Thursday, October 1, 2009

9 Marks interviews Shai Linne and Voice pt 3

9 Marks Interview pt 3 from Curtis Allen on Vimeo.


Whole audio interview can be heard at http://media.9marks.org/

9 Marks interviews Shai Linne and Voice pt 2


whole audio interview can be found at http://media.9marks.org/
Shai's music can be found on iTunes as well as Voice

9 Marks interviews Shai Linne and Voice pt 1




Mark Dever, who is a friend of mine, wanted to interview another friend of mine Shai Linne. We went down to Mark's church,Capitol Hill Baptist, and did this interview. I had the privilege of having half of the interview taped. The full audio version of the interview can be heard @ www.http://media.9marks.org/wp-content/uploads/audio/interview20091001-Linne.mp3 Shai Linne and I have both released albums this year and have been very humbled by the support. Shai is on Lampmode records (www.lampmode.com) a very well respected hip hop label in Christian reformed circles. If you are interested in our music you can find them both on iTunes http://itunes.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewAlbum?id=313958485&s=143441


Monday, September 21, 2009

It's been a long time...


I shouldn't have left you..." Those words are from a song by Eric B. and Rakim called "I Know You Got Soul." I think Rakim is on my mind because he currently has a song out called "Holy Are You," which, as a follower of the Nation of Islam, paints himself in a most blasphemous self evaluation equating himself to God. A wonderful response by Evangel from Christcentric was sent out to some non-Christian rap webpages of which death threats were sent to Evangel by Muslims. Yep, pretty wild stuff. Anywaaaaaayyyyyyyyyyy...

I need to get back on my game as a lot has going on and even if nobody agrees with or cares what I write or post it is still good for me to just have someplace to dump my thoughts. So I am back on my grind as of, well, right now. In this day and age it is crazy to think anybody wants to read what you post so thank you to those that do and any feed back you have lemme have it!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Monday, July 27, 2009

Sometimes someone just lets you know that someone said something about you...

The Reformed Resurgence: Reformed Rap

Collin Hansen

The Reformed Resurgence Series: Click | View Series

Gospel, Word!

Walking to my seat for the opening night of the New Attitude conference, an unexpected sound boomed over the convention center speakers. Could it be? Nah. Hip hop? Here? With this crowd? At least the lyrics sounded about right for New Attitude, a yearly conference now calledNext that attracts thousands of young adults. “Grace—unmerited favor toward those who deserve wrath,” Curtis Allen rapped. “Grace—is salvation from predestination. Christ gave his life to change our destination.”

Lyrical Theology

I approached Allen between sessions and asked him about a phenomenon I never anticipated writing about: Reformed rap. Allen, who raps under the name “Voice,” belongs to a small group of hip-hop artists who employ Calvinist theology in their lyrics. Shai Linne argues that hip-hop might be a superior musical form for conveying theology because of the sheer word count. “The power of hip-hop is because it’s primarily a lyrical medium,” said Linne, who attends Epiphany Fellowship in Philadelphia, an Acts 29 church. “It has the ability to communicate large amounts of information at one time. When you’re able to do that, you’re able to transmit a worldview.”

Secular Slavery

The Reformed worldview isn’t always welcome in African American churches. Thabiti Anyabwile has documented the decline of African American theology from biblical faith to cultural captivity. Anyabwile, who once served on the Capitol Hill Baptist Church staff with Together for the Gospel founder Mark Dever, argues that the theological basis for African American activism has given way to secularism.

Theological Freedom

“Disentangled from its evangelical and Reformed theological upbringing, the church became motivated by a quest for justice for justice’s sake rather than by the call and mandate of God as expressed in more biblical understandings of Christianity,” Anyabwile writes. Perhaps Calvinists will be used by God to restore this theological richness that once sustained slaves enduring unspeakable evil.

To be continued.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

a humble brother's question and my response


First, let me say that I remain encouraged through your music Voice. The Truth of GOD'S WORD spills from your albums with practical simplicity. I must confess, I do not have your initial two albums. In the earlier days of my walk, I found your music exuded a significant amount of "happiness" and "joy" that I myself was not used to (hopefully this is not offensive, but it would take MANY more emails to explain. Suffice to say, with a "similar" background to yourself, the transition into joy and light, was difficult after so many years in darkness and sorrow). As time passed, and the light of CHRIST began to shine in, darkness was slowly thrust out. So when the time came for that joyous chorus (like on "Unstoppable"), the Process of the Pardon emerged! Anyway, I know your time if limited, with "Santiago" and "Mrs Betsy Allen," so let me cut to it. I enjoy your music brother, and have been INSTRUCTED on the Pardon, specifically with the jewels from Dr. Grudem, Duncan, and even Imago Dei (what's that, "non-posse-bacardi"????)

