What I’ve Learned About Faithfulness in Romantic Relationships from Popular Music

How many popular songs have you heard that talk about avoiding faithfulness in a relationship?

The ones that come to my mind primarily are “Leavin” by Jesse McCartney and “The Call” by the Backstreet Boys. In “Leavin,” Jesse encourages a girl tell her man that she’s “leavin, never to come back again.” The plea is primarily based on his ability to please her better sexually. In “The Call,” the man is making a call to his woman at home about some vague place he’s going. What he doesn’t say is that he’s going to be with an unnamed woman.

Faithfulness in romantic relationships is a foreign concept to half of America these days. True faithfulness is the reason that marriages end in death of one of the spouses. I’ve seen true faithfulness in my parents’ marriage, in the marriages of many others.

I must admit, I often wonder how in the world this happens. How do we get to the place where we can repel those temptations from people other than our spouses? What must we learn?

Surprise of surprises, I’ve learned some pointers from popular music. Here’s three lessons I’ve picked up from three different songs. Two are popular tracks from this past year, and the other is a little harder to come by but definitely worth a listen.

1.Don’t deny the temptations. Recognizing them is the first step to beating them.

Song: “Honey, I’m Good.” by Andy Grammer 

This song, Grammer’s most popular record, revolves around him being in a bar and seeing women around him who are tempting him. He acknowledges that they are good-looking, but he’s got someone much better at home.

“It’s been a long night here, and a long night there, and these long long legs are d*** near everywhere. Hold up now, you look good, I will not lie, but if you ask where I’m staying tonight, I gotta be like oh baby, no baby, you got me all wrong baby, my baby’s already got all of my love.”

Grammer acknowledges the attractiveness of the woman he’s speaking to. He’s not trying to deny it or ignore it. He even says that “better men than me have failed, drinking from that unholy grail,” that people have slipped in this area. He’s also aware of his own weakness, that if he stays he “might not leave alone.”

He uses these reasons to say that he’s gotta get the heck out of there. Grammer told the Miami Herald this about the inspiration behind the song:

Well, you know I’m married now. So when I go out on tour, well, there are always hot girls around. The song’s about staying honest and being like, “Yes, you are smoking hot, but I’m good. I got a lady at home who is incredible. It’s worth staying truthful.”

As with any temptation to sin, recognizing that they exist is the first step. If you recognize that there is a chance you will slip up, you’re more likely to set the safeguards in place to avoid falling to the temptation.

2. Just because you want to do something doesn’t mean you should.

Song: “Wanna” by Christon Gray feat. JGivens

The first verse of this track focuses on Gray spending time in a club or restaurant or bar and seeing a beautiful woman. He shares the thought process he goes through in this time.

“I feel like it don’t matter anymore, getting used to the way the world turns. But I must say it’s spinnin’ really fast when I look at her. I just. If I was just a few years younger, girl I could be your boy wonder, you could be my prima donna, when I’m away from my wife and my daughter.”

He talks about how the wedding ring on his finger feels so heavy, and it would be so easy to slip it off. The chorus repeats, “Shouldn’t but I wanna, shouldn’t but I wanna.”

Just because we want to do something doesn’t meant we should do it. The word “should” can be a dangerous word because it could lead us to legalism or doing things we don’t necessarily need to do. But within marriage, you should not cheat. You say in your vows, “‘Till death do us part.” That doesn’t mean, “‘Till there’s someone else who looks better. ‘Till there’s a time where she doesn’t fulfill me. ‘Till there’s a moment when he doesn’t love me as he should.” There’s nothing wrong with saying “should” here.

There’s no ifs, ands or buts about it.

3. Your spouse is your cheerleader, and she should be cherished as such.

Song: “Cheerleader” by Omi

 

“All these other girls are tempting but I’m empty when you’re gone. And they say, ‘Do you need me? Do you think I’m pretty? Do I make you feel like cheating?’ And I’m like, ‘No, not really.’ Cause, oh, I think that I’ve found myself a cheerleader, she’s always right there when I need her.”

If you’ve chosen to settle down with someone for the rest of your life, hopefully you’ve seen something in that person that is worth giving the rest of your life to. What I’ve learned that I need to remember is that my future spouse is the best I’ll ever have, and because of that no one else is worth it. She’s my cheerleader. She’s the one who will support me until I die.

And this is the best reason to not cheat. If you’ve married well, you’ve married someone who will give everything they’ve got to the marriage. Will they be perfect at it? No. But they’re worth not cheating.

The song continues: “She gives me love and affection. Baby, did I mention you’re the only girl for me? No, I don’t need a next one. Mama loves you too, she thinks I made the right selection. Now all that’s left to do is just for me to pop the question.”

The best part about marriage is that you choose the person to spend the rest of your life with. Things will not be perfect, will never be perfect. But the point of marriage isn’t to have a perfect situation. It’s to have a partner to wander through the rest of your life with, together, seeking after the best.


If you’re a Christian, you’re challenged to love and cherish your spouse. They’re your No. 1 priority. You’re called to sacrifice for and serve them. This isn’t an optional thing. This is the real deal. It’s a real deal I’m stepping into pretty soon, and I’m so excited. I can’t think of cheating on my soon-to-be-wife.

But I can’t assume that I’m immune. As Andy Grammer said, “Better men than me have failed.” I’ve got to keep these things in mind so that I can stay true to my lady love.

Zach’s 20 Favorite Songs from 2015

As we near the end of the year, I’d like to take a step back and reflect on some of my favorite things from this year. So let’s do it!

