly a highly successful ministry.
We were blessed to have some time to catch up with the one and only J-Notez. At Tentmaker we have lots of interactions with beat makers and J-Notez is one that for sure stands out. His production and beat making skills are on point, there is no denying that, but it was his depth of character that really makes him stand out to us. J-Notez loves Jesus and it is evident in how he conducts himself. There is seemingly no separation between his life as a beat maker and his life as a follower of Christ, and we believe that is how it should be. "Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all to the glory of God." 1 Corinthians 10:31
When did you come to know Jesus and start following Him? Can you share a brief bit of your testimony?
"I’ve been following Jesus since the summer of 2010. After graduating high school (literally by the grace of God) I was invited to Church by my best friend and decided I needed to go. Previous to that God was already removing me from a life of selling marijuana along with other things and little did I know he was about to change my whole life from the ground up. The Church I went to was the same Church where I felt God calling me at 14-15 years old but decided to fight at that time to pursues life I thought I wanted. During the service I lost interest extremely quick and decided to step out to smoke a cigarette (something God delivered me from almost 8 years ago, praise Jesus!) then returned after to be unphased by the word. As the weeks went by I was continually invited back to church by my best friend and though I wasn’t interested I kept going back until one day God made it clear and I knew that it was time to trust Jesus with everything! I’ve been walking this faith walk going on 9 years and though it’s been hard I wouldn’t trade it for the world!!"
Wow, praise God! That's awesome! Thanks for sharing!
How long have you been making beats and why is that something you started doing?
"I’ve been making beats for 9 years on and off but 4 years consistently. I got into making beats because I’ve always loved music. I was always that kid in school who would knock on tables to make beats before I was introduced to how the beats on the radio where actually made. Though I never made beats before God saved me, after coming to know Him as Savior God began to stir that desire back up in me. One night while praying, I was asking God what I was to do with my life, and He made it clear that I needed to go to the garage in my moms house, that's where I found a cord I had never seen before that ended up powering my midi keyboard which came with no power source (Thanks a lot eBay )!! After that I knew exactly what I needed to do but it wouldn’t be easy!
What are some of your short term and long term goals as a beat maker or just in general?
"My short term goal is to be a part of the CHH (Christian Hip-Hop) industry as an independent artist and to be able to go full time in my music career using my beats and musical abilities to point people to Jesus. My slogan is Deeper Than Music so that’s what I live out. Also I hope to be home with my family doing music instead of being away due to a 9 to 5!
My long term goal is to use my income from my music to create a ministry to feed the homeless or something of the sort. Not sure of what the details are just yet but I’m trusting God will lead me in this when that time comes. I also hope to be the best father to my kids, husband to my wife, and be continuously leading them to Christ. I long to be the Father I wish I had growing up and Husband I never saw lived out in my parents marriage."
What is something about you that you think people might find to be odd?
"I couldn’t think of anything weird that I do so I asked my wife, probably not the best idea lol. She had to think about it but then eventually she starts roasting me saying I pace back and forth when I’m having a serious conversation on the phone and that I open and close doors, grab things to mess around with and walk in and out of rooms."
That's not to bad, I mean if that's the oddest thing she could think of than you're doing all right! Though we did find it hilarious that your wife started roasting you! Marriage is fantastic!
Who is your favorite musician (artist or band) of all time?
"It’s hard to say a certain musician, artist or band is my favorite. Different artist speak to my life in different seasons. To name a few all time favorites: Lecrae, Trip Lee, Andy Mineo, Scott Storch, Linkin Park, Hans Zimmer, 2pac, Hillsong, NF, KB and so many more."
That's a pretty eclectic list, dope!
If you were to name a Spotify playlist after your life, what would you call it, and what would be 3 songs you would include on that playlist?
"My Spotify playlist name for my life would be called Hills and Valleys and 3 songs on it would be
1. Andy Mineo “Tug Of War”
2. Aaron Cole “Patient With Me”
3. Elevation Worship “Do It Again”"
What would you say is your life verse, and do you have a favorite book in the Bible?
"My life verse is Philippians 4:8 and my favorite book of the Bible is Romans!"
Last question, what is one piece of advice that you would share with an aspiring Christian beat maker?
"Keep God first. If your music is about you then your success will breed selfishness. Also, one practical piece of advice I never hear anyone say but is so crucial, is get out of debt and if your not in debt stay out of it. Then, use that money to further invest into bettering your craft and marketing yourself. So many people focused on buying other things (I’m guilty of this as well though I have improved incredibly) instead of using that money to continue to build their career."
