Urban Praise

Today marks the release date of Lyrical Theology, Vol. 2: Doxology by shai linne. This album is the second of a trilogy and was preceded by Lyrical Theology, Vol . 1: Theology.

From Lampmode Records

“LT2: Doxology is strongly influenced by the great hymns of the Christian faith, with blended worship styles that alternately bring to mind everything from Negro spirituals to golden-era Hip-hop. Expect a musically diversified sound as LT2: Doxology not only features rap, but hymns and songs of praise. Leah Smith, Chris Lee Cobbins, Brooks Ritter, and Joint Heirs are featured on the album, with most of the production handled by Wes Pendleton.

With the recent increase of churches being planted in urban contexts around America, the question has arisen: What songs will these churches sing? While there are plenty of options in contemporary gospel, CCM, etc., Shai believes that writers from Hip-hop culture have a unique role to play in producing contextualized worship songs that are equally useful in car systems and congregations on Sundays. LT2: Doxology is an offering in this regard.”

Purchase this album on itunes, amazon.com, or lampmode.com.

Here’s the video to the album’s first released song, Be Glorified (Psalm 55).

More to come…

Grace & Peace,

d.

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Way Back Wednesday: A Former Pharisee, A German Monk, and a Philadelphia Emcee

“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,

d.

Shai Linne is currently an artist on Lampmode Records and is set to release Lyrical Theology, Vol. 2 in the near future.

Should False Teachers Be Exposed?

At the onset, one might reply to this question with a hearty, “Yes!!”   However, some are more inclined to be less controversial, for the sake of peace, and rather pray for the repentance of false teachers than shedding light on their teachings.  We should definitely pray for false teachers to repent, but more should be and must be done.  While casting light on false teachers is often seen as a divisive and unloving move, it actually is the opposite. Exposing false teachers strengthens the unity of the church and is a great act of love.  Sound perplexing? If it does, stay with me and I’ll explain my statements more fully.

SHAI-false-teachers-H

Christian rapper/emcee, shai linne, recently released his 5th solo album, Lyrical Theology, Part 1: Theology  (the first of a trilogy), which included what has become a controversial song,  Fal$e Teacher$.  The song has become controversial because shai linne names some of the prominent proponents of the prosperity gospel.  The false teachers shai names are T.D. Jakes, Benny Hinn, Kenneth Copeland, Creflo Dollar, Eddie Long, Joel Osteen, Fred Price, Robert Tilton, Juanita Bynum, Joyce Meyer and Paula White. Knowing the song would elicit controversy, shai wisely prepared and made public an explanation of his motive for making the song before the song was officially released. To many people’s surprise, shai received a response from Brad Knight, Paula White’s son and shai offered a gracious, yet firm, reply.

Exposing false teachers is something I began doing a couple years after my salvation and still do. Like shai, I was met with criticism and misunderstanding and I was outright accused of being a slanderer and unloving….by other Christians! So like any other Christian who believes in the authority and inerrancy of God’s Word, I offered Scripture to justify my position of being aware of and naming false teachers. In turn, they offered Scripture to justify their positions to NOT name false teachers.  Are the Scriptures divided?  Does the Bible truly contradict itself?  Can we use Scripture to argue away Scripture?  To this absurd question, I offer the urban  idiom, “Come on, son!”   We must read Scripture correctly to know how to apply it to our lives by God’s grace.

Recently, I found myself in a discussion similar to ones I’ve previously had concerning the notion of exposing false teachers.  I sent shai’s song to a few people for thoughts and one person expressed very little about the song and offered a few verses for me to think about. Those verses were Matthew 7:1-2, 2 Timothy 2:14-16, and James 4:11.  A casual reading of these verses communicated to me that the other person thought the song was divisive and unloving.  I read those verses in context and offered my thoughts to that person about whether or not those verses were used correctly as justification to NOT expose false teachers.

I am posting my thoughts here not to gloat or embarrass anyone, but rather to show how essential it is that we learn how to interpret the Scriptures so that we can be more responsible and faithful Christians.

