Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Gangster Redemption


“Return home and tell how much God has done for you.”

~ Luke 8:39

Presenting with excitement, I introduce to you Testimony Tuesdays!!! A testimony by definition is: a formal written or spoken statement, a public recounting of a religious conversion or experience. The Bible commands us in numerous places to bring praise, glory, and honor to our God by proclaiming, declaring, and telling about His marvelous works to others. That is the purpose and heart behind this installment for my Tuesday posts. Each Tuesday (more or less), a testimony will be shared here involving the recounting of salvation, redemption, overcoming, and/or healing just to name a few; A story that brings glory to our God and in which we might be encouraged, spurred on, and challenged with at the same time.The stories that will be shared will either be of my own personal experiences, excerpts from books, testimonies I find via youtube or other media sources, as well as YOURS! I would love to know and give you the opportunity to share here with us a testimony of your own, of whatever fashion that involves the Lord doing a transforming work in your life. Just email me your testimony and I will see what I can do about posting it on a future Tuesday! You may choose to have your name be known or anonymous. I look forward to hearing from you!


It may be to your surprise, but I have a small place in my heart for "gangsters". To define gangster I turn to Urbandictionary.com which points out that there are two types of "gangster":

  1. A wannabe thug, often illiterate and an inhabitant of a downtrodden ghetto that hangs around in "gangs"; largely associated with the African-American subculture. These try-hard wanna be "gangstas" attempt to make themselves appear like real criminals by graffitiing buildings, smoking/selling drugs and trying to appear all "[bad] and macho". An utter degradation of what true gangsters represent (see below), and street wannabe "gangsta"-types don't hold a candle to what real gangsters are.

  2. The real gangsters are those behind organized crime; most notably the Mafia. Responsible for blackmarket trade, espionage, organized beatings/assassinations, etc. "The Godfather" portrays the archetype of true gangsters, showing the brutality of mob beatings, shootings, running rackets and abusing woman, alcohol and everything in between. The real gangsters are not to be confused with the aforementioned definition, commonly used as it might be

 I love them all! I don't know why I care for them, but I do know that they are people too, just like you and I; people in need of a Savior! And now, I ask who wouldn't love a good, real-life, true testimony of one being redeemed? That is what I would like to share with you today! The testimony of Lecrae who according to Wikipedia:

