DiM | “All Hail” by Jovan Mackenzy (Revised)

Revision 8/13/15. This is a revised version of a review done back in February of 2015. In that review I had made some erroneous assumptions of Jovan Mackenzy‘s theology which fueled some conjecture on my part as to what Jovan was trying to say in the lyrics of this song. If you’d like to see that original review, click here.

Today we are going to try a different approach to “Discernment in Music” (DiM) day here at Faithful Stewardship (2 Corinthians 10:4-6 (ESV)). On Tuesdays, we look at what is currently popular on Christian Radio top 20 charts. I wanted to introduce my readers to a song and a music artist of whom you may not be familiar.

Writing music is no simple task. There is a great deal of hard work and creativity at work in the writing, composing, and producing a song. Tougher still is the task of writing a Gospel-centered, God-honoring song lyric that is well-produced and gains airplay. We spend most of our time here in our DiM posts pointing out the vagueness and even questionable theology that is found in the messaging of popular “Christian” music, and I must admit that it can become discouraging. Especially when a favorite song turns out to be void of lyrical meaning. We try our best to rescue a popular song with proper Biblical understanding; however, some songs are simply meaningless and unrecoverable as Christian song, and are really secular songs performed by a band of professing Christians.

For our first DiM of this type, I wanted to challenge myself by choosing an art form of which I am not particularly a fan… rap. Clearly, this is a rough genre for me since I was completely unaware of Lecrae’s collaboration with For King and Country, much less did I anticipate them winning a Grammy for it. Today, we’ll be taking a look at Jovan Mackenzy. He’s been a rap artist for several years and I became aware of his work via Fighting for the Faith. I decided to review the title track for his album “All Hail”.

Music Videos

Unofficial Music Video, just plays the audio track. You can also listen to the album at http://jovanmackenzy.com/audio/all-hail/

Lyrics (as I hear them*)

All Hail by Jovan Mackenzy

[chorus]
He reigns, He reigns
I ain’t talkin’ ’bout precipitation
I’m talkin’ Father God
He Gave Jesus the Nations
And He’s ruling now,
Even over pagans
One day He’s coming back
You just gotta have patience

(All Hail) King Jesus x8

[verse 1]
I’m born again I’ve got peace of mind
the peace of mind that He gives
and I ain’t got to write deeper lines
’cause He’s as deep as it gets
He’s the High Priest who sits
Who sits on His Throne
He’s the only one that’s equipped
For our sins He did atone
don’t you see that Jesus purchased me
See the Blood on that Mercy Seat
As a man, He was born in Bethlehem
but He’s from eternity, now that’s Bible
Micah 5:2 “you believe He’s God?”
Yes I Do!
The only hero to die for the villains
and that’s poetic like Haiku
I was pathetic and prideful
sin is death – I should have died, too
worshiping the idols
in my own eyes I was wise, too
at the right time when we were still weak
Christ died for the ungodly
now I write rhymes for Him
the fullness of Deity that dwells bodily

[interlude]
[chorus]

[verse 2]
Even though we still on Earth
In Heavenly places we’re seated
Ephesians 2, you should read it
It’s only ’cause we’re in Jesus
But I don’t think some believe it (I don’t think so)
And I don’t think that they see it (they don’t)
They think the Church is defeated (what?)
But why do we call Him King Jesus (why?)
I can’t imagine how folks feel
They don’t know that this post is real
They don’t know about post mil.
Enemies are just road kill (road kill?)
And that’s so Real (so real)
Yeah that’s so Real
Christ Jesus is dominating like Carmelo at Oak Hill
And this ain’t High School
King of Kings is His title
Christ Jesus is #1
And I ain’t talkin’ ’bout iTunes
What’s that under His feet?
Oh that’s just Jesus crushing idols
So I’m in the Church thinkin’ it’s gettin’ worse
But he ain’t got no rivals

[interlude]
[chorus]

[verse 3]
Psalm 2:12, kiss the Son and perish
If you’re waiting for Him to come and reign then you’re in error
on the throne of David, the Savior is already there -uh
this is somethin’ that some in the Church is not aware of
we’re the sheep but the King will protect us from the werewolf (Satan)
And the meek Jesus said that the Earth they shall inherit.
Some think that it’s getting worse, but how? Jesus removed the curse
He has dominion from sea to sea to the ends of the Earth
Now He’s reigning from Heaven (right now)
May all the kings bow down before Him and all nations serve Him, Psalm 72:11
This a anthem this song is not an apologetic (this an anthem, ya’ll)
This a song that lets you know Christ is King ’cause I read it
If you want a debate, name a time and place and we’ll get it
The progression of the Kingdom of God is where my head is
A post-millennial age is where we’re headed
Christ is conquerin’ the nations
yeah, I said it.

