It’s About Faithulness

Last week I started reading the book “Letters to a Young Calvinist”  by James. K.A. Smith because it was on sale for free on Amazon. It’s an interesting book that helps lay a very helpful foundation for someone looking to explore what Calvinism is. He writes each chapter as a letter to someone who used to be a Sunday School student and is beginning to wrestle with the implications of what Scripture says. I’m guessing I’ll finish it this week, but one phrase that stuck out to me was this:

It’s not about purity. (If it were, no church would ever let us in the door.) It’s about faithfulness.

How faithful are you in your pursuit of God? How faithful are you in your involvement in church? A general trend recently seems to be that church is the first thing to be missed on a weekend’s schedule. If there’s a sports tournament or you didn’t sleep well the night before then you might as well spend Sunday recovering. My dad had the rule for me that I was allowed to miss 2 church services for basketball a year – and he’d help me meet that goal by coming to my tournaments and going to a new church with me, and I’m grateful he did.

I’ve dealt with the importance of local church involvement before, but it bears repeating here. Involvement in a church isn’t an option for a Christian. I’ve compared it to Olaf in the movie Frozen who was a snowman dreaming of spending time in summer. We need to commit to a local church in order to encourage others but also so we can be encouraged. This means being faithful to spend time together and share what’s going on in your life.

Far too many people today are focusing on the purity aspect of the church instead of the faithful aspect of the church. I was talking to someone from my church this morning and said that I hope someone with same sex attraction comes to our church – there’s no perfect people in the church. In fact, if you ever hear of a church that says they are perfect and made of perfect people turn the other way and run! They will probably try to get you to drink some kool-aid! The church isn’t a museum to showcase the saints, it’s a hospital to save the broken and dying. And no one is is immune to this sin. We are all in desperate need of regular repentance and reminders of what God has done for us in Jesus.

Finding God in the Dark

I first heard of Ted Kluck when I was in college and was trying to figure out where my theology was and how it fit within the framework of my friends, many of whom were big fans of Rob Bell. Ted was the co-author of the book ‘Why We’re Not Emergent: By Two Guys Who Should Be‘ that was incredibly helpful for me as I processed what the Bible said and how I should live that out. He later came and spoke at my college and I discovered he lived on the same wing as my Hall Director. My world since that time has only gotten smaller.

This leads us to today, where earlier this week I got and read a new book which Ted Kluck co-authored with Ronnie Martin (you may know him better from his days as the band Joy Electric) titled ‘Finding God in the Dark‘ that I wish would’ve been around for me to read in college. The book deals with the personal stories of both Ronnie and Ted as they both faced difficult personal situations and began questioning God’s care for them in the midst of tragedy. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve questioned the goodness of God in my life when I’ve faced difficult circumstances. Ronnie’s intro to the book says, “For many of us, doubt and unbelief can be subtle poisons that gradually inoculate us over time from seeing the evidence of God’s grace working steadily in our families, jobs, relationships, and futures.”

The book is primarily just both authors telling the difficulties they had and the process they went through to find God at the end of the journey, and the hope they have that He will continue to provide for them. It is a good reminder for us as we seek God’s will in our lives. I enjoyed hearing perspectives of those who are a little older than me and have wrestled with some of the same questions I’ve wrestled with.

The book is helpful for reading if you’ve ever had times of personal doubt or struggle. It’s a good reminder of David’s thought in Psalm 23, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me.” How can we trust God when we are walking through the valley of the shadow of death? This book is a good reminder that He is faithful, and always will be. This book is a very quick read and worth the time that it takes to wrestle with God’s faithfulness.

It all stems from a fundamental disbelief that God is as good as He says He is. We can affirm it in our minds and say it with our mouths, but until it penetrates our hearts it will never transform our lives.

-Ronnie Martin


Christians Who Make Art, Not Christian Artists

I admit, I grew up in the heyday of Christian Contemporary Music (CCM). Jars of Clay had gotten play on MTV, dc Talk was still together, and even my non Christian friends would ask to borrow my P.O.D. CDs. But as I entered my teenage years, a lot of my favorite Christian bands stared to get more play time on the secular radio. Switchfoot’s Meant to Live was played on the top hits radio station, Skillet started gaining traction within mainstream audiences and all the while I kept hearing the phrase, “I don’t want to be known as a Christian band. I want to be known as a band who is made up of Christians.” Being the incredibly mature and thoughtful homeschooler I was, I was convinced my favorite bands were selling out and were becoming just like the world. Yet as I’ve grown and started wrestling through these issues myself, I’ve started to realize how right a lot of those people were.

