Rap for the Soul

The last year or so I’ve listened to a decent amount of Christian rap, so I wanted to make a ranking list & commentary as I see it.

  1. Shai Linne – he is #1 by a long shot at this point. His combination of catchy words and beats with theological depth put him at #1. All the lyrics in his songs are crystal clear. Some of my favorites of his: ‘The Glory of God (Not to Us)’, ‘Come Lord Jesus, Come’, ‘All-Consuming Fire’; ‘Election’; ‘The Hypostatic Union’ [Note* I listen to the original version of the albums, not the ones labeled ‘instrumentals’]
  2. Trip Lee – his songs have catchy choruses [‘hooks’]. Some of his songs I can’t really understand what he’s saying. But overall a reliable choice. Some of his best songs: ‘Sweet Victory’; ‘Take Me There’; ‘Lazarus’; ‘One Sixteen’
  3. Tedashii – he’s got some good ones, including ‘Dum, Dum’; ‘808’; ‘In My Life’
  4. Lecrae – he was the one who helped me get back into the rap scene last year. He’s traditionally known as the top rapper of this era. He’s got a handful of songs that aren’t really about God, but I think the reason he does that is to try to reach non-believers, which he has got some attention from. For some of his songs I can’t really understand the words well. Here are some of my favs: ‘Don’t Waste Your Life’; ‘Rebel Intro’; ‘Breathin’ to Death’; ‘Beautiful Feet’; ‘Messengers’
  5. Lil’ Dre – he was the one I first listened to several years ago. I gotta put him on this list because he’s from my hometown [Oklahoma City] & I’ve gone to his concert & had a meal with him. Very scripturally focused lyrics. Some top hits: ‘Fill Me Up’; ‘Who You Are’; ‘Romans 12:2’; ‘Strapped Up’

Conclusion: Sometimes listening to rap hits right on the spot. For some reason I’ve found that listening to the faster pace of rap help me lots when studying. Rap also is good backup music when we’re having a dance party at our house with my daughter.

*** Note*** I use Spotify to listen to music. It’s free and has a good selection.

Joyfully Accepting Confiscation of Property

Originally in my September 22, 2014 Journal [written while living in NW China]:

Yesterday morning I realized that my watch in the living room had disappeared during the night. When I saw that all my cash was taken out of my wallet, we concluded that a thief had broken in. I reported to the gate guy, who called the police, who came by around 9:15 am. We saw footprints on the window ledge & up the water pipe, [which the thief had used to climb up to our second floor apartment]. Thankful he didn’t take more.

I sought to ‘joyfully accept the confiscation of our property’, like Hebrews 10:34.

[Full verse: “You sympathized with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions”]

Knowing the Bible Well

Originally in my September 11, 2009 Journal:

I came back to the old campus and saw Jonathan [local house church leader] at his shop [a small supermarket]. From 9:40-11:40 am, I sat & talked with him. We opened the Scriptures and went back and forth, talking about the Scriptures and using verses to support our conversation. He has memorized much from both the Old Testament and New Testament. He seemed very familiar with the Scriptures overall. He knew exactly where each Bible verse we discussed was and also the verses surrounding it.

I’ve heard people say that the churches here in China put too much emphasis on knowledge of the Bible but they don’t live it out. I would disagree. I would say there’s not simply a lack of living out the faith, but more importantly a total lack of understanding or knowledge of the Bible.

They may go to church and Sunday school, but I’ve met very few “believers” here (or in the U.S.) who read their Bible daily, who have read through the Old and New Testaments a few times, or who can quote any Scripture at all. The problem is these people don’t know their Bibles. There is no emphasis on biblical knowledge, and it’s reflected in a dormant and lackadaisical faith. Too much knowledge is NOT the problem. I’m impressed with how well read local house church pastor Jonathan is.

Comments on Nik Ripken’s Desiring God article

Yesterday a great blog post titled ‘What’s Wrong with Western Missionaries?’ was written by Nik Ripken on Desiring God.

You can view the original article here: http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/what-s-wrong-with-western-missionaries

The main thing that stuck out to me about this article was the idea that we as American missionaries have that we’re of greatest importance to the rest of the world. It’s easy for us to think that we will go and change the whole world. It’s easy for us to go into a new country with an attitude that we know everything, and that everyone there should just soak up everything from us. We have nothing to learn from the locals. They are just blessed to be able to learn from us.