[Conclusion: sermon excerpt, speaker: Jeff Derbin of Apologia]
Jesus the Messiah brought the expected kingdom on time and as planned. He is seated and reigning now. His kingdom will grow in history through the preaching of the Gospel and in the power of the Holy Spirit. The world will experience the transformational blessing that peace with God brings. Jesus will return for the resurrection of the just and the unjust after… after… all His enemies are put under His feet in victory. The last enemy is death.

Publishing: © 2014 JovanMackenzy.com. All Rights Reserved.

Positive Elements

While in a previous post I lamented the poetic, faddish phrasing used in most Rap lyrics and how it doesn’t lend itself well to clear messaging, Jovan Mackenzy has packed a lot of scripture into this song. That’s very refreshing. So let’s work through the song from top to bottom, paying special attention to the passages referenced overtly.

Chorus. The message of the Chorus is that Jesus reigns… specifically as the King over all Creation. He is sovereign over all things, even the pagans, and He is coming back.

Verse 1. The atonement, the mercy seat, the deity of Christ is all proclaimed in this verse. Tightly packed and filled with theology. It is interesting that Jovan chooses to reference the scriptural declaration of Christ as both the One born in Bethlehem and from ancient days (Micah 5:2).

Micah 5:1-5a (ESV) | The Ruler to Be Born in Bethlehem

Now muster your troops, O daughter of troops;
    siege is laid against us;
with a rod they strike the judge of Israel
    on the cheek.
But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah,
    who are too little to be among the clans of Judah,
from you shall come forth for me
    one who is to be ruler in Israel,
whose coming forth is from of old,
    from ancient days.
Therefore he shall give them up until the time
    when she who is in labor has given birth;
then the rest of his brothers shall return
    to the people of Israel.
And he shall stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord,
    in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God.
And they shall dwell secure, for now he shall be great
    to the ends of the earth.
And he shall be their peace.

Verse 2. The second verse opens with a summary who we are in Christ as declared in Ephesians 2. What I find cool here is that Jovan isn’t just offering a summary, He’s challenging the listener to read the whole chapter. That’s awesome, because that chapter is an excellent summary of Law and Gospel. We did a Gospel Wednesday overview a while back where we looked at the overall message Paul wrote in the first 3 chapters of his letter.

In the middle of this verse, there is some slang that references “this post is real” and “this post mil”. I believe Jovan is referring to Heaven, Eternal Life, in the post-millennial reign of Christ through His Church. Jovan is referencing his post-millennialist view. Post-millennialism is not the Gospel, but it does affect how you interpret the scriptures regarding the role of the Church on society and in Christ’s return. I do not share this view, so my first understanding of this line was that Jovan was calling out those who have rejected the literal return of Christ as those who don’t believe in the “post mil”.  This portion also dives into a pop-culture reference that I had to look up to understand. I don’t follow basketball. So, if you are in the dark about who Carmelo Anthony is, or that he played High School basketball at Oak Hill Academy, you are not alone. At least now you know. Incidentally, he plays for the NY Knicks.

Verse 3. Here we get 2 references to Scripture. Let’s look at Psalms 2.

Psalm 2 (ESV) | The Reign of the Lord‘s Anointed

Why do the nations rage
    and the peoples plot in vain?
The kings of the earth set themselves,
    and the rulers take counsel together,
    against the Lord and against his Anointed, saying,
“Let us burst their bonds apart
    and cast away their cords from us.”

He who sits in the heavens laughs;
    the Lord holds them in derision.
Then he will speak to them in his wrath,
    and terrify them in his fury, saying,
“As for me, I have set my King
    on Zion, my holy hill.”

I will tell of the decree:
The Lord said to me, “You are my Son;
    today I have begotten you.
Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage,
    and the ends of the earth your possession.
You shall break them with a rod of iron
    and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.”

10 Now therefore, O kings, be wise;
    be warned, O rulers of the earth.
11 Serve the Lord with fear,
    and rejoice with trembling.
12 Kiss the Son,
    lest he be angry, and you perish in the way,
    for his wrath is quickly kindled.
Blessed are all who take refuge in him.

