A Ragamuffin’s Creed

I recently watched Ragamuffin: The True Story of Rich MullinsMullins was a musical prodigy who rose to fame in the Contemporary Christian Music scene in the 80s and 90s. Mullins confrontational and controversial style and approach to music made him some what of a “bad boy” in the CCM culture. Eventually, Mullins walked away from it all to minister on a Navajo reservation before he died in 1997. I highly recommend the film if you want an inside look at Mullins’ faith journey, his cultural influence, his sin struggles, and his vision for authentic Christianity.

One of Mullins’s most well-known songs is “Creed,” a musical rendition of the Apostles’ Creed with an added original chorus. If you don’t know the Apostles’ Creed, this song will help you learn it! I sing this to our daughters often at bedtime. Below is a wonderful cover of the song by Third Day and Brandon Heath. Enjoy–and then go watch Ragamuffin (it is available on Netflix).


Loved by J.J. Heller Review

A guest post by Carly Pruch

J.J. Heller releases her newest studio album today entitled Loved. On the whole, Loved has the theme of perseverance through suffering and heartache by believing and trusting in the truth of Jesus. Although only one song actually mentions Jesus by name, it’s clear her trust in him is what has and will continue to carry her through life. Because all of us have suffered or will suffer in some measure, I think any listener will connect with this album at one point or another in their life. I know that after listening to Loved, I found myself praying for friends I know who are currently suffering.  

Style-wise, Heller’s characteristic smooth and soothing voice hits the lower and higher ranges. Content-wise, the lyrics are honest and anything but shallow. In short, the album is a must have for any Heller fan. Let me highlight a few song that particularly stood out.

Track 9, “Who You Are,” in my opinion, is the best song on the album. A song about suffering, different stories converge and the ultimate answer is, “I don’t know what you’re doing, but I know who you are.”  It reminds us that God is our Father, and he loves more deeply and fully than any parent will ever know. Even he he knows what it’s like “to lose a Child.” We all need to be reminded of this when things go a way we don’t particular like, or understand.  We need to remember that God is our Father and we can know and trust Him.

“Create in Me,” (track 5) shows us our need for a Redeemer, not just a rescuer. “I don’t want to be rescued,” Heller sings, “I want to be redeemed.” Oh amen! We don’t just need a rescuer, we need someone to come and make us new. “Build something beautiful, don’t leave until you do, I’m tired of the old routine, make me new.” I can see someone who doesn’t know Christ listening to this and saying, “Yes, I want that!”

Each song is its own story, and I could go on and on about how every one could help reinforce God’s truth in our lives during certain times of life. But I won’t–I’ll let you go buy Loved and listen to it for yourself!

Win a FREE Copy!

To make listening easier, I (James) will be giving away a copy of Heller’s new albumHere’s the three ways you can enter. Do one. Do them all. The more entries, the better chance you have to win. All entries due by Tuesday, March 19.

  1. Comment on this post below, telling me why you’d like this book. Also, mention any of the following “entries” you chose.
  2. Subscribe to Beneath the Cross.
  3. Follow me on Twitter.
  4. Subscribe to my wife’s blog, In the Meantime.
  5. Follow my wife on Twitter.
  6. Tweet this blog post or post to Facebook.

(If you already subscribe to this blog or follow me on Twitter, and my wife’s blog or her Twitter, mention that in your comment as well, and I’ll count it!)

Buy the album

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received the above product for free in hope that I would give it an honest review. My wife, Carly, did so for me in this case. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


The Love of Christ Is Rich and Free

Countless songs have been written about the love of God for his people. Many songs, however, particularly modern worship songs, lack specificity. When I sing a song to God about his love for the church corporately or me individually, I want to be specific in my praise toward God. Rather than simply singing, “O how he loves me” (which is true!), I want to rejoice in him for the truth that “in love, he predestined us for adoption through Jesus Christ” (Eph. 1:4b-5).

One of the greatest songs written on the theme of the love of God (in English, at least), in my opinion, is “The Love of Christ Is Rich and Free” by William Gadsby. The words express the why and how of God’s love. You can read the lyrics below. It’s no secret that I love hymns, but hymns are not all we should sing. I pray that a generation of Christian musicians and poets would write new songs that reflect the same breadth and depth of gospel joy and insight as do the great hymns of old.

The Love of Christ is Rich and Free

The love of Christ is rich and free;
Fixed on His own eternally;
Nor earth, nor hell, can it remove;
Long as He lives, His own He’ll love.

His loving heart engaged to be
Their everlasting Surety;
’Twas love that took their cause in hand,
And love maintains it to the end.

Chorus: Love cannot from its post withdraw;
Nor death, nor hell, nor sin, nor law,
Can turn the Surety’s heart away;
He’ll love His own to endless day.

Love has redeemed His sheep with blood;
And love will bring them safe to God;
Love calls them all from death to life;
And love will finish all their strife.