Enter Lecrae. I was introduced to Lecrae by my youth pastor during my senior year of high school (06-07) and he quickly became my favorite rapper. Up until that point I was frustrated with Christian’s lack of innovation within music, especially within rap. His songs “Send Me” “Aliens” and “Represent” quickly became my go to pump up songs before any basketball games. I finally had a Christian rapper I wasn’t embarrassed to show to my friends! Over the past couple years, Lecrae has now broken into the mainstream rap scene, with number 1 selling albums on iTunes, number 1 selling album on Billboard and appearances on BET. Yet through all this success Lecrae hasn’t backed away from his Christian convictions. In fact, he’s continued to take a strong stand for his beliefs, and many other people are starting to take notice. The Huffington Post just wrote a piece today titled ‘This Is What Happens When Hip-Hop Lets the Saints In.’ It’s a very telling piece that gets to the heart of why Lecrae does what he does. It’s worth reading the whole piece, but some very good excerpts:

“What we want is not more little books about Christianity, but more little books by Christians on other subjects — with their Christianity latent,” Lewis wrote.

C.S. Lewis was a man so far ahead of his time. This shows exactly what so many of the bands I liked were trying to do: be faithful in their calling and then use that calling as a way to make Jesus’ name great (John 3:30).

“The hard-lined wing of evangelicalism that would criticize someone like Lecrae for ‘selling out’ is a very small piece of the evangelical world these days. If anything, American evangelicalism prizes recognition and engagement in mainstream culture these days,” said D. Michael Lindsay, author of Faith in the Halls of Power, and now the president of Gordon College.

This is a very true statement, but a very important one. Conservative Evangelicals who attack someone like Lecrae seem to be the loudest group out there. Yet often those Christians who are attacking Lecrae fail to see the pride in their own eyes. I’m encouraged by the general trend of Evangelicalism to neither hide from the culture, but also not become exactly like the culture. We need more Christians like Lecrae or Tim Tebow who are able to do incredibly well at their jobs and use it as a way to proclaim Christ.

Lecrae believes that the best way to change popular culture, and ultimately to make a difference in people’s lives, isn’t to attack others, but to build trust through personal relationships. In 2007 he moved to Atlanta, the center of the Southern rap world. It was a professional decision, giving him the opportunity to network and build his career. But it has also given him a chance to speak about his faith to influential members of the hip-hop community.

This is something I’ve been saying for years now. The confrontational model of evangelism was most effective 10-20 years ago (if it was even effective at all!). Today we need to be building inroads to unbelievers, or the “nones” as they’ve been called, over a long period of time and through many conversations. It’s not enough to simply say you’re a believer, leave a tract and think you’ve done your duty. It’s going to take a long time of someone seeing the way you live and seeing that you’re different before they’ll be willing to trust and believe you.

“The most stressful part is coming from the Christian side. Because everybody has a standard and a conviction that they believe you need to be living by,” he (Lecrae) said.

This is the part the hurts me the most. The group of people who should be encouraging Lecrae and lifting him up in prayer are the very ones who are blasting him. I hope and pray we continue to have more people like Lecrae who are gifted in areas and can begin to actively engage with the culture in ways they’ll listen. Lecrae is reaching people I could never dream of reaching, and God is continuing to bless Lecrae’s faithfulness. I hope that we can continue lifting him and the others on his label up in prayer that they will stand strong against the temptations of the world.

I also hope that Lecrae is setting the stage to make it easier for people to follow in his footsteps. As we continually engage culture my hope is that we can start becoming the trend setters. I get tired of hearing cheap knock-offs of secular songs, but genuinely enjoy when I hear something innovative coming from a believer. We are called to do everything we do to the best of our abilities at to the glory of God (1 Cor 10:31). What do you need to do to become a better and more faithful example of Christ to the world today?