My 20 favorite songs released this year, in no particular order. Couldn’t have more than one song from the same artist, otherwise there’d be multiple Tori Kelly, Dave Barnes and, of course, Bieber.

I Was Made For Loving You – Tori Kelly feat. Ed Sheeran

What Do You Mean? – Justin Bieber

White – Tim Halperin (co-Favorite Music Video of the Year)

Can’t Feel My Face – The Weeknd

This Is Living – Hillsong Young & Free feat. Lecrae

More Like Love – Ben Rector

Where Are U Now – Jack U feat. Justin Bieber

Stitches – Shawn Mendes

Wrapped Up – Olly Murs feat. Travie McCoy

Growing Up (Sloane’s Song) – Macklemore & Ryan Lewis feat. Ed Sheeran

Drag Me Down – One Direction

Here We Go – Drew Holcomb & The Neighbors (co-Favorite Music Video of the Year)

Headlights – Dave Barnes

Everything Must Go – Brandon Heath

Centuries – Fall Out Boy

Who You Say I Am – Among the Thirsty

anniversary – Abandon Kansas

All He Says I Am – Aaron Gillespie

How Can It Be – Lauren Daigle

Fly – Derek Minor feat. Colton Dixon

There’s a Spotify playlist to this that you can listen to (minus “Growing Up (Sloane’s Song),”which is available for free right here). Enjoy!

My Favorite Songs from Each of the 24 Years I’ve Been Alive from the Billboard Top 100

I write a lot of serious things on this blog. Sometimes I think I get too serious that I don’t know how to lighten up.

I love music. At least listening to it. Playing music isn’t something I’m really that good at.

So here are my favorite songs from each of the 23 years I’ve been alive in an attempt to be lighter in content.

Here’s the catch: I’m turning 23 today. That’s right, 23. But there have been 24 years in which I have taken a breath. I turned 23 today, but I started my 24th year of life. Kinda confusing, but here we go.

Each of these songs are taken from the official Billboard Year-End Top 100. The 2015 entry is not, as this year is not over yet. Hope you enjoy!


1992: “End of the Road” by Boyz II Men (#1 on the chart)

I love early 90s boy band/R&B. Oh my goodness. All-4-One’s “I Swear,” New Edition’s “Can You Stand the Rain.” I can’t get enough of it. I forget about it all the time though. This song is so good!

1993: “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)” by The Proclaimers (#27)

I know this song from its prominent placement on the television show How I Met Your Mother. It’s a great road trip track. So good.

1994: “I Swear” by All-4-One (#2)

No competition for this one. You’ve seen this song mentioned before in this post. So good. First was introduced to it when the Minions “sang it” at the end of Despicable Me 2. Just barely beats out “What Is Love” by Haddaway (#97), famous for its inclusion in the Night at the Roxbury skit on SNL.

1995: “I’ll Stand by You” by The Pretenders (#95)

This was a barren year for me in terms of knowing the songs on this list. I only know this song from the Glee version. “Cotten Eye Joe” (#93) was a second choice here.

1996: “Name” by Goo Goo Dolls (#24)

Gotta be honest with you, I’m really struggling with knowing these songs on these lists. Guess I wasn’t really listening to music much at this time in my life. This is a good one though.

1997: “Quit Playing Games (With My Heart) by Backstreet Boys (#11)

I’m so excited. We’re entering the era of the all-white-guy boy band. Noted some 98 Degrees as well on this list. Usher’s also making an appearance.

1998: “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” by Aerosmith (#25)

The song from Armageddon barely beats out ‘N Sync’s “I Want You Back” (#37). A classic of modern love ballads, it takes about a minute to really get going, but once it does, it’s amazing.

1999: “Amazed” by Lonestar (#85)

This one was tough. With “I Want It That Way” (#15), “(God Must Have Spent) A Little More Time on You” (#45) and “Iris” (94) providing stiff competition, I went with the most country of these songs, which is surprising because I don’t like country for the most part. But this is too good to ignore. Came in at #8 on the 2000 list.

2000: “Show Me the Meaning of Being Lonely” by Backstreet Boys (#31)

Breaking into the new millennium with probably my favorite song from these guys. Great groove song. Is this feeling I need to walk with? Tell me why I can’t be there where you are! There’s something missing in my heart.

2001: “All or Nothing” by O-Town (#41)

Continuing the boy band theme, this one-hit wonder drops in nicely here, just beating out Train’s “Drops of Jupiter” (#4) and Enrique Iglesias’ “Hero” (#99).

2002: “U Got It Bad” by Usher (#9)

We enter the Usher era. You may be noticing a pattern here with what I like.

2003: “Cry Me a River” by Justin Timberlake (#32)

Justin Timberlake, Usher. I’m a fan of dudes who sing R&B/pop. It’s just a plain fact. Now I’m kind of surprised that Lonestar and Aerosmith made it on this list.

2004: “Jesus Walks” by Kanye West (#43)

Beats out Usher’s “Burn” (#2) and Evanescence’s “My Immortal” (#19), Kanye’s first entry on this list could honestly be considered a Christian song, but not for the profanity.

2005: “You and Me” by Lifehouse (#12)

The first real middle school slow dance song I really liked. What day is it? It’s slow dance day.

2006: “What’s Left of Me” by Nick Lachey (#54)

We’re getting deeper and deeper into my actual life where I listened to music, so the choices are getting harder and harder. This Jessica Simpson-inspired break-up song is hauntingly beautiful. Well, if you take it seriously.