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Matthew 7:1-2

“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you.” (Matthew 7:1, 2 ESV)

This command comes toward the end of His discourse commonly known as The Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7).  The essence of His sermon is to reveal what life looks like for those who are of the Kingdom of God. Chapter 5:1 reveals to whom Jesus was speaking – the crowds and His disciples.  In fact, the end of Matthew 4, verses 23-25, convey that Jesus was speaking to large crowds in various places.

Matthew 7:1-2 has commonly been used to try to dissuade people from judging.  However, these verses are not about judging (being discerning), but rather about hypercritical judgmentalism, which stems from the root of the sin of pride.  Jesus is not commanding us to not use good judgment or not to be discerning, but rather not to be pridefully judgmental. Christians are called to judge or use discernment primarily to understand the ploys of Satan and to know how to apply the Word.  Ironically, a few verses down in Matthew 7, verses 15-20,  Jesus commanded His listeners to “beware of false prophets who come in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves.”  That’s a bold statement by Jesus Himself.  Is He being judgmental by calling people false prophets and ravenous wolves? Certainly Jesus isn’t contradicting Himself, right? We might wonder why Jesus warned people about false prophets? Why did He feel the need to sound the alarm? I think it’s because He loved people and cared for them and didn’t want them to be led astray by destructive teaching.

2 Timothy 2:14-16                                                                                                          

“Remind them of these things, and charge them before God not to quarrel about words, which does no good, but only ruins the hearers. Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. But avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness,..” (2 Timothy 2:14-16 ESV)

This letter is known as a pastoral epistle and it was Paul’s instructions to Timothy as he pastored the church in Ephesus. Between the two letters addressed to Timothy, Paul encouraged Timothy to be bold, preach the gospel, defend it against error, how to structure the church, the qualifications of church leaders, and how to encourage the believers in their actions toward one another.  You mentioned 2:14-16, but I first want to direct you to 1:13-14. Paul tells Timothy to follow the pattern of sound words (doctrine) and to guard the good deposit that was entrusted to him. That deposit is the gospel; ironically the same gospel that Paul was in prison for preaching.

Looking at 2:14-16, we need to again look at the context. If you start at 2:1 and read to verse 13, you’ll see that Paul is exhorting Timothy to disciple men who will in turn disciple other men (v1-2). Paul says, “…what you heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust to faithful men..” What Timothy heard from Paul was the gospel, which we see in 1:13.  However, 2:8 is ample evidence of what Timothy heard from Paul because he says, “Remember Jesus Christ…” Verse 14 starts off with “Remind them of these things…” What things does Paul want Timothy to remind the men of? The things mentioned in 2:6-13 – things about Jesus.

Why do you think Paul exhorted Timothy to rightly handle the word of truth (2:15), to guard the gospel (1:14) and to remind the men Timothy would mentor to remember the truths of the gospel (2:14)?

Paul’s next exhortation to Timothy for the other men is not to “quarrel about words” (2:14). This simply means not to argue about meaningless information. (i.e. How many angels can stand on the head of a needle? Can God make a rock so big that He can’t move?) This does not mean that Christians are to not defend the truth of Christ and not expose false teachers.  In fact, the letter of Jude warned its primary audience and us about false teachers, their judgment and how we are to handle them.  Jude’s verses 3-4 say:

“Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.” (Jude 3-4 ESV)

Jude is exhorting the reader to contend for the faith and he qualifies false teachers as being headed for condemnation for perverting the gospel. These false teachers were not teaching what was in accordance to sound doctrine. That’s pretty strong biblical language!

But perhaps what’s more revealing is what Paul continued to write in 2 Timothy 2 in verses 16-18. Paul tells Timothy to tell the men to avoid irreverent babble because it will lead people astray into ungodliness and he mentions two men by name who were guilty of babbling irreverently: Hymaneus and Philetus.  Paul says they swerved from the truth and upset the faith of some for teaching false things about the resurrection (2:18). Do you see what Paul is doing? He is not only instructing Timothy how to instruct other men concerning false teaching, but he is outright calling Hymaneus and Philetus false teachers. Why does Paul speak like this? I think it’s for the same reasons Jesus warned people – because he loved them and didn’t want to see them troubled by false teachings concerning Christ.  So considering the context of this letter, 2 Timothy 2:14-16 is not a biblical defense to not expose false teachers. In fact, it does the opposite.