My question is in regards to NT Wright's New Perspective. I will confess I am largely unlearned in the area. I have read several articles by Wright, and glanced at the introduction to Piper on Justification (where he credits NT Wright as a tremendous Biblical Scholar). I have had several discussions with a few brothers from Westminster in Philly, some of whom acknowledge Wright to be amongst their favorite scholars. This is to say nothing of his interpretation of Justification. My question is that you steadfastly refute Mr. Wright's position as being heresy. I know you are in (I think you refer to it as) Pastor's College, thus I give great deference to your study on the matter. But I been skimming the surface on modern changes and transitions in Biblical Scholarship (see Enns on "Inspiration and Incarnation" for example), and it seems ("seems" brother), there is room (not necessarily with Wright and Enns) for correction on our understanding of "certain" things in comparison to our understanding several hundred years ago. I guess my question is how did you come to your position against Wright with such steadfastness? Again brother, I do not assert you are wrong (for I continue to hold to the traditional understanding of Justification, lest I find my Salvation is LOST!), I just want to understand how you reached your position bro, that's all. Take your time in response Voice, I know your labors are many.

"A Theist" is nice so far. Favorite track (From an emcee perspective, thus far) is Uni-verse! Hope all is well with you brother.

nate

My response:

Nate,
Sorry it took so long for me to respond to this. I set it in my email group and I lost it or something to that effect. In any case I appreciate your humble question and the subsequent follow up email and encouragements. I hope I can answer your question with clarity although I must admit there are plenty of other people (Jon Piper, Ligon Duncan among others) who have done a fine job bringing discernment to this issue. If you haven’t I would encourage you to get some of there materials to see what those who actually have something worthwhile to say about it. I will also avoid commenting on the scholarship of Wright but will say that yes in many areas he has proven to be an excellent scholar of the bible. However, he is not infallible and in his position on Justification, I have to say his infallibility is apparent =)

In answering a question like this Nate I have to be honest and say that most of what we know and believe today we stand on the shoulders of the great saints that preceded us. What I offer is no new insight into scripture or some how I have come to this position on my own as if some angel revealed things to me about Justification that shape my “perspective.” Having said this I will try to answer your question. This will be a non-scholar answer to by the way. Not that I could give a scholar answer lol.

One of the main reasons I disagree with Wright is that this position would not have been a position that has historically been in the church as a matter of question. As far back as we can know this “new” perspective is in fact that, new. I find it hard to believe that the further we move away from the original days of biblical writings that we come into more clarity on those writings. Wright’s interpretation of the Greek word for Justification is not used in the way that he describes in most texts that use this word. The connection that the word makes to justification is not an issue of family but an issue of position. At least that is what everyone (that we, including Wright, have sided with) who has weighed in on this issue throughout church history has seen Justification as a legal declaration from God not a term referring to family. I find it hard to believe that in all history this has not been put out there, especially by all those who have studied this intently.

Another reason I disagree with this position is because of the implication of this position. If this is true (new perspective) then a person’s standing before God isn’t guaranteed by God and therefore becomes about works to assure one of salvation where the scripture speak so vehemently against works as earning salvation. This new perspective gets down to the issue of how can I be sure I am saved, being “a member of God’s family” doesn’t indicate that soteriological implications are present. Sadducee’s and Pharisee’s were also a part of God’s family as in that they were the chosen people by God. People weren’t struggling with being a member of a family in second temple Judaism. Yes people wanted to worship in the temple and were kept out but the issue was acceptance by God and worship of God. They all knew they were “part of the family.” If this perspective is true then one’s own assurance seems to not be certain which makes us Neo-Judaizers in trying to attain certainty in our salvation.

Lastly, I think this new perspective doesn’t line up with the totality of scripture. While the Pauline epistles offer the most data on this issue other aspects of scripture highlight the work of God and what makes us acceptable to Him.