2007: “Hey There Delilah” by Plain White T’s (#7)

Again, more and more difficult. This one beat out “What Goes Around…Comes Around” from JT (#22) and Omarion’s “Ice Box” (#45). I was addicted to this song.

2008: “Love Lockdown” by Kanye West (#74)

Beats out OneRepublic/Timbaland’s “Apologize” (#5) and Gavin Rossdale’s “Love Remains the Same” (#94). This is from one of my favorite albums of all-time, 808s & Heartbreak.

2009: “Heartless” by Kanye West (#9)

Likely the only album on this list with two entries. This is the better second single from 808s & Heartbreak. Outruns Owl City’s “Fireflies” (#60) and Jesse McCartney/Ludacris’ “How Do You Sleep?” (86).

2010: “Breakeven” by The Script (#27)

Inches away from Drake’s “Find Your Love” (#32) and Michael Buble’s “Haven’t Met You Yet” (#39). I was obsessed with Train’s “Hey Soul Sister” (#3) at this time, but The Script wins for longevity’s sake.

2011: “Colder Weather” by Zac Brown Band (#99)

This is a surprise to me. Didn’t know this would have made the top 100, but I like this song a lot. I’ll take this over Christina Perri’s “Jar of Hearts” (#55) (with which I thankfully unsuccessfully auditioned for an Elon acapella group) and David Guetta/Usher’s “Without You” (#73).

2012: “What Makes You Beautiful” by One Direction (#10)

The boys from England make their mark as the boy band genre returns to the list for the first time in 12 years. Beats out “Somebody I Used to Know” by Gotye (#1), Justin Bieber/Big Sean’s “As Long as You Love Me” (#34) and Demi Lovato’s “Give Your Heart a Break” (#39). Fun fact about this song: this summer I was on Campus Outreach’s Summer Beach Project. I would often bring a couple guys back to our lodging from work at Wal-Mart. We would blast this song.

2013: “Mirrors” by Justin Timberlake (#8)

This one was hard to beat. Lots of good songs on this chart. The one that came closest was One Direction’s “Story of My Life” (#26). But “Mirrors,” in my opinion, is a timeless song that will never get old.

2014: “Demons” by Imagine Dragons (#23)

This was probably the hardest decision. Defeats several great songs like John Legend’s “All of Me” (#3), Magic!’s “Rude” (#7) and JT’s “Not a Bad Thing” (#45). Barely sneaked by JT. That takes a lot on this list.

2015: “Thinking Out Loud” by Ed Sheeran

Barely overcomes “Where Are U Now” and “What Do You Mean,” two Bieber hits. It’s that good.


So now that you’ve seen all 24 songs, I reveal my own chart: The Lifelong 24, by Zach Horner. These are not my favorite songs of all-time, just the definitive ranking of this list of songs.

  1. “Mirrors” – Justin Timberlake (2013)
  2. “Demons” – Imagine Dragons (2014)
  3. “Hey There Delilah” – Plain White Ts (2007)
  4. “Thinking Out Loud” – Ed Sheeran (2015)
  5. “Heartless” – Kanye West (2009)
  6. “What’s Left of Me” – Nick Lachey (2006)
  7. “What Makes You Beautiful” – One Direction (2012)
  8. “Love Lockdown” – Kanye West (2008)
  9. “Show Me the Meaning of Being Lonely” – Backstreet Boys (2000)
  10. “All or Nothing” – O-Town (2001)
  11. “I Swear” – All-4-One (1994)
  12. “Breakeven” – The Script (2010)
  13. “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” – Aerosmith (1998)
  14. “U Got It Bad” – Usher (2002)
  15. “Amazed” – Lonestar (1998)
  16. “You and Me” – Lifehouse (2005)
  17. “Cry Me a River” – Justin Timberlake (2003)
  18. “Colder Weather” – Zac Brown Band (2011)
  19. “Jesus Walks” – Kanye West (2004)
  20. “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)” – The Proclaimers (1993)
  21. “Name” – Goo Goo Dolls (1996)
  22. “End of the Road” – Boyz II Men (1992)
  23. “Quit Playing Games (With My Heart)” – Backstreet Boys (1997)
  24. “I’ll Stand By You” – The Pretenders (1995)

You Don’t Have to Run Away

Everywhere that you turn
Somehow every face is another bridge that you burn
So you fade, you can’t stay
If you can find another life in another place
And hope the world forgets your name
But I can’t, no I won’t, forget you

I think there’s a bit of fantasy in every kid where they want to run away from home and experience the world. It comes in one of two ways:

  1. You’re ticked at your parents, and you want to run away as a sign of disapproval with the way things are going.
  2. You want to explore the world, and your home life is holding you back from the destiny you were destined for.

I remember one time when I tried to run away. I didn’t even get to the end of the driveway. I was just mad and running out of the house with no shoes on and claiming I was gone was my way to handle the problem that was going on. I think for a long time that was how I dealt with problems: running from them.

There’s a couple songs that I really like that deal with running away. And I think they both teach different things.

Runaway | The Afters | Light Up the Sky | 2010

The song is written from the perspective of a person who gets a phone call in the middle of the night from a friend who wanted to run away from their problems. Lead singer Josh Havens shares the inspiration for the song in a video linked here.

The idea behind the song is that, if you want to run away, remember that God really does love you and cares for you. Even if it seems like the world doesn’t care, God does. The God who is love will catch you when you fall:

You think you lost it all
And there’s nothing left of you
There’s nowhere you can fall
But love will catch you

I’ve been in this place many times. It’s a lonely place to be. You’re trying to find relief from something, and the easiest option seems to be running away from your problems.

