February 27, 2009

The Doors No Man Can Shut

And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write:

These things says He who is holy, He who is true, “He who has the key of David, He who opens and no one shuts, and shuts and no one opens”: “I know your works. See, I have set before you an open door, and no one can shut it; for you have a little strength, have kept My word, and have not denied My name. Indeed I will make those of the synagogue of Satan, who say they are Jews and are not, but lie—indeed I will make them come and worship before your feet, and to know that I have loved you. Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth. Behold, I am coming quickly! Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown. He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more. I will write on him the name of My God and the name of the city of My God, the New Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God. And I will write on him My new name. (Revelation 3: 7-12)

There are so many overwhelming truths and heavy realities that are shouting at me from this passage. First, you should know that there are seven churches mentioned in the first couple of chapters in the book of Revelation. Those churches and God's instruction/reprimand to them:

1. The Loveless Church - repent, turn to your first love
2. The Persecuted Church - be faithful until death
3. The Compromising Church - repent from false doctrine
4. The Corrupt Church - repent of sexual immorality & corruption
5. The Dead Church - hold fast and repent from dead works
6. The Faithful Church - continue in faithfulness
7. The Lukewarm Church - be zealous and repent

"As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent".

With titles like "loveless, compromising, corrupt, dead, and lukewarm, you would hardly believe these were churches at all. In God's mercy each church was given a direct instruction, though. Five of them were told to repent. Two (Persecuted & Faithful) churches were told not to fear, to be faithful and hold fast.

What is it that we, as individuals, are in need of repenting of before God and others? As I look at the list of these churches I have to ask myself two questions: 1. Which one of these churches most accurately illustrates where I'm at spiritually, and 2. Which church best describes the condition of our own country?

Both questions are loaded and dangerous. That's because they require me to be really honest about my condition. It's so easy to become a finger-pointing judge that declares our country to be spiritually bankrupt, which probably isn't too far from the truth, but either way we're warned not to judge lest we also be judged. On the flip-side of the coin is the truth that every branch that doesn't bear fruit is cut off and thrown into the fire (John 15:6). In this case (self vs. country) I can do little to change the condition of an entire country (not that I shouldn't be in constant prayer that God would), but there's a lot more I can focus on when it comes to my own walk. Regardless of which church in Revelation might best depict my state of existence, the instructions to repent, stop being owned by fear, continue in faithfulness, and holding fast, are all universal to every single believer everywhere in the world. Our heart response must be to apply each of these (easier said than done), pray into them, and invite God to work a wonder in us (our only hope for genuine and long-lasting change).

This passage gives us a glimpse into the character of Jesus Christ: He is Holy, He is True, He holds the Key of David, He opens where no one can shut, He shuts where no one can open, He knows our works. Although I'm sure multiple pages could be filled on detailing each of these qualities, the one I want to focus on is the open/shut door.

First of all, Jesus "set before them an open door", so it wasn't their work or deeds that established the door, it was already set up for them by the Son of God. No one can shut the door that Jesus sets, and opens, before them. I'm not sure about anyone else, but this is so massively encouraging to me. It depicts the power of God to accomplish what no one or where nothing else could. It gets even better as the next phrase is incredibly powerful; "I know that you have little strength"! Obviously, none of us are catching God off-guard with the reality that we all have little strength and are essentially worthless apart from God's empowering hand on our lives. Even on a great day, our strength is still worthless. What they did do with their "little strength" was keep His Word and not deny His name. In some countries, that's still enough to land you in prison or better yet, a free ride home. Regardless of the outcome, two things we can't take our eyes and hearts off are "His Word" and "remaining faithful to His name". For the church of Philadelphia, the end result of operating on little strength, but continuing to keep His Word and not denying His name produced several promises:

1. Liars worshiping at their feet, proving God's great love towards His church.
2. Because of their perseverance, He is keeping them from the hour of trial coming upon the whole world.
3. Holding fast translates into retaining our crowns (or not loosing them).
4. Being made a pillar in God's temple, through overcoming.
5. Given a new name, the name of God written on them.

Stunning that although the church had such little strength, but remained faithful and held fast to God's word and His name, they received so much in return. They first received an open door that no man could shut and then God just lavished His promises all over them, simply for remaining obedient.

If you are struggling with the impulse of disobedience, consider what Jesus told this church and repent from those areas in your life that do not exist to make great the ways of God. I publicly repent from years not having focused my time and energy on His word and on remaining faithful to His name. There's only one name that has the power to open and only one name that has the power to shut. Lay down burdens at the feet of the name that pours forth blessing after blessing, even on those of us who have "little strength".