A Church comprising of all peoples and all nations to the ends of the Earth. The kings of the world who persecute the Church do so at their own eternal demise. He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision. When Christ Returns for His Church, it will be too late… judgement is coming. We dare not treat the Gospel of Jesus Christ as a ticket that was punched a long time ago that assures us entrance into God’s Kingdom. We are to serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the son and take refuge in Him, lest He be angry and we perish in the way.

The next reference is to Psalm 72:11. I highly recommend reading the full Psalm 71, but we’ll look at the immediate context of this verse.

Psalm 72:8-11 (ESV)

May he have dominion from sea to sea,
    and from the River to the ends of the earth!
May desert tribes bow down before him,
    and his enemies lick the dust!
10 May the kings of Tarshish and of the coastlands
    render him tribute;
may the kings of Sheba and Seba
    bring gifts!
11 May all kings fall down before him,
    all nations serve him!

The last portion sounds like the audio from a sermon. I couldn’t find the sermon myself based on the words spoken, so if you know please share in the comments below.

Concerns

The poor enunciation of “all hail” bothers me. Every time the chorus is repeated my ears catch “awe hell” instead of “all hail”… and that’s a problem for me. Couple that with the fact that the line is repeated 8 times at then end of the chorus, it’s almost enough to make me quit on the song. Because I know this is the title track for the album and the album cover very clearly says “All Hail” and the immediate context of “King Jesus” makes it clear that he’s saying “all hail”… still my ears get confused.

Theologically, there is the risk of people coming to the wrong conclusion that “All Hail” is preaching Dominionism (the idea that its the Church’s responsibility to subject the nations of the world under Christ’s feet). I’m not sure there is any clear way to avoid this confusion, and it’s a minor concern given how much clear theology is conveyed in this song.

Conclusion

While I do not follow rap music, this song sets a very high lyrical bar. It’s clear in its declaration of Jesus Christ as our Savior, King, and Creator. I couldn’t ask for a clearer message of the Gospel in a song. I wish we had more of this effort of pouring theology into popular musical forms on our Christian airwaves across genres.

Amen.
In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

ps – Jovan has an older video on his youtube channel where he explains the Gospel.

DiM | “Touch The Sky” by Hillsong United

Today is “Discernment in Music” (DiM) day here at Faithful Stewardship (2 Corinthians 10:4-6 (ESV)).

July 07, 2015. Today we’ll be taking a look at “Touch the Sky” by Hillsong United which currently sits at #16 at 20theCountdownMagazine.

I’d like to begin by openly admitting that I have a negative bias against all things Hillsong, due to their false teaching, bible twisting, and repeated failure to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ faithfully. I will do my best to give this song a fair evaluation, but I wanted to clearly acknowledge my bias up front. Having said that, this song has some powerful production power, wonderfully mastered and hypnotic vocal dynamics. Lyrically… the song is self-indulgent, mystically emotional, nonsense. I look forward to the day when Hillsong United puts out a theologically sound piece of music that makes it onto the top20 charts. Not so much for their sake, but for the sake of the millions who blindly follow them.

Lyric Video

Lyrics (via KLove)

Touch The Sky

What fortune lies beyond the stars
Those dazzling heights too vast to climb
I got so high to fall so far
But I found heaven as love swept low

My heart beating
My soul breathing
I found my life
When I laid it down
Upward falling
Spirit soaring
I touch the sky
When my knees hit the ground

What treasure waits within Your scars
The gift of freedom gold can’t buy
I bought the world and sold my heart
You traded heaven to have me again

My heart beating
My soul breathing
I found my life
When I laid it down
Upward falling
Spirit soaring
I touch the sky
When my knees hit the ground

Find me here at your feet again
Everything I am
Reaching out
I surrender come sweep me up in
Your love again and my soul will dance on the
Wings of Forever

Find me here at your feet again
Everything I am
Reaching out
I surrender come sweep me up in
Your love again and my soul will dance on the
Wings of Forever

My heart beating
My soul breathing
I found my life
When I laid it down
Upward falling
Spirit soaring
I touch the sky
When my knees hit the ground

My heart beating
My soul breathing
I found my life
When I laid it down
Upward falling
Spirit soaring
I touch the sky
When my knees hit the ground

Find me here at your feet again
Everything I am
Reaching out
I surrender come sweep me up in
Your love again and my soul will dance on the
Wings of Forever

Upward falling
Spirit soaring
I touch the sky
When my knees hit the ground

Publishing: © 2014 Hillsong Music Publishing (APRA)
Writer(s): Joel Houston, Dylan Thomas & Michael Guy Chislett

Discussion

As I said in the introduction, these lyrics are self-indulgent. The focus of these lyrics are not on God they are on the singer. Not focused on the Gospel of Jesus Christ but on the piety/discoveries of the singer. As with most Hillsong material, there are allusions to or themes from scripture. No doubt the creative writing process might have even begun with some of these passages (most likely taken from the Message parody). Let’s look at a couple that I could recognize while reading through the lyrics.

