The Miseducation of Little Christopher

The Miseducation of Little Christopher

About a month ago, I publicly asked for prayer from my family and friends on Facebook. Here's the full, factual story behind that request. Student push-out in schools is REAL, and we must fight against it. 

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Creative Genius

Creative Genius

Today I watched the famous Nicholas Brothers dance clip from the 1943 film Stormy Weather and I was mesmerized. It made me think of all of our ancestors and how they defied insurmountable odds in order to survive and thrive. Black folks are genius. And that genius is still very much alive today.

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God Loves Hip-Hop - Seminar Preview

Here's the 8th and final installment in the God Loves Hip-Hop discussion series. This discussion will serve as the preview for our seminar at the annual Pastors Evangelism Leadership Conference in Huntsville, AL on Dec. 8. Join the discussion on twitter #GodLovesHipHop.

Spiritual Growth in Ghetto Communities

Spiritual Growth in Ghetto Communities

Remember Biggie's song "10 Crack Commandments?" We memorized that song as a sacred psalm and held people accountable to its teachings. What are our frameworks, tools, processes, and systems for spiritual growth? If Biggie can systematize selling crack, surely there can be some sort of system for growing in the faith.

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God Loves Hip-Hop - The Book


        People Keep asking me about it so here it is...We're practically working around the clock to bring you all of the great pieces that you've seen in the

God Loves Hip-Hop series

and more in one volume. Putting together a project of this magnitude always comes with some challenges so lift up a prayer for us. Nevertheless, you should have it in your hands very very soon. We'll intend to have pre-order options before the end of October.

Pre-Order Here.

Why God Loves Hip-Hop (Pt. 2)

I'm excited about this newest piece in the God Loves Hip-Hop series. Just a few weeks ago we started talking about Why God Loves Hip-Hop. We continue along that same vein as we explore God's love for the artistic gift with this piece from the gifted Dr. Andrea Trusty-King. 
Along with a Master of Divinity degree from Andrews University, she received her Doctor of ministry degree from Fuller Theological Seminary with a research emphasis on Youth, Family and Culture. She currently serves as the Senior Pastor of the 16th Street SDA Church in San Bernardino, CA. She is married to Pastor Kurt King and they have two young children. You can follow her on twitter @andreaking or visit her website at

God Loves Artistry

I strike like lightning and don't need thunder
Inhale imagination and breathe wonder
-Common, “Invocation” 

Both the Antelope Canyon (top) and
the Danxia landform are God's own
works of artistic genius and creativity.
On the creative and artistic level, God has skills. Period.  When we look at all God has created, it becomes evident that God loves diversity and color.  The earth and everything in it is a masterpiece.  When you look at the Antelope Canyon in Arizona,[1] or the Danxia landform in China,[2] it’s hard not to imagine God with a spray can tagging the walls of this world.  The beauty is breathtaking.

            It is God’s style to make things beautiful just for our pleasure.  When God created the trees, he didn’t allow the practical function to dominate His design. Genesis 2:9 tells us “And out of the ground the Lord God made every tree grow that is pleasant to the sight and good for food.”  God made sure the trees were something to enjoy both with the eyes and the mouth. 

When the priestly garments were made, the Bible says that these garments were not just to be functional, but fashionable.  Exodus 28:2 says, “And you shall make holy garments for Aaron your brother, for glory and for beauty.”  God wanted these creations to be splendid with style.  They had pomegranates of blue, purple and scarlet woven around the hem.  This in itself is another act of God’s creative imagination, because blue pomegranates do not even exist in nature. Indeed, this was a remix!

