Thursday, April 07, 2016

Review of Dillon Chase's "Speak Up Volume 3"

Dillon Chase is a talented rapper.  His BDFFRNT cd is one of my favorite projects over the past decade.  He is a good father and husband, and he cares about doctrine.  With all of that said, I just couldn't get into "Speak Up V. 3".  I was asked to review the project, and want to be as fair as possible, so I will list my conclusions below.

I think that part of the reason I haven't enjoyed this CD as much as his past efforts is a slight change in style, which, according to my son, is more reflective of trends in modern rap/pop music.  My only exposure to new music is through Chris Chicago's podcast (Rapzilla).  I don't listen to secular music.  I don't listen to the radio, and I don't usually like whatever is popular in Christian music.  So call me old, or set in my ways, but I like what I like, and that probably isn't going to change anytime soon.

Speaking of my age, I think another reason is that Dillon's target audience is much younger (maybe teens and 20s?).  I am looking for mature lyrics that delve deep into the doctrines of grace, from the problem that plagues all of us (sin) to the solution to that problem (Jesus Christ) and everything in between.  Songs that apply directly to the listener are always going to resonate more than a song they can't relate to.

I listened to this CD several times, and then went away listening to other music, and then returned to try it again, at least a couple of times over the past couple of months since he released it.  The lyrics seem harder to follow on this CD, and I feel like I need to see them typed out in front of me to catch what is being said.  That becomes a problem when my primary time to listen is while driving.

So with that, by far my favorite song on the CD is "Fall".  Fall deals with sin, and I can relate to that.  Theologically, I think it is the deepest song on the CD, and captures the basic problem of sin, I mentioned above.  I like how the music builds throughout the song.  The more it builds, the more it feels like he has something to say.  This song deals with addictions and problems that are common to the human condition, and best of all, it gives the remedy:  "He paid it all, paid it all.  Don't be afraid to fall, afraid to fall."  He also deals with eating disorders in verse 2, and again comes to the solution:  Run to the Lamb who bled, cancels debts, and corrects, warped souls advancing death."

My next favorite songs on the album are Heart, Speak Up, and Needs.  Heart has good lyrics that also deal with our natural desire to not want God, and a desire to want Him to give a desire to love Him.  Some of the poetic imagery in the song is difficult for me to catch, but this is another song that I need to go line by line though reading the lyrics to get the full meaning, and I just haven't had time to do that.  Speak Up is the title track, and you can tell a lot of work went into production.  I guess my issue is that the fragmented and symbolic lines are difficult to follow.  That is probably more my fault, because it takes work to break down exactly what the author is intending.  As with past records, some of Dillon's lyrics are excellent.  For example: "Die to my selfish ways every day till I levitate cause I'm prone to sing my life song in the key of me".  Needs is a unique song with an interesting female sample.  Again, this song deals with sin, though again, it takes some work to figure out where he is coming from and going.

The last song I want to address is "Stay".  This song samples the theme song from Interstellar.  I know it is just a sample, but that song is so unique to the movie that it is hard for me to focus on anything but the movie when I hear the song.  Dillon addresses his step son's struggle with a father who isn't involved in his life, and the pain he has seen in that.  The cool thing is that God put Dillon in Julian's life to meet those very "needs".  The song draws back to Christ as the answer for the fatherless.

I appreciate Dillon and his music, and probably didn't give enough credit here for the time and tears and hard work that went into the album.  I hope something I said was helpful though, and look forward to the next album.


What is Missing from a discussion on Diversity and the Reformed Resurgence

Reformed Christian Blogger Tim Challies recently began publishing a series of articles on Diversity and the Reformed Resurgence.  As our nation has been experiencing a resurgence of its own; i.e. race-related issues including the Black Lives Matter campaign, and opposing Police Lives Matter campaign, the topic necessarily comes up, and Christians need to be able to address the issue from a biblical world view.  This issue can be a difficult to one to ascertain, as there are good arguments on either side, and abuses can be found for either extreme position.  As such, I land somewhere in the middle, between what I see as those who would impose some type of "affirmative action" on the church, to a position of complacency, which says we are fine the way we are.

I don't intend to re-state arguments that Challies and others have made, but to point out some things that are obvious to me, and I believe others have overlooked.