He loves through every changing scene,
Nor aught from Him can Zion wean;
Not all the wanderings of her heart
Can make His love for her depart.
(Repeat chorus)

At death, beyond the grave, He’ll love;
In endless bliss, His own shall prove
The blazing glory of that love
Which never could from them remove.


Jesus is Not Our Boyfriend

I have a love-hate relationship with Contemporary Christian Music (CCM). I love it because it desires to make music for Jesus. I hate it because it is often shallower than the kiddie pool. Unfortunately, its shallowness often overwhelms and leaves me longing for more.

I always hesitate to write about something I know little about. I am not a music expert or critic, and I cannot play guitar like every other American male age 18-29. I theologize and preach and shepherd, so I am treading deep water. Nevertheless, I generally like music, and it does not take a music professor to realize that Christian music needs nothing less than a modern reformation. Read a sample of the lyrics to the currently popular song “Hold Me” by Jamie Grace:

I’ve had a long day, I just wanna relax
Don’t have time for my friends, no time to chit chat
Problems at my job, wonderin’ what to do
I know I should be working but I’m thinking of you and

Just when I feel this crazy world is gonna bring me down
That’s when your smile comes around

Oh, I love the way you hold me, by my side you’ll always be
You take each and every day, make it special in some way
I love the way you hold me, in your arms I’ll always be
You take each and every day, make it special in some way

If you didn’t hear these lyrics on a Christian station, you’d probably guess the song is about the singer’s boyfriend. Never mind the teeny-bop melody. There’s not mention of human brokenness and the desperate need for a Redeemer. There’s not a hint of gospel. Instead, Jesus is a boyfriend who shows up smiling during a bad day at work.

The intention of the writer is good. The point is that Jesus is there for us. He takes care of us. If we have Jesus, we have enough. The problem is not the intention. But music (and all art, including writing) goes beyond intention, doesn’t it? Intention matters, but quality matters as well, and Christians should strive for the best quality because God did not spare quality when he created. This song is a microcosm of Christian music today. Don’t get me wrong: there are many good Christian songs, but far too often the songs I hear settle for corny Bieber-inspired lines that communicate nothing of the vast depth of God’s grace in the gospel.

Scores of words have been written about whether  “Christian” music is good or bad or why there is even a separate sub-culture of “Christian” things at-large. That’s not why I’m writing. I simply want Christians–musicians in particular–to embrace the long and splendid history of authentically transparent and objectively beautiful music in the church.

Written in 1759, the famous hymn “Come Ye Sinners” by Joseph Hart reminds us that Jesus is there for us; he takes care of us; and if we have Jesus, we have enough. Hart even uses the analogy of being held by Jesus, but he does it without making it seem like he is our cosmic, feathered-hair boyfriend. Hart writes:

Come, ye sinners, poor and needy,
Weak and wounded, sick and sore;
Jesus ready stands to save you,
Full of pity, love and power.

I will arise and go to Jesus,
He will embrace me in His arms;
In the arms of my dear Savior,
O, there are ten thousand charms.

Come, ye weary, heavy laden,
Lost and ruined by the fall;
If you tarry till you’re better,
You will never come at all.

Here we find gospel. Here we find a strong, yet compassionate Redeemer who beckons: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Will Christian artists go back to songs like these before they attempt to go forward? Will they tap into the richness of music that belongs to our 2,000-year-old community of saints? Will they grasp for and wrestle with language in order to winsomely and articulately communicate the gospel of grace?

I hope they do. The gospel is at stake–even on Christian airwaves.


Review: One Silent Night by FFH

Occasionally, I get movies or music to review for this blog. A new Christmas album that came my way this month was One Silent Night by FFH.

It takes a lot for me to listen to Christmas music before the day after Thanksgiving, but I broke down for this review. Additionally, it is hard to say whether or not a Christmas album is “good” because, well, most of the music isn’t original. So, when grading a Christmas album I look at original songs. FFH has one original song on this album: “One Silent Night”–and even that track is a modified version of the traditional “Silent Night.” The chorus, however, is quite poignant:

When all was calm, when all was bright
With no one to kneel, and no one to see
Heaven came down, and changed everything.
Man on the earth, receive her King.

The album, in general, is fairly mellow. It includes a slower version of “Jingle Bell Rock” and a cover of the Gaither’s (yes, I just mentioned them on my blog) classic “The Birthday of a King.” Nothing particularly jumps out of the speakers and “wows” me. But you could say it’s a decent “by the fireplace” set on a cold winter night. If I were going to recommend one Christmas album this season, sad to say, I probably wouldn’t recommend this one. Classic Christmas lyrics, but not enough kick in the musical arrangement.

To check out the album or connect with FFH: Website  |  Facebook  |  Twitter  |  iTunes

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or services
mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog. I did not receive compensation to provide a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”