            Artistry and creativity is of God, and it flows from God.  The first people that Scripture records as being filled with the Spirit of God were not the prophets, the preachers or the priests, but rather the artisans: 

Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: “See, I have called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah.  And I have filled him with the Spirit of God, in wisdom, in understanding, in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship, to design artistic works, to work in gold, in silver, in bronze. Exodus 31:1-4

When God was giving instructions for the temple, He told Moses that He was going to fill Bezalel with the Spirit of God to design artistic works.  Creativity and artistry were so important to God, He filled Bezalel and others with the Spirit of God so that they could create works of art with gold, silver and bronze.  Their artistry was an act of worship.
God appreciates and encourages artistry and creativity.  This is not just limited to visual arts but also in literary arts.  Second Timothy 3:16 reminds us that “all Scripture is given by inspiration of God.”  A large portion of the Bible is poetry and throughout scripture is the prolific use of metaphors, similes, acrostics, parallelisms, and other literary devices employed to encapsulate ideas, craft compelling stories and lay down lovely lyrics.  God inspires creativity in all kinds of art. 
Many of the literary devices found in Scripture are mirrored in Hip-Hop.  Talib Kweli, in his song, “The Manifesto.” credits God for giving Hip-Hop the music.  My style is all that's seen and all that's heard/God gave us music so we play with our words.”  The lyrics and style of Hip-Hop in some ways mirror the literary style of scripture.

Proverbs 30:15 utilizes a unique use of numbers throughout the verse, employing the numbers two, three and four: “The leech has two daughters— Give and Give! There are three things that are never satisfied, Four never say, ‘Enough!’”  Mos Def in “Mathematics” employs a similar technique with numbers one through ten:

Yo, it's one universal law but two sides to every story
Three strikes and you be in for life, manditory
Four MC's murdered in the last four years
I ain't tryin to be the fifth one, the millenium is here
Yo it's 6 Million Ways to Die, from the seven deadly thrills
Eight-year olds gettin found with 9 mill's
It's 10 P.M., where your seeds at? What's the deal.

In Proverbs 1, wisdom is personified as a woman who raises her voice, cries out at the gates of the city, laughs, mocks and calls outside.  In Run DMC’s “My Adidas,” shoes are personified, as agents of the Hip-Hop order. They attend concerts and travel into foreign lands:

Now me and my Adidas do the illest things.
We like to stomp out pimps with diamond rings,
We slay all suckers who perpetrate,
And lay down law from state to state.
We travel on gravel, dirt road or street.
I wear my Adidas when I rock the beat.

            Although it is not evident in English, there is rhyme in some of the biblical poetry.   It was also common for Hebrew poets to rhyme ideas and use word-play.  Psalm 122:6 says, “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: May they prosper who love you.” In Hebrew, when the verse is transliterated, a play on words emerges, “Shaal shalom ye-ru-sha-la-im (Jerusalem) shalah ahab.”[3]

Eminem is widely respected as one of the most gifted
lyricists in the history of rap music. He has mastered
the art of word-play as well as delivery.  
Rapper Eminem offers masterful rhymes and plays on words like the above passage. However, unlike the above passage, which is laced with a prayer for peace, his lyric is laced with profanity and pain.  In his song, “The Way That I Am,” he confesses:

And since birth I've been cursed with this curse to just curse.
And just blurt this berserk and bizarre sh*# that works.
And it sells and it helps in itself to relieve
All this tension, dispensing these sentences.
Getting this stress that's been eating me recently
Off of this chest and I rest again peacefully.

Eninem employs alliteration and plays on words and sounds in a masterfully artistic manner.  We must not deny the creative artistry in this and other expressions of Hip-Hop.  Still, it seems almost blasphemous to juxtapose Eminem with the Everlasting, to compare Proverbs with Hip-Hop prophets.  The fact that many of Hip-Hop’s creations are corrupted by coarse language makes it’s comparison and connection to scripture even harder to swallow.

Hip-Hop artists are often lambasted for the explicit nature of their music and videos.  There are often disturbing images that depict violence, gang activity, and illicit sexual activity.  These images are both visual and verbal.  Senseless violence against other young people, blatant disrespect of women, explicit and derogatory language are just a few of the tools used to paint these disturbing pictures.  In their defense, artists say they are just “keeping it real.”