The easy lesson here would be “don’t run away.” It’s not always that simple. In situations like that, what is required is someone who will listen, someone who will care, someone who will reflect the love that God has for us. But it does also take some bravery and gumption to be able to share what’s going wrong, what’s on your mind.

It’s not an easy process. And running away is the easiest option. But I’ve found that, when I don’t run away, when I do share, it’s freeing.

Runaway | Alex Faith feat. Andy Mineo | ATLast | 2013

Andy Mineo’s verse in this song is tight. Probably one of my favorites. He raps about having a hard time picking a girl to settle down with, not being able to commit:

I done found myself in the same position
Trying to pick a dame, but I can’t, playing games
Entertain different names, we exchanging digits
Uh, but you know what I’m thinking
I’ve been overthinking this whole commitment thing
Dang I wish I didn’t know the difference
Between a broken heart and one sewn with stitches

This is another way in which I tend to want to run away. I’m afraid to commit to things because I’m afraid it’s the “wrong thing” or I’m making the “wrong decision.” Basically, I’m afraid to take risks. It’s a fear thing. It’s taking chances. And that’s what Andy says in the hook:

You can stay here, runaway
Flee from town, runaway
You can hold on, runaway
Stand your ground, runaway
If you don’t take your chances there’s no way you’ll ever know
If you don’t take your chances there’s no way you’ll ever know

You can either take the risk or you can run away. And Andy’s repeated line at the end of the hook – “If you don’t take your chances, there’s no way you’ll ever know.”

So often I find myself scared to take chances. But if I don’t take that chance, if I don’t step out in faith, if I don’t take that risk, I will never know. That’s why I love Alex’s line in the first verse: “So I’m pushing back and I believe the promise that the Lord always gonna hold me down.”

We can take risks and not have to run away because, if we’re in Christ, God’s got us. Even if we make a mistake, we’re forgiven and loved by the God who created everything. That’s the ultimate mattress factory we can fall into.

You don’t have to run away. I don’t have to run away. Take the leap. Take the jump. God’s got you.

My 30 Favorite Music Albums of All-Time, and One Reason Why You Should Listen to Each of Them

The other day, I did an NCAA Tournament-style bracket to determine my favorite music album of all-time. The seedings were totally objective – there was no science or formula used to pick who went where. For the full bracket (Google Doc), click here.

I then went on to list the top 30 albums in order. Check it out here on the right.Screen Shot 2015-03-16 at 12.03.20 PM

I want to share these 30 albums with you because they’re albums that have 1) helped shape me or 2) brought me great enjoyment over my 22-plus years of life. I’m also going to give you one reason why you should listen to each of them all the way through. You can take it or leave it. I will say, you learn a lot about what kind of music you really love when you are forced to pick between two so totally different albums such as Shai Linne’s The Attributes of God and Relient K’s MMHMM: Which would you rather listen to all the way through? Are there any songs on either album you’d rather not hear?

Another thing: I ranked this taking into consideration my whole life, not just how I feel right now. Of the top 5 albums, I found two of them in high school or before and three in college. Of the whole list, 14 were high school or before and are on this list because of that.


My list.

1. Jess Ray & The Rag Tag Army – Jess Ray: You should listen to it because it’s worship at its rawest and realest, something that’s rare these days. Those of you who love Jesus will not regret buying this.

2. Cosmos – The Send: You should listen to it because it’s everything one could love in singer/songwriter-type music that also glorifies God.

3. School of Roses – Christon Gray: You should listen to it because it’s Justin Timberlake meets following Jesus, discussing relationships, romance and real-world issues while trying to stay pure over sick R&B beats.

4. MMHMM – Relient K: You should listen to it because it’s piano pop-punk rock at its finest, a crowning achievement of music.

5. Instruments of Mercy – Beautiful Eulogy: You should listen to it because it’s the gospel in every line, a tour de force of theology applied.

6. Weights & Wings – Matt Wertz: You should listen to it because it’s singer/songwriter with one of the best voices and greatest pens I’ve ever heard.

7. Forget and Not Slow Down – Relient K: You should listen to it because it takes you on an emotional journey through a devastated relationship that you might be able to relate to on some level.

8. Rebel – Lecrae: You should listen to it because you don’t want to waste your life.

9. The Attributes of God – Shai Linne: You should listen to it because you’ll learn the basics of who God is in less than an hour.

10. The Good Life – Trip Lee: You should listen to it because it hits everything a rap album should: production, lyrics, features, topics, everything.

11. 808s & Heartbreak – Kanye West: You should listen to it because it’s an emotional tour de force of AutoTune and honesty you don’t see from guys in Ye’s circle.

12. Business Up Front/Party in the Back – Family Force 5: You should listen to it because you’ll have more fun listening to music than you’ve had in a long time.

13. Five Score and Seven Years Ago – Relient K: You should listen to it because you’ll get to experience a mature kind of pop-punk piano rock that still knows when to loosen up a bit.

14. Bring Your Nothing – Shane & Shane: You should listen to it because it has some great worship tracks, including one of my all-time favorites “Faith to Believe,” and emphasizes the lack we have and the fullness God provides.

15. Critically Ashamed – FM Static: You should listen to it because I had this thing on repeat throughout high school because it was awesome.

16. ATLast – Alex Faith: You should listen to it because it’s a refreshing mix of honesty and unique production of which there’s little parallel in Christian hip-hop.

