Archives For Music

I remember as a new Christian people would quote these antiquated, flowery, profound lines from songs. They would skillfully deploy the quote like a baseball player executing a hit-and-run with a line drive over the second basemen’s head. The quotes would drop in the Bible Study or prayer meeting with powerful profundity. This was evidenced by the corporate, “Umm…” or “Amen.” I never quite got to the point of trying to execute this type of poetic contribution, but I have always appreciated it.

Now I believe there is a new bag of powder for our musical muskets. Here in 2013 the new hymns writers are hip-hop artists. Now before you shake me off with a pffffh, hear me out. I have seen a recent swell in the number of references to songs during a time of gospel-shaped discussion. And when I say reference I don’t mean that someone is saying, “Man did you hear Lecrae’s new track, that joint is fresh!” (they may say that but I don’t mean that). What I mean is people reference the hip-hop songs in order to add value to a gospel-shaped conversation.

In the last several months (and even this morning) I have heard multiple people reference a song by Lecrae, Shai Linne, Tedashii, and others to help further elucidate the point being made. This is a marked transition and development.

The question that remains is, “Why?” I’ll give you two reasons.

First, Christians have always reached for music to impress God’s truth upon our hearts. The hymns still do this. However, increasingly the hip-hop tracks are dominating.

Second, many Christian hip-hop artists (particularly the gospel-centered Reformed guys) are filling the doctrinal void left by many in the Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) scene. Instead of singing sappy-ballads and prom songs to Jesus these guys are jamming so much passionate, gospel-rich, theologically dense, personally applicational truth into a 4 minute song. Passionate doctrine resonates.

I think this is a win for the kingdom. It is also a win for me because I not only like the content but the style of the music. I smile when I consider people at our church driving around, working out, or whatever while listening to this genre of music.

Ever since I downloaded Josh Garrels new album it seems like it has been playing. Like so many artists, I enjoy his voice and the overall musical sound. However, unlike many artists, his lyrics are arresting. In particular, as a Christian his songs complete the narrative of life with the gospel. This is so refreshing. I am sure you see how powerful this is. Many musicians are good because they are honest about the narrative of life, but so few are able to complete it with anything except hopelessness on the one hand or pollyanna-ism on the other. And, regrettably, many Christian artists fail to be honest about the pain, guilt, and fear that is present in our lives–and how the gospel answers it! The tragic consequence is an eclipsing of the beautiful power and relevance of the gospel of Christ. This is where Josh Garrels takes center stage and why he is dominating my iPod.

Crazy thing is…it is free. I would easily pay the $8.99 at Amazon for this but he is giving it away on his website. Check it. And pass it on.

Also, take a listen to this song. It is one of my favorites:

“Farther Along” – Josh Garrels from Josh Garrels on Vimeo.

One of the advantages to living in Omaha is the fairly eclectic musical tastes. I have seen this first hand this summer as we travel about to take in my son’s Legion baseball games.

During these games the home teams try to create a bit of atmosphere. As you can imagine music is a big part of things. With the various tastes in various locations, we get a grab-bag of music. Sometimes it’s classic rock, other times it’s hip-hop, still others country. It’s all over the map.

Through this I was surprised to find out something else that is all over the map: low-brow, lame, sex songs.

I am not surprised at what I hear with hip-hop music. I grew up listening to it. I get it. While I cringe, I know what they are doing.

Continue Reading…

This week one of my favorite artists, Bon Iver, released a new album. The lead singer, Justin Vernon, has a unique voice and style. With his eclectic mix of sounds I find myself listening in all sorts of settings (study, running, driving, etc). It usually always works.

Earlier this week I listened to an interview conducted by NPR with Vernon. They touched on an interesting subject. The words. Perhaps, more specifically, what do the words mean?

Vernon didn’t flinch. He basically said that he picked words that sound good. He wasn’t so much concerned with their meanings. He is more concerned with the sound and the feelings it produces.

Now on one hand, I don’t like this. After all, I am a pastor. I spend days on end with words. It is my life to wring out words and fill buckets with meaning in light of context. This goes against the grain of everything I do.

Continue Reading…

All I Have is Christ

Erik Raymond —  April 30, 2010

I have enjoyed the album Looked Upon from the Na Band for a couple of years now. There are many soul-stirring, Christ-magnifying songs on there. Recently at the Together for the Gospel conference we sang “All I have is Christ” from this album. It was great. And the song remains great because the truth behind the song is true!