The question, then, is how does the Bible react to the notion of keeping it real?  For starters, the Bible is replete with examples of “keeping it real.”  The Bible is home to the good, the bad, and the ugly.  The stories of the Bible are laden with honesty and a real account of the people of God.  It includes graphic descriptions of violence, sensual sonnets on sex, pains and politics of corruption in government and the hypocrisy of the “holy” men and women of God.  Furthermore, God keeps it real in his dealings of those who cross Him.  In no uncertain terms, the Bible is clear that the enemies of God ought to beware.  He will exact judgment on those who war for His enemy.

What makes the Bible different from pieces of literature and art (which include the sordid descriptions of life that are found not only in Hip-Hop, but in American culture as a whole), is that the Bible does not only expose a problem, but it offers a solution.  The Bible describes the curse and consequences of sin, but also delivers a cure for sin.  It shows how people fare who ignore the principles of the Bible and the divine cure that God has given us.

Here lies the deficiency in Hip-Hop culture. “Keeping it real” is needed, but that is just the beginning.  Instead of just highlighting the problem, the church must help to provide solutions.  For starters, the church must look past the pain-ridden language and sickening descriptions in order to understand the painful realities a large segment of young people are facing everyday.  Let the church arise with righteous indignation not at how these realties are described, but rather that these realties exist and are ever-present for millions of people.  When some of the horrors they see everyday are dealt with, then they will have less objectionable material from which to pull.

While speaking at Rosa Park's funeral in 2005, Al Sharpton
challenged rappers to clean up their act. While rappers often
claim to "keep it real," others urge for them to "get it right."
This however is not a call to excuse Hip-Hop from its responsibility, but instead a call for us all to do and be better.  It is not enough to allow Hip-Hop just to reflect the pathology of society.  The church must come alongside of it and help Hip-Hop take the next step.  This provides an opportunity for Christianity to inspire.  Hip-Hop cannot just be a mirror.  As Al Sharpton remarked:

[Speaking of rappers]‘We just mirrors that reflect what we see.’ Well there’s something strange about that.  I use a mirror every morning, but I don’t get up out the bed, hair all over my head, sleep around my eye, slobber around my mouth, and walk outside talking about I’ma keep it real.  Mirrors are not only to reflect what you see; mirrors are to correct what you see.[4]

That is the call for the church to come alongside Hip-Hop and assist in bringing some correction to the awful reflection.  It is a well-known saying that the truth hurts.  For this reason, truth, in the Bible, is seldom by itself.  The truth of this sin-scarred world is debilitating and depressing.  Truth then, is often accompanied by something to take the sting out of it.  Often “truth,” in the Old Testament, and especially in the Book of Psalms, is accompanied with mercy or lovingkindness (chesed). Chesed is a Hebrew word that means, “unfailing kindness, devotion, i.e., a love or affection that is steadfast based on a prior relationship”[5]  It is often translated mercy in the King James Version. In Psalm 57:3, David is grateful that God sent mercy (chesed) along with truth, when his enemies tried to swallow him up.  Truth and lovingkindness (or mercy) often traveled together. [6] Paul, in the New Testament echoes this same sentiment when he admonishes the truth be spoken with love, (Rom. 4:13).

By example, the church can demonstrate love in dealing with Hip-Hop and those who adhere to its lifestyle.  The church can even applaud Hip-Hop for its authenticity and truthfulness but help to inform Hip-Hop that this is just the beginning.  Reflecting the ills of society is only half of the battle.  The call is for a partnership to begin correcting the ills of society. 

That is the hope of Scripture, to recognize the wretched state of affairs but realize it does not have to stay that way.  The Bible brings hope and that same hope must reach Hip-Hop so that their songs, movies, books and other works of art can begin to not just reflect hurts of sin but the hope of the Savior.  When the church engages and enlightens Hip-Hop culture, we can begin to help them see a new reality through the blood of Jesus, where Satan works are destroyed and the kingdoms of this world become the kingdom of our Lord.