1.  Rural Oklahoma doesn't look like the city.
As someone who's whole life has been spent in rural Oklahoma, I know that policy makers only make laws that make sense to them in their context.  A good example of this is the Dodd Frank law on banking regulations.  While that law might have made sense somewhere, there were a whole world of ramifications that I'm sure the authors never saw coming.  I don't want to chase the rabbit here, but suffice it to say that as a rural appraiser, I deal with all kinds of laws that were intended for residential properties, that make no sense when applied to a 5,000 acre ranch.  In the same way, complaining that there aren't enough black people in a church in a part of the country where blacks make up 7% of the population, you shouldn't expect to see 50% blacks in a congregation, or 40%, or even 30%.  I believe our churches should be representative of the population in that area.

2.  Reformed Rap
Mark Dever listed Reformed Rap as one of the top 12 reasons for the reformed resurgence in a lecture delivered in 2013 and published on the Gospel Coalition website.  Lord willing, I will be headed to T4G next week, and in the past at T4G, they had Shai Linne rap on stage in front of 7,000 preachers.  In one sense, they were trying to introduce preachers to something they wouldn't have been exposed to, but the fact that they did means it really matters.  I have been following reformed rap for over 10 years, and listen to it almost every day.  It is an anomaly that a white, 40+ farmer, rancher, and real estate broker from rural Oklahoma listens to rap.  I think the fact that more people from my generation and older won't listen to reformed rap is just more evidence of a mental block, that rap music must be bad, primarily because secular rap is so filthy.  The truth is that the lyrical content of most reformed rap is so God-Glorifying, it is like a mini-sermon embedded in each song.  I was discussing it with one of our Elders, and he noted that the white man has largely killed off poetry in our society, but it was the black man who carried it along in the form of rap.  There are poets like Jackie Hill Perry who wrote incredible poems about theology, and only later became a rapper.  The lyrical content is so rich with theological terms, doctrine, and biblical references, that they put to shame modern worship songs, which only allude to a broad theme.  The fact is that ideas are expressed in words, and a song with few words can't get across as many ideas as a song with many words.  Since I'm not making a case for reformed rap alone, I will refrain from quoting lyrics here, but the point is that it is significant and a large cultural force in Christianity and inside the reformed resurgence.  Reformed rappers are much more diversified than the larger culture in terms of race makeup, and while they may  have started with mostly black rappers, and color is still the majority for artists, race doesn't seem to be an issue that makes any kind of difference in the success of the artist or the style or content of their message.  I determine what music I will buy based on those factors:  the lyrical content and how appealing the music is to my ears.

Those are some ideas I believe should be a part of the discussion on race in the reformed resurgence.  I agree that diversity is a good thing, but lets at least acknowledge all of the players in the game, and areas like Reformed Rap, where diversity walls have already been lowered.


Monday, February 08, 2016

Superbowl 50: A Tribute to the gods of the Age.

I watched the first half of Superbowl 50 last night.  That is something for me, because I usually find something else to do like watch a movie.  It's not that I don't like sports, it just isn't a high priority for me, except for my Alma Mater, Oklahoma State University.  Now I have a teenage son who is starting to appreciate sports, and so I joined him last night (for a while).  It also helped that both teams were more-or-less underdogs instead of the power-house teams that have traditionally made it to the Superbowl in recent years.
As I watched the game, and the commercials, and the half-time show, I couldn't help but do a worldview analysis of what was unfolding, and this is what I came up with.

The super bowl is the mecca event of our age, for America.  I have to say "for America", because a quick google of the topic showed that while over 100 Million people watched the Super Bowl, that is just a fraction of the over 900 Million people who watch the World Cup (Soccer).  I'm sure the world cup celebrates the same themes, but this post is about the Super Bowl.
While sports in general are a good thing, the celebration itself has become a tower of Babel, so to speak, of man cheering himself on for how great he is and how much he has accomplished.  The tone of the whole spectacle is one of narcissism and a celebration of secular pop culture and all that culture stands for.  A couple of examples from last night come to mind.

1) The commercial for Mini Cooper called the car "gay".  Five years ago, and probably one year ago, that wouldn't have happened.  The word "gay" has moved from meaning happy (50 years ago), to homosexual in a negative connotation (20 years ago), to homosexual as a positive connotation.  This reflects the massive moral revolution that has swept our world over the past few years, culminating with the Supreme Court Decision that made homosexual marriage legal in all 50 states.  This is what a revolution does, it flips the categories, so that what was considered a moral good is now considered a moral evil, and what was considered a moral evil is now considered a moral good.  The fact that a company now feels "safe" to call a car "gay" to over 100 million people is wholesale proof of the completion of the moral revolution.

