The Day I Met Lecrae

“What’s up, fam?”

These were the words that Lecrae spoke to me when I introduced myself to him. I remember the day like it was yesterday. But it was 2008.

It was the beginning of my sophomore year and I attended a college in a town of about 10,000 people. All my life I had been a fan of Hip-Hop music, but never was able to attend a concert. Soon into the Fall semester, I started hearing rumors of a Christian Hip-Hop concert that would be held at a small Church in town. When I heard my favorite Artist was going to be there, I knew I had to find a way to attend.

The interesting thing about this whole story, though, was that Lecrae wasn’t “big” yet. He may be a household name now, but he wasn’t back then. He just dropped his third album, Rebel, and he was starting to blow up, but the bomb hadn’t quite ticked yet. Looking back on it, I think I met him right before he starting getting international notoriety.

At any rate, I showed up to the small Church building on a cool Friday evening in Maryville, Missouri. I was with some friends and our adrenaline was soaring. We weren’t the only ones who got the memo for the concert as there were probably about 500 hundred of us total packed in a tiny, quaint Church building. There was hardly any room to move let alone breathe. But nevertheless, the concert was incredible. It was electryfying. The energy was high, the beats were jamming, and my heart was encouraged.

But this wasn’t the best part.

After the concert, there was an opportunity – for those willing to wait in a very long line – to meet Lecrae. Knowing that I might never get this chance again, I decided to wait. I only waited in line for 30 minutes but it felt like three hours – I couldn’t wait to meet the guy.

In front of me in line was a boy who was eleven or twelve. Or maybe he was a teenager – I’m not quite sure, I just know that he was very young. The most amazing part of this story wasn’t when I talked to Lecrae, but when he did. As I waited in line, I couldn’t help but notice this young boy’s facial expression and body language– it was one of fear, of distress, of concern. I thought he might be very nervous to be near the presence of a guy like Lecrae’s stature.

I was wrong.

I’ll never forget the interaction between this young fellow and Lecrae. I thought he was going to ask for an autograph or request to take a picture. But he didn’t. When he finally got to meet Lecrae, their dialogue caught me off guard. Considering the nearness of both Lecrae and the young fellow in a small Church, I was able to hear their conversation, which went a little something like this:

Boy: “Hi, Lecrae.”

Lecrae: “What’s up, young man!”

Boy: “Umm. Umm. Nothing. I have a question for you.”

Lecrae: “What’s up?”

Boy: “My grandma is about to die. She is not a Christian. I want to share the gospel with her, but don’t know how. I’m very concerned about her. I don’t want her to die apart from knowing Jesus. Lecrae, what should I do?”

I was stunned.

Most kids his age — or mine, for that matter — would not have asked such a question when meeting someone they greatly admire. We typically want a photo to share on Social Media, an autograph to show our friends, a hug or hand shake that we’ll remember forever. But this kid was concerned for the salvation of someone he loved.

Lecrae’s reply was memorable, yet simple. He humbly and confidently opened his Bible to the book of Colossians. He quoted Paul in the last chapter: “Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the Word . . .” Lecrae emphasized the last part of a door being opened for the Word. He said to the kid, “Pray for an open door to share the gospel, share the gospel, keeping praying and trust God. And that’s all you can do.”

He thanked Lecrae and walked away. I never saw the young fellow again.

It was then my turn to meet my favorite rapper. But how would I respond after what just took place? What was I supposed to do? In a moment, the young fellow’s question put things back into perspective for me. There’s nothing wrong with having heroes, admiring loved ones, or even asking for an autograph from someone who’s inspired you. But this kid’s question reminded me of what’s truly important in life: Knowing Jesus, and introducing others to him.

In the end, I just simply thanked Lecrae for his music, laid my hands on him, and prayed for God’s blessing over his ministry and life. We shook hands, and then I left the Church.

I went home full of joy and deeply encouraged. I was very grateful that I got to meet Lecrae and pray for him. I had a lot of fond memories from the night, but what happened right before meeting Lecrae tops them all. I often think about that moment, even to this day.

I wonder if Grandma ever became a Christian.