May God gives us an increase in the areas of humility (which always spurs repentance), in turning back to our first love, faithfulness even to death, holding fast, giving up sexual immorality, a hatred for corruption (I could go on for hours about the significance of this one in modern day Christian culture) false doctrine and dead works, the ability to continue in faithfulness, and possibly the one that excites me the most, a zealous love for the one true God.

Bless you guys as you strive towards perfection this week.

Broken down but not destroyed.....

February 20, 2009

Making music solely for the benefit of others.

Every once in a while, I like to Blog about what's happening in my life on a day to day basis; this is one of those times. As most of you probably know, I quit my job with T&N back in early January. Some of you who are close to me know I've been working towards fulfilling a vision God's given me. In stead of explaining it in detail, I wanted to share an interview I did with Relevant Magazine. Click on the link above to access the interview on Relevantmagazine.com. I've included the questions that didn't make it in the feature (due to space restrictions), below.

My family and I (along with several friends and a bunch of amazing artists)are stepping out in faith (as missionaries) that God is going to provide for our every need in this new music endeavor and that He is going to take it where He wants. From an economic perspective, this is the worst possible time to step out and launch a new "Missionary Record Label", but from a spiritual one, God's timing is always perfect.

If you feel led, please consider supporting us both prayerfully, and if you can, financially (yes, gifts are tax-deductible). There is a simple form to the right of this post where you can give us a one time or a recurring gift. Beggars can't be choosers, but if the Lord is leading you to help us, please consider giving on a monthly basis.

Thank you and may God do as He sees fit through each of us!

Click here to view the temporary C&L! site.


"The Missionary Record Label"
by Seth "tower" Hurd

1. Briefly, explain your business model of free/pay what you want.

The model could probably best be summarized in terms of a missionary. My parents were missionaries and I've always had a heart for missions, so that's where part of the idea came from. If someone decides to become a missionary and relocate to a remote tribe in Africa, there are a few steps to take in that process. The first is obviously praying that God confirms your calling. Secondly, you approach a missions organization that aligns with your vision or denomination and can help with the process of getting you where God is leading you. Thirdly, having a financial budget and determining how much it will cost after liquidating all those things you won't be needing (such as a home mortgage, DVD's, cars, etc.). Once you have determined how much it will cost per year to live overseas , you would begin praying that the Lord brings in the money to get you there and keep you there. Likely you would start sitting down with friends, families and your local church to ensure you have their prayerful and financial support.

Come&Live! is applying this missional approach (which has been tried and tested for decades over) to the world of music and the arts.

In simple terms, we will operate more like a Missions Organization that helps fund and support artists to do what they're called to do. They will still be raising support from friends, family and churches but the developed model is to serve them as somewhat of an all-inclusive Record label, all the while never taking a dime of their money. Here's what's crazy, the model would become self-sufficient with requiring less than 5,000 individuals giving an average of 20 dollars per month. All of the funds that we receive go to three different sources. First, money goes to the artist to help cover their recording/touring/misc. costs, the second goes to Come&Live! to cover operations mostly including marketing, distribution, publicity. Thirdly, every ounce of our profit is given back to charities that we partner with along with just basic needs for people we feel God leads us towards.

Certainly not conventional but not exactly complicated either.

2. You plan on giving 100% of the profits of your company away. Tell me about the organizations you hope to support. Do you plan on making music about these topics?

Absolutely. We are allowing each of our artists to choose a partner charity that they really feel led to be working with. We haven't formalized partnerships considering we barely even have a website up yet but some of those we are looking at include Healing Waters, Project Ak-47, Preemptive Love Coalition, Compassion, Mocha Club, etc. We are looking to form partnerships with these charities where we are able to offer exposure of their great efforts to a youth audience and in return they expose what we do to their own audience. Considering our music will always be available free of charge digitally, it's much easier to expose our music to the customers of these charities.

3. Explain the spiritual motives behind this.

God showed us the greatest example of generosity the world has ever seen, so why not model a company after the basic principle of generosity? The overarching ideal that, as followers of Christ, sharing is not a suggestion, but a command. Generosity is a strong warrior against it’s four great adversaries; Selfishness, Greed, Pride and Profit. We believe that if there has ever been a time to live simply so as to give generously, that time is now. We seek the profit of others far ahead of ourselves, that's as basic but as challenging a Biblical principle as any. We believe that hearts will always follow treasure and therefore our treasure should be established in eternal, not earthly, profits and pursuits. “For there will never cease to be poor in the land. Therefore I command you, “You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor” – Deuteronomy 15:11 In all humility, our only motive behind this is spiritual. Our prayer is that God would use this example of generosity to revive an entire generation towards generosity.