Christ’s atoning death definitively secures our forgiveness for sins past, present and future.
  1. “But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God… For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.” (Hebrews 10:12,14)
  2. “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit,” 1 Peter 3:18
  3. God not only removes our sins (Ps. 103:12) leaving us “neutral” before God, but he also credits us with a perfect righteousness (Is. 61:10, Rom. 4:3)

Again brother there is so much to say here. This was a little answer to a big question. I appreciate your heart man and I hope that you continue to be encouraged in Christ and in your justification!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Are legalism and license the only two options...

for getting justification and sanctification confused? Often we hear of the perils of confusing the difference between these two heavyweight doctrines. Usually when justification is confused with sanctification it can lead to extreme legalism. You find people trying to earn their salvation. Not in the sense that they actually believe that they can but it is an attempt to somehow prove to God their worthiness by their perceived obedience. The danger here, more than anything, is the accusations against God that His Son's death was good but insufficient as well as we earn His favor by our efforts. WHOA!!!!!!!!!! Yet people live their whole Christians lives flying under the radar of "smuggling human effort" in with divine justice. Bad bad bad bad bad!

The flip side to this legalism is usually described as license. Which simply is a freedom to willfully pursue sin and all its perceived pleasures. Somehow assuming the grace of God makes way for sin rather than grace makes way to not sin. Living as a "Christian" with either of these worldviews will make for a slow miserable death. Thank God for Jesus! In Him we have all that we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3-11). Our obedience is is one that learns not one that earns. We learn about God and ourselves not earn from God for ourselves. Amen!

Are these the only two options though? At times I get concerned that we, people in general, are primarily satisfied with placing "things" in one of two categories. We are in the "either or" worldview often in our description of life and the hereafter. Maybe because there really are two kinds of people in this world from the bible's perspective, reconciled and unreconciled. Maybe because there really are 2 ways to live. Although Tim Keller has recently been pushing that there are in fact 3 ways to live. All this being said, I believe there is at least one more, and in my opinion, one that is very infamous among Believers, when we get Justification and Sanctification confused. The problem is I don't have a good theological term for it like the two above. Right now I have packaged it as good ol' fashioned "Meology." A street way to say this is "a holy zap" or "Sudden Sanctification." This is a more common response than not for the believer when justification is viewed as a process.

Sudden Sanctification is when the believer confuses sanctification (on going/progressive process of becoming like Jesus) with justification (instantaneous act in which God declares the sinner as righteous, as if he never sinned at all) and believes that sanctification should be instantaneous. This is the evil twin of legalism which states, in essence, that justification is a process as opposed to an instance. What this looks like is the believer is shocked at their sin, discouraged at the rate of their growth and often bitter towards God and or others that seem to "get it" when it comes to doing the Jesus thing. Other symptoms include, nausea, diarrhea, loss of hair, one leg growing longer than the other and an intense search for Baked Beaver Back as an evening dish. The worst of it all is that the believer thinks that this desire to be holy quickly honors God and is humble and passionate but in actuality it is an expression of severe arrogance and complaint towards God who designs all processes for His people in order that they may grow to be like him, while being dependent on Him. There is no such thing as a holy zap! There never will be. While there are some areas that will radically come to a halt. Often many of the areas you and I struggle with will remain on some level as the thorn in our flesh to keep us humbly dependent on His righteousness to guide us into eternity.

"Sudden Sanctification" says to God, "I hate this sin and how it makes me feel and I want you to take it away, NOW!" This mindset forgets 1 Peter 4:12-19, James 1:2-4, 2 Peter 1:3-11, Hebrews 12:11, Galatians 6:7-9 and many other wonderful passages that highlight the reality of who God is and what He has done. As a pastor I often come across people who want the desires and effects of sin to go away and actually expect them to as quickly as they say it. I regret to inform you that there is no such thing. Sanctification is indeed a process. It is a process given only to those whom are called by God. It is a gift and it produces the kind of character that pleases God. We focus so much on the goal that we forget that God is focused on the process. He has already called us "not guilty," justified by the blood of Christ. The goal is already achieved. The process needs to be received.

