I Like to Impress People. Even Though It Annoys Me When Others Do That.

I went to a Christian college ministry conference during the New Year’s weekend of my junior year at Elon University and met Shai Linne.

Shai is a Christian rapper whose rhymes are often characterized as “lyrical theology.” He attempts to explain spiritual truths and theological points in hip-hop form. He performs one of my favorite songs of all-time, “Mercy and Grace” with label mate Timothy Brindle.

In fact, it was Brindle I brought up when I met Shai. After the normal, “Hey man, I like your music,” thing that you always say when you meet a musician you like, I mentioned that I liked a lot of the guys on Lamp Mode Recordings, his label. I don’t remember the exact conversation, but it went something like this:

ZACH: “Yeah, I love what all you guys on Lamp Mode do — S.O., Timothy Brindle, God’s Servant — it’s good. Particularly Tim’s new stuff.”
SHAI: “Have you listened to Tim’s album ‘Killing Sin’?”
ZACH: “No, I haven’t, not yet.”
SHAI: “Bro, it’s so good.”

Within a couple days, I had bought the album.

Again, I don’t think those are the exact words that were used, but that’s generally how the conversation went.

I was reflecting on that conversation recently as I was listening to an S.O. song. While I may not remember the exact words in the conversation, I remember my motives. I wanted to impress Shai Linne. I wanted to be that guy that, as he left the conference hall that night, he remembered. 

I still carry that attitude in a lot of ways. I’ve had similar conversations with comic book store owners, movie reviewers, journalists, pastors, etc., people whom I’ve tried to impress with my knowledge whether or not that knowledge was actually impressive.

I think there’s a part of all of us that wants to impress people, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. But here’s where I get tripped up.

It’s one of my pet peeves when other people try to do that to me. I just think they’re trying to make it all about them and what they know and how cool they are. But I do the same thing!

As I pondered this in my car the other day, I shook my head and said to myself, “Zach, what are you doing?”

Impressing people, I think, is part of being human. We want others to think well of us, to remember us, to think we’re pretty awesome, so we try to impress them. There’s the classic scene in the romantic comedy where the guy tries to do something to get the girl’s attention but ends up making a fool out of himself. There’s the politician who tries to spit off the best statistics to support his/her argument. There’s the friend you debate on Facebook who puffs his chest after owning you in an argument. 

And while the root of trying to impress people isn’t necessarily bad, the danger we encounter could be an even bigger mistake: not being ourselves.

Speaking of the coming Messiah, Isaiah says, “…he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not” (Isaiah 53:2b-3). 

Jesus, when He came, was nothing special, and nothing He did was ever to impress anyone. He lived and spoke and work in a way that brought glory to the Father, not to Himself. He never pretended to know something He didn’t, never brought something up in conversation to try to make someone think He was awesome.

In fact — in something that has always confused me — He often told people to not talk about what He did for them. 

If I were Jesus, I’d be trying to find ways to bring up what I could do and what I knew. I like to think of myself as a pretty humble, non-assuming dude, but when it comes to conversations like the one I had with Shai, I prove that totally wrong. I’m just an attention seeker like everybody else. 

God did not call us to draw attention to ourselves. His call for us, I believe, is like what Paul says to the Romans is their’s: “to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of (Jesus’) name among all the nations” (Romans 1:5). I believe that’s our’s too. We aren’t called to bring about people thinking we’re awesome and that we know a lot. We’re called to bring about people believing in Jesus.

That’s not to say we can’t have conversations about things we know about, that we can’t share the knowledge we have with someone else for the purpose of establishing a connection. Why do we do it? Why are we trying to impress people? 

I think we can impress people, but for the sake of Jesus. We can impress them with the beauty of His grace, the depth of His love and the gravity of His compassion. We can impress them with the prophetic way God and His people spoke and wrote of the world and of humanity. We can impress them with the way we take His words and His example so seriously that we can’t help but live like Jesus.

That’s the type of impressing I need to work on. 

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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.