4. Do you believe that all music will follow this model in the next five years?

Wow. I highly doubt it. It's very hard for me to imagine that most companies would consider giving up their profits for the needy and giving up the existing model for something like this. I'd love to see this vision become the next model, but I don't think that's realistic. If anything, I would hope that this model challenges existing companies to consider at least giving a greater portion (or ANY) of their profits back to the needs of their neighbors. We don't live in an age where we can argue whether our neighbors live only next door to us. The internet reminds us daily that our neighbors live all over the world. And according to Jesus, the second greatest commandment (next to Loving the Lord our God with all our hearts, souls, minds and strength) was to love our neighbors as ourselves. If it was 2nd in line for Jesus, how can we not live generously towards others?

5. "Come&Live!" is going to provide "support and pastoral care" for artists. This is the first time a label has ever done this. Tell me what that looks like.

It starts by modeling humility and a servants heart to the artists. Hard to expect them to step out in faith to trust God if Come&Live! isn't doing the same. We follow-through by praying with and for the artists, holding them accountable, encouraging them, helping provide for basic needs without any idea of "recoupment". We'll also be looking to host annual or bi-annual retreats called "Come&Die!" where artists can come together to be fed and strengthened in their faith. We are also challenging them to ensure they have a solid local church that helps provide accountability and added support. The global church is called to work together so we hope to start seeing local bodies (or members of) coming out to shows, praying with our bands, taking them out to eat, bringing them an encouraging book, etc.

6. What are some specific examples of how you have seen God provide as you have stepped out into this calling?

First and foremost has been the faith He has placed within me to believe that He will accomplish the impossible. I'm not a great businessman, I'm not a gifted entrepreneur, but I believe in a God who can do anything He pleases and He loves to receive the glory for His work. Without a doubt Jesus has given me a peace that He is with me every step of the way. I feel that I have so much more to gain if this works than what I have to lose. At the most, my losses will include a career in the music business, a home, my pride, and material possessions. I would drop those a hundred times over if God would only put me to work in helping others live more committed to Him. God has brought me six awesome people to help carry the load, he's also brought me incredible bands, and wonderfully encouraging friends and family.

7. Tell me about the "eco-friendly" portion of your vision (you said on the phone "eco friendly and beautifully packaged").

We plan to only use recycled cardboard and no plastic. I personally have always loved creative packaging and don't feel like there's any room for us, as Christians, to further waste material that we don't have to. We're pretty good at being wasteful, as it is.

February 12, 2009

Fight Fire With Fire

A few days ago I was talking to my wife about how hard it is to see God's plan clearly sometimes. How easy it is to get off track when we're looking at all the negatives and not seeking out the positives. She said "Why don't you fight fire with fire"? I asked her what she meant and her response really hit me. It was one of those times when you know it's exactly what you need to hear and truth hits you like a ton of bricks. What she meant was that I should be praising and thanking God for everything He's done for me, especially in those times when my natural reaction would be the complete opposite. I've been meaning to write down my thoughts ever since that conversation and it's taken me a little longer then what I had hoped but it proves the power of God's ability to use others to speak His reality into us. That conversation has stuck with me and comes back to me multiple times through-out the day.

Is it just me or would you agree that things here in the states are growing increasingly bleak? The prevailing news coverage focusing us on the downturn of our economy, including sinking real estate prices, job-losses, bank closures, and a shrinking Wall Street, really makes me wonder where things are headed. At the least, it's not a time to look at the future with great optimism. Consider the people around you (or likely just look in the mirror) who are struggling financially, who are sick or have some other need and it's almost enough to start questioning whether God even cares or if He really exists at all. We aren't the first people on earth to feel this way. The Philippians must have felt this way thousands of years ago considering what Paul wrote to them:

Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. (Phil. 2: 1-4)

Again in chapter 4 he says:

Rejoice in the Lord ALWAYS. Again I will say, rejoice!
Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand.
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. (Phil. 4: 4-7)

Regardless of how we feel, we are never alone in our feelings. We are never asked to walk down the long roads of life without supernatural support. Jesus was not only tempted as we are but faced stronger opposition and heavier burdens than we ever will:

Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4: 11-13)

What amazing encouragement it is to take our sights off the burden that is not even meant to be carried by us. Instead of giving in to the realities around us, we should have no choice but to instantly run to God and say "You are bigger!", "Nothing is Impossible with you!", I "Rejoice!", even if my world feels like it is disintegrating into nothingness. Jesus knows our burdens, and loves to enable us with supernatural power to bear them with gentleness. How much heavenly refreshing takes place when we're able to start trusting God in the face of every opposition. If you feel completely stuck and unable to move forward, then confess your sin of doubting God's greatness and ask Him to do the impossible in you. Come boldly before the throne, inviting Him to give you faith to run the race with perseverance. Get around people who are running the same race and pray God enables you to fight well. There is no better strategy of Fighting the Fires around you then with the Fire of God. Rejoice, Praise, Worship, Give Thanks, Exalt, and Glorify Jesus through the hardest of times and watch how quickly He comes to your rescue.

