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Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Church Clothes: The Method Behind the Madness

About a month and a half ago, Lecrae, a well known Christian Rap artist released a mixtape titled "Church Clothes."  That's not too strange when first hearing about it, but let me throw in another fact:

This mixtape was done in collaboration with Don Canon--the DJ who's done a lot of 
work on albums for big names, such as Ludacris, Jim Jones, Young Jeezy, and Sheek Louch.

And that is what had much of the Christian world in an uproar after the mixtape's release.  Even while perusing the mixtape's videos on youtube, you'll see comments like "Sellout!" mixed in with others that are in favor of the mixtape.  These people hold the position that after years of promoting Christ, Lecrae has "forsaken Christ and lost his sight" (The Evangelical Outpost).  I could weigh in on the subject, but I came across a blog post by Lecrae, himself, and it was DEFINITELY food for thought!  Pasted from, enjoy:
"Church Clothes - Purpose, Passion, Progression"
Posted on May 21, 2012 / by Lecrae

The truth is: God is still at work!

Thanks to everyone who is downloading and spreading the "Church Clothes" mixtape.

I'm blown away at the response. It’s humbling and pushes me to keep going. 
At the beginning of my musical career, my intention was to enrich and give hope to the listener (it still is). I was volunteering at a halfway house, and the young men there embraced Hip Hop music that encouraged their low ideals and detrimental perspectives. Over the years, some, due to their new found faith in God, had their ideals changed but now had few musical offerings. There were always Christians doing Hip Hop, but the music was usually inaccessible or unpopular. I would listen to the radio and wonder where was the Christian's perspective being heard in Hip Hop culture? "Contemporary Christian Music" had developed, "Gospel" had its lane, but where was Hip-Hop that articulated faith in Jesus? Hard to find.

Interestingly enough, those genres are the only ones categorized based off the content and not the style of music. Though it gives people identifying marks for their music, it can also (in many ways) limit their reach. Many people take these titles to mean the music is for an exclusively Christian audience. If indeed the true Gospel is what transforms people outside the faith, then why should the term Gospel seem exclusive to those in the faith? Of course that's not the intention, it's just a reality that any missionary should consider.

As far as Hip Hop music done well by Christians, there were always a few groups and artists over the years that helped ease my woes; but I was not at all content. The general market was flooded with Hip Hop artists, but I rarely heard anything that embodied a worldview that God would endorse. Trying to be a part of the solution, I took to the studio and recorded an album. It captured my southern roots, love for lyricism, and I tried to make it as current in production as I could. (I produced most of it.) The result was a tool for my fellas at the halfway house and other areas with similar struggles. That project opened doors for me to travel a bit—mostly prisons, churches and inner city outreaches—and perform my songs. I found that I had a gift for catalyzing people toward truth and creating anthems for Christians to live sacrificially and unashamedly for their faith.

Personally, I couldn’t simply talk about change. I had to be apart of it, so I spent my life living in the inner city, doing foreign missions and serving in the local church. All of that was ammunition for my Rebel album. My life bled out in that project, and the result was God showing tremendous fruit and people's lives being transformed by His power.

But one problem I faced was that, in my hood, only the kids in after school programs and the Christians were feeling it. Sure, some were rejecting the Gospel but others didn't give it a spin at all due to the labels placed on it. I was respected by my non-religious friends, but my music to them was very limited and didn't speak to any areas of life other than salvation and living right. I sought advice and was led to books by people like Francis Shaffer, CS Lewis and others. (There are links below.)

I was challenged in more ways than you can imagine.

Desperate to help the lost, broken and hurting, I tried building relationships with my newfound understanding. It was difficult and awkward, but God showed me plenty of grace. People came to Jesus and grew deeply, and I found I was liberated and matured in ways I could not articulate.

I'm starting to get it. God hasn't changed my vision, He's expanded it.

Only 4% of all Americans have a biblical worldview and only 10% of Christians see the world with a biblical lens. (There's a test link below to check ya self!)

We tend to wear bifocals—partially seeing things as spiritual and seeing other things as secular or non-spiritual.

We limit spirituality to salvation and sanctification. As long as we are well versed in personal piety and individual salvation, we think we're good. But most Christians have no clue how to engage culture in politics, science, economics, TV, music or art. We tend to leave people to their own devices there.