Perseverance is the name of the game here. This glorifies God! I know in my life there are quite a few areas where I wish God would give me a holy zap. But my desire is selfish. It's not about honoring God it's about not wanting to do the work of long suffering with my sin and it also requires no faith. The work of the spirit is sufficient and will be complete. Let Justification be instantaneous and sanctification be contemporaneous. When we confuse the two the outcome is one of anguish and confusion. "For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live" (Romans 8:13)





Wednesday, July 1, 2009

How can I get black people to come to my church? pt.2

Where possible, invite some black Christians to your church to evaluate your service.

Even if you have to reach out to a black church that you have no relationship with, explain to them that you are desirous to reach the community for the purpose of having a church that reflects more the kingdom of God than it does currently. Ask if they would be willing to let a handful of members attend your service and give feed back on what would hinder black people from coming back.

This is a bold move! But the payout could be enormous! This accomplishes a couple of things. It sends a loud statement to the people of that church that you are serious and sincere (unless they get suspicious that you are sheep stealing). It can give you a good rapport with them and could lead to possibly a partnership in the gospel that consists of reaching the black community. It communicates to your church that you are indeed serious and it gives you time to prepare them for greeting black folks as they come. It allows you to evaluate seriously how your church responds to the reality of another culture coming to fellowship with them.

Be Genuine. It's okay to just "be white" around black people

Sometimes white people think they have to "relate" to black people in order to make them feel welcome. This is not necessarily true. I have seen so many non-black folks change their whole swagger so that they can be accepted by the black people they are "relating to." WRONG! Be yourself. It is okay if you don't know the proper "black" handshake or can't relate to something that is described in such a way that you feel like you should be able to. Ask questions like, what does that mean that you just said? Expose your ignorance don't try to hide it. If you are genuine black people will pick up on that and actually respect you for it.

Pray for direction

This could always be first on my list and is another one of those "duh" statements but it is in fact true that many who pursue such things as this can have desire without direction. Ultimately the Lord is going to lead you in the endeavor.

When possible use illustrations that can highlight the reality of and your disdain for racism

My Senior pastor John Loftness does this very well. He, being a white man, will often use illustrations or read stories that highlight the reality of this racial barrier's existence and denounce it. It is a subtle way to train your church but also if on a particular Sunday black people are there they will pick up on that if its genuine.

If there are already a few black people in your church they need to play a role here.

My church has had a recent flux of black folks coming to our church. We haven't even targeted them but on our website www.solidrockchurch.net they can see that two out of the three pastors are black. If this exists in your church, make sure there are pictures on your website that indicate that. Black people don't like being vastly outnumbered by white people especially when they are the only black people there, it can be a challenge.

None of these things are ground breaking or novel but they are a good step in the right direction. I wish I could say just do this, this and this and WALA black people will show up in droves. It requires faith and diligence with patience as the backdrop. If it is the will of the Lord then you will accomplish that no matter what obstacles present themselves.

Lastly a few bullet points that will be a struggles for most black people, not all but most.

Worship style will be a challenge. Black people are really drawn to music. Unfortunately many of us are in churches where the theology is horrible but the worship is right. Your white band will have a rhythm that will be a sacrifice to a lot black people to overcome.

Homeschool and the expectation of biblical womanhood may be a challenge. Sometimes these values assume a particular family structure and that may not be the case with some black families coming into your church. A single mom may come in with two kids. If all she hears is homeschool this and moms should be home that she wont likely stay. While we would say that's not the only way to honor God we sure can emphasize it, however subtle.

Theology may be a challenge. Depending on your church, this could be a paradigm shift in the way black folks experience church. We tend to be more feeling and whites tend to be more intellectual. Not saying that whites don't feel and blacks don't think but it is different. The racial history of this nation has left black people with a more "God wants to bless you" theology. "Reparations theology" if you will, pivots off of oppression and promises of love and blessings. The negative effect of this that you can have people thinking that God loves them and forgives them solely because of the horrific racism that black people have gone through. It can be very emotional particularly when songs highlight God's love or nearness. Sadly, this doesn't always translate to living. Reformed theology is a thinking man's faith. It is weighty and though not necessary, extremely beneficial to read and study. This could be a challenge.

Over greeting could be a challenge. You definitely want to greet but if you have the whole staff plus their moms and their cousins surrounding black folks they may think you are a cult! Don't send the whole kitchen sink at them and don't send only the black people to greet them. If possible the senior guy or whoever preached that Sunday get to them and say hello and greet them as well.