11 Books Every Christian in College Should Read

 

I started becoming an avid reader during my college years. And now that I’m over three years out of college — and having read dozens and dozens of books — I think I have a grasp for what reading material would be helpful for a Christian during his or her college years. While there are a plenteous amount of books that could have made this list, I’ve chosen eleven. Outside of the Bible, of course, below are the eleven books every Christian in college should read and why.

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11) What is Reformed Theology?, by R.C. Sproul. In many ways, college is a formative time for developing what you really believe. This book will help you with the basics of classic Reformed theology, and show you why it is so important to adhere to sound doctrine.

10) Radical, by David Platt. I’m convinced that many Christians in college who live in America are asleep with respect to overseas missions and why it is so important. This book will wake you up.

9) Why We Love the Church, by Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck. At your age, you might be struggling with a low view of the Church in light of your upbringing, theological ignorance, personal pride, or whatever. I was once there. This book will show you that your Christian walk is not just “you and Jesus,” and help you grow a love for God’s bride.

8) The Soul-Winner, by Charles Spurgeon. During college, you’ll have more time to spend with unbelievers than you probably will for the rest of your life. This book will teach you how to reach the lost and make you weep for the lost.

7) Don’t Waste Your Life, by John Piper. Become a doctor. Be a teacher. Go into the financial services industry. Get your degree and excel at your job. But don’t waste your life. By taking the reader through much Scripture and experience, Piper will show you how and why this matters. Because after all, “Only one life, ’twill soon be past, only what’s done for Christ will last.” (Charles Studd)

6) The Treasure Principle, by Randy Alcorn. You might be a broke college student, but the two dollars in your bank account is still the Lord’s. Alcorn will show you how to steward your money to the glory of God — an important principle to learn at your age.

5) Knowing God, by J.I. Packer. Packer reveals the excellencies of God and will help you know him better with your mind, soul, and heart. When a theological book sells over one million copies, you should pay attention.

4) Prayer, by Tim Keller. Fewer things in the Christian life are more important than prayer. Developing a strong prayer life is essential in college and this book is simply outstanding. If there’s better book written on prayer, I haven’t read it.

3) Desiring God, by John Piper. Until I read this book, I didn’t know that God wanted me to be happy in him, and that he is happy in himself. Piper shows the reader that true pleasure and ultimate satisfaction comes not from parties, popularity, and prominence — but comes from God himself.

2) The Holiness of God, by R.C. Sproul. You are not cool; you are a Christian. At your age, you might be tempted to think too highly of yourself, and too lowly of God. I did. This book is by no means safe and will have you trembling in the presence of God.

1) Just Do Something, by Kevin DeYoung. This book is not the best on the list, but considering the strains of college, it might be the most helpful to read during college. Why? I don’t know a single college student who doesn’t struggle with answers to nagging questions like, “Who should I marry?” and “What city should I live in?” and “What is God’s will for my life?” These questions are probably more pressing, more prominent, during college than any other time in your life. This book will help you answer those questions, remove anxiety for your future, and increase your faith in God’s providential hand in all of your decisions in life.

I could have picked 50 but I was nice and picked 11. If any of the aforesaid books have not been read by you and you are out of college, they are still helpful reads! For another helpful resource on deciding which books to read, check out, “40 Books Every Christian Should Read from The Blazing Center. I refer to it often when deciding on my next read.

Any books you’d like to add to the list? Post your comments below.

5 Reasons Why I Created @JohnCalvinDaily on Twitter

“John Calvin? Wait, he’s the guy that had someone burned alive, right?”

Comments on Calvin — that’s what I usually got when I told various friends that I decided to create a Twitter account attributed to the Reformer’s words. I think this is because while Calvin is very influential, he is also controversial. More than being controversial, though, he is widely misunderstood — especially from those outside of the tribe, and entirely from people who have never read his work. I find that people who have read Calvin the least criticize him the most.

It was a Saturday evening, and I was reading Michael Horton’s,Calvin on the Christian Life. Almost every page was saturated with a copious amount of Calvin’s quotes. “These thoughts are brilliant,” I thought to myself. “I need to share this with someone! But how?”

That’s when the idea of a Twitter account entered my brain. I created the account — and haven’t looked back since. Why did I create the account?

