Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Shedding Light on the Issue: The Music Collaboration the Church Wasn't 'Ready' For

Last Friday, Tasha Cobbs Leonard released her third studio album, Heart. Passion. Pursuit. I was excited for the project because I'm a fan. I, like so many other gospel music lovers, have been rocking with Tasha since her debut album, Grace. Her single "Break Every Chain" is a staple in a Christian music library. Over the past week or so though, and especially over the weekend, saints have been up-in-arms about a track on her newest album called "I'm Getting Ready" featuring rapper Nicki Minaj. On the track, Minaj, who is signed to popular rapper Lil Wayne's record label, Young Money, spits 16 bars about how she "leveled up" from food stamps to jet skis and "more ice than Gretzky" because of God's favor and in spite of her haters.

Tasha Cobbs Leonard - Heart. Passion. Pursuit. (2017) / Amazon

Before I give my opinion on this collaboration, I need to clarify: I'm not one of Nicki Minaj's "Barbz" (that's what she calls her fan base). I don't know every song of hers, but I'm also not going to pretend that I didn't ever listen to "Superbass," "Moment For Life," and "Right Through Me," because a few years ago when I was a teenager listening to secular music on a regular basis, that was what was popular. And yes, I am aware that her stage name pays homage to menage a trois...and yes, I know what that means in English. With that being said, I support Tasha's decision to include Nicki on this album. Why, you ask? Simply put, this song, those 16 bars alone, could open a door for people in the world to see something they've never seen.

The song says:

God's doin' a new thing,

Get ready for overflow!

I'm getting ready to see

Something I've never seen

Some people who have never seen Jesus, but have seen Nicki Minaj will listen to/download this song just because she's on it. Yes, she's rapping about material things, but she's also acknowledging the God Who gave them to her. It's not conventional praise, but it's praise nonetheless. Psalms 100:1-3 (NIV) reads:

Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.

Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs.

Know that the Lord is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.

Praise is not reserved for use only by the sanctified, holier-than-thou Christians who have been saved since they were a twinkle in their mother's eye (Don't act like you don't know what I'm talking about. We all know at least one "super-saved" Christian 🙄). ALL of the earth is supposed to praise Him. It is He who made us, all of us, even those of us who don't know Him, and even Nicki Minaj. We can't judge her praise just because it doesn't look or sound like ours. In fact, we should encourage her to praise her own way more often.

I've seen so many Christians posting 2 Corinthians 6:14 to justify why this collaboration is wrong. They all say, "Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness" (NIV)? I'd like to present John 1:5 as a counterargument: "The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it." As believers, we should be so confident of the light that shines within us that we can venture out into the dark places without fear. Going into the darkness to pull people out doesn't mean we'll get sucked in. If our faith is strong enough, we will not waver. The Church as a body needs to learn how to walk beside its brothers and sisters in the world. If we're not willing to go into the darkness in the first place, how will we ever bring more people into the light? Hear me out: I mean no disrespect to classic gospel music whatsoever. I love it, but I've been saved 17 of my 23 years. For the most part, the old-timey handclap doesn't work on my generation. We need to do something different and meet them where they are.

Nowadays, most pastors wouldn't even let a woman who dresses like Nicki Minaj into their sanctuary, and that's problematic. First of all, it's not their sanctuary, it's God's. Secondly, people who dress like Nicki Minaj are the main ones who need Jesus! If Nicki Minaj is the only one blessed by her own verse in this song, that, in itself, is major! If somebody listens to "I'm Getting Ready," downloads Heart. Passion. Pursuit., and then decides to go to church on Sunday for the first time, then Tasha Cobbs Leonard has done her job. If the people of the Church are the hands and feet of Jesus, we've just extended a huge hand to those who are still in the world. My prayer is that they grab His hand and never let go. I hope this song causes an overflow we've never seen  an overflow of souls won for the Kingdom.