So yes, God loves Hip-Hop because God loves artistry. Yet, He loves the artists of Hip-Hop the most. What if we learned to love them too; curse words, tattoos, weird clothes and all? What if we learned to listen, look and appreciate their art? Might we be the hands and arms of God to embrace this lost generation and win them into the family of God? Who knows? I’m willing to try. Are you?

                [1] Antelope Canyon picture can be found at:
                [2] Danxia Landform picture can be found at:
   [3] “Figures of Speech Homeopropheron (alliteration),” Truth or Tradition, accessed September 18, 2013,

[4] Al Sharpton, “Speech at Rosa Parks Funeral” Online Video YouTube. Accessed July 31, 2008.
[5] James Swanson, "Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains: Hebrew (Old Testament),"  (Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997), Electronic Resource.
[6] See also Psalms 25:10, 26:3, 57:10, 85:10, 86:15, 100:5, 117:2.

Callahan, Allen Dwight. The Talking Book:  African Americans and the Bible. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2006.

“Figures of Speech Homeopropheron (Alliteration),” Truth or Tradition, accessed September 18, 

“God, the Bible and Art, Part 1,” BJU Press, accessed September 15, 2013,

Schaffer, Francis A. Art and the Bible.  Downers Grove, IL:  Intervarsity Press, 1973.

Al Sharpton, “Speech at Rosa Parks Funeral” Online Video YouTube. Accessed July 31, 2008.
James Swanson. "Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains: Hebrew (Old
Testament)."  Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997, Electronic Resource.

Watkins, Ralph C., Jason A. Barr, Jamal-Harrison Bryant, William H. Curtis, and Otis Moss III. The Gospel Remix: Reaching the Hip Hop Generation. Valley Forge: Judson Press, 2007.

Ministering in Hip-Hop Culture (Panel Discussion)


Here's the highly anticipated #GodLovesHipHop discussion number 6. In this conversation we feature long-time rap artists, DJs, and producers who demonstrate deep commitment to 

Hip-Hop through their artistry, as well as to the church because they perform with the intent to edify and expand the Kingdom of God.

Please use the hashtag #GodLovesHipHop for twitter feedback or visit the google+ event page to ask a question live.

Why God Loves Hip-Hop (Pt. 1)


I'm amped and excited because we're adding a new piece to the God Loves Hip-Hop Series. You've already been following the Why We Need Hip-Hop series. Well now we begin a series of posts about Why God Loves Hip-Hop. And this first post "God Loves the World" is from a good friend of mine, Kurtley Elliott Knight. Kurtley is an exceptionally gifted communicator. He holds a Master of Divinity degree from Andrews University and currently serves as the pastor of the Hillcrest SDA Church in Pittsburgh, PA.

The statement that God loves the world is so often spoken by Christians that most people, even atheists, are familiar with its claim.

So popular is the statement that today it’s nearly impossible to walk into a church and not hear some language grounded in this fundamental truth.

As a pastor I think it’s great that many people know the statement.

The real question however, is do we comprehend what it means for God to love “the world?”

What is this “world” that God loves?

Moreover, what are the implications that arise from God loving “the world” for Christian theology and praxis, especially in relation to our topic of God loving Hip-Hop?

In the pages that follow I’d like to suggest that God loves the entire creation.

This includes all of humanity and everything associated with it.

He loves human language, culture, art, literature and systems.

He is intricately involved in the world as Sovereign, using what’s in the world to achieve His ultimate goal of reconciling the world to Himself.

This holistic perspective I believe, opens our eyes to God’s activity around us, providing us with rich resources for Christian spirituality and ministry.

Coming to this conclusion is not easy and will require a redefinition of “the world.”

For this, we’ll peek through the lenses of Hebraic monotheism, which claims God’s sovereignty over the universe.

This perspective will help to clarify that all things (with the exception of the pagan) are sacred.

With this in the background, we’ll briefly explore God’s love

the kosmos

as described in John’s writings.

Lastly, we’ll briefly discuss the implications of the theological framework.