17. Heroes for Sale – Andy Mineo: You should listen to it because, like ATLast, its honesty drips through every song, and it’s a heckuva lot of fun too.

18. Anomaly – Lecrae: You should listen to it because it’s a mature mix of rap that challenges you and also encourages you to pursue Jesus more.

19. Sound of Melodies – Leeland: You should listen to it because I discovered this around the same time I found Cosmos and it has a similar vibe, but in the worship genre.

20. Rehab – Lecrae: You should listen to it because tracks like “Just Like You” and “Background” cut through the surface and hit reality.

21. The Walking In Between – Ben Rector: You should listen to it because Ben Rector is just so darn good at what he does.

22. The Altar & The Door – Casting Crowns: You should listen to it because Casting Crowns knows how to craft a worship song that’s more than a worship song, it’s a story and a challenge and a worship song all wrapped in one.

23. The Anatomy of the Tongue in Cheek – Relient K: You should listen to it because it’s Relient K at their goofy best, with hints of a worshipful, serious, Christian heart sprinkled throughout.

24. Love & War & The Sea In Between – Josh Garrels: You should listen to it because you’ll love driving to it in the mountains or at night, and it will bring you calm throughout your day.

25. Mali Is… – Mali Music: You should listen to it because the guy who sings the hook on Lecrae’s “Tell the World” has the best voice for soulful, positive R&B.

26. Weight & Glory – KB: You should listen to it because there aren’t many better debut albums out there when it comes to young Christian hip-hop artists. Only ones I’d say are better are Nos. 16 and 17.

27. Pages – Shane & Shane: You should listen to it because, like entry No. 14 on this list, these guys know how to do worship. Plus, their version of “Before the Throne of God Above” is the best out there.

28. Smile, It’s the End of the World – Hawk Nelson: You should listen to it because the opening track’s guitar licks are sweet and so is the rest of the album.

29. Closer – Shawn McDonald: You should listen to it because it’s a personal reflection on life you’ll love driving to when you need to be a little more sedated.

30. Sinema – Swoope: You should listen to it because it’s a movie on a CD.

Five Albums You Should ‘Star’ on Spotify/Buy on iTunes: First Edition

I listen to a lot of music, but I’m not about to tell you my music taste is totally refined. You can talk to my brother Addison for that. But in my listening to a lot of different music, I run across some gems every once in a while. Here are five that are going into my ears consistently right now. I’ll post Spotify boxes below the album where applicable. Not all of these are on Spotify.

1. Jess Ray – Jess Ray and the Rag Tag Army – 2010

I was recently introduced to this artist, as in about three days ago recently. I’m hooked. The honest lyricism matched with the sincere reverence and worship of God combined is good enough for me.

jessray“I’m deaf and dumb and blind and lame, with no hope, no way, no chance…Jesus Christ of Nazareth, You’re my only chance!” Ray exclaims in the chorus of “One Name,” one of the better three songs on the album. The second is aptly-titled “Better,” where Ray lists what knowing Christ is better than. It amounts to pretty much everything, which is truth. “Gates” describes the joy of the believer in light of weaknesses – “In my weakness, it’s far more clear. In my failures, it’s far more clear to me just who You to me and what You did to me, to me” – and the longing to see heaven – “And I can’t wait until You walk me through those gates, hallelujah!”

Looking for solid worship with a melodic, indie kick? Check out Jess Ray and the Rag Tag Army.

Get “Jess Ray and the Rag Tag Army” on iTunes

2. Ben Rector – The Walking in Between – 2013

Not often do we find great love songs that are clean with wonderful lyricism and a refreshing approach to the genre. Ben Rector is that, and with his latest output, The Walking in Between, he captures the topic of romantic love in several different ways that are truly refreshing each time.

The highlight for me right now is the upbeat, driving “When I’m With You,” in which Rector describes how he feels when he is with his special someone – “But when I’m with you, I’m no longer wondering. But when I’m with you, I swear I can breathe. But when I’m with you, I know who I am and who I want to be.” Other highlights include the simple “I Like You” (“There’s no need to complicate, dress it up or overstate it, without too much hesitation, here’s the way I feel, I like you”) and “Forever Like That” (“I wanna love you forever I do, I wanna spend all of my day with you, carry your burden and be the wind at your back, I wanna spend my forever, forever like that”). The iTunes version of the album includes an acoustic version of “Forever Like That.” benrector

He also tackles non-love topics, such as “Making Money” and a plea to God (I’m guessing) on “If You Can Hear Me” (“Sometimes the devil sounds a lot like Jesus, telling me I’m not enough. I don’t believe it, no no, but I can feel it. And I need You so, yes, I need You so”).

Like the romantic singer/songwriter-vibe? Check out Ben Rector’s The Walking in Between.

Get “The Walking in Between” on iTunes (No Spotify for Mr. Rector)

3. Dre Murray – Gold Rush: Maybe One Day – 2013

This Christian rapper’s major exposure is little to the common Christian rap fan. Murray appeared on the song “Welcome to H-Town” on Lecrae’s Church Clothes mixtape last year. He’s part of the group W.L.A.K. (which includes Alex Faith, Swoope and Christon Gray) on Collision Records. But after this album, it will be hard to ignore him.

dremurrayThe album follows how a man is trapped in his obsession with material possessions, playing with the motif of Egyptian kings and queens who were buried with their gold and wealth in hopes it would come with them to the afterlife. Highlights “Maybe One Day” (featuring Christon Gray) and “Pharaoh” (featuring Tragic Hero) capture the image of a man who is seeking for the material that will satisfy him. On “Pharoah,” Murray exclaims, “Dear Pharoah with a tomb for your gold, food and drink abound, not an inch for your soul. Your death will soon show that you’re not in control.”