Your churches culture will be a challenge. I know in Sovereign Grace churches there is a certain way people can talk and outside of the bubble of our churches it would seem strange. If a group of people all sound the same, look the same when greeting and talking to black guests or those considering joining, it could be a challenge.

I will spare you any more thoughts as there as actually people who have thought through these things far better than I have. If you meet them I am sure they can offer you a better perspective than I have. Either way I hope this serves any who took the time to read and is desirous of this pursuit. To God alone be glory!

Friday, June 26, 2009

How can I get black people to come to my church? pt.1

This has been a question that has been asked to me quite a bit over the years. Most of the time this question is asked by sincere men who feel like their churches don't reflect their communities or the heart of the pastor asking. This has always been a humbling question to me for many reasons. One being that these men are asking me for my perspective. Two that these men are asking. I think that it requires humility to desire this and then pursue input on how to accomplish it. With the history of this nation's racism, even with a black president at the helm, the silhouette of past racial grievances remains. At best it may be gone but not forgotten. Even then some would say that it is not gone but has simply slid under the radar of political correctness and "intelligent denials." Having acknowledged the reality that the past still has some affect on the present, the desire for people to have the church racially united is a huge step toward humility and honoring the Lord.

I have, in the paragraph above, used the word humility twice as a description for racial integration on Sunday. Why? The main reason is that I don't think the people who are asking know exactly what they are asking. And in order to get the result they are hoping for it is going to require humility, not just from them but from those in their churches.

Normally with this kind of issue the blogger or whatever he or she is gives some historical ramifications mixed with some theological ramifications to make a simple point that usually doesn't answer the above question, "How can I get blacks (African Americans) to come to my church?" I will not spend anytime on this not because it is unimportant but because I want to address other consequences to this question and actually try to answer it.

Thoughts to consider for those asking:

Black people are not monolithic

Though it sounds like a "duh" statement many have not actually considered this and can assume that all black people will respond to the same things. Older generations of black people may have more difficulty with going to a "white church" because they can remember more vividly the church's lack of intervention in this country's racial history. There may be still waters but they may also run very deep.

Another aspect of this is that black people do not define themselves by the same standards. So the question is who are the black people you are trying to reach? There is an unfortunate measurement that we have for each other and it is basically this. The more ghetto you are the more black you are. This standard would be dominant in my generation but not so in my moms. They make think the more you break the stereotypes or are aware of your history the more black you are. While there are a few ways black people are defined amongst themselves I believe that my generation's evaluation of true blackness is the most influential today. This viewpoint which I have historically agreed with has had detrimental effects within the black community and has made the integration of whites and blacks together in churches difficult to achieve.

Mainstream society is also aware of and embraced this view of "ghetto=black." You will often see ignorance in speech as a defining characteristic in media when black people are portrayed. This is sad but true. So are you trying to reach "ghetto blacks" or middle to upper class blacks who could be considered sell-outs for marrying, hanging around, educated with and have the mannerism of white people? Personally, even though I am a pastor in Sovereign Grace Ministries, which is a predominantly white family of churches, I currently maintain a lifetime "hood pass" because my background qualifies as ghetto enough and I still keep to my "black mannerisms" when appropriate. lol.

Does your church have the heart that you have for blacks coming into your church?

This is important because it will be the people in your church that will determine if blacks or anyone for that matter feel welcome at your church. I have seen and talked to a lot of guys over the years that desire this and have assumed their churches were on one accord with them only to find out the hard way that their churches are in fact happy with being "white churches."
You cannot reach anyone if your church has not the heart or desire to do so. Black people may come, they may like you but not like the people in your church and you won't see them again. Lead your church, get them on board with your vision and it will make a HUGE difference if black people show up.

Is your church in proximity to a black community?

Another "duh" question but you would be surprised how many ask the above question and have the heart but don't live close enough to really make a difference. I don't got no black folks humpin' all the way somewhere to go to church. lol.

What sacrifices are you willing to make?

This question is probably the biggest for a couple of reasons. You do not bring individuals of a different race to your church, you bring individuals of a different culture and worldview to your church. Most if not all churches have their own cultures within culture itself. This can be an adjustment that the dominant culture of a church can minimize in desiring to fellowship with a subservient culture. Usually any dominant culture that is willing to allow others to enter into that culture expect or at least assume that those entering in agree with and will conform to the culture. However, that is not always the case and it can cause the opposite effect and create more work for those hoping to unite in the gospel.