2) So much can be said about the half-time show, but my observation was the combination of the biggest pop stars of the day, the sexual overtones, revealing costumes of the female performers (remember the wardrobe malfunction from a few years ago?), and the repetitive focusing of the camera on the rainbow flag & colors (celebrating LGBT), all scream a message that Frank Peretti explained well several years ago, talking about Shirley McClain.  He asked the listener to imagine Shirley standing on the beach with her hands in the air screaming "I AM GOD!" over and over again, while the God of the universe looks on (laughing).  The prominent placement of the rainbow flags, the explosion of colors, and the reference to love  ("BELIEVE IN LOVE") by the unwitting spectators in the background all pointed to the supreme court decision to legalize homosexual marriage and celebrate the triumph of the LGBT agenda.  Our secular culture is now a safe haven for anything LGBT, to spit in the face of God while declaring victory, and subtly bringing along any dissenters to celebrate with them.

My prayer is not only for those who have joined the moral revolution, who celebrate what God calls sin as good and just and right, but also for the Christians who have been deceived by the rhetoric and are blind to the meaning behind the pomp and circumstance.  May the one true God open eyes to the hidden blasphemies of the day, and keep us from being hypocrites.  The good news is that God is sovereign and still reigning on his throne.  Proverbs 16:33 says "The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord".  God has a purpose in everything (Romans 8:28, Ephesians 1:11-12), and will one day judge this wicked world and set all things right (Revelation 21:1-8).  Until then, may we labor for the Kingdom of God, and strive to know Jesus, Christ, who lived a sinless life and was murdered as a propitiation for my sins, resurrected on the third day, as an ultimate blow to Satan. I don't judge the world for celebrating the things of the world.  God will do that.  My heart breaks for them though, and I thank God for opening my eyes and for His grace to me.


Saturday, November 22, 2014

Review of Dillon Chase's BDFFRNT

After listening through the album several times, I decided to write an in depth review of Dillon Chase's new CD project, BDFFRNT.

I have followed Dillon Chase for about 3 years.  To this day, two of my all-time favorite songs are "Weak" and "Strong" from his "Weak" album.  His style is a smooth hip hop with a good combination of poetic lyrical content, instrumentation, and a pop feel.  I don't know the technical term for his rap style, but I like it.  Raw, but not too raw.  He is Calvinist in theological understanding of scripture, but he doesn't hold it in the forefront of his music.  I can tell he has matured as a Christian over the past few years, which is evident from his lyrical content, as well as his efforts to provide for his family while finishing a degree, keeping up with the demands of writing/recording/performing new Christ-centered music, while keeping his family front and center.  

His newest project BDFFRNT shows a maturity from former projects both in the creative content of the songs and the lyrical content.  Highlights for me are BDFFRNT, Even in the Dark, and Deeper Still.  BDFFRNT sets the tone for the record, beginning and ending with John Piper samples admonishing Christians to be in the world but not of it, to be salt & light, to be different from culture.  Dillon has the gift of being able to articulate and annunciate his words clearly, while speaking very quickly in cadence (the essence of rap).  Dillon tends to talk about his upbringing a lot in his music, (his testimony), which walks the listener through a world of hurt and pain and drugs, to a world of hope and forgiveness and love, and grace.  He has a deep awareness of his own sin, and a gratitude for Christ's relentless love and mercy and grace that can never be exhausted.  The longer I live, the more I understand that a person cannot truly be saved without an understanding of their own sin.  And the greater a person understands their own sin, the greater they know the power of the cross.  This theme comes across in BDFFRNT.  

"Even in the Dark" is a ballad featuring Braille.  The song actually sounds like something Beautiful Eulogy could sing, and having Braille on the song was brilliant.  The song is an acknowledgement of God's sovereignty; that God uses the dark for his glory, and "even in the dark, You are light, even in my wrong, You are right".   This song is a great encouragement for me, and should be for many others.  There are tones of the doctrine of justification in Braille's verse, and the Gospel can be found packed inside this song.  

I think "Deeper Still" is my favorite song on the album.  The piano intro is great.  The chorus is sung (Thaddeus) and really adds to the song, in my opinion.  "deeper still, the pain I feel, I wanna go deeper still, with You".  This song is an encouragement to go deeper into a relationship with God, "stepping out" on a limb, so to speak.  "You won't release your clinched fist, because your love is relentless" is one of my favorite lines of the album.  The song builds into kind of an anthem, with the honesty of a man who knows he is weak, but has tasted the mercy of God, and wants more.  I'm listening to it as I type, and have to push away the tears.  After all, how can we ever talk too much about God's mercy and grace?  