Thank you so much for taking the time to answer our questions, and I also want to thank those of you who have taken the time to read this! Till the next time, God Bless!
Check out "Rebel" by J-Notes. You can listen to all his beats at jnotez.com
For those of us that have been following Christ we should seek to know the Word, and strive to share the truth in love. Though this can be hard, we are called to share it and to not be an offense because the gospel is offense. Telling someone or a group of people that what they are doing or saying is wrong according to the Word of God is no easy task and it is to be done with the utmost care and love both outside the church and in the church (the body of Christ). The reality, you are likely going to upset people, they are likely to be offended, and something I have experienced in the past, they may resort to name calling and subtle yet evident character bashing. These are not uncommon responses. The key in these situations is to not allow your emotions to control or dictate your response. If this is happening on social media or email it is easy for people to assume and apply tone, motive and emotion to what they are reading, sometimes correctly, sometimes incorrectly. We are all guilty of this and need to fight against the urge. It is important, especially when we disagree with someone that we demonstrate a Philippians 4:8 mindset and approach, "And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise." It is vital that we think on what is true and assume the best of someone rather than ascribing motive or intent to them.
In the reckless love blog I took an extreme amount of care in not pretending to know the authors motives or bashing them as brothers in Christ. I took great care in making sure that the blog was simply dealing with the theology presented in the song as well as in their descriptions as to why they went with the word reckless. The unfortunate piece in this is that people took offense and assumed I was bashing the authors, this couldn't have been further from the truth. To ensure this I had the blog proof read and had a couple of people make sure that I was clearly dealing with the theology and not attacking the men. This is very important in sharing hard truths with people. We have a tendency to take things personal, and we hate to admit we might be wrong about something, so we seek to defend our stance rather than being teachable and humbling ourselves. It is very important in sharing hard truth that you check yourself first, you examine your motives, and most importantly, you must make sure your claims are true. In sharing hard truth, especially with people involved, you need to make sure you are not bearing false witness and that what you are saying is in complete alignment with the Word of God. It is vital that you make sure that you are teachable, that you are willing to concede if you are incorrect, and that you are willing to adjust if you are wrong, I can not stress this part enough, it is so very important!! When we find ourselves being argumentative it should be a sign that we are more concerned with proving our point and saving face. When we are allowing the Spirit of God to move, and we are submitted to God and His Word, we will operate in the fruits of the Spirit and point to Jesus. It is so essential for us as believers to be about pointing to Jesus and not our point. When you are trying to prove your point you are going to do so no matter the cost, you will shut down any possibility you may be wrong and you will make all sorts of assumptions about the person or people telling you otherwise. When being led by the Spirit of God, you will seek to honor others, hear them out, and put what they are saying up against the Word of God, this will determine if what they are saying is true or not and we need to be praying that God make it clear. Again, we all need to be teachable realizing we don't know everything and that maybe our brothers and sisters have something of value to add to the conversation.
Because it is seemingly so complicated to share hard truth as it pertains to the Word of God people either shy away from it or go to the other extreme and become angry and over zealous. There is compromise on both sides. One lands itself close to what I call graceism (all grace, no obedience or change required, confrontation free), and the other legalism (no grace, all law and judgement). Both of these in there extreme are incorrect according to the Scripture. Believe it or not, the line is smack dab in the middle. When we realize that we are to hold each other accountable and to confront fellow believers concerning sin, and doctrinal matters, we must also realize that we are to do so graciously and in love. Again, you are going to upset or offend someone, but it should be the Word that divides, not you or I. Again, the gospel, the Word of God is offensive to people and this is why we are not to be an offense. Stand firm on the truth, hide behind God's Word and allow Him to speak.
"Be very firm, then, to keep and do all that is written in the book of the law of Moses, so that you may not turn aside from it to the right hand or to the left..." Joshua 23:6
"So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught, whether by word of mouth or by letter from us." 2 Thessalonians 2:15
"I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed!" Galatians 1:6-8
"All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work." 2 Timothy 3:16-17
I spent a long time this week evaluating things after posting the reckless love blog due to the comments and various conversations. I spent time in prayer, in the Word, in conversation, more prayer, more study and more conversations. It was a draining few days for sure but the more I would study, pray, and talk with people the more energized and excited I would get. I was very blessed and encouraged by many people who came alongside me and held up my arms in this. God used the blog and the conversations in my life (and others it would seem) as an opportunity for growth and deeper dependence on Him. Praise God!
What has been your experience when sharing hard truths concerning God and what His Word has to say? I would love to continue the conversation, and as always, lets keep things Christ-Centered as we seek to bring glory and honor to God in all that we do!! God Bless!!