But the point that Nik Ripken was making is that it should be mutually spiritually beneficial relationships with locals, not just us edifying them, and them not edifying us.

I liked the closing conclusion from Ripken:

“If I were to start my missionary life over, I would bury my pride and unpack some humility. I would become a brother, a friend, and a peer. I would care more about the names of my brothers and sisters on the “mission field” and less about the numbers of baptisms, people discipled, churches planted, and orphanages built.”

It’s about people that become your genuine brothers & sisters in that foreign land [& thus glory going to God not to us]; not about all the glory [home & abroad] that you receive through your missions accomplishments, going around with great pomp and clout.

Sharing Gospel with Powerful Leaders in China

Originally in my August 31, 2009 Journal:

Mr. Luo called around 4 pm & asked if my wife & I could meet him for dinner at 6 pm. So we met at a nice hotel near the new campus. Also present were three of his high school classmates: Mr. Gao (CEO of machinery company); Mr. Jia (government official); Mr. Ren (government official). And 3 of their high school teachers: Mr. Zhang (now an English teacher at the best high school in town); Mr. Yang (now retired); & Mr. Yu (now a middle school math teacher). When we sat down, Mr. Luo looked at me & said, “你要给他们传福音吗?” “Do you want to preach them the gospel?” Before I could respond, Mr. Zhang jumped in & introduced everyone at the table. Then again Mr. Luo said to me, “Do you want to preach the gospel?” Then he said he’d tried to preach to them before but they didn’t believe. He said I preached the gospel better than him.

So for the next 20 minutes I went through a full gospel presentation, beginning from the Creation, & going through Jesus’ death & resurrection. They sat & listened attentively. After I finished, they toasted me & that was it. The rest of the dinner was just hang out time. All of them are from Mr. Luo’s hometown, which has many believers. So I’m sure all of them have relatives who are believers. I pray that the seeds may fall on soft soil & sprout into new life. What a clear open door the Lord gave me! Praise God for Mr. Luo & his boldness in not fearing shame or losing face with his friends by asking me to share the gospel with them.

What influential people they are (teachers, government officials, CEO). If one of them believes, imagine the ripple effect it would have on the people below them. When the day began, we asked the Lord to salvage the day & have mercy on us, though we’d woken up ‘on the wrong side of the bed’. Wow, the Lord blessed us much more than we could’ve ever imagined. All glory & honor to Him!

Evangelism through Friendships

Originally in my September 17, 2007 Journal:

 I had dinner with Jo [one of my college students at that time]. With him the conversation usually moves towards the Bible & he just soaks it up with enthusiasm. He’s always like that, but he still doesn’t read the Bible much. He said he’s tried, but it’s confusing. I think the next step is for [my teammate] Eric or me to meet with him regularly & start going through Matthew or Luke together & just answering his basic questions. I think that would help him a ton. He said the verses in Matthew about worrying hit him the most deep. I told him that was what impacted me most when I first started reading in high school. He said it’s given him peace. I told him to seek & he will find. Now praying that an overwhelming curiosity would take over him to read the Word.

John Ensor’s Review of My Book

Written by John Ensor about my book Becoming Native to Win the Natives

As someone who loves working cross-culturally, and who wants to see more and more Christians do the same, I am thankful for this missions primer. The insights are basic. But that is what makes them good. The people I have taken with me to do missions work need basic starting points and specific examples of how to love and powerfully identify with the people they come to serve. Laughlin shows how he intentionally did this over many years. He is a first-rate practitioner. I will use this book to prepare the people coming with me to do cross-cultural work. The cause of missions starts with loving the people you come to serve and to be like them. Laughlin helps us get started. [See Ensor’s original book review here].


NOTE: John Ensor is: President of Passion Life; the author of several books; and had a well-known interview on Desiring God with John Piper and Christian rapper Lecrae [see here].

