2010: Top Albums

The number ten is so last year. Below are my 9 favorite albums 0f the year 2010.

I got this one for free at a conference. Of the ten songs, there are five that I never listen to. The other five are excellent and some of my favorite worship songs.
Imagine if Bruce Springsteen, Wilco and Johnny Cash all raised a kid and made him go to church. This album would be the outcome. DNA tests on McMillan are inconclusive.
Very diverse mix tape highlighting the talents of popular as well as lesser known gospel rappers. A sample from Dr. Eric Mason sets the tone of the record from the very first track. “You don’t just do missions. You are a missionary.”
Trip Lee gets better with every album. This one seems to have the most commercial appeal and, as is the case with all Reach Records artists, presents the gospel in a very clear and uncompromising manner. If you hate rap, you’ll hate this album because well, it’s a rap album.
This one is fairly typical for a Jack Johnson record but typical for Jack Johnson is still very good.
Andrew Peterson is such a good songwriter that I can’t imagine him releasing an album that I don’t like. Unless of course he goes techno and stops writing words for his songs. Don’t laugh, others have tried it before.
Mayer said that Continuum was like a record by The Police and this one was like a Neal Young record. That pretty much sums it up. Rough around the edges, not as good as the last one and not for everyone but still a good record. My wife and I saw him in concert during his tour for this album. I’m pretty sure he waved at me from the stage.
These guys have been around for a while but I just came across them this year. They come from North Carolina and their style is quite unique. They sound like The Old Crow Medicine Show would like to sound. Their style is best described as mountain music for a new generation with a touch of punk rock swagger thrown in. Add Rick Rubin at the production helm and you have a masterpiece.
The songs on this album are very well written. I’m not sure where these guys land theologically but most of their songs get you thinking vertically. One example listed below is the song Ill of Want that shows the void that is left from all the world has to offer. Jesus’ words to the woman at the well about drinking and never thirsting again come to mind.
I am sick with wanting
And it’s evil and it’s daunting
How I let everything I cherish lay to waste
I am lost in greed this time, it’s definately me
I point fingers but there’s no one there to blame

I need for something
Not let me break it down again
I need for something
But not more medicine

I am sick with wanting
And it’s evil how it’s got me
And everyday is worse than the one before
The more I have the more I think:
I’m almost where I need to be
If only I could get a little more

I need for something
Now let me break it down again
I need for something
But not more medicine

Something has me (Something has me)
Oh something has me (Something has me)
Acting like someone I don’t wanna be
Something has me (Something has me)
Oh something has me (Something has me)
Acting like someone I know isn’t me
Ill with want and poisoned by this ugly greed

Temporary is my time
Ain’t nothin on this world that’s mine
Except the will I found to carry on
Free is not your right to choose
It’s answering what’s asked of you
To give the love you find until it’s gone

I need for something
Now let me break it down again
I need for something
But not more medicine

Something has me (Something has me)
Oh something has me (Something has me)
Acting like someone I don’t wanna be
Something has me (Something has me)
Oh something has me (Something has me)
Acting like someone I know isn’t me
Ill with want and poisoned by this ugly greed
Ill with want and poisoned by this ugly greed

Lecrae doesn’t have the convenience that most other rappers have. An artist like Soulja Boy doesn’t have to put together a great album. All that’s needed is one catchy dance song in the midst of a sea of garbage and sales are through the roof. There’s not a song on Rehab that will spark the next dance craze. However, this is a great album.
Rappers like Lecrae are traveling down a very narrow road with endless cliffs on both sides. A misstep to one side and everything just comes across as a moralistic anti-gang and drug crusade. On the other side there is the threat of compromising the message in an effort to gain more commercial appeal. See the duo GRITS for an example of both mistakes.
Lecrae manages his steps wisely by standing firm on gospel truth while at the same time growing in creativity with each new project. Rehab is a continuation of that growth. So no mega dance hit. Just a well-crafted hip-hop album that just so happens to carry a strong gospel message with it.

My Favorite Books of 2010

I was blessed to be able to read a lot of good books in 2010 and listed below are my favorites from the year. Quite a few of them were written and released before 2010 but I didn’t get around to reading them until this year therefore, they make this year’s cut. I have included 14 books on the list, not because that number carries some sort of deep spiritual meaning but because I really enjoyed all of these books. For what it’s worth, these books are listed in order so the number 14 means that you should buy the book because you would probably like it. The number one means that reading that book will instantly change your life. If you don’t read it, there’s probably something wrong with you and you should see a doctor.