is an American Christian hip hop artist, songwriter, record producer and actor. Lecrae, in reference to his label as a Christian rapper, has stated that his music is just hip hop, though it reflects his Christian faith. Born and raised by his single mother in Southern Houston, Texas, Lecrae moved often early in life, living in San Diego, Denver, and Dallas. He has stated that he would go to church with his Christian grandmother, but considered it for "older people" and said it "wasn't for me." Lecrae never met his father, who ended up becoming a drug addict. 
Experiencing abuse and neglect during his childhood, Lecrae used his ability to rap as a source of significance. According to Lecrae, his grandmother would not allow him to watch rap music videos on television, but he would sneak in late at night. It was in these videos that Lecrae found individuals to look up to. Lecrae states that "there were no Martin Luther Kings or Malcolm Xs, they had all passed away so I had Tupac." After being shown a gun by his uncle, Lecrae began looking up to gangsters and turned to a life of crime. Lecrae remembers taking a BB gun and standing in the street pointing it to a car, frightening the female driver, simply for fun. 
At the age of 16, he started taking drugs, fighting, was arrested in high school for stealing, and eventually ended up on a gang list. According to CNN, he became a drug dealer and used the Bible that his grandmother gave him as a good luck charm. After being arrested for drug possession, the officer saw the Bible and let Lecrae go on a promise that he would agree to live by it. He eventually turned from drugs to alcohol consumption and a party lifestyle and became a "misfit of a person." He has described himself during this period as a thrill-seeker, he would pull stunts such as jumping from a third-story building, and gained the nickname "Crazy 'Crae". Encouraged by his concerned mother to read his Bible, Lecrae said that "I remember ripping the pages out of the Bible and throwing it on the floor. I don't want this Bible. I couldn't wrap my hands around this being true or real." He began to drink and smoke more and look for more women "as the emptiness became more profound." 
At age 17, his personal, financial, and relationship troubles convinced him that he was at a "dead end." Wanting to do what he considered the mature thing, through the influence of his grandmother, he desired to start attending church. A girl Lecrae attended high school with was there, and she invited him to a Bible study, where he met Darragh, his future wife. Lecrae was surprised to find that the members of the Bible study "were just people like me. They read the same books and listened to the same music. Their character was just different. They were loving and that's really what drew me in." Lecrae says that it was at age 19 that he finally decided to live for God, though "it wasn't overnight" and he "spent a lot of time making bad decisions."
Lecrae attended a conference after being invited by a friend, though Lecrae admits that his interest was to meet girls and experience the big city. When he arrived at the conference, Lecrae was awed by the performance of the Christian hip-hop group The Cross Movement. Lecrae says that he saw "guys who had been shot from being in gangs, girls who were extremely promiscuous in the past, I see rappers, dancers, and singers; I see people who came from the same background I came from, and they still embodied who they were culturally, but they were all in love with Jesus and I had never seen that before." After hearing Pastor James White of Christ Our King Community Church speak on how Christians are bought with a price and the suffering that Jesus underwent in the Crucifixion, Lecrae says that he remembers articulating "God get me out of this, don't kill me; do whatever you have to do to get me out of this, just don't kill me." 
Later, Lecrae was driving on a highway when he turned too quickly and his car went into a roll. He had no seatbelt and the roof and windshield of the car caved in, his glasses were molded into the frame of the car, but he survived completely uninjured. Lecrae cites this incident as the one which convinced him to commit his life to Christ. Lecrae went back to his college, the University of North Texas, with a printed version of his testimony to pass out on campus. He started volunteering and performing at a juvenile detention center, and the reception he received convinced him that offering "hope and encouragement" through music was what he wanted to do.

Let's look at the Parable of the Lost Sheep:

 Luke 15:1-7

 Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” Then Jesus told them this parable: “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent. 

It is pretty AMAZING that God can reach down/that He wants to reach out and meet us where we are at, know matter who we are or what we have done! And most amazingly, the free gift of redemption, free from works, has already been made accessible for us by God having sent his only begotten Son to die on the cross in our place, that He would receive the punishment we deserved for our sins; If we just acknowledge our depravity and sin and the fact that we need a Savior, if we choose to believe in Him and everything in His Word, and if we confess and repent of our sins to him, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).

"When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross." 
Colossians 2:13-15

"For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say 'No' to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good."
 Titus 2:11-14

"He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed. For you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls"

1 Peter 2:24-25

*Being justified and made right in the eye's of our God is an instantaneous occurrence as a result of being saved by Christ,  with no work required of man. Sanctification is the process of being set apart for God's work and being conformed to the image of Christ. This conforming to Christ involves the work of the person, but it is still God working in the believer to produce more of a godly character and life in the person who has already been justified. 
As believers still in the flesh, we still make the wrong choices sometimes. It takes time to learn, grow and mature in our faith and in our pursuit of holiness, but God promises us that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion (Philippians 1:6). God often uses our mistakes to teach us lessons. In 2002, Lecrae impregnated a then-girlfriend and rather than risk scandal, he and his girlfriend had the baby aborted, a decision he says he now deeply regrets. But Lecrae has handled the situation with such transparency, humility, and grace. I encourage you to look into his furthered testimony here: http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/lecrae-confesses-abortion-invites-others-into-the-light

" Public confession of sin is such a liberating thing for others to come forward,” says John Piper of Lecrae’s story. “And if they don’t come out of the darkness, then they can’t have the sweetness of forgiveness . The gospel teaches us how to live, but it also rescues us when we fail to live the way we are supposed to live. And that is what makes it sweet ."

Happy Tuesday!
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*explanation on justification and sanctification as seen at: https://carm.org/justification-and-sanctification

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