“I found my life when I laid it down”

Mark 8:34-36 (ESV)

34 And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 35 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. 36 For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?

So, once we look at the reference we see a glaring difference between what is being sung and what we find in Scripture. This statement is recorded in each of the Gospels, and in each Jesus is talking about losing your life for His sake. Hillsong United has turned this idea into a mystical discipline not unlike “emptying oneself” as we see in the eastern religions.

“Find me here at your feet again”

Luke 10:38-42 (ESV) | Martha and Mary

38 Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. 39 And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. 40 But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” 41 But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, 42 but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”

Mary chose to sit and listen to Jesus’ teaching, and it was the good portion that will not be taken away from her. This passage is sometimes misrepresented as an appeal for Christians that vocation, hard work, and discipline are distractions from so-called spiritual living. In contemporary services, often times allegory invoked places “praise and worship” as the good portion and the faithful, exegetical teaching of the scriptures as the “anxious and troubled about many things”. You’ll see this whenever a church leader describes his service as “relevant”, “relatable”, “young”, or “young” (The Man Behind Hillsong: Brian Houston).

John 12:1-3 (ESV) | Mary Anoints Jesus at Bethany

12 Six days before the Passover, Jesus therefore came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. So they gave a dinner for him there. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those reclining with him at table. Mary therefore took a pound of expensive ointment made from pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.

For this song, I think this is more the imagery they are going for, which moves us into the mystically emotional quality of the lyrics. This is a very intimate moment, one of deep thanksgiving (Lazarus was there after having been risen from the dead by Jesus) and it leads directly into death and burial of Jesus Christ. That is the focus of this event, because Jesus would have to be buried before His body can be properly anointed and washed… the very reason the women go out to the tomb on the third day, finding it empty… Christ had risen. But the song lyric doesn’t go in that direction… instead, it gets a bit indulgent, almost emotionally romantic… Everything I am, Reaching out, I surrender come sweep me up in, Your love again and my soul will dance on the, Wings of Forever. We don’t have the singer sitting at the foot of Jesus in repentance, for teaching, or even out of thanksgiving; rather, the singer is invoking surrender language for being swept up in a loving embrace so her soul can dance on the wings of forever. Emotional drivel.

The rest of the song is a hypnotic poetry of nonsense verse. My soul breathing… upward falling… I touch the sky when my knees hit the ground… it’s artistic, but it doesn’t convey any real meaning, not in any Biblical sense. The hearer is free to interpret these lines in any way that seems to fit at any given moment. That might be fine for secular music, but shouldn’t be a mainstay of Christian music.

Conclusion

This song shouldn’t be sung in any church because the object of the song is the self, not God. I would argue that it shouldn’t be on the Christian airwaves, because there is nothing in it directly identifying the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This song could have been written by a Native American spiritualist, a Hindu Yogi, or Far-eastern Buddhist. The music quality is phenomenal, but that only serves to obfuscate its lyrical pablum.

To God be the glory, Amen.
In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

DiM | “Day One” by Matthew West

Today is “Discernment in Music” (DiM) day here at Faithful Stewardship (2 Corinthians 10:4-6 (ESV)).

March 3, 2015. Today we’ll be taking a look at “Day One” by Mattehw West which currently sits at #12 at 20theCountdownMagazine.

The song definitely in the “positive” and “uplifting” category. But is this song a Christian song? Does it elevate Christ? Does it preach repentance and the forgiveness of sins? Nope. It is a motivational pep talk.

In fact, there is a popular quote from the 60s (source).

“Today is the first day of the rest of your life.”

Charles Dederich (1914-1997) Founder of Synanon, the 1960s drug rehabilitation organization that morphed into a cult
Most sources credit Charles Dederich with coining this well-known self-help mantra in the 1960s, around the time he founded Synanon. Clearly, it’s use by Dederich and Synanon as a slogan for recovering drug addicts helped popularize the saying. However, Dederich may or may not have created it. It’s one of those sayings that just seem to have been floating around in the 1960s. Many websites and books say it was coined by the legendary Hippie activist/theater group called The Diggers. It was also used by Yippie leader Abbie Hoffman in his 1968 book Revolution for the Hell of It (1968), as the title of a song in the obscure 1968 musical Love Match,and on on everything from head shop posters and greeting cards. I suspect that’s why some sources simply (and perhaps rightly) credit it to “Anonymous.” 