Happy reading!
This is an excellent short story that shows how money does change things but not always for the best.
In the words of Puff Daddy/P. Diddy/Diddy, “Mo money, mo problems.”
A detailed explanation of how the Steelers of the 70s were built, why they mattered to their struggling community and what made their rivalry with the Cowboys so great. As an added bonus, the Cowboys are the bad guys in this book so that should help you get through ESPN’s endless coverage of that fading empire.
If you, like me, are especially weak in matters of church history this short book is for you. The authors use Edwards’ writings as commentary on current evangelical trends and norms in a way that familiarizes the reader with America’s greatest theologian by highlighting the relevance of his timeless writings. Also, if for some reason you get invited to one of those parties where people wear knickers and speak latin to each other, you can give this a quick read and you might be able to contribute to the conversation.
If there is anything in your church that is a hinderance to the fulfillment of the Great Commission, it needs to be dealt with quickly and decisively.
See above quote by Mr. P. Diddy regarding the increasing amount of money and it’s relation to the amount of problems in one’s life.
The people who laugh-off Ron Paul as a crazy old man with weird ideas usually seem to fall into two categories. First, there are those who have heard a lot from the maniacal end of Paul’s fan base but have never actually read or listened to the man himself. Second, there are those who are fans/beneficiaries of the very aspects of big government that Paul would eliminate were he given the chance. In politics, everybody’s for eliminating waste until it’s their sacred cow that’s considered waste.
Kevin DeYoung is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors. In this book, he breaks down the Heidelberg Catechism into easy to read daily portions that helps readers to clearly see the gospel and its implications from an ancient document they might not otherwise be aware of.
Jesus isn’t a member of the GOP.
Settle down democrats, he’s not a part of your group either.
When we view the gospel through the lenses of our political leanings and what Fox News (or MSNBC) tells us to believe, we miss the gospel.
There were a lot of good books written about money in 2010 and I think this is the best one. Duren’s motivation for missional giving is not based on guilt but on God’s sovereignty and grace. God created everything so nothing really belongs to us. What has been given to us is solely a result of God’s generosity. Christians who take their faith seriously will consider how they can model the generosity of their Maker and Life-giver and Sustainer.
If you know a Muslim and care anything about explaining the gospel to them in a respectful, accurate and understandable way, you’ll read this short book and do what it says.
In Scandalous, D.A. Carson gives a very helpful and easy to understand explanation of the meaning behind the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ. If you’ve ever found yourself around Easter time asking, “What’s the point of all this cross and empty tomb stuff”, this one is for you. If you often find yourself at Easter asking, “What’s the point behind all of these eggs and bunnies?” this book will not help you. But, that is an excellent question.
Why do some ideas take off and change the world while others are left on the chopping block in some board room? Gladwell gives a well written and even better researched answer to that question. If you are in a leadership position and care about making an impact, you should give this book a shot.
This is an old school classic. Sproul helps us to see that holiness is not just another one of God’s attributes but instead it is his essence. For such a weighty topic, this book is very easy to read and very practical.
In my short time on earth and in the church I have seen Christians fall into two traps in regards to matters of justice. On the one end there are those who only care about feeding the hungry, caring for orphans so on and so on at the expense of the gospel. This is what we would commonly refer to as liberalism or the social gospel. At the other end are those who only care about evangelism. Their implied message is, “Here’s how to get saved so you can go to Heaven whenever you and your family die from that AIDS thingy I’d rather not do anything about. Good luck.” Keller shows us the pitfalls of both extremes but also helps us to see how we can merge what is right about the two and land on the gospel.
As is the case with his other books, Keller has done the church a great service in writing Generous Justice.
Up Next: The Year in Music

Christmas Is About Separation, Loneliness and Despair

Christmas is about separation, loneliness and despair.

I know, I sound like a cross between Ebenezer Scrooge and Friedrich Nietzsche. Believe it or not, this is actually a fact that runs throughout the Biblical storyline. Think about it. Why did Jesus have to come in the first place? If God does everything for a specific purpose, surely the birth of Jesus would be no exception.

From the beginning of the Bible we see a story of humans living, from one degree or another, in separation from God. Adam and Eve were kicked out of the garden. Moses wasn’t allowed to look fully at the presence of God. David often wondered where God was. The common strand that runs throughout all of these lives is sin. Sin is a falling short of God’s standard of perfect holiness. Our problem is not that we have a few bad habits here and there. Our problem is that we are born with a disease called sin that separates us from our Creator. That’s where the loneliness and despair come in.

Thankfully, the story doesn’t stop there. Jesus allowed himself to be born into a world that would pierce and crush his body. This baby would grow up to know despair. Jesus took on flesh so that he could dwell among other fleshly creatures only to be rejected by them. He knew loneliness. Jesus left his rightful place in heaven to come to earth and endure the wrath of God in our place. God’s Son knew separation.

So Christmas is about separation, loneliness and despair – for Jesus. He would endure these things on behalf of his people. So now, through repentance from our sins and faith in Immanuel, Christmas is about something else too. For the people Jesus came to save, Christmas is about redemption, communion and joy.