So the question what sacrifices are you willing to make gets at the heart of the humility that I have spoken of above. You cannot expect to have black people come to your church be immersed into a different culture both racially and theologically and assume that all they are they will sacrifice and all that you are they will embrace. WRONG! While some do happen this way most times it can be the subtle arrogance or ignorance of the church to assume assimilation over appreciation. This alone can leave a bad taste in black people's mouths.

The key phrase here is don't expect but respect! Don't expect people to have no issues with the way you do things but respect that they may have a differing perspective that you can really learn from and possibly incorporate. That is a part of the humility process you must undergo when pursuing black people to come your church.

So what are some of the sacrifices that may need to be made?

There is no exact or exhaustive list in considering something like this but I will give a few suggestions. Before doing that let me make one serious qualification about these sacrifices that you should consider. Churches of different sizes are going to apply these things differently. A church of 1-500 can be way more flexible in what it does than a church of 700 plus. Some of these suggestions may fit well some may not. At least let them function as a guide to get you to think about what would work with your church.

The sacrifice that I think is the most important and would be the most helpful for you (and whomever else with you) is to go to an all "black church" and worship one Sunday or mid-week service. Most times white people don't have to experience what it is like to go to a church of a different culture and worship the Lord. It would benefit you to go and see what it is like to feel awkward; To adjust to a new rhythm; To sit under an unfamiliar preaching style; To see how this culture experiences God on a Sunday. This will give you a small understanding and hopefully an appreciation for what you are asking black people to do. If white people had an idea of how that felt I believe it could promote the kind of understanding that will help their church embrace blacks as they come. It's not about assimilation. It's about appreciation.







Normally dont put this stuff up but I had to give this dude his props

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

one of my biggest fears when public speaking!

hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Friday, June 19, 2009

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

A humble brother's question and my response

Greetings bro,


Sorry to bother you, my name is Jose and I had a question. I was trying to get a hold of your first album, but I was having trouble doing so, would you happen to know? i tried going to your website, ihearvoice.com and to no avail. Also brother, I wanted to thank you for your service bro. It's encouraging to me,my favorite song you have written and composed will always be "Contemporary Job" great song. Also, just wondering, do you think the orchestration of music (the organizing of tones, rhythm and what not) has a moral quality to it? Inyour song "Contribution" you stated "It's the heart of the man, not the style of the mic" to which there is truth, I do believe God is more concerned with why you are doing what you are doing.


But what about issues of association? For example, in houses if ill repute, you will not hear amazing grace playing, but bump and grind music, why is that? I think it is because that kind of music caters to the mood, makes you feel the "vibe". I just wanted to share some thoughts with you, just because I am searching these things out, and I do like alot of your music, and lyrically by God's grace you're very sound. It's just i figure, why not ask someone who creates music for God, and see what they have to say? I am by no means judging you brother, it is not my place. you will have to stand before God, and give an account, so i have no worries there. Also, I believe you are a true Christian, as far as I can tell, and you Love Christ, and He through the work and ministry of the Spirit has changed, is changing, and will continue to change you further into the image of Christ (Imago Dei :-)


So as a brother in Christ, I esteem you, and I am just curious about what you think my brother. Anyways, go with God brother. Hope to hear from you, and Forgive me if I have been unloving or unChrist like in anyway, for it was not my intent.


Sincerely,

Jose



My Response:


Jose,

Brother thank you for your humble question. I can see you have thought this through. I wouldn't have the time to go into all of the details of an issue such as this but I will attempt an answer to your great question.


I think the key issue here is not musical notes and their moral quality. I think the issue is regeneration and what does God do in the heart of someone he saves. Is God capable of redeeming someone and there music preference; to then use that preference as a vehicle to reach those that are lost within it, or edify those who are saved but still enjoy the artistic quality of the art form? To use your example of houses in ill repute and the bump and grind music playing is missing a doctrine of sin perspective. There are serial killers and rapists who listen to classical music while they attack their victims. Should then classical music be deemed as unfit bcuz there are some who are unregenerate that listen to it for sinful purposes? Rap is not the first and only art form to be created with an emphasis on self-glorification rather than God glorification. I know people who sing Amazing Grace that are not saved or people that listen to black gospel and even cry when listening to it that are not saved. The issue is not external its internal. What is in the heart of the individual? While there are DEFINITELY things that must be given up on as a believer I don't think beats are one of them, particularly when used to honor God.