I’m sure you’ve heard the slogan, just didn’t know where it had originated.

VEVO Lyric Video

Lyrics (via K-Love)

Day One

Well, I wish I had a short term memory
Wish the only thing my eyes could see
Was the future burning bright right in front of me
But I can’t stop looking back

Yeah, I wish I was a perfect picture of
Somebody who’s never not good enough
I try to measure up but I mess it up
And I wish I wasn’t like that

I wish I wasn’t wishing anymore
Wish I could remember that nobody’s keeping score
I’m tired of throwing pennies in a well
I gotta do something
Here goes nothin’

It’s day one of the rest of my life
It’s day one of the best of my life
I’m marching on to the beat of a brand new drum
Yeah, here I come
The future has begun
Day one

Well, every single day Your grace reminds me
That my best days are not behind me
Wherever my yesterday may find me
Well, I don’t have to stay there

See my hourglass is upside down
My someday soon is here and now
The clock is tickin’
And I’m so sick and tired of missing out

It’s day one
And here comes the sun

Every morning, every morning
Every morning, mercy’s new
Every morning, every morning
Every morning, I will fix my eyes on You
Every morning, every morning
Every morning, mercy’s new
Every morning, every morning
Sun’s coming up, the beginning has begun

Starting over, I’m starting over
Starting over, I’m starting over, starting now
I’m starting over
Starting over, I’m starting over
Starting over
Starting over, starting now
I’m starting over

Publishing: © 2015 Matthew West Publishing Designee (ASCAP) / Meaux Jeaux Music / Songs From The Indigo Room (SESAC) (Admin. at CapitolCMGPublishing.com)
Writer(s): Matthew West and Pete Kipley

Discussion

Grace and Mercy are mentioned. Let’s look at how they are mentioned.

 “…every single day Your grace reminds me that my best days are not behind me…”

Is the message of Grace really about how our best days are not behind us? In what sense? What is the message of Grace?

Ephesians 1:1-14 (ESV) | Greeting & Spiritual Blessings in Christ
1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God,
To the saints who are in Ephesus, and are faithful in Christ Jesus:
2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, 8 which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight 9 making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

11 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will,12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. 13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit,14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

The Grace of God is that in Christ we have been redeemed so that when we die we will be granted an inheritance of heaven, to the praise of His glory. That is what the Grace of God should remind us of. Why is that important, because the days we walk here on earth will be filled with trials and tribulation. We have no guarantee of an easy life in the temporal sense.

James 1:2-4 (ESV) | Testing of Your Faith
2 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

By faith, we are to consider it a joy to meet trials of various kinds so that we might be made perfect and complete in what matters. The world will hate us and mistreat us because it first hated Jesus Christ. The sermon on the mount (Matthew 5) isn’t just an academic exercise. Our victory in Christ is secured in the Kingdom of Heaven. The temporal is doomed for destruction, cursed by sin. Our very flesh is cursed by sin and we will die in God’s timing. God’s grace is sufficient and our inheritance by the Blood of Christ is assured.

Matthew 6:19-21 (ESV) | Lay Up Treasures in Heaven
19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Is this “Day One of the rest of my life” pointing to our Spiritual assurances of Heaven or an empty promise of temporal ‘best days’ and ‘bright future’ ahead?  A passage that is often lifted out of its context to bolster a “forget the past because your future is bright” message is

Philippians 3:12-14 (ESV) | Straining Toward the Goal
12 Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 13 Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

But now let’s keep reading

15 Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. 16 Only let us hold true to what we have attained.

17 Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. 18 For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. 20 But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.

The upward call isn’t “a promotion; a new career; a new ministry; financial freedom, etc.”  Paul is literally referring to the upward call to Heaven, whether it be by death or on the Day of Christ’s Return. What lies ahead in the temporal might very well be worse than what is behind. It was in Paul’s case, and for the other Apostles, if we are looking at the temporal. Paul gave up a life of wealth, comfort, esteem, and social status for the Cross of Jesus Christ. His eternal reward far outweighs any suffering he had to endure in Jesus’ Name, and that he did according to the Grace of God.