James 4:11

“Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge.” (James 4:11 ESV)

The epistle of James was written to various Jewish Christians who were scattered due to persecution (1:1). James is an interesting letter because it addresses many different things that seem to not be connected. Some have termed the epistle of James as Proverbs of the New Testament. It’s an epistle filled with practical wisdom for Christians because of what the gospel had accomplished in their lives.

When I looked at 4:11, it appeared to be a summarized re-statement of the issues James mentions in 3:1-4:10: taming the tongue, what godliness or wisdom from above looks like, and the nature of fights and quarrels.  What James is essentially calling our attention to is harmony and unity within the body of Christ and what kinds of heart attitudes and behaviors that disrupt that harmony.  So he summarizes it all by saying, “Don’t speak evil against one another, brothers.” If one speaks evil it reveals what is already in his heart. Jesus said from out of our hearts come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander (Matthew 15:19). So, this is a call for Christians to treat one another with love because that shows the world we’re truly His disciples (John 13:34).

However, due to the nature of their teachings, false teachers are not considered “brothers”. In other words, they’re unbelievers or non-Christians. Jude’s letter said the false teachers were headed for condemnation.  Believers are not headed for condemnation (Romans 8:1). Perhaps the strongest words against false teachers are mentioned in 2 Peter 2, with verses 1-3 being very poignant.

“But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.” (2 Peter 2:1-3 ESV)

Again, very strong words about and against false teachers from Peter. In light of this characteristic of false teachers, James 4:11 is not referring to how we should treat unbelievers – the false teachers.  James 4:11 is an exhortation for Christians not to slander one another.

Certainly, calling someone a false teacher who fits the biblical description of one is not slanderous or evil. It’s a descriptive term that coincides with their actions. For example, if a man is characterized by stealing, he is a thief.  That’s not a slanderous term, but a descriptive one based on objective evidence.

The biggest issue with false teachers is that ultimately God is not glorified by their teaching. They are blaspheming the name of God when they teach things that are outright untrue about God for their gain.

So just as Jesus, Paul, Peter and Jude warned people to beware of false teachers, we too can warn people about false teachers so they won’t be led astray and also so God can be truly glorified.

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May the Lord find us faithfully upholding His truth!

d.

The Actual Factual

Christians are a people of truth. Our faith is based on the truth of God. One of the most important and characteristic truths about Christianity is the doctrine of the Trinity. Though you won’t find the word “trinity” in the Scriptures, you will see the attributes of deity ascribed and described of the Father, the Son (Jesus Christ) and the Holy Spirit. In other words, God is one, but exists in three persons. Much controversy has come as a result of  this teaching, but the Scriptures are clear in its proclamation of the deity of all three members of the Godhead.

Perhaps the most controversial teaching of the Godhead is the teaching about the nature of Jesus Christ. In the Scriptures, we find that Jesus was an actual human being 100% and that He was also 100% God. This is known as the doctrine of the hypostatic union.

Notice what the Apostle Paul says in Philippians 2:5-11 & Colossians 1:15-19

  • 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant,being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:5-11) 
  • 15 He (Jesus) is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him (Jesus) all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent.19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell… (Colossians 1:15-19)

This is hugely significant as we consider the work of the gospel. For anyone to be saved, they must have the righteousness required by God that comes from obedience to the law. However, the Bible teaches that no one can perfectly obey the law of God because of his sinful nature. We’re all born rebels incapable of obeying the Lord, nor do we naturally have the desire to. This is why the doctrine of Christ or Christology is an essential doctrine.

As a man, Jesus perfectly obeyed the will/law of the Father (Matthew 5:17 & John 4:34). The law requires perfect obedience and it also demands death for disobedience.  Jesus lived as a human being, with its limitations, for 33 years perfectly submitted to the will of the Father, including dying on a cross as a ransom and a substitution for sinners. (Isaiah 53)

As God, Jesus exhibited the attributes of deity – authority over creation, received worship, immortality, His titles as Lord, and His claim to being I AM (John 8:58). What’s key is that only God can fulfill His own law and in this Jesus proved His deity as well.

The rejection of the nature and work of Jesus Christ is the birth of false religions. (i.e. Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormonism, etc.)