We subscribe to views like, "Politics and movies are evil or of the devil," and we don’t touch them. Leaving them to be dominated by non-biblical worldviews. Or, since we don’t have a philosophy or filter, we do it the way culture says to...chasing vain ambition.

Most professing Christians have no idea how to direct their careers with biblical lenses, but instead of praying for and offering solutions we usually just shake our heads and dismiss these “sellouts & compromisers.”

We are missing out on the gospel's power of redemption and glorification in all things.

The whole idea of a secular/sacred divide was born because ancient Greeks (specifically Plato) thought matter (or things) was preexisting and eternal. They thought matter contained the ability to resist the gods or just God--making it evil. But as Christians, we defeat that claim with the doctrine that only God is preexisting and eternal. He is the source of ALL creation.

PSALM 24:1 “The Earth is the Lord's and all it contains.”

In Genesis 1, God repeatedly identifies His creation as good, meaning no part of creation is inherently bad or evil.

Paul in 1 Tim 4:4 says, “Everything created by God is good and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving."

I can already hear people saying, "So pornography and crack is good if embraced with thanksgiving!?" Obviously not. The origin of objects and God's intended function are what's good; it's man's direction that distorts them. So the origin and function of sex is good, but the depravity of man to direct and distort it into pornography is a manifestation of man's darkened heart.

Is there such a thing as evil music? Well, the artist’s heart may be evil and because of that you are hearing their heart. Matt 12:34 says that out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. The heart is therefore the problem, not the music. Changed hearts produce changed music.

When Adam and Eve rebelled, they sinned. The trees didn’t sin, the ground didn’t sin, humanity sinned. The natural world was, however, affected by human sin. Humans were the housekeepers of God's creation, so their sin had a ripple affect into the natural world.

Humanity had authority and there is a consequence for authority. If the owner of a house is lazy, the house is going to catch the effect of his laziness. It’s going to look ragged and filthy. It’s not that the house wants to look ugly or creepy, but the people’s sin has affected it. Even good things fall to the depravity of people.

Evil and disorder are not intrinsic, built-in or inherent in material things like art, dance, or alcohol. "The heart is wicked," the Bible says in Jeremiah 17:9. We take those things and distort them, because the human will and volition are rebellious and wrong.

Paul writes in Romans 14:14 nothing is unclean itself. It becomes unclean when sinners use it to express their rebellion towards God. The line between good and bad is therefore not in the thing, the music, the movie, the politics, but in the heart.

A butcher knife is usually depicted as an evil murderous tool. But God made the ore and wood and man can use it to make a knife that cuts food and feeds people.

A skull is typically viewed as evil and demonic, but God made skulls. We all have them and they are VERY good. They protect our brains! So wearing a skull on your shirt doesn’t make you less of a Christian, even though society has given it negative associations.

All this to say that the "secularizing" of things or music speaks more to the heart's intention on not painting a picture that God would endorse. After all, food, music and school buildings are just things. They don’t have a soul or mind and can’t have intentions. The people who are involved in them do.

Worldliness does not mean engaging culture, it's when the culture shapes your thoughts over God. Jesus prayed we would remain in the world but protected. He also tells us the gates of Hell will not prevail against us. Gates were established to protect cities, so for the gates not to prevail would mean we are trying to storm them. We are here to engage culture not run from it.

Wrestling with worldly ideas challenges us and gives us new ways to depend on God. Is this my new direction? No, it’s just an expansion on what I’ve already been doing.

Will I continue to write songs like "Don't Waste Your Life" and "Go Hard"? ABSOLUTELY! But after seeing how powerfully God is using my latest efforts, I will also write songs to engage culture and speak to things that humanity in general will wrestle with and think on.

So, thank you for supporting me and helping the success of the mission and vision. I’m not concerned at all with being a "star". I got in this to bring hope and that's how I'm going out.

Love y'all


Biblical Worldview Testing -
Francis Shaffer -
Chuck Coloson -
Nancy Pearcy -
CS Lewis -
Tim Keller -

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

If Words Could Speak...

