Thinking Out Loud About Lecrae’s New Album

Walk up to a random person on the street and ask them to name a Christian musician and you’re likely to hear Lecrae’s name. The people in charge of handing out Grammy awards love Lecrae. A while back, I heard the DJ on V-103 say how much she loves Lecrae. Everyone, it seems, loves Lecrae.

Why is it that so many people in the church don’t?

That’s a complex question that can most easily be broken down into two answers. There’s the reason that everyone gives and then there’s the real reason.

The reason that everyone in the church gives for not liking Lecrae is that he has abandoned the gospel. The real reason is that a few years ago, Lecrae stopped making music that mainly appeals to white, reformed pastors in their mid 40s who quit listening to rap when Nelly retired.

Just listen to how Lecrae “abandoned the gospel” on his latest album, All Things Worth Together.

From the song Facts:

My Messiah died for the world, not just USA
They say, “Jesus was Conservative”
Tell ’em, “That’s a lie”
No, He not a Liberal either if you think I’ll choose a side

And I love God
I love Jesus, the one out of Nazareth
Not the European with the ultra perm and them soft eyes and them thin lips

From the song Hammer Time:

You know God my standard, He the answer
I ain’t perfect, I’m just purchased

From the song 8:28:

I just call on Jesus name
Praying daily, can you take away this pain?
Take the thorn away
Still, it remains…
Satan would love to see me give up and throw up my hands
He say I’m guilty but You say I’m clean

Lecrae has not abandoned the gospel. He’s just abandoned making concept albums based on Jonathan Edwards sermons.

Oh, and there’s one other thing. Lecrae is addressing social issues through his music. He’s talking about education, the breakdown of the family, drug abuse, suicide and tensions between the police and the black community. You know, all of the issues that we are repeatedly told, “are not gospel issues.”

Here’s something you can count on. The priest and the Levite from Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan walked by on the other side, ignoring the wounded man precisely because he, “was not a gospel issue.”

For followers of Christ, in a very real way, everything is a gospel issue. No, that does not mean that caring for the poor or looking out for the least of these should ever take the place of preaching the gospel. It just means that if we really believe the gospel that we preach, we won’t call the murder of an unborn black child a moral issue and the murder of a thirteen-year-old black child a non-gospel issue.

Lecrae isn’t a pastor. If he were and his songs were sermons, I’d be the first in line to critique him for preaching about his car or current events. Lecrae is an artist and good Christian artists don’t need to put a tiny little cross or fish symbols on everything they create. They just need to create well for the glory of God and the good of their neighbor. Lecrae has done that yet again on his new album. If our head and hearts are truly consumed by the gospel, we won’t select when we will apply the gospel with our hands.

I really like Lecrae’s new album.

There aren’t any songs about the Council of Nicaea on it.

But there is plenty of gospel.

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My Childhood Was Awesome

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Someone sent me a picture of Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant about to fight each other. The text said, “If you remember this, your childhood was awesome.”

My childhood was awesome.

Channel 17 used to show wrestling matches from Atlanta for an hour every Saturday night. When that was over, channel 36 would show wrestling matches from all over the world until about 2:00 Sunday morning. I don’t think I missed an episode until they quit coming on TV or I found out that wrestling was fake. I can’t remember which came first.

Either way, my childhood was awesome.

I grew up right next to Atlanta Fulton County Stadium, the home of the Atlanta Falcons and Atlanta Braves. Actually, I grew up about 20 minutes away. But when my friends and I played football in my front yard, it was as if I was playing on the Falcon’s field. The only difference was that our quarterback could throw better than the one playing for the Falcons at the time.

The cul-de-sac across the street from my house was the home of many, many World Series games. I was terrible at baseball. But when the kid down the street was pitching me underhanded tennis balls, I was a legend. Those huge fields were the places where I got into fights, got hit in the head with an aluminum bat and learned that throwing curve balls just wasn’t my thing. Now, when I drive back down that street, our football and baseball fields don’t look nearly as big. I wonder how so many of us managed to fit. Maybe that’s why we fought. But we sure had fun.

My childhood was awesome.

One night at dinner, my kids asked me who I played with when I was a kid. I told them that I played with the other kids on my street and they were astonished. They couldn’t believe that there were so many other kids who lived that close. Today, when kids play sports, it’s usually only in a league. When I was a kid, it was in the yard. All afternoon long. And into the night. Until all the moms gave the call to come home.

