“I began to understand that “the justice of God” (Rom. 1:17) meant that justice by which the just man lives through God’s gift, namely by faith. This is what it means: the justice of God is revealed in the gospel, a passive justice with which the merciful God justifies us by faith, as it is written: “He who through faith is just shall live.” Here I felt that I was altogether born again and had entered paradise itself through open gates.” ~ Martin Luther, Preface to the 1545 edition of Luther’s Latin writings.
How God justifies sinners and still remains holy (Ex. 34:6-7) is the heart of Christianity. To put it plainly – How can God forgive wickedness, yet not leave the guilty unpunished?
The answer to this question, the doctrine of justification, was the central issue that launched the Protestant Reformation in 1517 in Germany. By reading Psalms, Galatians and Romans, Luther was convinced that God justifies sinners by grace alone (sola gratia) through faith alone (sola fide) in Christ alone (solus christus). He, along with other reformers, believed that Scripture alone (sola scriptura) was the means by which people came to know and understand God and salvation, not through tradition, and that salvation was all by the sovereign grace of God, to whom all glory is due (soli deo gloria).
In 2005, Shai Linne released his debut album, the Solus Christus project (Lampmode Records). It featured the song, “Justified”, which gets to the essence of Christianity. When I first heard the song, my heart was so encouraged hearing ancient and eternal truth conveyed in such a modern poetic urban medium. Enjoy!
Grace & Peace,
Shai Linne is currently an artist on Lampmode Records and is set to release Lyrical Theology, Vol. 2 in the near future.
If you’ve followed hip-hop to some degree, you will remember “The Message” by Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five. This single, released in 1982, was the first rap song to go platinum and it did so in about a month. Remember the hook,“Don’t push me ‘cuz I’m close to the edge. I’m tryin’ not to lose my head. It’s like a jungle; sometimes it makes me wonder how I keep from goin’ under”?
What was unique about this song is that, though in its infancy, hip-hop was being used to call awareness to depravity and its pervasive effect on social structures. Quickly, America saw that hip-hop was not only about juvenile rebellion, but a platform to voice concerns about serious issues.
It is still being used that way, only this time it’s being used to address some all too important truths concerning the Christian faith, particularly the ecclesiological aspects or the study of the church. For some, church is nothing more than a chance to leverage business opportunities. For others, it is a place to widen social circles without any true desire to function as God’s redeemed community. Still others really don’t have a biblical understanding of what church or other essential truths of Christianity are. Scripture tells us in Ephesians 3:10 that through the church, God makes His wisdom known!!! Selah ! Enter Lampmode Recordings and their latest release, The Church: Called & Collected to remind us of this unchanging truth.
Taking its cue from Mark Dever’s book, “What Is A Healthy Church?”, Lampmode and other artists address topics such as biblical theology, evangelism, church discipline, conversion and expositional preaching.
Many of you know that I completely tore my right Achilles tendon roughly a year ago. One of the major issues concerning rehabilitating a surgically repaired tendon is regaining elasticity. This calls for lots of stretching and gradual use, which for me is jogging once or twice a week at Lady Bird Lake in downtown Austin.
Rewind– Two weeks ago, after jogging downtown, I decided to take the scenic route home, opting not to utilize the freeway. I like driving and especially driving through the city and observing the nuances of life. I noticed my gas indicator light came on, so I pulled into a gas station. I usually keep my music playing while I pump my gas and on this occasion the gas station employee appears from behind the building and says, “Hey, I like that! I like that old soul sample and the horns. It reminds me of De La or Tribe.” After I turned down Eshon Burgundy, we proceeded to have an interesting conversation about hip-hop history. I was impressed by his knowledge of mainstream and underground artists and his sentiments that today’s hip-hop is merely refuse compared to yesteryear. “Man, I wish the sound of the Golden Era would come back!” he said.
During this whole time I’m contemplating whether or not to shift the conversation to matters of importance, namely the gospel. I didn’t. The conversation ended and I drove off. As I was driving, I regretted not sharing the gospel or even making an attempt to. My selfishness was in full effect.
