Individualism and the Prosperity Gospel

ImagePhotos of this nature are maddening.

This is, of course, excepting my presence in reading my facebook newsfeed, which is exceedingly more maddening. I am just a slave for slogans and the ilk.

As far as I’m concerned, it’s largely correct, as far as I can tell or what meaning I can infer from it: God is our healer through providential care and grace. We can put our faith on Him to bring us through this world, nothing can extend or shorten our allotted time on this earth. Admittedly, I’m not sure what “heart doctor” means exactly–perhaps they mean cardiologist. Moreover, when they refer to “energy booster”, I assume they aren’t referring to chugging down Red Bull energy drinks and mistaking angels for people with “wings”.

God is our portion, He fills our cup overflowing. But if that is all the post is about, it’s entirely incomplete–I would argue it’s blasphemously incomplete.

The problem of the post is not itself, but the underlying motivations of the post.

The intention behind the post is what is lacking as it is brazenly existential.

It assigns most of our hope on the current alleviation of suffering and none on the reward of faithfulness. Read more of this post

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The Dangers of Asking The Lord.

I’ve been really blessed the past few weeks by this hymn.

Written by John Newton, it speaks of the danger of asking for holiness, growing in the Lord. On the flipside, it proclaims the comfort and security in amidst the turmoil and despair. It’s quite lovely.

I asked the Lord that I might grow
In faith, and love, and every grace;
Might more of His salvation know,
And seek, more earnestly, His face.

‘Twas He who taught me thus to pray,
And He, I trust, has answered prayer!
But it has been in such a way,
As almost drove me to despair.

I hoped that in some favored hour,
At once He’d answer my request;
And by His love’s constraining pow’r,
Subdue my sins, and give me rest.

Instead of this, He made me feel
The hidden evils of my heart;
And let the angry pow’rs of hell
Assault my soul in every part.

Yea more, with His own hand He seemed
Intent to aggravate my woe;
Crossed all the fair designs I schemed,
Blasted my gourds, and laid me low.

Lord, why is this, I trembling cried,
Wilt thou pursue thy worm to death?
“‘Tis in this way, the Lord replied,
I answer prayer for grace and faith.

These inward trials I employ,
From self, and pride, to set thee free;
And break thy schemes of earthly joy,
That thou may’st find thy all in Me.”

The Rise Of Christian Rap Music

I love rap. 

More specifically, nothing makes me more joyful in music than listening to Christian rap.  Those of you that have followed the Christian rap industry would know the famous Ambassador’s ‘Christology’ album. This album is the embodiment of early rap music, where it was more of a diary as opposed to actual messages to people. There was minimal effort put into the beats in the backing track, while much time was spent perfecting the lyrics. For this very reason people would have turned away from this music. Thus causing it to pale in comparison to their secular counterparts.

Luckily over the past few years, there has definitely been a marked increase in the quality of both the producing values as well as the lyrics continuing to grow in conviction.around this time were more than music, but introspective diaries boasting of God’s love and transformation.

I would say that it is almost at a point where it is almost on equal standing with their atheist counterparts minus the crude references. Now, I must confess, I am a bit of a closet rap enthusiast. I immensely enjoyed My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, much more than any pretender to Kanye. 808’s and Heartbreak was not a Kanye West album according to me! But otherwise, I listen to a lot Kanye, Outkast, Drake, Mac Miller, Hoodie Allen etc. – it’s mostly East Coast stuff that I listen to.
I digress, I love the direction of where rap music is going. It gives me joy that there is some hope in the world of music that is both creative and expresses the beauty of God in a unique kind of way. In other genres of Christian music, it’s all about the same cookie cutter music. It is such a insular market for music, that people have to sound a certain way to sell records, and there isn’t enough of a market to expand into personal expression. There are some that have enough of a history to have some artistic freedom which I do enjoy. Derek Webb and Jars of Clay come to mind. But for the majority, it comes to a point where Christian Rock nowadays is pretty much pop fluff with some electric guitars in the background.

Though, that being said, within the Christian rap industry as well, there are a fair amount of commercialism as well. No matter what genre it is, there are still sinners within the system.

But one recording group I’m mighty pleased about is Reach Records. They have a few artists signed to their record label like probably most famous is Lecrae, but also Tedashii, Trip Lee and newly signed KB. I think generally Lecrae is the most famous artist on the label, but listening to the other people signed to the label which are equally good at rapping.

Moreover, their lyrics are rooted in biblical truth. They truly believe in what they are doing, and at least from the look of things are committing to making disciple more than making music, which I think is lacking a lot in other musicians. While not entirely obvious from the outset, rap seems an ideal canvas to paint doctrine upon because of the fast speed of the lyrics a lot of words can be fit in a comparatively short song. The verse orientated style of rap music lends itself also to heavy topics to be dealt with in comparative depth as opposed to chorus-centric music.  The lyrics therefore can tell really long stories and explain in length some concepts which are only treated with a “I love You. Jesusssss. I love Youuuuu.” in other songs.

Furthermore, what made me most joyful the other day was I picked up Hazakim “Theopanies”. In many ways it blew me apart in the way that it mixes together theology and rapping together. I began to wonder what large reach the words that they were rapping about would get to those that CCM would not normally reach. The album is a concept album around the idea of Jesus being revealed throughout the Old Testament. It is quite in-depth – with over 60 minutes of just music about Jesus revealing himself to Abraham, Moses etc. The argument centered around a 7 minute epic about the Crucifixion of Jesus. What convicted me was that how other people could pick this up and learn about a holistic treatment of the Gospel through music.