"Dreams" starts out reminding me of the theme song to "A Beautiful Mind".  Again, this song retraces parts of Dillon's life, and again, the story ends at the cross.  It flows well, and was another 5-star song for me.  

"Me and You" is a unique song that talks straight to Dillon's fans.  He essentially says "I care about you" even though he can't take time to meet with, or talk to, or reply to all of his fans.  I saw a tweet where Dillon said he was getting positive feedback from the song, and had wrestled with whether to include it on the album.  I'm glad he did, because it is a good gesture, and a good witness.  The song shifts toward the end from "me and you" to "you and him", which is an excellent way to end it.  Who better to direct people to than Christ?

My least favorite songs on the album are Wow, Space Bars, and Fade out.  They are the more upbeat songs, so it mostly just reflects my taste.  They seem to be a little lighter on the theological content, though the same themes are there. 

Overall, I rated eight of the 14 songs five-stars, one four-stars, three three-stars, and two one-stars.  I highly recommend the CD, and encourage people to look at the songs as mini-sermons.  Try to pull out the content, test it against scripture, and then apply it.   

Soli Deo Gloria,





Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Together for the Gospel 2014

This week I had the opportunity to attend Together for the Gospel 2014 (T4G) in Louisville, KY.  This is my second one to attend, and it is a great experience.  The photo shows free books that were included in registration costs.  The stack on the left is from the first day of T4G, and the stack on the right is from the Band of Bloggers luncheon on the Southern Seminary campus.  In addition to these books from the "zero dollar bookstore", they have a massive bookstore where selected titles can be purchased at less-than-retail prices.  This is a pastor/theologian's paradise.

Speakers include Albert Mohler, Mark Dever, Ligon Duncan, John Piper, John MacArthur, David Platt, Thabiti Anyabwile, Matt Chandler, Kevin DeYoung, and a host of breakout speakers and panelists.  The topic this year is Unashamed of the Gospel... on Evangelism.

It is exciting to be with almost 8,000 men (and women) who share my conviction that the bible is the Word of God, inerrant, sufficient, authoritative, and relevant.  This is a new generation of Christians in what has been described as a reformation of the church, that is going back to orthodoxy.

The conference is being live streamed and message audio will be available later at T4G.org.  For a constant stream of tweets that reveal the excitement here, search for #T4G or #T4G14 on Twitter.  Or you can follow me on Twitter @cojac.

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Oil Companies are Destroying our Roads!


As a Grady County land owner with a few mineral interests, I like to think that I can be objective when it comes to dealing with the detrimental effects of the SCOOP (South Central Oklahoma Oil Province).  As a neighbor to three new oil wells, I have learned firsthand what NIMBY (Not in my back yard) really means.  The company EOG Resources (formerly Enron Oil & Gas Company), selected the section to the east of my farm & home to drill three new oil wells.  As of the date of this letter, two of the wells have been drilled, and I have been told by company representatives that they will be back to drill the third well in a few weeks. 

I could go into detail describing the nuisance of the 24 hour-a-day noise, the negative petroleum odor from spreading sludge on my neighbor's pasture, or the constant traffic of hundreds of contractors; many of which miss the turn for the well site and/or ignore the "dead end" sign thinking it might actually be a through road.  (It isn't.)
  
My greatest concern, however, is the damage that has been done to the County Road I live on, and EOG Resources' lack of interest in repairing the damage they have caused.  Initially, when constructing the pad for the second well site, EOG Resources hired contractors that completely disregarded the weight limits on the 80-year old bridges they crossed.  They were forced to construct a road through my neighbor's pasture to access the second well, but the county blacktop road has been pulverized into a black powdery mess.  I concede that the road hasn't been on the County's high priority list, and had some avoidable potholes prior to the Oil Companies' abuse, however, the damage at the entrance to the well sites now encompasses about 80% of the road, making it one big pothole.   There can be no mistake as to the cause of this degeneration.

I have appealed to the County Commissioner's, who said all of their roads look like that now, and there is nothing they can do.  It seems that the only money that comes back from Oil Companies to help with County Roads is from Gross Production Tax, which doesn't come for at least a couple of years after the rigs are gone, and won't be sufficient to replace or repair all of the roads & bridges that have been destroyed.  

I understand that the SCOOP is good for the mineral owners, and good for our local economy, but when oil companies with deep pockets are allowed to destroy county roads with no accountability, it seems that questioning their "good faith" is in order, as well as a better solution.

--
Cody White
Ninnekah