In his book, Let The Nations Be Glad, John Piper said, “Missions exist because worship doesn’t.” What a simple, but profound truth! This thought, on more than one occasion, has caused me to examine how much I desire to see God worshiped by me and by others. Beholding the glory of God in Christ, as much as humanly possible, will compel us to lovingly and boldly share the gospel, come what may. Because no matter what comes, the glory of God is better and the joy that comes from making Him known is incomparable. If we share the gospel out of guilt, or human expectation, we share it in error and Christ is not magnified. The glory of Christ should be our chief motivation for sharing the gospel.
Fast Forward – Last night: Same situation, same gas station, same worker, right perspective. When I saw him in there again, I knew this was the grace of God. After I purchased my drink, he said, “So what do you think about the NBA playoffs?” We proceed to chat about the NBA and moved the conversation outside because he wanted to smoke. I reminded him that we talked a couple of weeks ago about hip-hop.
“Yeah, I remember and I thought about making a mixtape for you, but I didn’t know if I’d see you again. I’m Bryan by the way.”
“I’m David. Nice to meet you..again. You know, I was impressed by your level of hip-hop knowledge.”
“Let me ask you a question. What do you think about hip-hop being fused with “religion”?
“Ah, well, that’s difficult. I think that many true hip-hop heads won’t care for God hip-hop and I don’t see religious hip-hop moving the kinds of units like say, a Lil Wayne or somebody like that.”
“But what about Public Enemy, Poor Righteous Teachers, KRS-ONE, and Brand Nubian? They all had religious elements in their music and they were relatively accepted by the mainstream, though they were pushing 5%er doctrine.”
“Yeah, you’re right. I don’t know. I hate Christian rock. It’s so cheesy. But I like gospel music and the Kirk Franklin stuff, but I don’t know if hip-hop will go over well in the church crowd. Especially since most of what hip-hop says goes against what’s in the Bible. But I think it’s cool that people decide to use their talent to speak about better things rather that gettin’ chicks, gettin’ high or drunk or shootin’ and things like that.”
“Where are you from, Bryan?
“North of Houston.”
“I’m from Houston!”
“What is your spiritual background, Bryan, and I ask based on some things you’ve said.”
“I grew up in a Baptist church. It was what our family did.”
“So what do you consider yourself now?”
“Well, honestly, I’m searching for something to hold on to, that’s real. I mean, I see Christians in the media and they’re just weird. They have an agenda and I don’t think it’s honest. I mean, what’s real? My sister is Greek Orthodox and some of my family are Methodist. Why are there these differences?”
“Well, there’s a reason for that Bryan, but if you don’t mind me asking, do you know what the central theme of the Bible is? Let’s push the denominational issue to the side and focus on the central message the Bible is communicating to us.”
“Okay. Well I think the central theme is that we should love God as best we can and live in such a way that helps others so this world can be a better place.”
“Is that your motivation and action 24/7/365?
“No. But that’s because I don’t have the relationship with God that I know needs to be there. I feel like once I get there then I would be a better person and God would accept me.”
“Bryan, (my eyes were almost welling up) do you mind if I share the gospel with you?”
“Not at all. Please share.”
After, I shared the gospel, I inquired if he had any questions or if he understood what I said.
“So, the way I can be accepted by the Father is to have faith in Christ, because He was a substitute for sin and took the punishment?”
“Yes! And you don’t have to work for salvation. It’s free for those who admit their sin and turn to Christ by faith for forgiveness.”
I then explained what grace and mercy was and he said, “I like that!” with a huge grin on his face.
I gave him my last Reach Records Before You Die CD tract with my number included and urged him to read the Gospel of John. He said he would read the tract, listen to the CD, read John and call me.
We shook hands and departed company. I have a strong hunch that I’ll be stopping back by that gas station soon!
What a privilege it is to share the gospel! What a gift from God! I can’t begin to describe the joy I get by sharing the good news of reconciliation. The more the Lord affords opportunities to share the gospel or overhear conversations concerning “religion”, it is clear that America, not just countries on the other side of the Atlantic, is ripe for missions.