The nature and work of Jesus is one we must get right if we will fully appreciate the uniqueness, grace and mercy of the gospel and its security.

Check out the song, Hypostatic Union, by shai linne from his forthcoming album, Lyrical Theology Volume 1.

(see if you can decipher what the logo says)

Grace & Peace,

d.

 

Abundant Grace

Spurgeon: A New Biography   -             By: Arnold Dallimore    Finally, I am getting around to reading a biography.  Some have differing opinions on the value of biographies, but I think they can be very helpful.  By definition a biography is a written account  of another person’s  life and usually written because they have had a significant impact on mankind in either helpful or unhelpful ways.  Biographies tend to be written by those that have been influenced or intrigued by the person they’ve written about.

The biography I am reading now is Spurgeon: A New Biography by Arnold Dallimore.  I’ve always desired to read a Spurgeon biography, but didn’t know which one to read.  At the recommendation of my pastor, I am reading this one. I actually received the book from my now wife for Christmas in 2010 when we were dating and I am really looking forward to it. I found it interesting that the author’s grandfather and mother used to attend the Metropolitan Tabernacle during Spurgeon’s time there.

The reason why I am reading a Spurgeon biography is because he is an example of God’s grace on a man submitted to Him. As it seems, there has been no pastor that has been more fruitful in the modern era than Spurgeon. His accomplishments and fruit are unrivaled for the short life he lived. It is said that he read an average of six books a week and retained the information remarkably.  His sermons were published in newspapers.  He started orphanages.  He founded a pastor’s college.  He was also noted as a remarkable evangelist…..as a Calvinist! (some of you will get that joke) All of this the Lord accomplished through him despite health issues he and his wife suffered from.  Sparing you the details, Spurgeon was a remarkable example of endurance as He held on to the Word of Truth deeply in his heart.  Thus he became known as the Prince of Preachers.

d.

Reverence

I vividly recall the first time my ears were exposed to hip hop. It was in Houston in the summer of 1982 and a cousin turned me on to the Fat Boys, Run DMC and Whodini. Prior to that, I had been a resident of Louisville, KY and my closest exposure to hip hop was disco music on contemporary radio.  I was hooked on hip hop the first time I heard it, not to mention the image of the emcees and DJ’s. Kangol hats, Cazal glasses, big rope chains, Adidas sneakers, and leather pants or jeans caught my eye. These were young black men communicating the commonalities of the urban culture in simple rhyme schemes using language I understood. I was 7 then.

One of hip hop’s classic songs is “I Used to Love H.E.R.” by Common, then known as Common Sense. It was a song that personified hip hop as a beautiful, yet unfaithful, forever changing, man pleasing woman that he loved. Common vividly painted the picture of how this woman (hip hop) went through many phases and lovers just to get a reputation, yet he longed for the day when she was in her purest form. He was hoping “she” would return to her better days.

“Slim was fresh, yo, when “she” was underground / Original, pure, untampered and down “sister” / Boy, I tell you, I miss “her”!”

Language is a unique phenomenon.  As a global medium of communication, it has many voices and creative faces of expression such as poetry and all of its devices, such as the one above.  It can be used to communicate complex or simple ideas or thoughts.  By the use of certain words and inflections, language can communicate emotion or feelings.  Also, language can communicate praise, honor, glory or abhorrence.  As an example of praise, consider the Psalmist in the 34th Psalm verses 1-3.

1I will bless the LORD at all times;
his praise shall continually be in my mouth.
2My soul makes its boast in the LORD;
let the humble hear and be glad.
3Oh, magnify the LORD with me,
and let us exalt his name together!

See the beauty of language?!?

Upon my conversion in 1998, one of the first things I was convicted of was the music I was listening to. I was convinced the lyrics of Tupac, Jay-Z, Notorious B.I.G., Snoop Dogg, Wu-Tang Clan, Nas, A Tribe Called Quest, Busta Rhymes, etc. were incongruent with the commands of Scripture and weren’t going to aid in any renewal of my mind. In fact, that music stimulated the “old man” that was already put to death, since “the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” (Galatians 6:14) Simply put, the Lord took away my desire to flood my mind with those godless songs.  Yet, I still craved a hip hop expression, but with a different focus.  Providentially, I stumbled upon Crossmovement and was ecstatic about what I was listening to. You can read more about it here.  What was so beautiful about this blend was the authentic expression of the urban culture submitting itself to the majesty of Jesus Christ.  Timberlands and theology!  The Lord is magnificent!

