Category Archives: Articles

[Article.] Undercover Brother

lecraeThere is a story of a group of 2nd Century Christians who demanded to be martyred by a Roman official. The official obliged and martyred some and sent the others away saying there were plenty of cliffs from which they could jump if they wanted to die. These Christians seemed to have turned the warning of scripture to expect persecution into a command to be martyred.

My family does local and international missions. We establish personal relationships by providing a professional service and have used these relationships as a springboard to share the Gospel and stay engaged for a prolonged period of time. If we were to mix our professional service with our personal, relational evangelistic efforts, we would compromise the work of thousands who are laboring to proclaim Jesus.

I tried to express to someone on twitter that Lecrae, Christian Hip Hop’s most successful and recognizable artist, was possibly using this missionary tactic to reach what would be considered an unreached people group (the Hip-Hop Industry). The Christian Hip-Hop community is currently having an intense debate about what the mission of the Christian rapper should be. Lecrae has become the focal point of this debate. For some, any rhyme which does not speak of Christ and Him crucified is tantamount to a compromise of the Gospel and of friendship with the world, thus entering into enmity with God. They call for an end to any secular associations.

This twitter conversation ended with me being accused of saying that friendship with sinners was a requirement for evangelism; of twisting the Gospel. It was even expressed that a missionary in a hostile country would be a coward and lacked faith if he didn’t simply preach the Gospel in the middle of town square. If this led to arrest or martyrdom, then so be it.

Fans of Lecrae know he began his career by ministering to kids in juvenile detention. More recently, he was featured in ESPN for his work with professional athletes. The song “Confessions” may refer to this work. His record label has launched Reach Life Ministries, the ministry arm of Reach Records. They produce curriculum designed to reach to an urban generation unfamiliar with the Bible. They also organize the Reach Life Institute, a series of conferences designed to equip believers to evangelize.

In the last year, Lecrae began deliberately making music which would appeal to a secular audience. He did so by crafting rhymes which speak of the ills of self-promoting Hip-Hop culture and the effects of depravity (gravity) pulling the world down into a sea of despair. His rhymes are laced with references to his Christian faith and morality and can in no way be accused of being dishonoring to God. They are, however, a departure from his past work which was typical Christian Hip-Hop fare; good quality music with sermon-like lyrics.

I don’t know Lecrae. I’ve never spoken to the man nor do I have any connections to anyone in CHH. The Bible commands us, however, to judge people by their fruit. With a history of ministering within difficult cultures (prison, professional sports) and of equipping the saints, why doubt his stated intentions to impact the culture and the industry?

Would we ask a missionary to not use his God-given talents and skills, or his God-given favor with people in authority to reach as deeply as possible into a totally lost culture?

Might as well jump off a cliff.

[Devo.] Be Still And Know

imageThe best thing the Marine Corps does for a young man or woman is give them the ability to remain cool, calm and collected in the face of adversity or chaos. It is the hallmark of the Marine Corps: the individual Marine’s ability to get the mission done at all costs. When every Marine does his or her job, the organization as a whole succeeds. For the last 13 years, when things have become chaotic in my life, my response has been to say “it will be alright” and then get to work.

Over the last year, my family and I have been on a journey towards the missions field. The journey has been exciting, difficult, revealing and spiritually enriching. I can honestly say that at no point had I felt like this was too big for us. I had not felt overwhelmed. At no point, that is, until last week. For the first time in this journey, I doubted if this was really the will of God. I could no longer say, “it will be alright.” I could no longer deceive myself and others by calling my own effort an act of faith.

I sat in my office in near tears wondering why we had not chosen an easier route into this new life. I was about to be out of a job for the first time since joining the Marine Corps 13 years ago and I would have to spend a large portion of my time raising money for the mission and not replacing my lost salary. Health insurance was going to cost us roughly $800 per month. Some of the churches on which we were depending for support were running into denominational hurdles. Our timetable seemed too optimistic considering how much work still needed to be done. There was only one thing that I could do at this moment of doubt — call on God.

It seems obvious that calling on God would be a continuous action but the fact is my Marine Corps mentality was in the way. I’m a planner. Every obstacle can be overcome if we formulate a plan of attack. Every difficult situation is just another opportunity to lead. Rely on me, I’ll get us through this. How arrogant I can be.

All throughout scripture we see how God constantly called on the people of Israel to depend on Him. The whole purpose of the various Sabbaths were to show the people that He would provide for them even as they stopped working for their own sustenance. I’ve seen the faithfulness of God before. Through three deployments, God has taken care of my family. Through the birth of three children, God has taken care of us. Through the death of my father, God has healed my broken heart. Through my brother’s hospitalization, God has given us the necessary strength. Through the constant moves, God’s providence has taken us right where we needed to be. The Lord has proven himself faithful even when we doubted him.

After praying that morning, I felt a bit more at ease and went on with my work. I truly believed that God would get us through and I was trusting that God would use these trials to strengthen us for the journey. A couple of hours after praying, I received a phone call from our missions agency. They wanted to feature our family in a video detailing our journey from the point of answering the call to go to actually arriving and beginning the work. The reason we were chosen for this was because they see how God is working in our journey. I’m hearing this only 2 hours after doubting the very same. All I could do was thank God for being so loving to give me that confirmation of His will.

A couple of hours after that I called my mom to say hi and she told me that my home church, the church where I was saved and baptized as a teenager, had met and resolved to adopt us as their missionary family. I was blessed with the opportunity to preach there in March and now they were going to join the wonderful group of people whom God has called to partner with us. I thanked God once again for His provision and for this second confirmation of His will.