If you remember, please pray for Bryan’s salvation and his well being. Also, pray that the Lord would continue to give you and me opportunities to share this gospel of peace!
One of the most creative hip hop songs ever written , in my opinion, was “I Used To Love H.E.R.” by Common.
In the song, hip-hop is initially personified as a female of respectable character that Common met as a young boy and loved spending time with.
She was old school and I was just a shorty // Never knew throughout my life she would be there for me…..She was there for me and I was there for her // Pull out the chair for her, turn on the air for her and just cool out…Cool out and listen to her….
Like the cycle of life, interests and people change. This once highly respected female now had begun to stray from her foundation and began to frequent clubs and house parties. Then a sense of consciousness and afrocentrism became her schtick. As those phases passed, she begins to explore other interests.
“But then she broke to the West Coast and that was cool // Cuz it was around that time I went away to school // And I’m a man of understandin’, so why should I stand in her way? // She’d probably get her money in L.A. // She did stunts, got big pub but what was foul // She said that the pro-black was going out of style // She said Afrocentricity is of the past // Now she’s into R&B, Hip-House, bass and jazz….
Like all vulnerable people desperately trying to find their way, usually in one way or another they forsake their foundations, if one was ever present, they are commodified by shrewd opportunists. Such was the case with “her”.
I might’ve failed to mention that this chick was creative // But once the man got to her, he altered her native // Told her if she got an image and gimmick she could make money // And she did it like a dummy // Now I see her in commercials, she’s universal // She used to only swing it with the inner-city circle….Stressing how hard core she really is // She was really the realest before she got into show biz….
But what’s interesting is Common vows to redeem her from her wayward ways and purify “her” for himself. Looking at Common’s discography, I can’t say that he’s redeemed “her” as he claimed he would because he too is part of the unredeemed culture of hip-hop. Interestingly, NY emcee, Nas, expressed his sentiments that hip hop is dead on his album by the same title in 2006. Surveying the culture, Nas voiced his frustrations that hip hop was meaningless and lacked substance. I couldn’t agree more. How many more songs need to be made about violence, sexual immorality, drug use/selling, materialism, or gettin’ crunk. I think it’s very interesting when the secular culture can identify its own ailments. Essentially, Nas is looking for a resurrection of hip-hop. There is only one fit for such a loving task and He’s already started the redemption of hip hop through His people. Common and Nas would do well to read the book of Hosea.
Historically, hip-hop has been adept at social commentary, but very rarely offering solutions to ills poetically communicated from its soapbox. If Common and Nas would do a bit more research, they would truly find an answer to what’s wrong with “her” and then write about “her” Rescuer.
However, God has seen fit to raise up His messengers of hope who have more to say about “her” and how “she’s” been redeemed. It don’t stop!
If New York City is known as the birthplace of hip hop, then Philadelphia has to be known for its infectious soul music. The Delfonics, The Stylistics, Maze featuring Frankie Beverly, Hall and Oates, Harold Melvin and the Bluenotes featuring Teddy Pendergrass are some of the artists that have given Philadelphia its rich soul music history. Of course being only 95 miles away from New York City, Philadelphia has its own notable hip hop history. So just imagine the boom bap of New York City hip hop fusing with the soul rich sounds of Philadelphia!
As of recent, it is unquestionable that Philadelphia has become the hotbed of Christian Hip Hop and one of its native sons has quickly gained recognition due to his unique blend of soul samples, melodies and that classic east coast boom bap. I remember the first time I heard the remix to Young Josh’s “Gotta Move”. That track took me back to the sound reminiscent of the golden era of hip hop (circa 1993-1998). A classic drumbeat, a soulful melodic sample, and just the right amount of scratching had me on a quest to figure out who created such a rhythmic concoction. Then I got blitzed with the “I GOT IT FOR FREE Remix” EP by E-PISTLE featuring the standout track, “HIS-HOP remix” with the now well known signature phrase “Teddy P on the beats!” This one called Teddy P captured my ear and I was going to make it a point to follow his work.