The Sovereignty of God

Usually when most people talk about God loving the world, it’s within the narrow confines of a personal and private spirituality.

Although this perspective is certainly true, it doesn’t tell the whole truth.

Rather it implies a modern dualism that promotes a sacred versus secular divide. This divide prevents God from loving all the world (as I’ve described above), because it’s seen as being outside of and thus empty of God (hence the word secular).

This however was not the Hebraic worldview as expressed in the monotheistic biblical confession, called

Shema Yisrael

(Hear, O Israel):

“Hear, O Israel: The


our God, the


is one.

Love the


your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.”

These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts.

Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.

Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.

Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.

Remember, this was authored as the Children of Israel are preceding to cross the Jordan River.

They are within the context of a polytheistic culture where there was a god for every aspect of life (weather, rivers, harvest, etc.).

These gods controlled not only their assigned area of life but also brought to the same meaning.

Yet the ancient Hebrew won’t hear any of this.

To her Yahweh is not just the god of the weather, the rivers, the harvest, or anything else.

He is God over all, thus giving Him access and oversight into all areas of life.

This is in part what the text means by saying that, “The Lord is One!”

This declaration is a direct affront to the claims of other gods, while simultaneously embracing the sovereignty of Yahweh over everything.


When God used Moses to invoke the 12 plagues, He put Pharaoh and all

off Egypt on notice that He is Sovereign LORD over all created things.

The Hebrews developed this worldview during their exodus from Egypt. The plagues brought upon Egypt weren’t simply arbitrary punishments inflicted upon the Egyptian economy for their insolence.

They were demonstrations of God’s victory over the gods of that culture and hence the world.

Every time Yahweh turned the Nile River into blood, caused fiery hail to rain endlessly, or engulfed the countryside in the thickness of darkness with no end in sight He was saying something.

It was Yahweh planting His flag in the ground saying, “I’m sovereign over all the world and therefore can use the things within the world for my redemptive purposes.”

This is the very meaning of what it means to be a Christian monotheist.



is more than an ontological claim descripting the nature of God, but rather a theological lens to view all of life as under God.

The missiologist and church planter, Alan Hirsch, identifies the outcome of such a theology. He states, “A genuinely messianic monotheism therefore breaks down any notions of a false separation between "the “sacred’ and the “secular.”

If the world and all in it belongs to God, and comes under his direct claim over it in and through Jesus, then there can be no sphere of life that is not radically open to the rule of God.

There can be no-God area in our lives and in our culture.”


What exactly does this mean?

It means that God is sovereign over “all” the earth because “all the earth” is under Him.

It means that “the world” that God loves is not limited to any one area but everywhere.

Therefore, the sovereign God is free to show up anywhere He decides, without our permission.

For “from him and through him and to Him are all things (Rom. 13:36).

Moreover, it means that because of God’s sovereignty “the world” makes up the “sacred” (those things under God), while excluding the “profane,” the things that are against God.

God Loves

the Kosmos


God loves the world and everything

in it because it is His creation.  

The word


or “world “in ancient Greek can have several different meanings; including, the entire created universe, all of humanity and even refers to those who are alienated from God.

The Apostle John has an affinity for the word, repeatedly utilizing its various meanings within his gospel.

It’s true that he uses it in the latter negative sense “of those alienated from God” when he mentions that the world stands in judgment apart of Christ (John 16:8-11), that the world hates God (John 7:4), or referring to Satan as the ruler of the world (John 14:30).

Still, all these references (as well as others) only support the Hebraic monotheistic worldview.

The “profane” (those areas outside of God’s influence) though while literally called “the world” are, in fact, “the world that God loves.”

“The world” that God loves is His universal creation: that was made through Him and which He was apart (John 1:10), that He loves and does not condemn (John 3:16, 17), that He doesn’t want to take the disciples out of (John 17:15-18), that He brings light into which will shine as long as He’s present (John 9:5), that He removes the enemy from (John 12:31), and that He has conquered (John 16:33).