Is this the Truth of God’s Grace that the song proclaims? I’ll leave that for you to decide. At least after reading this, you are equipped to focus on the Grace of God to strengthen you in the hard times that lie ahead.

Mercy. What does it mean to have God’s mercy new every day? I believe it is a reference to a verse in Lamentations 3. If you only read verses 22-24, it’s easy to shout, “Amen!”. However, if you read these verse in context, it might come less exuberantly. In the interest of time, let’s look at its local context.

Lamentations 3:16-33 (ESV)
16 He has made my teeth grind on gravel,
and made me cower in ashes;
17 my soul is bereft of peace;
I have forgotten what happiness is;
18 so I say, “My endurance has perished;
so has my hope from the Lord.”
19 Remember my affliction and my wanderings,
the wormwood and the gall!
20 My soul continually remembers it
and is bowed down within me.
21 But this I call to mind,
and therefore I have hope:
22 The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
    his mercies never come to an end;
23 they are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.
24 “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
    “therefore I will hope in him.”
25 The Lord is good to those who wait for him,
to the soul who seeks him.
26 It is good that one should wait quietly
for the salvation of the Lord.
27 It is good for a man that he bear
the yoke in his youth.
28 Let him sit alone in silence
when it is laid on him;
29 let him put his mouth in the dust—
there may yet be hope;
30 let him give his cheek to the one who strikes,
and let him be filled with insults.
31 For the Lord will not
    cast off forever,
32 but, though he cause grief, he will have compassion
    according to the abundance of his steadfast love;
33 for he does not afflict from his heart
    or grieve the children of men.

God is good. His mercies are endless. His Grace does abound. That doesn’t mean we get to proclaim and declare that our days ahead (in this life) are going to be brighter than those behind. That isn’t a promise given to us in God’s Word. As long as we remain focused on treasures in Heaven, and on the Truth of God’s Word, we will find ourselves on solid ground. We sin… every day we sin. God’s mercy and forgiveness is available to us at the foot of the Cross every day. Repent, and be forgiven in Jesus’ Name.

Conclusion

The song is vague enough that someone could argue that what is being proclaimed in the song is the Spiritual truth, not the temporal lie of the “prosperity gospel” (which is no Gospel at all). Others might insist that there’s nothing wrong with “being positive” and this song accomplishes that. I won’t argue against “positivity”, but the world does pretty well at self-esteem and pep rallies. We, the Church, have something far better than self-help psychology has to offer. We have the Truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Let’s place our hope, our faith, in Him, not our ability to “start over”. It’s not about making new and fresh promises to ourselves or to God to “live better”… it’s about repenting, being forgiven in Jesus’ Name, and walking in the Grace of God and being filled with the Spirit who teaches us and molds us into the fullness of Christ. He will also rebuke, correct, and admonish us… to repent anew, until the Great day when we’ll finally be rid of this sinful flesh.

Romans 15:13 (ESV) 13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

To God be the glory, Amen.
In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

DiM | Are we Proclaiming the Truth of the Gospel?

trebleclefToday we are going to try a different approach to “Discernment in Music” (DiM) day here at Faithful Stewardship (2 Corinthians 10:4-6 (ESV)). On Tuesdays, we look at what is currently popular on Christian Radio top 20 charts. Thursdays are going to be music focused, but the topics will vary. Last week we looked at a theologically rich rap song by Jovan Mackenzy.

This week, I thought we’d take a moment to ask the Christian Contemporary Music Industry one vital question…

Are we proclaiming the Truth of the Gospel to the World, to the Church, and to our Children?

Please take a moment to think about the question, and when you feel a desire to answer, ponder the point further. If our DiM Tuesdays are any indicator, I think we’d be hard pressed to defend the claim that we are doing a good job. We put out a lot of vague, seeker-sensitive, feel-good music, but we don’t provide a lot of answers. Which is a shame, considering we have the very Words of God.

Stay With Me by Sam Smith

Today I want to take a hard look at a popular secular song. I intentionally avoided the crass and obnoxious songs, but this one might get stuck in your head, so I apologize in advance. The artist is fairly new, and a rising star, and he’s hurting. You’ll see it in this song and in the interview later. That this song is popular indicates that the world is also hurting and can relate. The video and the song are intentionally vague on the sexuality, but the sex is assumed… it’s the love that is longed for and elusive. The song is a question and a confession to the world “I don’t know what love is, and what we are doing clearly isn’t love… but would you help me survive the moment anyway?”