Opportunities to Serve in China

Originally in my August 3, 2005 Journal [before moving to China 2 weeks later]:

While I was driving home yesterday, I was thinking about [my former leader’s] ministry & the potential. I believe there are hundreds of recent college grads who would love to go teach in China if they understood the implications. They don’t have to raise support, the curriculum is not intense, & they can play a role in spreading Christianity during this critical time in China’s history where Communism is waning & China is opening up to the rest of the world while also becoming a world power. And I think of how many universities there are in China who would love to have an American teaching English. The demand is huge. The supply is available; they just don’t understand the need yet. I must help get the word out.

Article on China Source [Waffle House of NW China]

I have a new article today on China Source [‘Waffle House of NW China’]:



Or you can read it below:

Come visit me at the “Waffle House” of northwest China!

I can hook you up with a free breakfast. Certainly the name I gave the place is a bit misleading, as this “Waffle House” may be the only one in the world that doesn’t actually sell waffles. But I’d be happy to treat you to some local Chinese breakfast favorites, including hot soymilk, a hard-boiled egg, small rice porridge, eight-treasure porridge, Chinese pancakes, Chinese funnel cakes, or some homemade tofu custard.

I’ve been working at Waffle House for about two years. They don’t pay me a salary—other than free breakfast. So how did I start working such a job? Well, we often ate at this restaurant, and I mentioned to my wife that I had some extra free time in the mornings. She suggested I start volunteering at this breakfast place, the same way I had at a Chinese restaurant named Red Eagle when I first arrived in eastern China in 2005. My wife’s idea to do the same thing in my current city seemed like a good idea.

I asked the boss of Waffle House if it would be ok for me to work as a volunteer there. Of course he looked at me like I was crazy but he wasn’t about to turn down an opportunity for a white person to work at his shop. He was smart enough to know that Chinese people love foreigners. He knew that if I were working at the Waffle House, it would attract more customers. I don’t think that my time working there has hurt the Waffle House’s business at all. It was a hopping place way before I ever got there and it continues to be the busiest place in our large Chinese-style outdoor market.

My job? I’m in charge of wiping the tables and plates, and occasionally cutting blocks of fresh tofu for customers.

Why do I do it?

It opens many doors for building relationships. Because Waffle House gets so much business, I meet all kinds of people in our community who eat there. Rich and poor, young and old, men and women—they all come to eat breakfast at Waffle House. Teachers from our nearby high school eat at Waffle House and I’ve been able to develop relationships with some of them.

When I first started working at Waffle House, I met a customer named Mr. Gao. He and I have become great friends and I meet weekly with him for lunch. He’s still not a believer, but I’ve shared much of my life and the gospel with him. I continue to pray for his salvation. I wouldn’t have met him without Waffle House.

Also, I can get to know the other four workers at Waffle House. I see them every day and we’ve developed great friendships. Daily my faith shines brightly to them as I live out the Word through my behavior. And I also share with them in words when God provides the opportunity. Last Easter, I gave all of them a copy of the Chinese Bible. I told them that the most precious thing in my life is my relationship with Christ. Long after I leave this city, God’s Word may be the only legacy I leave to these four Waffle House workers.

It’s a place to demonstrate a life changed by the gospel. The workers and customers see my behavior every day. Hopefully it is mostly in line with what the Bible teaches us. They can see that I have a humble spirit, as they watch me cleaning the tables. They can see me interact kindly with customers and care for them. None of the workers or customers of Waffle House have become believers up to this point. But for me to live my life in front of them is to plant a seed. They connect my life to Jesus, and Lord willing they’ll remember that.

My Chinese improves. When I’m at Waffle House, everyone is speaking Chinese. I am constantly interacting with them in Chinese. It’s a great way to continue to grow in my Chinese language ability, even after living in China for ten years. When I first arrived in eastern China in 2005 and volunteered at a restaurant there, I could hardly speak any Chinese at all. Nonetheless, it was a great way to connect with local people and to be forced to better learn the language. Though I could hardly understand much at first, slowly, after working at Red Eagle, I was able to understand more and more.

Freedom from the fear of “losing face” is demonstrated.  The Chinese culture is very concerned about “losing face.” When they see me wiping tables and getting my hands dirty for no salary at a hole-in-the-wall place, they can see that I don’t seem concerned about “losing face.” Doing a job like that is for the lowly common folks, not for a respected teacher. They can see that I’m different in this regard. I can tell them that I don’t need to worry about “losing face” because Jesus was the one who “lost face” on the shameful cross for my sake. I’m freed from the fear of “losing face.”