At the end of the day I still stand by 1 Corinthians 10:31. Brother I so appreciate your humble thoughtfulness in this. We may both be wrong but we both serve the right God and for that I am thankful.

Old But True!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

A Better Testimony

Don’t you love to hear a good testimony?  I mean, if you’re a Christian, a testimony can really be used to encourage you in your faith in who God is and what He’s doing in the world. Sometimes you cry with the person telling it, and others you laugh as you relate to aspects of it. Often, testimonies include everything from the grandiose to the mundane. But regardless of how dramatic the story, its details should share one aim: glorifying God. 

However, testimonies can have the opposite effect and can actually breed jealousy or an ungodly discontentment.  In my travels across the country speaking and performing I’ve come to realize that even the story of what God has done in one’s life can become a subtle battleground for sinful comparison.

 

The Problem with Testimonies

          One of the great joys I used to have was being able to share my testimony. Upon request, I would share the details of my life that involved guns, drugs, murder, betrayal, prison and eventual salvation. My life, to some people, was the stuff of movies, but for the most part I believed the emphasis of my story was on God and how awesome He is.

          I learned the skill of highlighting the aspects of my testimony that would be helpful to my various audiences. For example, an audience that could relate to the circumstances of my life was more impressed with how I changed, while an audience foreign to this kind of life was more impressed with the depravity and boldness of my sin. I could always tell which was which by the questions asked afterwards.

         Over time, my audiences began to look the same.  More and more I found myself speaking to audiences of a different culture than my own.  Because of this, many of my life experiences were only visible to them through the media, which glamorizes sin.

         I would address thousands of people at a time, and you could hear a pin drop as I shared my experiences in the underworld of pop culture, where danger is cool and death is a badge of honor.  I would talk about my lowest lows only to end with the highest highs of redemption accomplished and applied. People would roar with applause as if the grace of God was more evident in my life than their own. Almost always people would come up to talk to me afterwards and thank God for His work in my life.

       What would follow was more the usual than the unusual.  One after another people would ask me questions about my life, and then they would begin to share the details of their own lives. Here is where the problem with testimonies began.

       A common statement, especially for those who grew up in a Christian home, would go something like: “My testimony is pretty boring. I never did the stuff that people like you did. I am not even sure when I became a Christian. I just kind of grew up into it.” Then they’d wish they had a better testimony, maybe some Apostle Paul, Damascus Road experience. Maybe if that had happened, they’d be more grateful for their faith and maybe even a more dedicated believer. There were many that actually said and hoped for this.

      It was then that I began to realize that there can be a real problem with testimonies. I decided if I was going to share my story with people who would compare their salvation with mine, I needed to find out what God thought so I could encourage them.

 

The Great Misconception

            I have often wondered, what is a testimony that pleases the Lord? And also, how does a person who has not sinned grievously against the Lord realize they still have a testimony? Two thoughts came to my mind.

           The first was a passage in Luke 18:15-17. It reads: “Now they were bringing even infants to him that he might touch them. And when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them. But Jesus called them to him, saying, ‘Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.’”

           There is a lot that you can learn from these verses but I don’t plan on fleshing out all the sermonic details. I do want to highlight something from this passage, though, and it’s the fact that God desires children to come to Him. God is pleased when children glorify Him from the earliest ages. Jesus even says the kingdom of God belongs to them.

           This means the belief that God-glorifying testimonies must involve dramatic pursuit of sin is a great misconception. Those who follow God from a young age likely won’t have the experiences I did. These people would have testimonies like those of the Christians I meet who, underneath it all, appear to wish they had sinned more.

          My second thought was that when you have the perspective of “I never did the stuff that people like you did,” you are actually saying your sins aren’t severe enough to warrant Christ’s death on the cross. And that only those “serious sins” required His substitutionary sacrifice.

Really?

         What sins are excusable to God? Did lying to parents, disobedience and idolatry of music, people and possessions somehow escape God’s notice? Has anyone who grew up in the church or in a Christian home loved the Lord with all his or her heart, soul, mind and strength? How many have continuously loved their neighbor as themselves? What Christians, who grew up into their faith, call rebellion and “not that bad” God calls sin, and all sin is worthy of His wrath.