My childhood was awesome.

When I was a kid, we didn’t have words like selfie or texting. If one of us got caught taking a picture of our food, we’d be sent to our room. If we got caught taking a picture of ourselves, we’d get sent to Milledgeville. Milledgeville. That’s the place where every kid in Georgia was told that he would be sent if he ever acted too crazy. I never got sent to Milledgeville. But I did eat at a Chick-fil-a there once.

My childhood was awesome.

Writing something like this means that I’m old. I’m okay with that. I embrace my oldness. That’s because my oldness is pretty awesome too. My kids are growing up completely different than I did but it sure is fun leading them through it.

One of my kids’ favorite songs is called, Stressed Out by Twenty One Pilots. It’s a pretty upbeat song and, whenever it comes on, there’s dancing, singing and laughing. But if you take the time to listen to the words, it suddenly becomes quite sad.

Wish we could turn back time, to the good ol’ days,
When our momma sang us to sleep but now we’re stressed out.

Tyler Joseph, the writer of the song, is 27.

27.

It doesn’t take long for you to start feeling old. It doesn’t take long for you to miss the so-called good ol’ days of your childhood.

I’m not interested in turning back time. I’d rather keep moving forward. But I am thankful for some good ol’ days to look back on.

My childhood was awesome.

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Peaceful Easy Feeling

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I mean no disrespect to David Bowie. I was sad to hear of his death last week. I felt bad for his fans. But I wasn’t one of them. The same goes for Alan Rickman. And Dan Haggerty.

Glenn Frey joined them in death on Monday night. But his passing really bothered me. Whenever the folks in Hollywood finally get around to making a movie about my life, there will be quite a few songs on the soundtrack that were written by Glenn Frey.

Their Greatest Hits album was among the first CDs I ever bought from those Columbia House mail outs where you could by 12 albums for a penny. Later on, when I needed money in college, I pawned it for five bucks. And a few years after that, when you could download your albums online, guess which one was among of the first.

I put a lot of miles on my car while listening to the Eagles. I thought about life while listening to the Eagles. I wondered how a Don Henley could play the drums and sing at the same time while listening to the Eagles. Don was the most talented and had the most successful solo career. But Glenn was always my favorite.

We have a tradition in our house. At pretty much every meal, we listen to music. A lot of meals in our home have been eaten while Glenn Frey sang to us about taking it easy. It didn’t take long for my sons to fall in love with the Eagles like their father did. There were quite a few nights when they would ask me if they could listen to the Eagles while they fell asleep.

I always said yes.

Glenn Frey was 67 when he died on Monday. That seems to be the norm for the rock stars who make it out of their 20s. Whenever I listen to the Eagles, that’s where Glenn Frey is. His 20s.

On Monday night, I was reminded of how wrong I was. Glenn Frey wasn’t 20. He was 67. His music may live on and on but he will not. And that makes me sad.

When I was in college, right around the time the Eagles got back together, we had to go to chapel everyday. On Fridays, there was usually a band that played the cool, cutting edge music that apparently wasn’t allowed to be played the rest of the week. They played a song called Sweet Home Up Above Us to the tune of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Sweet Home Alabama. See what they did there? And they also used to play Amazing Grace to the tune of the Eagle’s Peaceful Easy Feeling. It was basically the same words as the old hymn with the chorus to Peaceful Easy Feeling thrown in.

I’ve got a peaceful easy feeling

And I know you won’t let me down

Cause I’m already standing on the ground

Glenn Frey lived the life of a rock and roll star. It’s that lifestyle that likely caught up with him at 67. It wasn’t always peaceful and easy for Glenn. Sure, he was successful, but there was still turmoil. There was heartache. And there was sickness.

I just hope that at some point before Monday night, Glenn Frey, even in the face of death, got to experience God’s Amazing Grace.

My Journey To The Father Of The Year Award

Steve Perry, singer from the rock band Journey, poses on a boat at a shipyard where he is shopping for a boat. August 19, 1981 Sausalito, California, USA

When they hand out Father of the Year plaques this year, I’ll be getting one.

The lady had a beautiful voice. She was singing hymns and we were listening on an iPod one Sunday morning. As I saw it, it was the perfect music for us to listen to as we ate breakfast. My then four-year-old son saw things differently.

“Dad, put on some man music.”

I wasn’t sure what he meant by man music. I can’t remember what I put on instead. If I know me, I went with a selection from Waylon Jennings. Nothing prepares your heart for worship quite like Waylon Jennings.

