Mary’s Proclamation

Mary responded, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.”

Luke 1:38

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Going Deeper

“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you.

May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.

John 17:20-23

Why Lent?

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Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lordwill bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”

Exodus 14:13-14

Historians can trace lent back to the first century church. Lent means spring, and it is one of the root words of the English word “long” -as in, the days get longer in spring.

When lent was first observed it was done by those who were seeking to get baptized, they would spend the 40 days before Easter, preparing spiritually by fasting and praying.

40 days is significant!

In scripture, in the story of Noah’s ark the waters and the rain lasted for 40 days and nights. The Israelites wandered the desert for 40 years.

Jesus fasted for 40 days and was tempted by the devil.

All of these times in scripture were a preparation time for something significant.

The earth rested and was renewed in those forty days while the rain covered the earth. This was in preparation for new life upon the world.

The Israelites heart and minds were transformed in the 40 years of wandering so they would be prepared to take the land that the Lord had promised for them.

Jesus spend 40 days in the wilderness fasting and praying to prepare for His earthly ministry.

When you prepare for a test do you study? Or do you just place your math book beside you and hope the information seeps into your brain?

When a solider goes to war, he must first spend months and months preparing himself both mentally and physically.

These are mere physical preparations.

Lent definitely involves the physical. Yet it is significantly more. It is a spiritual preparation!

We enter into lent as our time in the wilderness, seeking what God has promised. Lent is a building of anticipation for the most glorious event that ever took place in human history.

There never was and never will be anything as significant as what Jesus did on the cross.

He took mans guilt and shame and put it to death, He broke the power of sin and death.

He restored mankind’s created value so we could have intimate relationship with God the Father.

Lent is a time when we dedicate 40 days to prepare our hearts for that deep reality.

Where we prepare our heart for deeper relationship with Jesus.

This is what is so beautiful about the Christian calendar. Much like the Lord’s supper, it reminds us to make room in our busy lives to physically take part in the wonderful story of our Lord and King Jesus!

It’s not something we have to do, It’s something we want to do.

I love lent because it is a time when my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ come together to seek the King! Any time in the year is a great time to fast but Lent is unique as you do your wilderness wondering in a community seeking the same goal—closeness with the Father!

We put aside certain foods, like sugar or meat as a way to say, “Jesus you are my richness, you are my meat, you are the true lasting sweetness of my life. The joy of knowing You is much more than my enjoyment of ham, or bacon or a triple pounder burger.

Fill me with the enjoyment of knowing you and you alone!”

And then when we feast on Easter Sunday, it will transform the eating again of rich foods into a bountiful celebration of Christ’s resurrection.

What you give up at Lent could be anything that takes your time and energy away from spending time with Christ. Something, that if you give it up for a season will leave you with more time and energy to seek Jesus.

What has stolen your focus from Christ?

You give that up to spend time with Jesus in prayer, journaling and reading scripture.

The most important thing about Lent is getting to know Jesus, not about the discipline of prayer and fasting though they truly are a discipline.

It cannot be about biting your lip and fighting to go without.

But about your desire to truly spend more quality time with Jesus.

Have you ever had a friend or family member you truly adore come for a visit?

You are so excited to spend time with them you put aside a book you’re reading or a project you’re working on. You don’t pick up your phone or go on social media at all because all you want to do is sit and talk with that person.

Or do you remember when your parents would take you out school to go to a family celebration like a wedding. It’s so important to celebrate your friend or family member’s happiness that you put aside school to go celebrate with them.

That is what lent is: putting aside things so you can spend time with Jesus.

Lent is the physical action of adoration for the King of Kings.

May it be filled with worship, prayer and deeper revelation of His face!

Blessings!

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“Jesus Is King”, Kanye West and Christian Hip Hop

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“Jesus is King”

Kanye West shouts out his proclamation of Jesus’ lordship on his new album, “Jesus is King.” This 11-track, 27-minute gospel-themed hip hop record, came out October 25 with much fanfare and has been deemed revolutionary by the masses. Mixing the themes of a gospel record with the sounds of hip hop. To many, this is unheard of. It was the number one record with streaming services who reported large amount of streams and downloads.

Meanwhile, with very little fanfare, in the month of October, Rawsrvnt released the song “Walk with God” featuring Lil Raskull.

I downloaded both “Jesus is King” and “Walk with God” the very same day and played them back to back. Musically, they melt together seamlessly, as the production values are both excellent. Lyrically “Walk with God” shows a great deal of maturity and depth. yet it received very little air play.

Kanye’s lyrics too are thought provoking and drip with themes of redemption, worship and the celebration of salvation through Christ Jesus. I have heard of more than one individual being brought to tears by the tracks on “Jesus is King”. It is truly a beautiful album.