That being said, these guys aren’t on a big record company, so they have had no advertising put into the album except for word of mouth. The disc can only be ordered through the record company which is Lamp Mode Records – I think the most famous person they have is FLAME. The rest I haven’t really listened to, but include ShaiLinne, Json and Steven the Levite – of which I think I might have heard before but haven’t been really monetarily blessed to purchase any music.

Anyway, that’s my joyful statement for the day. Christian rap makes me proud to be a Christian and they are displaying God’s glory through their music for all to see. Their message is just what the world needs to hear, the rap makes their message relevant to the culture but their message is something totally different from anything heard before. There is a lot that the other Christian music industries can learn from what has been done in the Christian rap industry. Though, rap isn’t as accessible to the masses as other genres, I think that the honesty and the integrity that exists currently can be imitated to God’s glory in other genres.

More songs for your listening pleasure:

Invasion – Trip Lee
Background –  Lecrae

Greatest Story Ever Told – Shai Linne

Music Piracy: Lady Gaga Is The One To Blame

I wish Lady Gaga would make music that is consistent with her celebrity persona.

For someone who consistently turns up to celebrity events with the most outlandish costumes and the most outrageous statements, she falls into the most discernable music genre: that same-same self-empowerment pop fluff that most other people generate within their musical careers. Listening to “Born This Way”, her music never reaches the heights of her conceptual fancy, she is making the same over-produced ambiguous songs which don’t really mean much. I think that someone so well known in popular culture would have something more worthwhile to sing about than self-empowerment.

I hope I am not perceived as hating on Lady Gaga, I enjoy her music enough. She has a lot more guts than many other artists out there, that attempt a lot, but achieve little. But I feel as though if her music were truly reflective of her character, it would appear as a hybrid of Gabber and Fidget-house genres. Hearing something less than these makes me somewhat disappointed, and perhaps cheated of who she really could be. A mere shadow is what I hear. Read more of this post

John Wayne Gacy, I am just like him.

One of my favourite artists ever is Sufjan Stevens because he is simply brilliant and amazing. I am pretty sure he is a Christian as well. Mr Steven’s voice may not be the strongest out there, but his lilting voice makes the words so fluent and personal. Moreover, one of my favourite songs by him is “John Wayne Gacy Jr” from the album, Illinoise. There is this one line that always breaks my heart when I hear it, the line goes:

“And in my best behavior

I am really just like him
Look beneath the floorboards
For the secrets I have hid”

“John Wayne Gacy Jr” by Sufjan Stevens.

The context to the song is Stevens is singing about the life of John Wayne Gacy. Gacy was a convicted serial killer. In the normal rounds of life, he was a popular clown called “Pogo the Clown”. He would often dress up for parties for young children around his apartment block that he lived around. The children loved him as he would prance around, filling them with joy. Yet, when he was arrested the police found 26 children in a small crawl space underneath his home, and a few more around his property and not to mention all the bodies found in the river near his house.

John Wayne Gacy not only killed all these young men and boys, he also raped them as well, disposing their bodies after the deed was done. Perhaps he learnt from a young age when he was molested at age nine by a family friend. Maybe it was his alcoholic father, he would come every night and try to discipline his children, while trying to maintain his balance. His unathletic frame was derided by his father, he was called “stupid” and a “sissy”. Though he tried so hard to please his father, it always seemed fruitless, all he got was a swing of the leather belt. That was all he remembered of his father.

What is underneath our floorboards?

Stevens touches a raw nerve in this song. As Christians, we are keenly aware of our own sinfulness. While we may not kill or rape anyone in our lifetimes, how much worse is it if our ignorance or our pride turns one away from God? While we may not be John Wayne Gacy, we can so easily be Gacy Senior. What we do with our lives and how we live it has such a profound impact on other people’s lives. For example, we may ignore someone because we were busy that night, and that same night, the person committed suicide. We know that blood was on our hands because we had thought that my school work was more important than doing God’s work.

By the same token, we could be that family friend. What we watch on tv, what we view on the internet, what magazines we read and what clothes we wear. We could be introducing people to what is not appropriate to people of a certain age, or even in a lifetime. What I don’t realise is what a huge influence I have, people look up to me believe it or not. Someone mentioned to me, that they heard that it’s good that they should have someone mature in their faith to guide them. I liked how I had made this illusion to other people that i am somewhat mature in my faith, when I don’t consider myself to be anything more than a toddler in Christ.

Even in our blogging influence, we have people coming to read us every day. Surely, you could stop complaining about someone who hurt you and talk about something positive for a change. Why do we have to make other people wrong all the time?

If we were to open up what is hidden underneath our lives, would we do it? If we forgot to put on our spiritual makeup one day would people recognize us? if we decided to show our scars and hurts would people still treat us the same? I am the first to admit I am no better than John Wayne Gacy. I have spoken too many hurtful words. Or perhaps, did not any words at all. If I aim to do nothing to help society, all I’m doing is help create another generation of John Wayne Gacys in the world. I may not be John Wayne Gacy but I would be there helping him dig the holes to try to hide all the wrong he had done.

Just look beneath the floorboards of my life.

PS. Read more about John Wayne Gacy on wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Wayne_Gacy It’s a truly sad story.