It was then that I knew what I had on my hands. This kid wasn’t going to be one to settle for just any kind of music. He had a particular ear for a particular sound.

On Thursday night, it was that particular ear that let me know that I had done my job as a father well. Even if my son grows up to do something terrible with his life like rob banks or cheer for Auburn, I can live in confidence that I have at least raised him under proper musical guidance.

We had just gotten in the car after his soccer practice. When the engine turned on, so did the radio. It was playing one of those pop songs that sound like every other pop song. You know the type. Some woman was singing about how, “They can’t tear us apart.” Pop songs always sing about how “They,” whoever that is, can’t tear the singer and her significant other apart. What is it with pop musicians’ relationships that everyone wants to tear them apart? Anyway, that’s what the woman was singing about while a computer was making some sound that no actual instrument on earth could make.

This lasted for about 3.12 seconds until my son with the discerning ear spoke up.

“Dad, turn it.”

Man, I was proud. In fact, that moment is currently number 3 on my list of 25 Proud Fatherhood Moments. It’s right behind the time that he stuck his tongue out and booed when we drove by the campus of Georgia Tech and that time he climbed the wall and touched the ceiling while wearing nothing but a Batman mask and cape.

I obeyed my son’s request.

After a few minutes of flipping through the stations, the familiar keyboards of Journey’s Separate Ways boomed though our speakers.

“Dad, turn it up.”

Once again, I obeyed my son’s request.

And the rest of the way home, I knew that everything was going to be okay. Taxes might go up. They probably will. Someone will start a war with someone else for no particular reason. Those little green worms will eat my tomatoes. The Falcons will forget how to play defense in the fourth quarter. But my son will know the difference between the classics and the garbage.

Once we got home, I let the boys watch the Chiefs smack Peyton Manning around a for a few minutes before bed. When it was time, they reluctantly obeyed and found their way under their covers. I prayed over them and put on some relaxing music for them to listen to as they fell asleep.

Finally, their day was over.

Well, almost.

I heard the door to their room open and the sound of small feet pounding on the floor. It was my young son with the gift of musical discernment. He had one last question.

“Dad, can we listen to Journey?”

I said yes and sent him back to bed.

As he searched in the darkness for his favorite song, I leaned back in my chair and started thinking about the best place on the wall for me to hang my Father of the Year plaque.

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They Grow Up Fast

My kids are growing up fast. Watching it happen is both fascinating and frightening. It’s fascinating because I’m watching them become men who use their whole being for the glory of God. It’s frightening because I know the kind of evil that awaits them.

Andrew Peterson writes songs as good as anyone. In his song, You’ll Find Your Way he pinpoints what it’s like to live with that fascination and fear.

Here is Andrew’s explanation of the song.

And this is Andrew’s video for the song.

 

The Thing That Jesus Hates About Your Worship Service

It’s one of the oldest battles in the history of the church. Back in the old days, there were people who didn’t want any music in the church. Now, people just want their music in the church. If there’s one thing that church people just can’t seem to get together on it’s music.

Usually this battle plays itself out amongst two sides. The Trendies and they Traditionalists.

The Trendies don’t want to sing anything older than January of 2015. Some of their music is upbeat. Some is somber. But it’s all, well, quite trendy. Take the words out and you could easily imagine hearing one of the Trendies’ songs on a Top 40 station. Sometimes the songs that the Trendies sing at church come directly from a Top 40 station.

“This morning’s call to worship will be performed by Ariana Grande and Ryan Seacrest will be leading us in the opening prayer.”

On the other side, there are the Traditionalists. For many of them, any song newer than 1981was written in hell. They can’t understand the fascination with fancy screens when hymn books are so much easier, cheaper and, well, more traditional. The music at the traditionalist church also sounds like it could be played on a Top 40 station. If they had Top 40 radio stations in 1781.

Members from both sides have been battling each other for quite some time. Both claim to have the market cornered on the style of music that Jesus would prefer were he to ever show up at their church one Sunday morning. But both sides are guilty of forgetting something very important about their brand of worship.

There is a strong chance that Jesus, the one you’re allegedly singing to and about, hates it.

His hatred has nothing to do with the drums being too loud or the songs not being relevant enough. The cause of his hate can be found every Sunday morning. You can see it in old school cathedrals with huge pipe organs as well as in trendy gatherings with Grammy Award winning worship leaders.