Monday, August 21, 2017

The Wait, Part 9: Patiently, Purposely, Playing for Keeps

I've had a LOT on my mind in the last few weeks since the Married and Young Challenge ended. Completing the challenge, which, in total, spanned two weeks, has catapulted me into a season of self-reflection. As I shared before, for the past few months, I’ve felt God positioning me for marriage, so when I stumbled upon the 5-day challenge, I took it as a sign that God was about to send me my husband. Instead, God was like, "LOL, no. I'm about to show you, YOU!" As I began sharing in the Facebook group and tuning in to the daily video teachings, I quickly realized that this was something that would challenge me far beyond a 5-day span. It was a wake-up call, a lifestyle change that encourage me to seek God more consistently and to check my motives on why I was seeking Him. Soon, I found myself shifting focus from future husband to past, present, and future self.

Through the challenge, I learned that God still has to perfect a work in ME and get ME right(eous). I need to be walking right, talking right, and praying right--LIVING right--before He sends me Mr. Right. I honestly wasn't planning on continuing "The Wait" series, not because I didn't have anything to write about, but because I had, quite frankly, too much to write about. My thoughts were so all-over-the-place, I didn't know where to start...until I tuned in to the noon service at First Baptist Church of Glenarden yesterday. If you've been reading this blog for awhile, you know I LOVE FBCG! I watch online almost every Sunday. Anyway, as soon as I heard the sermon's title, "The Benefits of Patiently Waiting," I knew I had to write about it. Please bear with me as I gather my thoughts.

I'll be the first to admit that one of the hardest parts of the Christian walk is learning to stand still and wait on God. We think we know what we want, and we want instant gratification. We want to reap the benefits of progress without having to go through the process. The 5-day challenge, in conjunction with Pastor John Jenkins' message yesterday from Psalms 40:1-5, showed me why the process is necessary. Pastor Jenkins taught from the New King James version, but I'll be referencing the New International Version.

Psalms 40:1 reads, "I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry." The NIV says, "turned to me," NKJV says, "inclined to me," but Pastor Jenkins took it a step further: "God is leaning in your direction." He explained that leaning is more personal. You are special to God. There are 7 billion people in the world, but because He cares about YOU specifically, He leans in and turns His ear to YOU to hear your prayers. So, if He hears, why isn't He moving now?! God doesn't move as rapidly as you want Him to move because He's examining your posture. He wants to see how you sit in your singleness. Are you uncomfortable? Squirming? Crooked in compromise? Slumped over in complaint? If you are, don't be surprised if He makes you wait longer. Waiting means having an attitude of expectation. Stick with God and do it His way. Don't do what your flesh wants to do. Patiently waiting means recognizing that your time has not come yet. God is a God of alignment. He makes everything line up when the time is right. You can try to rush Him all you want. Just know it won't work until it's on His timing.

Psalms 40:2

"He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand."

This was Pastor Jenkins' second point. "God will bring you up to set you up." When you're in a place you can't get out of, only God can bring you out. You cannot bring yourself out of singleness...well, you can, but you shouldn't. Remember, His timing! Before I go any further though, I'd like to emphasize an important part of this analogy. Your singleness is not a "slimy pit." It's not a dungeon, and you're not trapped in it while everyone else lives happily ever after. "He set me on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand." Singleness is not punishment, it's purposeful! God uses our singleness to establish a solid foundation in Him. We need to learn to stand firm alone before He gives us someone to stand beside in matrimony.

Psalms 40:3-5

He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the Lord.

Blessed is the man who makes the Lord his trust, who does not look to the proud, to those who turn aside to false gods.

Many, O Lord my God, are the wonders you have done. The things you planned for us no one can recount to you; were I to speak and tell of them, they would be too many to declare.

These 3 verses tie into Pastor Jenkins' third and final point: The new song.

When you are fully content in waiting, regardless of what you're waiting for, God will give you a new song to sing that praises Him. In the case of singleness, that "new song" will be marriage. From now on, I'll look at my singleness as the time God is taking to finish writing this new song. While He's writing it, I'll rejoice in the things He has already done for me, because He's already done too much for me to list. I'm learning to be satisfied with just God because I want my single season and my life as a whole to be an example of why people should serve God. I want my marriage to be a testament to how He rewards those who patiently and purposefully wait for His timing. If people watch me play the waiting game, not only will they see the beauty of the wait; they will also see me rewarded. And my reward after the waiting is not just marriage. If I play my cards right, my reward will be eternal life. I'm playing for keeps.