VEVO Music Video

[youtube http://youtu.be/pB-5XG-DbAA]

Song Lyrics included in VEVO Music Video

Sam Smith – Stay With Me Lyrics

Guess it’s true, I’m not good
At a one night stand
But I still need love, Cos I’m just a man
These nights never seem to go to plan
I don’t want you to leave
Will you hold my hand

Oh won’t you,Stay with me
Cos you’re, All I need
This ain’t love, It’s clear to see
But darling, Stay with me

Why am I so emotional?
No it’s not a good look
Gain some self-control
Deep down I know this never works
But you can lay with me
So it doesn’t hurt

Oh won’t you, Stay with me
Cos you’re, All I need
This aint love, It’s clear to see
But darling, Stay with me

Oh won’t you, Stay with me
Cos you’re, All I need
This aint love, It’s clear to see
But darling, Stay with me

Music video by Sam Smith performing Stay With Me. (C) 2014 Capitol Records Ltd.

VEVO Sam Smith Interview Regarding Album Inspiration

[youtube http://youtu.be/FFqeqzPwZGw]

The world is hurting

Februrary 26, 2015. This song is can be found at #8 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. This song has been on the Hot 100 chart for 24 weeks, with its peak being at #5. My heart breaks for this artist. He’s lost, hurting, and lonely. He knows he’s missing something, and also recognizes that the love offered by the world isn’t really love. Still, he is longing for comfort that seems to ever elude him. The interview video is even more sad. For now, he’s convinced himself that he loves his solitude… such rationalization is so fleeting… and, if we’re honest, so very easy for us to understand.

Matthew 9:35-38 (ESV) | The Harvest Is Plentiful, the Laborers Few

35 And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. 36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; 38 therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”

Are We Proclaiming Truth or Echoing the Hurt?

There’s no arguing that Contemporary Christian Music emulates the styling and fads of Secular music. Many of our popular songs are just as vague as theirs. Even those songs we review favorably here at FaithfulStewardship come up short in that they do not preach repentance and the forgiveness of sins. Are we getting so engrossed in secularism that we are conforming to the world’s post-modern philosophy, angst, and doubt in our lyrics? Are we finding clever ways of asking the same questions as the world and forgetting to provide the answers that Only God’s Word can provide?

Romans 12:1-3 (ESV) | A Living Sacrifice

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment,each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.

There is only one way to discern what is the Will of God. There is only one source of Truth in this world, and that is the Written Word of God. Our music, our art, and our writing should proclaim the Truth of God’s Word as the only answer to all of the questions the world is desperately asking. Most will reject us and the Truth, because they’ve rejected their Creator. Let that be between them and God the Holy Spirit. Don’t obfuscate it further by muddying up the Gospel.

Romans 10:8-17 (ESV)

But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. 11 For the Scripture says,“ Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. 13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

14 How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” 16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” 17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.

Faith doesn’t come from a pep talk, from empathy, or from outward emulation of the world. Faith doesn’t come from a complementary cup of coffee, or from an exciting concert performance, or even from having your meal bought for you. Those are all nice things to do for others and are expressions of love, but they are not what grants a lost person Faith. They need to hear the Word of God, they need to hear the message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The world needs the answers, and Christ is the Only answer. Which brings us to another point… you cannot skip the preaching of the Law. A person who fails to recognize their sin will not rightly understand their need for a Savior. What is it we are to confess? That we are sinners in need of a Savior. The Greek word translated “confess” here is not merely giving lip service; rather, it is to agree with God’s Word about our sin or to concede our guilt before a Holy God (I am not a Greek scholar, I owe that understanding to Pastor Jonathan Fisk of Worldview Everlasting). How can the lost agree with God and confess their sin if they are never preached both Law and Gospel?

Conclusion

The Seeker-sensitive, Mega-church model has had a huge impact on evangelicalism. This church model pushes the idea of “churching the unchurched” and evolving the way we do church so that the world will feel more welcome at our services. Is that evangelism or is it conformity. Even if you buy into the notion of bait-and-switch evangelism (come hang out with cool people and great music… and then BAM! hit ’em with Law and Gospel), if Law and Gospel are never preached, there isn’t a switch… only bait without a hook. The lost don’t need a place to assemble, they need to hear God’s Word preached faithfully so that the Holy Spirit can convict them of sin unto repentance so that they might be granted faith in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Let us commit to proclaiming the Truth of God’s word as the objective and definitive answer to a world that is lost in a post-modern world of relativism and doubt. Where necessary, emulate their musical styling, but do not compromise the Truth of God’s Word. We do have the answers. While we are at it, let’s not neglect the preaching of the Gospel to the Saints as well. We are all sinners in need of a Christ’s Forgiveness. We need the reminder to confess and repent daily.