Your favorite song or modern worship anthem may hold a special place in your heart. But if that special place in your heart is right next to the special place where you harbor resentment, bitterness and hate toward your neighbor, God doesn’t care to hear your worship.

Jesus hates your traditional hymns.

And your modern worship makes him sick.

Jesus has no interest in your worship songs if they’re being sung by people who are disobeying his command to love their neighbor (Matthew 22:34-40).

So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. Matthew 5:23-24 (ESV)

More than Amazing Grace or whatever your favorite hip new worship song is, there are times when Jesus would much rather hear us say to one another, “I’m sorry” or “I forgive you.” If we’re not prepared to sing that song, we should stop singing all together. To the best of our ability, we should make things right with those who we have wronged and with those who have sinned against us. And then we should come back and sing to the God who has forgiven us of our greater sins.

There is no amount of tradition or trendiness that can make up for the absence of God’s power in a church. No matter how good your music is, don’t count on seeing God work in a significant way if that music is being sung by a bunch of people who hate each other.

Take away from me the noise of your songs;
to the melody of your harps I will not listen.
But let justice roll down like waters,
and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream. Amos 5:23-24 (ESV)

The Famous Forgotten Man

People used to pass out when they saw him.

He belonged to a legendary group of musicians who were said to be more popular than Jesus.

He does not go by the title of Mr. or even Dr. No, his official title is Sir.

Like him or not, all of modern music can be traced back to this man’s work.

But who is he?

That’s the exact question that some people are asking. You’ve probably heard of him before. His name is Paul McCartney. Excuse me. Sir Paul McCartney. But even after hearing his name, there is a generation of music lovers who still respond with that one question.

Who is he?

Last week Kanye West released a song on iTunes about his late mother and newborn daughter entitled Only One. For help on the song, West called on that legendary rock and roll icon who used to be more popular than Jesus and make people pass out at concerts. Sir Paul McCartney.

After hearing the song, here’s how some of West’s fans reacted on Twitter.

“I don’t know who Paul McCartney is, but Kanye is going to give this man a career w/ this new song!!”

“This is why i love kanye for shining light on unknown artists.”

“I still don’t know who Paul MacArthur is.”

So there you have it. Sir Paul McCartney has been reduced to an unknown artist who goes by the name of Paul MacArthur. You can draw your own conclusions about the pop music literacy and taste of Kanye’s fans and you can start your own debates about the cultural impact of the Beatles versus that of Kanye but there is a greater point to be made here.

You will be forgotten.

No matter what you accomplish, people will forget your name.

No matter what hill you make it to the top of, it’s still a pretty small hill.

Even if you are called Sir now, you will eventually go by the title of Who.

That can be depressing news if your aim in life is to make a big name for yourself but it can be a healthy reminder if you care to live for something bigger than yourself.

Last Sunday I preached about perhaps the most overlooked person in the Christmas story. His name is Joseph. He was Jesus’ earthly father. We don’t get a lot of information on him. All we know is that God spoke to him through dreams, he did what God said and he led his family. And then, somewhere along the way, he died.

Are you okay with being remembered simply as someone who obeyed what God said and then died? Are you okay with being forgotten a generation or two later?

This Sunday I’ll preach about John the Baptist. He was no Sir but he still made a pretty big splash. Even still, he knew that he wasn’t put on earth to make a splash. Instead, he lived his life for one reason – to point others to Jesus.

“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Matthew 3:2 (ESV)

Once Jesus went public with is ministry, it pretty much meant the end of John’s. That was okay with him. His job was to be the spotlight, not the person in it.

“He must increase, but I must decrease.” John 3:30 (ESV)

Can you say that too? Are you honestly okay with doing away with whatever glory you may have for the glory of Jesus Christ?

You might end up doing big things in life. Maybe you’ll get your name in the paper. You may even have books written about you and your accomplishments. Just remember this. Eventually, you’ll be forgotten.

If you worship the god of self, that’s a tragic end to your story.

But if you live for something greater, it’s just a reminder to trust in Jesus and the great accomplishments he has already done for you.

Some work their way into the grave trying to make a bigger name for themselves. Little do they know that not long after the dirt is shoveled back into that hole, they will be forgotten.

Others resist the temptation to live for the momentary approval of man. They keep their eyes fixed on a better prize and their ears attuned to the only approval that really matters.

“Then the King will say to those on the right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.'” Matthew 25:34 (ESV)

Which will it be for you?