After three trips to Philadelphia, I finally had the pleasure of meeting Teddy P, though I must admit the course of events didn’t allow us to build as I would’ve liked. Enter e-mail and text messages. The joy of technology! Over the course of our communication, it has become evident where his passions lie and how he wants to use his life for the glory of Christ. I certainly appreciate his contribution to the kingdom and I thought it would be good for others to get an inside scoop on the one they call Teddy P.
UR: First of all, thank you for being willing to share a bit of your life. Getting started, tell us a little bit about yourself outside of music.
TP: Yes sir, and thanks for this opportunity, famo! My name is Harry Wesley Pendleton, Jr. I have been married for four years to my wife Leticia, and we have a beautiful daughter, Taylor, who recently turned 3. Currently, I attend Faith & Love Center, pastored by my father, Harry W. Pendleton, Sr., and serve as the organist/pianist. I used to drum for 13 years, but those days are long gone!
UR: At what point did you become a follower of Jesus Christ?
TP: One day in 2006, I was on the computer checking e-mail and all of a sudden an overwhelming sense of conviction came over me. I immediately saw my sin SO CLEARLY. I went to the floor and cried out to the Father for forgiveness, repented, truly believed Christ was my savior, and haven’t looked back since!
UR: Prior to that, was there anyone in your life sharing the gospel with you or urging you to consider eternal matters?
TP: No. I spent most of my life in church, not a follower of Christ.
UR: What do you love most about being a husband? Being a father? Your wife? Your child?
TP: The best part about being a husband is having a godly wife! She certainly is my backbone, and has my back 100% of the time, which has truly been a blessing! She is my best friend, and I praise God for our union. Being a father and husband has had an awesome affect on my life naturally and spiritually. In seeing that I am truly the head of my house, I strive to put God first in everything that I do, and He has certainly blessed us beyond what we could’ve ever imagined, both in the natural and spiritual.
UR: What is the most challenging about all of these roles?
TP: The most challenging issue is staying consistent at all times. Usually in times of uncertainty in my family life, it’s a total reflection of my own walk with the Lord. If I am shaky, it ultimately affects my family as well.
UR: When the waters get a bit rough in the Pendleton home, what course of action do you normally take?
TP: MUCH MUCH prayer! However, it actually takes a bit to get me rattled, but there are times when I feel like a failure or I feel like I’m not doing enough. But through prayer and getting in the Scriptures, the Holy Spirit gives us so much comfort man.
UR: Describe your journey to producing.
TP: Well, like I touched on briefly earlier, I have always had an instrument in my hand for as long as I can remember. At 4, I could handle a tambourine like the best of them. LOL! At 5, my mother signed me up for piano lessons, which I hated! I couldn’t stand the piano then, not understanding God’s sovereign will to see me where I am today. In the meantime, I learned to play the keys, trumpet, drums and bass guitar. When I was 22, I came across a program that came with my Mac computer: a little program called Garage Band. That started the bug to start producing and I haven’t looked back since. At that age I wasn’t saved, so my focus was on secular placement which, praise God, never worked out.
UR: You have a very identifiable sound. Who were/are some of your musical influences?
TP: My journey in hip-hop didn’t start until I was 19 years old. We weren’t allowed to listen to “devilment” in my parents’ house growing up. LOL! When I started college, I was out of the house 24/7, and my homey from school put me on to Mos Def’s “Black on Both Sides”. I was hooked immediately! Since I went to school for graphic design, we all had computers at our desks and I would log online to see who was associated with Mos Def. I learned about Talib Kweli, Common and the Roots, who I was actually pretty familiar with living in Philly. I remember one day I walked to Tower Records and spent roughly $100 on “conscious” hip-hop. Because I was 19, and had my own mind at that age, I wasn’t persuaded by what was on TV. I felt like these guys were intellectually stimulating and were actually saying something. This style has influenced me tremendously, which I’m sure you can hear in my music. Also, gospel music from the early 60’s to the 80’s has a direct influence on the soul in my music.
UR: What is your perspective on the progress and hindrance of CHH?