It’s the world that He doesn’t want to abandon, sending both His disciples and the Holy Spirit (John 16:25-27).

If God hates the world so much, if the world is such a terrible place, why go through all the trouble?

Furthermore, it’s this world and not heaven that is our final home (Rev. 21).

This creation that is loved by God includes all of humanity from across the globe.

This goes past just human beings; for how can we divorce human culture from human beings?

How can one be separated from the history, environment, and family that make up who one is?

This is impossible but what is attempted when we perceive God as just loving humanity but not everything associated with humanity, like culture.

Think about it.

It’s like a marine biologist trying to appreciate marine life while ignoring what the animals do under water.

The marine biologist who loves marine animals must also love the environment (or culture) in which those animals thrive.

If not, the biologist will not be able to truly love the animals because he or she lacks adequate understanding.

This is how I believe the apostle John perceives God’s love for the world.

God must love human culture (art, music, dance, literature, etc.) howbeit fallen because He loves human beings who are fallen.

He therefore cares about human systems and environments as He does the human being.

This coupled with the Christian monotheistic claim of God’s sovereignty gives us a broader perspective of God’s love and redemption.

God through Jesus Christ is sovereign over the entire world while loving and caring for it.

The combination of these two realities gives God not only power in the world but freedom to bring all things under his feet so that God may be all in all (1 Cor 15:25, 28).

Why Does It Matter That God Loves The World?

The above theological framework carries with it several implications.

However, I will only list two here.

First, there must be a recognition that God works within the world.

While He is a supernatural being, we should see God as primarily working “naturally.”

Namely, using human beings; thus, working within human culture.

Just as ancient Israel confessed the Shema, we must confess that God is free to work however, wherever He desires; including the culture we live in.

This practically plays out when Christians cease using language that creates dualism between the church and the world.

The coined Christian verbiage of “us” versus “them” or “the church” versus “the world” isn’t beneficial.

It only serves to create a wall between the “good” people (Christians) and “bad” people (everyone else).

When this is done, there’s no way we can admit that God can work within the world.

Let’s not forget that we all are “bad” people. For “all have sinned…”


During the gold rush men became experts at finding gold.

In the same way, we must discern God's work in the world.

Second, there must be a responsibility to discern God within the world.

It’s one thing to confess that God can work within the world but it’s another thing to discern it.

Discernment is the ability to see through the gray of life, and identify the deeper value and quality of a thing.

In this case, the surrounding human culture and systems.

We must discern whether there is any value. We must discern whether or not the things within the world speak any truth.

If so, we must listen.

This is Paul’s meaning behind his comments to the Philippians, “

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things” (Phil. 4:8).

This gives us license to survey all of the world in an attempt to identify its complex and sometimes hostile beauty.

We’re liberated to discern the working of God in the singing of birds, the serenity of a lake, the laws of government, the beauty of fine art, the thoughtfulness of literature, the fun of pop, the mellowness of jazz, and the realism of hip hop.

All of these areas and more are resources for Christian spirituality and ministry but only when we can discern God within them.


The theme of this essay has centered on God’s love for the world.

But what does that mean exactly?

In short, I’ve argued that God is sovereign over all creation and loves all creation.

This creation includes humanity along with its culture.

Therefore God who both is sovereign over and loves the world is free to use human culture in order to reconcile it.

This provides the Christian with rich resources for spirituality and ministry only one recognizing and discerns the movements of God.

God is out there right now working in the world.

He’s using artists, musicians, politicians, and anybody He can find (be they Christian or non-believers) to proclaim and defend truth.

As sovereign, He’s subverting the kingdoms of this world in order to establish His Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.

However strong, God enlists more help.

He enlists those who instead of criticizing the culture for its evils will, like Him, seek to subvert it with truth, hope and love.

This can happen on a large scale or a personal one.

The size of the participation is irrelevant.

What’s important is that the people of God seek to love everything that makes up the world, as God does.


Alan Hirsch,

The Forgotten Ways: Reactivating the Missional Church

(Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos Press, 2006), 94-95.