“Walk with God.” features the veteran gospel rapper Lil Raskull who has been spitting out verses about Jesus since 1996. His three masterpiece works of the late 90’s “Cross Bearing,” “Gory 2 Glory” and “The Day After” still set the standard for the genre lyrically and musically.

Rawsrvnt’s talent as a beat maker the last number of years has shown his ability to produce tracks of great quality and creativity.

Kanye is still new to the gospel game. And as we have seen in the past just because you can rap about sex, drugs, guns and partying doesn’t mean you can transcend to rapping about salvation, redemption and justification.

There has been more than a few rappers who have left secular hip hop to become ministers and followers of Christ. Those who return to hip hop often times present new tracks which besides a few references to God and the absence of vulgar language seems to be stuck rapping about what is left for a born again Christian who still ascribed to hip hop’s limited subject matter—money.

The result is rather boring and uninspired records.

It is clear Kanye has not pigeonholed himself to hip hop’s shallow subject matter. In “Jesus is King” he raps enthusiastically about the peace, love and joy he has found in Jesus and is honest about the struggles he has to become “Christ like”.

I read one review where the writer expressed that he was in favour of the record only being 27 minutes, as the content would become tiresome if the album went longer. This is a good start for Kanye and I am sure as he grows in Christ his lyrics will gain a new found depth. As a first outing “Jesus is King” is a great start into gospel-themed hip hop. Jesus has obviously done a work in Kanye’s heart and he is not ashamed to present what Christ has done for him to the world.

I have read reviews claiming that it is very difficult for a rapper to leave behind the lyrical cues of the genre. The profanity, the lewdness, the rapping about partying, girls and drugs. This is why many are shocked Kanye could produce even 27 mins of content focusing on Jesus being King, Lord, Saviour and God.

But difficult as it may be, look at the many Christian rappers who have done amazing music over the years.

Kanye may now be bringing gospel theme hip hop into vogue but many rappers have done it with a similar story, though without being in the spotlight as Kanye is.

Take for example Lil Raskull who I mentioned earlier. He started off as rapper on the rise in Texas. He turned to Christ and his lyrical skills were unaffected by his conversion. The depth they conveyed were deep spiritual truths with conviction and boldness. His first three records are considered Christian Hip Hop classics and in the late 1990’s he was the top artist at GrapeTree Records which had a whole slew of secular hip hop artists who had turned their lives to Christ.

Ras and many of the others on that label have similar stories as Kayne as they gave up lifestyles of money and earthly pleasures, some even large record deals to follow Christ.

Unlike Kanye West, gospel hip hop never paid and they were not celebrated by the mainstream or by those in the Church.

Many in the main stream Christian market felt uncomfortable with the artist’s honest depictions of their lives before Christ, their redemption stories and what they witnessed in engaging within their culture.

In general CCM (Contemporary Christian Music) has felt uncomfortable with the genre and even those they once accepted into the fold like KJ-52 have been having a hard time making a living as of late.

On “Hands Off”, Kanye laments “what have you been hearing from the Christians? They be the first ones to judge me, now feel like nobody love me.”

That is par for the course as GrapeTree Records folded from lack of support and distribution. Their artists scattered, many having to give up on music, the few like Lil Raskull forging forward.

From what I hear and see many Christians are accepting Kanye and those in the mass media are praising him for his creativity.

I very much enjoyed “Jesus is King” as I enjoyed “Walk with God.” They are both on regular rotation as I drive, work out and do dishes.

As I listen, I can’t help but compare and what comes to my mind is “What about all those artists who came before Kayne?”

I think of emcees like Lil Raskull, LG Wise, NuWine, Mr. G Reality, even D Boy who was shot down in the early nineties for leading gang members to Christ. These men not only were producing quality music but their honesty and artistic integrity elevated the genre as a whole. However they were rarely recognized for their talents or their contribution to Hip Hop.

I celebrate Kanye’s choice to follow Christ and am happy to hear him proclaim Jesus on the new album and in interviews. I celebrate as I celebrate every new believer.

We as the Church need to accept him as we accept every new believer.

I do wish those in the Christian community would accept and support the other fantastic Christian artists making Hip Hop. Those in charge of Christian labels, magazines and marketing were wrong for their rejection of these artists. I am happy to see many are changing their minds with Kanye’s “Jesus is King” and I pray that those in the Christian Market will follow in accepting and supporting Christian Hip Hop as a whole.

The Christian culture should be that of radical love and have open arms to those who have come out of drugs, alcohol, fornication, a life of crime and of partying. We should embrace their love story in Christ not reject them because of their checkered past. Christ has won the victory. The past is dead. We are alive In Him.

As Christ celebrates every lost soul returning to Him, we should also. Only Christ judges the heart. We are to support, encourage, celebrate and accept everyone who enters into the Kingdom of God.

Jesus is King. Praise His name for bringing those who were lost into His Kingdom.