TP: Great question. On the progressive side of things, CHH has grown in leaps and bounds directly attributed to people getter better at their crafts from all perspectives, including production, stylistically, and more importantly in their ability to inform folks about things concerning the faith. The surge of reformed theology (Yes, I said it! LOL!!) among the youth of today, and them seeing the importance of expressing the truth through Scripture in rhyme form has been amazing to watch. It has forced listeners to pick up their Bibles, various commentaries and books to dig deeper into the vast knowledge in Scripture that may not always be attainable on the surface. Expository lessons through rhyme, like what Lampmode Records does, instead of everything being topical has truly blessed many fans and supporters.
On the flip side, things have slowly but surely started to become expensive for many. As we all know, we are in a recession, and many folks have cut back on spending. I think CHH has been affected by this, and maybe some reform on how we can get this message out should take place. I think the recession in a way could be an eye opener to remind us of our first focus, and that is for the gospel be spread without any hindrances.
UR: What led to the formation of 317 Media and its financial philosophy?
TP: Well, I have been blessed to have various talents from the Lord. I figured it would be great to use those talents to hi-lite Christ through the various mediums we offer. Music is what I focus on primarily, but through school I was introduced to video and graphic design, so I try to use those mediums as well. 317 is actually going through somewhat of an evolution. I’m starting to reshape it as a ministry outlet than an actual company. I have to be honest and say initially 317 Media was not necessarily a ministry. Yes, we used our talents to promote Christ, but the focus on serving wasn’t as strong as it’s becoming. I have been convinced that this is where 317 Media is headed. Serving others through giving so the Gospel of Christ may be spread is my heart. After Word & Deed drops, my desire is everything done through media will be done on a donation principle. Our aim is that Lord led giving would be done, not out of necessity, but that we can keep pressing forward.
UR: This might seem controversial to some, but what positive effects do you see resulting from your decision?
TP: Man, the gospel going out is my main goal! And through this, I would love to see the light of Christ shine through. Human thinking would look at what I’m doing and say it’s not too bright, because financially I might be taking a setback. But I trust God wholeheartedly that whatever we receive will be what He wanted us to receive. My faith is in God’s will being done, not the comfort of my flesh. The great thing is though, that I have been at more peace going this route than before, so I’m truly blessed.
UR: Amen! So describe your process in making a beat.
TP: It varies. Most of the time, I have a melody first, then the drums follow. Sometimes the drums come first, then the melody follows. Music is a great gift from the LORD!
UR: Your latest project is titled Word & Deed. What inspired that and the diverse selection of artists such as Wonder Brown, Eddie Nigma, Ackdavis & Braille?
TP: 317 Media’s (soon to be Ministries “wink wink”) mission is stated in Colossians 3:16-17.
16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
Verse 17 is literally what I live by; worshiping God in everything I do. This message seemed more clear to me after I injured myself about 3 months ago. During the first 3 weeks I couldn’t do anything but sit in the bed, watch TV, read my Bible, or pray. It was during that time I began to understand more and more why I have the gifts and talents that were given to me freely from the LORD. I began to see my purpose, which should every Christian’s purpose, and that is to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I see this as a chance to give back to God what was first given to me, but also to give to the very people who need music that glorifies our heavenly Father. I wasn’t going to let anything hinder that message getting out to anyone who might be interested. So I set out to do a project including people I know and respect whose main goal is to see the gospel spread. I worked with some artists on this project, who at times don’t fall in the typical “CHH” category, whose love for Christ may have been questioned in the past. However, I know they have a heart for God’s people, and in turn I wanted to provide them an opportunity to use their gifts. They all have blessed me in this process, and I hope that they in turn can be a blessing to others as well.
UR: So…..what are you reading right now?
TP: Right now I am reading Thabiti M. Anyabwile’s, What is a Healthy Church Member?It’s an awesome book, with great insights on healthy discipleship and leadership among believers. I am also doing a study on the Gospel of John, which has been SO RICH! I literally began a few days ago and I’m still stuck in the first 18 verses! I love this gospel account, especially considering the fact that John helps us to see the deity of Christ very very clearly.
UR: Tell me something in Anyabwile’s book that has made an impression on you.