My personal favorites are “Fiend” and “Gold Rush.” On the former, the narrator laments how he has become a “fiend,” a danger to those around him because of his desires, while the latter is a track that captures the theme of the whole album, how the possessions just aren’t worth it in the end.

(Also: Christon Gray shows up four times on the album, which instantly makes it better.)

Like rap that approaches a real topic with some nice production and honest, real lyrics? Check out Gold Rush: Maybe One Day.

Get “Gold Rush: Maybe One Day” on iTunes

4. Still Trill Christians – Kings – 2013

Some dapper young fellas grace the cover of this Christian rap group’s debut Kings. The album is filled with “bangers,” songs that you can drive to, work out to and jam to. The theology isn’t too deep, but the message is clear.

The standout is “No Sex” (featuring Willie “P. Dub” Moore), in which the guys rap about how sex is best saved for marriage, that that approach is the most God-glorifying. It’s a refreshing look at sex as opposed to most of what we hear these days – “We can hit the mall and go shopping while we in it, and you be looking good, baby girl, I must admit it, but I don’t need no sex, sex, sex, sex, sex, because you’re worth more than that, that, that, that, that. Please don’t get me wrong, ‘lil mama, you so fly! But I listen to my Daddy, and that’s the reason why, that I don’t need to sex…”still-trill-christians-kings_n

Trying to just jam? Check out “Bingo,” “Keys & Yams” and “Winner” (feat. Jordan Armstrong. STC also shouts out to the beauty of doing relationships the God-centered way on “Miss You” (featuring Nina Sims) and “Loyalty.” “War” (featuring Mic Tunez) approaches the battle inherent in biblical warfare.

Like some upbeat Christian rap with a few songs refreshingly approaching romantic relationships? Check out Kings.

Get “Kings” on iTunes

5. Christon Gray – Even With Evil With Me – 2011

I mentioned this guy a couple albums ago as being a supporting actor on Dre Murray’s Gold Rush: Maybe One Day. This is his first output as a solo artist, and it’s tight. The guy can sing and rap and glorify Christ while doing both. I can’t tell you which one I enjoy better. To get a hint of both, listen to this album. This is just about all singing, but it’s beautiful.

Even+With+Evil+With+MeThe highlights are the worshipful “Reign” and the title track. The former is a soulful track praising the reign of God over the world and over the life of the singer. The latter is an exclamation of how God still works in the life of the believer, “even with evil with” him – “Now I am trying to be the hero, just to find that I’m the criminal. And I’ve discovered through the course of sin that I’m no good alone. Jesus, oh Jesus, my Jesus, that’s why I love You so. Stories I am not inclined to tell, to say the least I laid my bed in hell. But You were there to catch me when I fell, tossed my sins in seas and fared thee well. Surely, goodness and mercy should always follow and never return void.” Gives me chills.

But perhaps the best is “Isle of You.” It’s a piano-driven love ballad Gray wrote about his wife – “Lord knows I deserve nothing, I’ve got everything, yes I do. Flesh of my flesh and bone of my bone, baby, He knows I’m no good alone. You bring out the best in me, and let me tell ya bout the way you make me feel.” It’s one of those wedding songs.

Like soulful, Gospel-lite Gospel-centered music that will drive you to worship? Check out Even With Evil With Me.

Get Even With Evil With Me on iTunes

——-

If I keep finding more and more awesome music, I might just do this again. That’s a “First Edition” with a hesitancy.

The Perversion of Manhood, Part 1

The one thing that I am super passionate about in life is Jesus Christ.

Below that, and right below that, is seeing young men, men in general actually, become on fire for Christ and treat women with respect, bring home the bacon and work their tails off to provide for their families and glorify God.

I’m not married yet. I haven’t graduated college. Regardless, I’m angered by the fact that I fail at being a godly man. In so many areas, I fall short of treating girls with respect and bettering myself to glorify Christ in all of my actions.

Also, I’m angered by the way I see other “men” treat women these days. For instance, a couple weeks ago, I was walking out of my dorm and looked over to the dining hall which sits right next to where I live. I saw a guy and a girl headed towards the door. The guy opened the door, and I was thinking, “Yes! Chivalry is alive.” However, this did not actually happen. The guy stepped (IN FRONT OF THE GIRL) in the building and did not even hold the door open for the young lady behind him.

This makes me mad.

But it’s what our culture teaches us.

I was listening to a Jesse McCartney song called “Leavin’.” I had heard it before, but today I started actually thinking about it.

So let’s talk about how classy Mr. McCartney is in this song. And how self-absorbed he really is.

Hey baby girl, I’ve been watching you all day. Man, that thing you got behind you is amazing. Make me want to take you out and make it rain. I know you’ve got a man, but this is what you should say.

The first verse. So he’s been watching her, and he thinks her rear end is “amazing.” That’s the first thing he says about this girl. Again, the definition of classy. I mean, that would make me fall over him if I were a girl…right?

Anyways, so he then says he wants to go spend money on her, EVEN THOUGH she has a man already, and he wants her to tell her man that she’s leavin’. And if you listen to the chorus, you hear this:

Why don’t you tell him that I’m leavin’? Never to come back again. You found somebody who does it better than he can. No more making you cry, no more them gray skies, girl we flyin’ on the G5, G5. And we’re leavin’, never to come back again. So call your shawty and tell him you found a new man. The one who’s so so fly, the one that keep you high, have you singing all night night night.