         Apart from His grace, a holy and perfect God has never looked favorably upon anyone who has sinned, even one time. Whether you have grown up in the ‘hood or the woods, I guarantee that you and I fall into that category, incurring the wrath of God for all eternity. Yet, because Christ died on the cross for that sin, you and I instead fall into the category of forgiven.

           

A Better Testimony

           Lastly, I would like to take a moment to encourage those who do not have the dramatic stories of conversion. I want you to know that if there is such a thing as a better testimony, you’re the one who has it. Think about it like this: We live in a world where sin is greatly encouraged and promoted. Sex outside of marriage, drug use, immodesty, lying, pride, anger and anything you can name beckons to us from all sides. In this society it is much harder to not sin than probably ever before. Sadly, a virgin is novel. At its best, humility is called being “down-to-earth,” while gross sins have cool names such as “an affair” or “alternative lifestyles.” This is the fallen world we live in.

          So, how easy is it to pursue sin? How easy it is to sell or use drugs, or do any of the sins that make up a dramatic testimony? The answer: too easy.

           In this day and age, honoring your parents and being pure, humble, patient and honest are powerful miracles. I would even venture to say it is abnormal to not sin in “dramatic” ways.

         Which is the better testimony? The person, like me, who was easily and whole-heartedly in the world, or the person who didn’t do those things even though they are heavily encouraged? I think it is more powerful to say you haven’t done much then to say you’ve done it all.

          I recently told a group of college students, who have mostly grown up in the church, that I wanted my son to have their testimony instead of mine. I would rather him say he hadn’t experienced much of the “grotesque” sin that his dad did than to say he sinned so willfully and wickedly against God. At the end of the day, that is all having a dramatic testimony means. I have sinned against God more than you. No rewards for that. 

          If it is possible to have a better testimony, then to me, the one with the least amount of sin has it.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

The most dangerous city in the country meets the gospel

I had the distinct privilege of going to New Orleans this past April to be a part of an annual movement to share the gospel. N.O. is currently the most dangerous city in the country and after having been there for a week I can see why. Pre-Katrina N.O. was already a dangerous city. Post Katrina, depending on who you ask, is even more dangerous. I was brought in by an organization to go into multiple schools, mainly high schools, and do presentations for a class period. Class periods are usually about 40-60 minutes and you got all eyes on you. Because I couldn't share the gospel I used my life story to illustrate how I was deceived by living the street life. My theme was how everybody talks about being real but nobody talks about the real consequences for being real. I highlight my time in jail and how the streets were no where to be found when I needed help. I say "so much for being real" often as I show the irony in having the perspective these kids have growing up. God gave me a lot of grace as I kept some of the most difficult youngins' attention span for the full presentation. attached is a brief video to show what i was doing there. =)

iTunes, Tunecore and Me

My new album "a theist" is now on iTunes and other digital outlets. I love the process in which to place your music on all of these digital outlets. Through Tunecore your project is submitted and then they handle getting to all of the outlets that your music would be distributed on. All of this for a small fee and then you deal directly with your vendors to get what you sold each month. AMAZING!!!!!!! This company alone is the new record label. All aspiring musicians that want to put their music out for the public to get please go to www.tunecore.com and you can thank me later.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Shameless Plug

I am releasing a digital only album this month. It has been sent into iTunes already and I am awaiting them to put the album up for sale. This is a 14 song project called "a theist." I have been a bit low key lately so I hope to be able to connect with people when it comes out. Thank you in advance for those of you who have supported my music and i hope this album will encourage you and keep within the vein of what you have already been exposed to and liked. Thanks again. If I find a way to put music on this blog I will put some songs on here to give you a sample.

I hear Voice, do you?


It has been a long time since I have had a significant online presence. I actually wasn't going to have one either but I AM STILL MAKING MUSIC and have lately been asked about having a website. My last one I loved very much but the url got to someone else before I could renew. So here I am with a blog, a bunch of new vids and pics, and some perspective to talk about. I will be, as best as possible, posting all things related and unrelated to Voice. Please feel free to comment on whatever you would like. Lastly, this picture was of me at one my first concerts as a Christian rap artist. This was May '05 @ UMBC in Maryland. If for no other reason I put this up just to remind me of how this all began and how grateful I have been to have been able to make music for something other than myself and my selfish desires and goals. All the while, strengthening others to know and love God.  I pray that this site is an encouragement to you!