I’ve found that volunteering at a restaurant is a great way to identify with the local people in order to better reach them with the good news of Jesus Christ. When we dive into their culture and their community, they will often be more likely to trust us. If they trust us a little bit more in life, then they’ll be more likely to hear and trust the message of eternal life that we have come to speak to them.

Paul writes, “I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some” (1 Cor. 9:22)

I Had Another Article on Desiring God: ‘Your College Degree & a World of Need’

Yesterday Desiring God posted another of my articles: ‘Your College Degree & a World of Need’

Here’s the link: http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/your-college-degree-and-a-world-of-need

Or you can read it below:


Your College Degree & a World of Need

When I entered college at Oklahoma State University in 2001 I decided to study Mechanical Engineering because I liked math and physics. My junior year — which was also around when I became a believer — I decided to change to Aerospace Engineering. I was a pretty good student and graduated with a 3.8 GPA. OSU had a respectable Aerospace Engineering program. I was a part of the first place team in the national AIAA Design, Build, and Fly Competition in 2005.

But while most of my classmates ended up working for companies like Boeing, Lockheed Martin, or NASA (some of them literally becoming rocket scientists), when I graduated I left behind the engineering scene and moved to China. Many folks thought I was crazy to leave behind such a good job market for engineering in the U.S. to go teach English in China.

But that was what the Lord had in store for me. In 2005, I had no idea how long I’d stay in China. Now I’ve nearly finished ten years of teaching English. I have completely forgotten all math and physics that I learned in college. I’m always excited at the end of each semester when I can use my math skills by making clever math equations for putting students’ grades into Excel. That’s about the extent of my mathmatics now, though.

But I have never regretted forsaking a high-paying engineering job in the U.S. to be a low-paid missionary in China. I wouldn’t say that I wasted my skills or education by not ever getting into the engineering world. I’d agree with Paul’s words: “But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. . . . [And I] count [past worldly status and successes] as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ” (Philippians 3:7–8).

Engineering Taught Me Chinese

There are some significant practical ways that my engineering background helps me as a missionary. The first is with language learning. Studying a foreign language is very similar to studying math or physics. I had to pay close attention to details when I started learning intricate Chinese character writing. But I loved it, because that same attention to detail is needed when working out differential equations or gas power problems. And there are rules in learning a language, just like there are laws and equations that explain our universe.

Also, the hours I spent each day studying alone and working out engineering homework problems in college gave me a needed patience and work ethic for language learning. When I began studying Chinese, I found that I could sit at a desk from about 6:30 in the morning until noon and write Chinese characters over and over without moving a muscle or being distracted or bored. I thought that was normal until I saw other Americans trying to do the same thing, and they’d often already feel bored after forty minutes. It would actually energize me to study Chinese for hours on end.

An Education in Problem-Solving

And on top of the benefits of helping me learn Chinese better, my engineering background has helped me by equipping me with the skill to solve problems. Most of my classes required that I constantly utilize problem-solving skills. In other words, I have a problem in front of me. I can make a logical guess about how to solve that problem. If that doesn’t work, then I have to think hard until I come up with another logical solution. And then I’d try that out. And I’d repeat that over and over until the correct solution or result was obtained. This process is the basic foundation of all engineering.

And this is a big part of our lives as missionaries. Living in a foreign country — regardless of how long we’ve been here — there are constantly problems and obstacles that come up in our lives. Maybe the electricity or the water is suddenly turned off in the apartment. Maybe all grocery stores in the city no longer carry crunchy peanut butter. Maybe we’re teaching the Bible to locals, and the police start knocking on the door.

We need to be able to solve such problems in a similar way as solving physics problems. We must think of logical solutions and give them a try. And if it doesn’t work, then we’ll try something else. And we’ll keep moving forward until we get to the right end, the solution or goal. Of course, problem-solving is a part of life, whether living at home or abroad, but it’s just more complicated in a foreign country using a foreign language.

Paul talks about “the grace that was given to [him]” (Galatians 2:9). One way that God’s grace has been on me is how much of the learning I had in high school and college, mostly as a nonbeliever pursuing the American Dream, really prepared me for the mission field.