As Christian Hip Hop (CHH) gained wider acceptance in the church and being used as an evangelistic tool, there came an increase in production quality, business savvy, and marketability.  Not to mention, there was a sense of competition in being relevant to its secular counterpart.  Here’s where I think CHH began to decrease in its effectiveness.  It seemed to be more consumed with secular acceptance than with honoring the Lord. Certain emcees started rapping like secular rappers (not in content, but in inflection), incorporating production effects that were trendy for a season in the secular environment, watering down of the gospel and what I’ve noticed recently is a lack of reverent communication about God.  Like Common missed hip hop in her purest form, I miss CHH when it was primarily about the glory of Christ.

So what do I mean?  Here’s what I mean – hip hop has a list of demands.  More importantly, for the emcee there are “rules to the game”. To be considered a “dope emcee who kills it on the regular” one must be witty, clever, boastful, have multi-syllabic rhyme schemes, and communicate a point in a space of 3 verses or 48 bars.

But what should be the mark of a Christian emcee?  Aside from the fact that the first obligation is a credible Christian witness, a Christian emcee can be as “dope” as any emcee.  He/She can be creative, witty, clever, have multi-syllabic rhyme schemes and communicate a point in a limited space.  Obviously, what’s missing is that the Christian emcee shouldn’t be boastful, since his/her boast is in the Lord and his/her rhymes are supposed to be Christ glorifying.  But what should always be present is a sense of reverence, not only in the rhymes but in the delivery as well. This is what truly redeemed emceeing looks like.

Despite the great amount of truth in many songs, I’m afraid for the sake or pressure of having clever rhyme schemes or hooks, reverence appears to be on the decline for our God.  When God is referred to as some slang term for the sake of the rhyme scheme, reverence for God is lost.  When the emcee desires praise from men, reverence for God is lost.

Thankfully, all is not lost. Though not perfect, great examples still exist. Consider Timothy Brindle’s lyrics from “The Preciousness of Time” from his album Killing Sin.

On Wall Street a rich dude snorts lines/
His morning devotion is the New York Times/
And Time magazine at times it seems/
Time flies as if time had some wings/
But this is irony right/
While most spend the time of their life trying to have the time of their life/
Thinking lies are really true/
If you’re busy killing time the truth is time is killing you/
But you’re too cool- you love to take your time/
You fool- God can come and take your time/
Then He’ll search your mind and surely find your works are slime/
One sin’s an eternal prime it takes eternity to serve the time/
Reject Him and regret how your spurned this rhyme/
You offended the Divine/
In hell, like Michael Jackson, you’ll remember the time/
Once your time is up you blasphemer/
You can’t travel back with a flux capacitor/
It’s such a massacre when Christ is parting the sky/
You’ll want to go back in time like Marty McFly/
But you sharply despised Christ kindness my friend/
And He gave you a whole  lifetime to repent/
So next time you’re asking what time is it/
Know Christ can come to give times final tick/

Hear the whole song here: The Preciousness of Time

Did you notice the reverence of Christ in these lines? Did you notice man’s place in these lines? This song is flooded with the supremacy of Christ as the governor of time and how man is ultimately bound to God’s “timeclock”.

Also,  consider shai linne.  Here’s  his song “The Glory of God” from his upcoming album, The Attributes of God on Lampmode Records. This album  was influenced by A.W. Tozer’s classic book, The Knowledge of the Holy.  Nothing is more reverential than focusing on the multifaceted attributes of God. Truly, this is lyrical theology. It is my estimation that the more we are in awe of God, the less we’ll focus on ourselves and more on Him.  In other words, our praise and reverence will be on display, not only in our words, but the very flow of our lives.   May we be a people who display reverent redemption!

The Glory of God – Shai Linne

Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe,…

(Hebrews 12:28)

Soli Deo Gloria!

d.

Shai Linne Interview

 

shai_51 

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.

(total running time : 22 minutes)

Grace & Peace,

d.