I was feeling pretty good on the way home. God had really decided to bless me with the peace and comfort that comes with knowing we were in his will. I was filled with joy and ready for the next step in the journey. Then, the phone rang. My wife had a doctor’s appointment that morning. She informed the doctor that this would most likely be her last time at the office as we would not be purchasing health insurance after my exit from the military; the expense was too great and it would deplete the savings we had set aside for this time. The doctor, a devout Catholic, walked out of the office for some time. He came back in, looked at my wife and said, “as my way of supporting this mission, please know that I will see your family anytime you need to be seen and I will not charge you a dime. God bless you.”

What else is there to say? I’m humbled that He would be pleased to encourage me. We have been blessed beyond belief and now, when the trials do come, I will be still and know that He is God.

[article.] What Happened to the Boom-Bap?

OldSchoolRap1First and foremost, let me provide all the disclosures and caveats up front – I am not a writer, I don’t dislike anyone in CHH, nor any style, camp, association, label, region, producer, specific MCs, etc.  And this not about theological positions, etc.  This is purely about how I miss what I would call the Boom-Bap, the east coast, back pack music I grew up on.   So please, before anyone thinks I am dissing anybody…..STOP, that’s not the thrust of this.

Ok, so yeah….I was a DJ, producer and even MC back in the day.  Before I got saved (and to some extent even afterwards), I loved hearing those heavy east coast beats.  I remember for example the day Public Enemy’s 2nd album came out.  I cut a few classes at school (sure, I shouldn’t have, but I was kid), to head down to Sound of Germantown to cop it.  Fiending and I mean fiending, for that Bomb Squad production.  Dagg…I’m not sure some of you reading this even know what I’m talking about.  If you don’t, please…take a second and google “Public Enemy Rebel without a pause.”

OldSchoolRap3Ok, let me step back a second.  To be true to this, I must confess – you have to know that I can remember the day that “Sucker M.C.s” by Run D.M.C. came out – so there it is, I’ve dated myself.  Granted, I know it wasn’t the first rap song, but for me (and many at that time) it was the first one we heard.

Things took off like wild fire after that.  I was in the band at school – I  played the trumpet and most brass instruments.  But cuz, I wanted to get involved in rap music and I took to DJing.  There was just something about it…and I’ll tell you, when I was 14 years old, I worked all summertime at a hardware store to buy one turntable.  Yes!  One techniques 1200 turntable – – I didn’t know when I went that you had to buy the needle seperately, I almost cried cause I didn’t have the lot and dude in the store took care of a brother.  LOL

But dog, at that time, Rap music was mad authentic to me.  Fresh, no additives, often raw and maybe even misguided in some respects…but for me, that East Coast Boom Bap had life in it.

OldSchoolRap2Hmmm….Sigh *….    Is it me, or is everything now – – and maybe because CHH is feeling a bit dominated by one style – – or perhaps better stated “replicated” or does a lot of the stuff now have a similar sound.  Almost every song starts with the varies snares popping as the rapper spits a few bars and then the snares get faster and boom, the kick and/or 808 drops (and we are supposed to go wild) and the rest of the song goes on, pop, pop, pop, etc., etc., etc.   Nothing wrong with it at all…don’t get my wrong, to each his own.  But dang, I miss that East Coast, Boom-Bap – – crazy lyricist(s) over rugged street beats – – and maybe, even maybe, dare I say, a DJ with some real cuts up in there.

Last Novemeber I was heading to a football game with my brother….I’ve got all the latest CHH loaded in my iphone  and found myself just skipping song after song.  There was a lot of high quality music there, but mostly filled with the scenarios above.  Then there is the whole section of low quality CHH stuff that, well, you try to listen to and then SKIP…and then you go back to the throwbacks.  Cross Movement’s first Album…”It’s the thrilla from manilla Jesus Christ versus everyman’s killa.”  Yo – – that’s what I’m talking about.  Then a Corey Red Classic, “It’s My Turn….”  So of course what happens, I rock those classics for the rest of the night.  In fact, I’ll admit, when I run out of those CHH classics, I reach for my last resort, my 60GB Ipod and turn on a Public Enemy album, followed by Eric B & Rakim’s Cd, KRS-ONE, etc., etc.

Yeah, I got lost in it…and that happens from time to time and then I pull myself back into what I love today, CHH.  But it doesn’t extinguish my question, “What happened to the Boom Bap?”  I don’t even know what the true definition is and quite honestly I am rejecting the notion of googling it as I’m sure there is one there in Wikipedia or something.  More important than someone’s definition is what it meant to me.  To me, it was when hip-hop pursued a purpose, prior to commercial viability creeping in; it was when the historically underrepresented, first had voices evolve to represent their cause; it was when cats would bang on a table or beat box to create a rhythm for a rhyme, before technology guided (and some cases has replaced) a cat’s heartbeat; it was when the grimmiest cats would yield to the voice of a fellow soldier and join in an anthem.

By all means I consider myself someone who has evolved with the times, has stayed current on technology, use social tools, blah, blah, blah.  However, similar to the notion that all conversions aren’t conducively held within 140 characters and thus letters, e-mails and phone conversations continue to exist in the communications mix, along with Twitter; I’d suggest that the Boom Bap, is needed in the hip-hop mix along with all the other styles that reign today.

What does all of my rambling have to do with CHH you ask?  Something I mentioned earlier that Boom-Bap always had to me…just straight out authenticity.

If you’re out there and doing it or know others who are…and I’m missing it, PLEASE hollar at me.

Grace and Peace