Resist the Devil (and temptation) and he (they) will flee.

February 2, 2009

He Who Forms All Things

Is the work of our hands bringing glory to the Maker of heaven and earth (and everything in between), or is it simply foolishness in the eyes of the great and powerful voice? Is The Lord forming all things in your life or are you working overtime to do the forming?

It's questions like these that might drastically change your course for the rest of your life. It has for mine. When I first began to feel God nudging my heart with these kind of questions I had no idea why it mattered or what direction they would lead me towards. I'm still very early on in this new "work", but the one thing I know in all confidence is that it's not my hands that are accomplishing any of it. That, unlike everything I've learned in music business, this new venture has nothing to do with my ability and everything to do with God's purpose. As much as I may still do everything I can "to the best of my ability" I know that without God's divine leading, I'm just building something that is void of life or breath. The warning in Jeremiah is one that each of us should prayerfully consider. It's a warning that was issued to Israel and it's just as relevant to us as it was to them. As you start your work week, ask the Lord of hosts if He is the one receiving glory from the works of your hand. Ask Him to place within you a passion to allow Him to do the work. To take the burden from your back and to allow Him to carry it. Don't be distracted by work that leads to a lack of knowledge, to shame, to falsehood, and in the end, to death.

The passage below talks about skilled workmen that spent all of their time essentially building and crafting wonderfully beautiful but utterly hopeless idols. Of course, I don't think any of us are in the "idol" business, or are we? If anything, the idols of our society and our generation don't resemble the idols of Jewish culture centuries ago. We still recognize those idols built of stone or wood but do we recognize idols built with plastic molds or held together by glue? Our definition of a modern day idol should be anything that we raise up higher than Christ himself. Anything that gets, holds, or attracts our attention more than Jesus does. So what might be an idol for one person isn't necessarily an idol for the next. But, in all of this, we either serve God or man. Let's press on together to serve God by inviting him to root out any possible idols in our lives. Anything that, even unknowingly to us, sits enthroned higher than our Lord and Savior.

It's God's heart that we would put our hands to the plow, to the fishing net, to the harvesting field; to use our time, energy, and resources for the furthering of God's Kingdom. Where our treasure is, there our heart will be also! What occupies your thoughts through-out the day? Is it Jesus and the work He is doing in your life or the lives of others? Is it a burden for those who don't know God? Is it a call to pray for those afflicted or suffering? Or is your time occupied by a next purchase, a new this or a new that? Evaluate your heart and ask God to show you anything that you might be placing too much time or emphasis on. Every material possession we have will end up rusted out, damaged and destroyed. Let's move towards those things (like the people around us) that we can invest in for all eternity!

So, God, please make Jesus our every treasure and remove any idol that is creeping up in our lives - aiming to dethrone the only reality that we need. Put us to work the way you put your apostles and disciples to work. Give us everything we need to please you wherever and however we spend our time working. Empower us with the Holy Spirit and Fire to preach the Gospel with Boldness and to preach it with hearts overflowing with genuine love for God and neighbor.

(Jeremiah 10: 11-16, ESV)

Thus shall you say to them: "The gods who did not make the heavens and the earth shall perish from the earth and from under the heavens."

It is he who made the earth by his power,
who established the world by his wisdom,
and by his understanding stretched out the heavens.
When he utters his voice, there is a tumult of waters in the heavens,
and he makes the mist rise from the ends of the earth.
He makes lightning for the rain,
and he brings forth the wind from his storehouses.
Every man is stupid and without knowledge;
every goldsmith is put to shame by his idols,
for his images are false,
and there is no breath in them.
They are worthless, a work of delusion;
at the time of their punishment they shall perish.
Not like these is he who is the portion of Jacob,
for he is the one who formed all things,
and Israel is the tribe of his inheritance;
the LORD of hosts is His name.

(Jeremiah 9: 23 & 24, NKJV)

Thus says the Lord: "Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, let not the mighty man glory in his might. Nor let the rich man glory in his riches; but let him glories glory in this, that he UNDERSTANDS and KNOWS Me, That I AM the Lord, exercising lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth. For in these I delight," says the Lord.

* "Thirst" art piece by Karol Kolodzinski