TP: I really appreciate his points on being an expositional listener. Over the years topical preaching has replaced expository sermons, which I think has played a part in the numerical size of many churches. Churches that emphasize expository preaching don’t seem to have the numbers like churches that have a topical emphasis. I mean, I do enjoy topical preaching when it’s done expositionally. However, Pastor Anyabwile states that expository listening creates a hunger for God and His Word, and I agree!
UR: The Prince of Preachers, C.H. Spurgeon once said, “If the man does not live differently from what he did before, both at home and abroad, his repentance needs to be repented of, and his conversion is fiction.” What do you think about that?
TP: WOW! Very true and to the point! One thing that seems to be clearer now than ever before is the Word is very straightforward. No bells, no whistles, no autotune (LOL! Had to say it!), just straight to the point. Many times we seem to lose that perspective and try to make God’s agenda match our agenda and desires that are contrary to His mandates. Salvation is a miracle and we cannot tread lightly concerning God’s standards. So if there’s no fruit in our lives, we need to wonder about ourselves and truly repent.
UR: P, it was great choppin’ it up with you, fam! Again, thank you for letting us in your world!
TP: Ay bruuvm, it’s always a pleasure to get up with you. Keep persevering! Grace and Peace!
Word & Deed drops Tuesday, July 28, 2009 and can be purchased for $1 as a digital download or $7 as a physical cd at 317 Media.
Listen to this encouraging interview with Shai Linne and Bob Lepine of Family Life Today/Ear Reverent. Shai addresses the validity of hip hop, his ministry endeavors and the some of the goals of those engaged in this type of ministry.
John Wells is a name that the Christian hip hop community should be familiar with. If not, then some homework needs to be done on this man. However, his more recognizable moniker is The Tonic of the Crossmovement of Crossmovement Records where he also serves as CEO.
My first hearing of The Tonic was the first verse from the song House of Representatives on the album by the same name. I knew he was not an average emcee when I heard him use sarcophagusin his rhymes. Later, I would get my hands on Crossmovement’s first release, Heaven’s Mentality (1997), and I was very intrigued by the wordplay and imagery of Shock! But it was his song, I AM, that forever locked his distinctive voice and rhyming abilities in my head.
What many don’t know is The Tonic has been rhyming for the glory of Jesus long before the inception of Crossmovement. But by the Lord’s design, he ran into other young men that were doing the same thing and decided to form Crossmovement in 1993. Over the next 16 years Crossmovement Records expanded its roster and influence by the gracious hand of God and became the most recognizable name in Christian Hip Hop.
Despite the success and fruitfulness of Crossmovement Records, all was not well with The Tonic. I remember the e-mail I received from him in 2005 detailing problems with his health which eventually caused him to miss several tour dates, etc. as he was resigned to bed rest. The daily demands of being a husband, father to be, CEO, artist, and minister seemed to take its toll on him. Later, he disclosed that he was suffering from severe cases of anxiety attacks. These attacks were also the key reason in the delay of his solo album, The Dash. The Dash would be put on hold indefinitely.
Four years later, by the grace of God, The Tonic is no longer suffering from anxiety attacks and The Dash is here!
The most significant days in our lives are our birth dates and our death dates. But what about that dash in the middle? That dash is the duration of our lives. What are we doing with our lives? What we do with our lives sets the stage for eternity.
If I had to liken The Tonic to a secular emcee, I would with Chuck D of Public Enemy. With verbal dexterity, The Tonic cleverly conveys the issues of the times with passion and urgency. Just imagine CNN having a correspondent from the hip hop culture. That’s how I hear him. However, he never just leaves the issues of our day in observation mode. He unashamedly provides the triumphant solution to the ills of humanity, putting man in his place and attesting of Jesus’ rightful place.
The Dash is classic Christ-centered Tonic delivery saturated with mostly east coast boom bap featuring labelmates, R-Swift, Mac the Doulos, Shachah and Iz-Real. Another pleasant surprise were the appearances of former Crossmovement members, Cruz Cordero and Enock. Ah, the body of Christ! The Dash is another gem from the Crossmovement camp!
“The Dash” by The Tonic
(L to R – Me, Teddy P and John Wells (The Tonic) in Philadelphia, PA)