What if words could speak?  Literally, what if written words could speak audible phrases?  What if books in stores could speak up for themselves when they noticed you or I judging them by their "interesting" or "bland" covers?  (here comes the tough one)  What if that Bible on the shelf could speak...what would it say?  Would it develop asthma because of the layers of dust?  Would it physically ache all over from overuse?  Possibly...would your Bible speak these words:

There's a growing ignorance of what the Bible actually says, these days.  As the song said, people may have Bible quotes tatted on their arms, but there's no actual application or understanding of the words.  Check out this excerpt from Donald Whitney's book, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life:
"In August of 1989 I had the privilege of participating in a mission trip to the bush country of East Africa...I was unprepared for some of my encounters with many of the professing Christians in this equatorial setting.  Lying, stealing, and immorality were common and generally accepted, even among the leadership of the church.  Theological understanding was as scarce as water...
Soon I discovered one of the main reasons this church looked as though it had been started by Corinthian missionaries.  No one had a Bible--not the pastor, not the deacon, no one.  The pastor had only half-a-dozen sermons, all half-baked over the coals of a few Bible-story recollections.  Every sixth week came the same sermon.  The only real contact with Scripture happened with the occasional visit of a missionary...
Most of us shake our heads in pity at such sad conditions.  It's hard to imagine that many of us have more Bibles in our homes than entire churches have in some Third-World situations.  But it's one thing to be unfamiliar with Scripture when you don't own a Bible; it's another thing when you have a bookshelf full."
What's your time worth to you?  What's it worth to me?  I challenge you (and myself), invest time into discovering God in the Scriptures.  It's vital to truly knowing God and living a godly life.  Again, I ask, "What do you value?"  Because God values you.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Grace Like Rain

The weather was crazy today, and while it didn't exactly resemble the picture above, it was pretty darn close!  Tornadoes touching down, random splatters of rain, elementary school evacuations...  And I heard about it all, while I worked on the 19th floor of my office building in Rockville, MD.  Honestly, I looked outside and just saw GRAY EVERYTHING, so I didn't think much of it.  After all, I felt safe where I was.  All that changed when my boss told me to leave early because of the threatening weather.

I walked out of the lobby of my office building and was nearly lifted off of my feet by the wind, alone!  (No short jokes)  Sensing the danger, I rushed to the Metro.  After all, when there's trouble up high, it's best to get low.  (Who's got short jokes now?!)  Due to the relative safety of the Metro, I forgot about the weather.  Then I boarded the MARC train to head home...

My train left Union Station and stopped in the middle of the tracks with rain pouring down all around it.  I couldn't even see out the windows.  At this point, I was a bit concerned--didn't bring a jacket or umbrella.  After 20 minutes of sitting still and another 20 minutes of riding, I finally made it to my stop.  I got off and the rain was still pouring!  I ran to the underpass to get to the other side of the tracks, but when I got to the other side, the rain had stopped!  For what seemed like no reason at all, the rain stopped for the entire time until I reached my car!

On my brisk walk to the car, I paused--only mentally--to thank God for the gift of a dry commute.  That's when He hit me with the wildest truth:  The fact that the rain had paused had nothing to do with anything I had done.  I was totally helpless before the elements--no jacket, no umbrella, no roof.  It was all God.  You may be thinking, "Jamil, aren't you making too much out of this?"  Not at all.  Think about it:

I sat in my office building in relative comfort, totally unaware of the destruction that awaited me.  I was content to continue working in my "safe zone," but I was removed from that environment and confronted with the danger that I had only glanced at through a window.  Going into survival mode, I tried to fend for myself by going underground, only to find myself stuck on the tracks.  Then, when all hopes of remaining dry had dissipated, God stepped in and cleared the way for me.

In the same way, in the past I walked through life, unaware of the destruction that awaited me due to my sin.  I was content to continue living my sinful lifestyle until I was confronted with the danger of my apathy (thanks, Steven).  I tried to DO things to make it right, but came up short.  It wasn't until I got to a point, realizing that it's all GOD and not me, that I found a reason to smile and whisper three words that have become a favorite phrase:  "Thank you, Lord."

Paul, inspired by God, makes it clear:
"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!  All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation:  that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them.  And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation." - 2 Corinthians 5:17-19
My sins aren't counted against me.  There's no debt to pay, no hurdle to get over, no mountain to climb--Jesus paved a flat pathway to God that I might fellowship with Him unhindered!  And He's done the same for you.  If you aren't already, I implore you:  "Be reconciled to God.  God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." (2 Corinthians 5:20-21)

God!  I love Your teach me so many things through it..."nothing in my hands I bring; only to the cross I cling..."