Here are five reasons:

1) To point people to Jesus. Calvin’s work was ruthlessly and unapologetically biblical. Calvin understood the Christocentric nature of the Scriptures: “Every doctrine of the law, every command, every promise, always points to Christ.” Rightly understanding that the Bible is about Jesus, Calvin took pains to make sure his work would point us to him. Whether prayer, providence, or predestination — anyone who has read Calvin knows that his words are centered on Christ’s finished work.

2) To point people to Calvin’s Institutes. Steve Lawson says that Calvin’s, “Institutes of the Christian Religion” was the greatest work that came out of the Reformation. Some would go so far as to say that Calvin’s Institutes is the most influential book of all-time, outside of the Bible, of course. Either way, I’m always surprised to meet so many Christians who have never heard of the Institutes, let alone care to read it. This is probably because it is over 500 years old, and is over 1,500 pages long (pending on the version you get). Numbers like this can intimidate people and I get it. But this book is better than gold, and it is more than worth the time and energy and labor to read it. I’m hoping that some of the quotes that are 140 characters long would encourage people to read his book that is over 1,500 pages long.

3) To alleviate the caricatures. Notice I said alleviate, not eliminate. There’s no way I plan on ending all the negative things said about Calvin, and I don’t care to. Heck, some of those things are true. The man struggled with pride and anger. I’m not coming to his aid to defend him as much as I am trying to show people that not all the condescending content you read about him online is true. For example, Calvin is often criticized for his belief in the doctrine of double predestination. His critics would accuse him for rejoicing over the fact that God predestines people to hell. But this is not true. Calvin himself said, “I pray for the salvation of every person” and, ” … it is our duty to pray for all who trouble us; to desire the salvation of all people; and even to be careful for the welfare of every individual.” Some of the adverse things you read about him online are true. Most of them are not.

4) To encourage people to read more widely. Some of my favorite authors alive today are Tim Keller, John Piper, and R.C. Sproul. I love reading them. But I think there is a problem if I’m only willing to read them. Many Christians either spend too much time reading the Puritans and Reformers or no time at all. There should be a balance. I think Christians should not just read wisely, but widely. Read C.S. Lewis. Read some fiction. Read some excellent secular books on leadership and business. Be especially sure to read Scripture and your favorite Reformed writers often. By revealing Calvin’s work on Twitter, I’m hoping this will spark more of an interest for people to not only go back and read other Reformers as well, but also to consider reading material outside of what they typically read. It take a brilliant thought to help spark this. And Calvin’s mind qualifies.

5) To encourage myself to read more Calvin. What better way to keep yourself honest than to have thousands of people looking for a Calvin quote everyday that you have to post? Creating this account has been a huge joy for multiple reasons. Mostly because other people are encouraged by Calvin’s words, but also because I myself gladly and willingly have to carve out regular time to read in order to post. There are so many books and sermons and letters to choose from — and the journey has just begun.

Post your comments below.

 

Tim Keller’s 5 Steps For Effective Prayer

Sometimes there are no steps. We are too desperate. We’re hurting, anxious, and worried. Fearful, even. So we don’t think of steps. We just run to God as our Abba Father and cry, “Help!” And that is completely fine.

But for those times where there is time for extended prayer, a pattern is helpful. Last month I wrote about how Tim Keller’s most recent book, Prayer, was my top book of 2014. I enjoyed all of the book, but I particularly enjoyed the framework for prayer he outlines towards the end.

Mixed with his words and some of mine, here are the five steps he suggests:

1) Evocation. To evoke means “to bring to mind,” though it also can include invocation, calling on God. Keller says that there is almost, “universal agreement that prayer should be started by ‘thinking over who it is that you will be addressing, what he has done to give you access to himself, and how you stand related to him …” Think before you pray.

2) Meditation. To respond to God in prayer, we must listen to his Word. This means taking some time to meditate on some portion of the Bible as a bridge to prayer. Meditation is a form of reflection and self-communion. Take a verse or two, or an entire section, and meditate on it as a way of fueling your heart to prepare you to pray.

3) Word prayer. Keller received this insipiration from Martin Luther. And this is a step that is often overlooked. After meditating on Scripture, Luther takes time to “pray the text” before moving on to more free-form prayer. Luther advises that we take the Lord’s Prayer and paraphrase each petition in his or her own words, filling it out with the concerns on his or her heart that day. Keller advises that we do this at least once a week.