So he wants the girl to dump what she already has and go with Jesse. Okay, fair enough. Can’t say I’ve never wanted that before. But I don’t know if it sends off the right message when he sings that he’s “so so fly” and that he will keep her “high” and “singing all night.”

I mean, I don’t know exactly what that means, but…

That’s really the majority of the song. He sings another verse, but it’s rather unforgettable.

Another song is the old (read 2009) pop hit “Right Round” by Flo Rida featuring Ke-dollar sign-ha. What names.

I don’t know where I should begin with this song. Basically, he’s spending money on strippers and dancers.

Classy.

This is part 1 of a series, so I’m going to stop here before I keep going. The main message I hope you got out of this post is:

Our culture teaches males to seek getting pleasure from women however they deem necessary. It is easily relevant in the music industry. This is bogus ideology. It’s stupid.

Check back soon for Part 2.

When Did Love Become Unmoving? When Did Love Become Unconsuming?

Part of being a Christian is dying to yourself. Such a common phrase for sure. Romans 6:8 says, “Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.” We are supposed to die to our selfish desires and follow Christ solely.

Sidewalk Prophets’ song “You Can Have Me” has been on repeat on my iPod for the last day. The lines just hammer home in my heart and in my head. The vocalist claims, “Forgetting what the world has told me, Father of love, You can have me.”

The wonderful thing I want to say about this is solely that Jesus Christ died for us and, if we come to Him submissive, He will give us forgiveness. There are many places in Scripture where this is evident, but I’m going to look at Isaiah 6:1-7.

1In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. 2Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. 3And one called to another and said:

“Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!”

4And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. 5And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!”

6Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar.7And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.”

This passage could be dissected so many ways, but there’s really one thing I want to hit on, and it’s what God is speaking to me about today.

Verses 6 and 7 tell of how an angel goes to Isaiah the prophet and touches his mouth with a piece of coal. And then the angel says, “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.”

By the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, we are able to go before the Father, proclaim our brokenness and have our sin atoned for. It’s such an awesome thing to contemplate, an awesome thing to behold. We need to daily be shaken by that.

We need to be shaken by the love that God has for us. If the love of God becomes unmoving, what are we doing? If the love of God does not consume us, how are we living our lives? It sure is a reality check to see how much the love of God is changing us on a daily basis.

God’s love won over Isaiah’s sin and depravity. If we have come to God humbly seeking forgiveness, His love will win over our sin and depravity. ONLY if we come to Him repentant and humbled.

Even more amazing is the fact that God loves us despite our depravity.  Another Sidewalk Prophets’ song takes care of that for me.

Be changed for Christ. Don’t let His love pass you by without being changed by it.

God bless,

ZH

 

 

 

 

 

My Favorite Christian Rap Songs Right Now

So I love Christian rap. Anybody who knows me somewhat well knows that’s my favorite kind of music. There are several songs right now that are my favorites that I think any Christian should know about because these Christian rappers glorify God and that’s it. So here goes.

“Need It Daily” | Tedashii featuring PRo | Blacklight | 2011 | Reach Records

Tedashii here drops some rhymes with PRo about being in the Word daily and knowing that’s so important. The flow is incredible, the lyrics are great and they praise God. Watch and listen…I don’t want to spoil anything.

“Get It” | PRo | Dying to Live | 2011 | Reach Records

PRo raps about evangelism on the streets and living out what he believes. A separate music video was shot for this, taking out a verse of this song and adding a verse from “Merked, Pt. 2.” Again, a great beat, clever lyrics and God-honoring. I think PRo is one of the more clever artists in Christian rap, but he brings Jesus glory and honor. Again, that’s all that matters. Just listen.

“Move” | Flame | Captured | 2011 | Clear Sight Music

A regular contributor to 116 artists’ tracks, Flame has put out three albums of his own with great songs like “Go Buck” and “Joyful Noise.” This track stands out because of the call to obedience. As Christians, we are called to be obedient. That’s what Flame emphasizes on this song.

“Chase That (Ambition)” | Lecrae | Rehab: The Overdose | 2011 | Reach Records

My favorite song off of this follow-up to the excellent Rehab is about chasing what Christ offers and what we are supposed to do as Christians. Challenging, for sure. It’s sure a call to being something different; one line goes, “I’m never gonna be who I used to desperately want to be, I’m too worried about the Lord getting credit instead of me.” Whoo. Note on the video: This is a sweet typography video of the song.

“Just Like You” | Lecrae featuring J. Paul | Rehab | 2010 | Reach Records

Arguably the most hard-hitting song lyrically on Rehab. Lecrae raps about his past without a father and the people he looked up to and how they took him down the wrong path. He points to Christ as the role model we should want to be most like. The video is great because it puts Lecrae as a grown-up looking in on moments where he as a kid got bad influence. Just watch and listen.

“Man Up Anthem” | 116 Clique (Lecrae, Trip Lee, Tedashii, KB, PRo, Sho Baraka, Andy Mineo) | Man Up | 2011 | Reach Records

This is the intro track to the album on manhood from the 116 Clique aptly called Man Up. It’s great because it’s a sampling of all these guys and their talents and their heart for God and for men. The entire album is incredible and such a call for men to man up for God.