So…in effort to expose more folks to the album and the song here is a video with Devon Kauflin singing the song…enjoy!

(Looked Upon via Amazon)

Today in history, 1873, the steamship Ville du Havre was struck by an iron sailing vessel while crossing the Atlantic. 246 people died, including the four daughters of Chicago lawyer Horatio Spafford. His wife Anna survived. Just two years earlier their four-year-old son died of scarlet fever, and the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 financially ruined him.

While sailing the Atlantic to reunite with his wife after the death of their girls, he penned the beloved hymn, It Is Well with My Soul (the original manuscript is pictured to the right).

Here is Mars Hill on his life:

(ht: Justin Taylor)

Shai Linne has quickly become my favorite hip hop artist in this new stream of Reformed rap.  One of the things that I particularly like about him is his clear, quick and weighty rhymes.  He is able to turn a phrase quickly and powerfully with the eternal weight of truth behind it.  One such song on his new album Storiez is The Greatest Story Ever Told whereby he walks through the biblical story from Genesis to Revelation in a clear Christological and not less than doxological manner.  It is quite good!

Here is Shai at the 2009 Worship God conference in Maryland (I have included the lyrics also)..

Here are the lyrics:

It’s the greatest story ever told.

A God pursues foes whose hearts turned cold.

The greatest story ever told.

Restoring all that the enemy stole.

The greatest story ever told.

The glory of Christ is the goal, behold.

The greatest story ever told.

It’s the greatest.

Alright check it: let’s go back in time, brethren. Divine lessons always keep your mind guessing. The glory of the Triune God is what I’m stressing. The origin of humankind was fine. Blessings were plenteous. God is amazingly generous. Crazy benefits in a state of innocence. God told the man what he could taste was limited. Not long after came our nemesis in Genesis. He scammed well, man fell, damned to hell. The whole human race—he represented it. Fooled by the serpent, man through his work, woman through birth—even the earth ruled by the curses. But instead of a wake immediately. God said her Seed would be the One to crush the head of the snake. Yo, wait what is this? Whoa, a gracious gift! In Jehovah’s faithfulness He clothed their nakedness. This was so they would know their Savior’s kiss and bliss. But first, many growing pains exist suffering in the worst form, ugly deeds. Eve’s firstborn seed made his brother bleed. Indeed things got progressively worse. Every section of the earth is been affected by the curse. And though God’s judgments against sin were gory, praise the Lord! It’s not the end of the story.

Next scene: man’s sin was extreme. God gets steamed, man gets creamed. The Lord is so Holy that He drowned them in the water. Fire in the valley of slaughter – Sodom and Gomorrah. But at the same time, He’s so gracious and patient that from one man He created a whole nation. Eventually enslaved by the mentally depraved, they cried out to the only One with the strength that He could save. He brought them out with signs and wonders – satisfied their hunger. Then He appeared on Mount Sinai in thunder. Where He laid down the law for God-ruled government. Commonly referred to as the Mosaic covenant. Sin was imputed. So for man to know he’s unrighteous, God instituted animal sacrifices. This was to show our constant need for atonement. And when it came to sin, the Lord would never condone it. And when His people disobeyed and went astray, He raised up prophets and kings to lead them in the way. But they would get foul with their idolatry—wet and wild prophecy—send them into exile. To take their punishment like a grown man. Then with His own hand He placed them back in their homeland. And while in their forefather’s land they dwelt, they awaited the arrival of Emmanuel.

After 400 silent years filled with sighs and tears. In Bethlehem the Messiah appears. God in the flesh—Second Person of the Trinity. At thirty begins His earthly ministry. Baffling cats with accurate, exact facts and back-to-back miraculous acts. A stumbling block to the self righteous. But the humbled—His flock, said “There’s no one else like this.” He came from heaven to awake the numb. Demonstrated His power over nature, son. A foretaste of the Kingdom and the age to come. But the reason He came was to pay the sum for the depths of our wickedness, our wretched sinfulness. Bless His magnificence! He is perfect and innocent. Yet He was wrecked and His death. He predicted it. Next He was stretched, paid a debt that was infinite. He said that He finished it. Resurrected so the elect would be the recipients of its benefits. Through faith and penitence we get to be intimate. His grace is heaven sent, it never diminishes. Now the Holy Spirit indwelling is the evidence for heaven’s future residents who truly represent Jesus, the Author, Producer, Director, and Star of a story that will never, ever end!

(HT: JT)