4) Free prayer. Free prayer, as Keller explains, means simply to pour out your heart before the Lord in prayer. This is where we bring on all the supplications, petitions, prayer-lists, and anything on our heart that we want or need. This is the kind of prayer that we’re probably most familiar with. Helpful — indeed, God is our Father and we are his children and he loves it when we ask him for things — but J.I. Packer would warn us that this kind of prayer is only life-changing if it is not merely running down a “grocery-list,” but instead lifts each cause to God with theological reasoning and self-examination.

5) Contemplation. Here, Keller points us to Jonathan Edwards who points us to the Lord: “Edwards described contemplation as times when we not only know God is holy, but when we sense — ‘”see'” and ‘”taste'” — that he is so in our hearts. Luther would say that this is like getting “lost” in some aspect of God’s truth or character. Either way, prayer is always enhanced when we end with praise and contemplation.

“Don’t be intimidated by these plans,” Keller adds at the end. He finishes with saying, “Follow the steps … without feeling the need to do all the specific proposals or answer all the questions within each part. Prayer will grow and draw you in.”

Prayer is not just helpful, but essential. It is a must. It is both a delight and a duty. We should pray everyday whether we feel like it or not. And lately, since reading Keller’s book, I’ve followed the aforementioned pattern, and my prayer life has been richer as a result. And if you adhere to the pattern, I’m sure yours will too.

Post your comment below.

Jonathan Edwards, Prayer, and A Heavenly Experience

In his book, The Works of Jonathan Edwards: Letters and Personal Writings, George S. Claghorn gives us a glimpse of a taste Jonathan Edward’s once had in prayer:

Once . . . in divine contemplation and prayer, I had a view that for me was extraordinary, of the glory of the Son of God, as Mediator between God and man, and his wonderful, great, full, pure, and sweet grace and love, and meek and gentle condescension . . . The person of Christ appeared ineffably excellent with an excellency great enough to swallow up all thought and conception . . . which continued as near as I can judge, about an hour; which kept me the greater part of the time in a flood of tears, and weeping aloud. I felt an ardency of soul to be, what I know not otherwise how to express, emptied and annihilated; to lie in the dust, and to be full of Christ alone; to love him with a holy and pure love; to trust in him; to live upon him; to serve and follow him; and to be perfectly sanctified, and made pure, with a divine and heavenly purity.

Let’s not make experience an idol, but let us long for such experiences.

Post your comments below.

My Top 10 Books of 2014

These are the top books I read in 2014, though they may not have been published in 2014.

10. The Bookends of the Christian Life, by Jerry Bridges. This book is vintage Bridges — ruthlessly gospel-centered. It was a book that did more reminding than instructing, but the remembrance brought great joy.

9. It Happens After Prayer, by H.B. Charles Jr. I bought this book on a whim based off a book review I read, and boy, was I glad that I did. It is not the best book on prayer I have ever read, but it is a solid one. This quote, “The things you neglect to pray about are the things you trust you can handle on your own,” will stick with me for a long time.

8. Just Do Something, by Kevin DeYoung. Outside of the Bible, this is the best book on the will of God and decision-making I have ever read. I especially love that DeYoung highlights God’s providence watching over every aspect of our life. Being a continuationist I probably would have added more emphasis on the Holy Spirit, and maybe would have worded a few things differently, but that is only a slight quibble for an excellent book.

7. Mark, by James A. Brooks. This was the first commentary that I have ever read — and it was superb. Concise, readable, and instructional — all-the-while being inspirational. I studied the book of Mark for the first several months of 2014, and I used this commentary to help me. I probably focused too much on the commentary, but it was still extremely helpful nonetheless.

6. Calvin, on the Christian life, by Michael Horton. Probably not Horton’s best work, but I was very glad he used a myriad of Calvin’s personal quotes in the book. Because that was exactly what I was looking for: Calvin’s words himself about his own life.

5. The Dudes Guide to Manhood, by Darrin Patrick. I’m surprised this book is not getting the notoriety it probably deserves. The book receives high praises from John Piper, who said, “This book is worth the price for the table of contents.” Maybe it’s not getting as much attention because it is primarily aimed at men. At any rate, this book is better than good, and I have no doubt any guy that reads it will profit greatly from it.