“Twisted” | Trip Lee featuring Lecrae, PRo and Thi’sl | Between Two Worlds | 2010 | Reach Records

Just an awesome track about how people get God and His Word twisted. The thing gets stuck in my head all the time and I really don’t mind it. Great lyrics, beat, everything. Just listen to it.

“The Glory of God” | Shai Linne | The Attributes of God | Coming out soon 2011 | Lamp Mode Recordings

Shai Linne is one of the most Biblical rappers I’ve ever heard. Not that the others aren’t, but Shai Linne pulls no punches in going straight to Scripture to pull out lyrics. This is a hallmark of that, a song where he talks all about the glory of God. Just listen.

If you want to listen to all of these songs on YouTube without having to find and search each one, here is a playlist I made with all of them.

Poisoned Tree

“Come and dig me up, reach down to the root. Rip the deadness out and plant something new.” – Ghost Ship

In Malachi, God tears apart His people and their manner of sacrifice. Malachi 1:6-9 says:

A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If then I am a father, where is my honor? And if I am a master, where is my fear? says the LORD of hosts to you, O priests, who despise my name. But you say, ‘How have we despised your name?’ By offering polluted food upon my altar. But you say, ‘How have we polluted you?’ By saying that the LORD’s table may be despised. When you offer blind animals in sacrifice, is that not evil? And when you offer those that are lame or sick, is that not evil? Present that to your governor; will he accept you or show you favor? says the LORD of hosts. And now entreat the favor of God, that he may be gracious to us. With such a gift from your hand, will he show favor to any of you? says the LORD of hosts.

This is God speaking. Verse 1 says it’s “the oracle of the word of the LORD to Israel by Malachi.” God speaking to the Israelites.

I haven’t done a lot of searching through the Old Testament, but from what I’ve read, there’s a lot of God talking to His chosen people. And a lot of the time He’s kinda angry. From what I’ve read at least.

Here is nothing different. God is talking about how the people are making poor sacrifices, “polluted food upon my altar,” He says. “When you offer blind animals in sacrifice, is that not evil? And when you offer those that are lame or sick, is that not evil. Present that to your governor; will he accept you or show you favor?” God says.

So the Israelites were giving sacrifices of animals that were not the best. The way the sacrificial system worked in Old Testament times, they were supposed to give the best of what they had. The best. Not the weak of their flock that they were easily able to get rid of, but the best. Because God deserved the best if He was to withhold His wrath from them.

In Numbers 3, two sons of Aaron, Nadab and Abihu (wonderful names), were going to give a sacrifice to God as priests, Aaron’s line. But verse 4 says, “But Nadab and Abihu died before the LORD when they offered unauthorized fire before the LORD in the wilderness of Sinai, and they had no children.” They offered “unauthorized” fire before God and died. The original Hebrew word the ESV translators got “unauthorized” from is “zuwr.” The same word and story is used in Leviticus 10:1,

Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer and put fire in it and laid incense on it and offered unauthorized fire before the LORD, which he had not commanded them.

Which he had not commanded them. The word “zwur” means “to be strange.” To be unordinary. To be odd.

We have a tendency in our Christian life to give our sacrifices to Christ very wimpy. We offer the last of what we have. We give the blind lamb, the limping goat. We read our Bibles late at night when we’re exhausted and spend five minutes. We go to church and do nothing of consequence in Christian fellowship. We pray a few sentences and shut the light off and think of God no more.

1 Peter 2:5 says that we are being “built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” We are a holy priesthood. We are supposed to offer “spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” Spiritual as in relating to the things of the Holy Spirit. Our works for Christ derived from a desire to serve Christ. And they are to be “acceptable to God.”

Are we really giving everything to Christ that we should? Examine the way you spend your time. Are you giving the best time of your day to Christ? Or are you spending it for yourself?

This is something that really convicts me. For the longest time, I would always do my quiet time and prayer time right before I went to bed. That meant that a mere 20 minutes later, I would forget exactly what I read. 40 minutes later, if I was still awake, the reference of the passage I read was gone. Nothing.

Another thing to think about: is our fruit, our fruit of the Spirit, like those sacrifices? Is it the best of what we have that we’re giving to God? Is our love selfish? Is our patience accomplished just so we get what we want? Are we showing joy, but as merely a show?

That’s sin. Not letting Christ pick the best fruit we have to offer is selfishness.

The song “Poison Tree” by Ghost Ship, a former Mars Hill Church (Mark Driscoll’s church) worship band, has been repeating in my mind the past few days. It tells of a tree:

This tree bears strange fruit/there’s blood on the leaves/it’s dead at the root/The cracked gray branches are decaying within/just like the black poison that hangs from its limbs.

That’s the picture of us as a tree when we sin. We produce fruit, yes. But it’s “strange.” We’re dead at the root.

It’s a heart condition.

I tried to tie good fruit/to a tree that had poison all the way through/it rotted and fell off/it was dead to the core/it even killed the ground/I was worse than before.

We can try to act like we are good people and are following Christ, but if our heart is not following Christ, if we’re not committed to giving our best to Christ, that fruit will fall off so easily and negatively affect the people around us (“It even killed the ground”).

That’s where the happy part of the song comes:

I am alive/I will abide in the life-giving blood of Christ/I’m grafted in/You’ve killed my sin/now I will live/I’ll live in Him.

That’s the picture of us when God roots out the poison in ourselves, the tree. That’s where the line in the beginning of this post comes in. God can rip the deadness out.

It’s about consciously making those spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God. It’s about sacrificing the best of what we have for Him.

That way, our tree becomes fruitful.

Not a poison tree.