4. The Five Levels of Leadership, by John Maxwell. I asked a friend for a list of books that he thought were the best on leadership. This book was at the top of the list — and I now see why. Almost every sentence is tweetable. I’m sure I will be glad to re-read this book sometime in the future.

3. Jesus The King, by Tim Keller. This book is utterly spectacular. Of all of Tim Keller’s books, this one has to be the most underrated. I can’t believe more people aren’t talking about it. Keller, in typical Keller fashion, takes the reader through the book of Mark in a devotional, and story-telling kind of way. I loved every page. This book made me love Jesus more, and that is the highest praise I can give a book.

2. John Calvin: Pilgrim and Pastor, by W. Robert Godfrey. I began to become intrigued with the life of John Calvin when I learned that he placed a great deal of emphasis on the providence of God is his preaching and writing. To learn more, I wanted to read a biography, so I started with this one. And I was not disappointed. Fewer things encourage my faith more than reading biographies on the great saints from the past — and this one was no exception. My faith, joy, and knowledge grew when I learned about how God used the man we call John Calvin.

1. Prayer, by Tim Keller.  Outside of the Bible, this is the best book on prayer I have ever read. No wonder it was quickly a New York Times Bestseller. Chapter two of the book is worth it for the price alone. Having read several of Keller’s books, and enjoying every one of them, my expectations for his books keep getting higher and higher. And they keep getting met. Keller’s books never go unnoticed, and I would be quick to consider him one of the best authors alive today.

What were your favorite reads of the year? Post your comments below.

7 Ways To Pursue Humility

To varying degrees, we all struggle with pride. We may not always thirst for it, but a drink from the fountain of humility is one we all could use.

Humility is not something we’re born with; it is something we must pursue. Though a virtue, the Bible never mentions humility as a spiritual gift. Even those of us among us who are humble must continually fight against arrogance because you never “arrive” with humility; you are always on the journey. To say it another way, you never graduate from the school of humility; we are always in school. And you can only stay enrolled if you are pursuing humility. Otherwise, pride will have you expelled.

But how do we pursue humility? Below are 7 ways:

1) By meditating on the gospel. We are so loved that Jesus was glad to die for us. But we are so wicked that Jesus had to die for us. By meditating on the finished work of Christ, we realize that we only exist through sheer grace. It’s difficult to think highly of ourselves when we think of the cross.

2) By studying the doctrines of grace. Also known as “Reformed Theology,” I love the doctrines of grace because they are so God-centered. Contrary to misinformed opinions, Calvinism leads to utter humility and worship of God, not arrogance. As Burk Parsons once said, “An arrogant Calvinist is an oxymoron.”

3) By practicing the spiritual disciples. Someone recently asked Andy Mineo, “How do you stay humble in light of all your success?” He said by practicing the spiritual disciplines. He’s absolutely right. Bible reading, prayer, fellowship, service, meditation, etc. We need to purse these regularly. Obvious signs of pride in public are indicative to a weak devotional life in private.

4) By living in community. We all have blind spots. Living in community allows others to speak into our lives, and point out sin we can’t see with our own eyes.

5) By encouraging others. People who struggle with pride the most encourage people the least. Find positive things to say about people, and encourage them often.

6) By asking questions. Unless you are part of the Divine, you don’t know it all. Ask questions to learn more, and doing this reminds yourself you don’t know it all. Prideful people have a difficult time asking questions.

7) By playing golf. I got this idea from C.J. Mahaney’s book Humility. Golf is the only sport that can make a good athlete look like an idiot. And if you’re not an athlete, then you’ll really look like an idiot.

Scripture gives us reasons for humility. Paul asks, “What do you have that you did not receive?” (1 Cor. 4:7) James says every good and perfect gift is from the Father (James 1:17). John says no one can receive not even one thing unless it is given to him from heaven (John 3:27). Scripture is clear: everything that we have is from God.

Everything. Our ambition, intellect, appearance, genetic makeup, opportunities, spiritual gifting, money, blessings. Everything we have is by God and for God. His glory, and our joy. The right understanding of this will lead to the proper response: A heart that desires to glorify God joyfully, boast only in him loudly, and pursue humility continually.

There’s no room for pride in the Christian faith. After all, what do you have that you did not receive?

Post your comments below.