In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

DiM | “Beyond Me” by TobyMac

Today is “Discernment in Music” (DiM) day here at Faithful Stewardship (2 Corinthians 10:4-6 (ESV)).

February 24, 2015. Today we’ll be taking a look at “Beyond Me” by TobyMac which currently sits at #11 at 20theCountdownMagazine.

We’ll continue using this top 20 song list until I find a better list.  Your feedback in this would be greatly appreciated.

TobyMac has been in the business for a long time. He’s quite the innovator when it comes to the Christian music scene. He’s been very successful with the youth of late. What we see in this song is prosperity/overcomer theology in quasi-humble language. In fact, it seems to play on the same sort of self-indulgent theme found in Hillsong’s Oceans (Where Feet May Fail). The song has no value, it’s just empty self-esteem talk disguised as a prayer of humility.

VEVO Lyric Video

Lyrics (via K-Love)

Beyond Me by TobyMac

Call it a reason to retreat
I got some dreams that are bigger than me
I might be outmatched, outsized, the underdog in the fight of my life
Is it so crazy to believe

That You gave me the stars put them out of my reach
Called me to waters a little too deep
Oh, I’ve never been so aware of my need
You keep on making me see
It’s way beyond me
It’s way beyond me
Yeah, it’s out of my league
It’s way beyond me
It’s way beyond me
It’s way beyond …

Anything that I got the strength to do
In over my head keeps me countin’ on You
I’m leaving the sweet spot, sure shot
Tradin’ it all for the plans You got
Is it so crazy to believe

You take me to the place where I know I need You
Straight to the depths that I can’t handle on my own
And the Lord I know, I know I need You
So take me to Your great …
Take me to Your great unknown

Publishing: © 2014 Achtober Songs (BMI) / Universal Music – Brentwood Benson Publishing / D Soul Music (ASCAP) (Admin. at CapitolCMGPublishing.com)
Writer(s): Toby McKeehan and David Arthur Garcia

Positive Elements

The one redeeming quality in this song is that it acknowledges somewhat the hard truth that God will take us to the place where we know we need Him. However, the song puts it in the wrong place. The song seems to presuppose that wherever we are now, as Christians, is a place of safety and comfort, but God is going to take us to a place where we’ll need Him. Nope. Where we are, right now, in our sin and transgressions, is where we need Him. How did Jesus teach His disciples to pray?

Luke 11:1-4 (ESV) | The Lord’s Prayer
11 Now Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.”2 And he said to them, “When you pray, say:

“Father, hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come.
Give us each day our daily bread,
4 and forgive us our sins,
for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us.
And lead us not into temptation.”

We also find in James a strong warning to the Church regarding worldliness:

James 4:1-10 (ESV) | Warning Against Worldliness
4 What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? 2 You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. 4 You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. 5 Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”? 6 But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” 7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.

We do need God in every day and in every way imaginable. So how does He take us to a place where we acknowledge this need? By His Word, particularly the Law.

Galatians 3:15-22 (ESV) | The Law and the Promise
15 To give a human example, brothers: even with a man-made covenant, no one annuls it or adds to it once it has been ratified. 16 Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, “And to offsprings,” referring to many, but referring to one, “And to your offspring,” who is Christ.17 This is what I mean: the law, which came 430 years afterward, does not annul a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to make the promise void.18 For if the inheritance comes by the law, it no longer comes by promise; but God gave it to Abraham by a promise. 19 Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, until the offspring should come to whom the promise had been made, and it was put in place through angels by an intermediary. 20 Now an intermediary implies more than one, but God is one. 21 Is the law then contrary to the promises of God? Certainly not! For if a law had been given that could give life, then righteousness would indeed be by the law. 22 But the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.

So, then, the Law convicts us of our sin and our wholesale dependence upon God’s mercy and Grace. Once the Holy Spirit grants us faith, by the hearing of the Word of God, we are brought to repentance at the foot of the cross and confess Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Unless your physical body dies in that moment, your fallen flesh will continue living and desiring sin waging war against the Spirit. Such is the temporal existence for those who have been redeemed by faith in Jesus Christ. We won’t graduate from this until the Resurrection. We must daily seek His forgiveness in humble repentance. We need Him, for apart from Him we can do nothing.

Concerns

As usual, we see no reference to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. No repentance, no forgiveness, just empty promises. This isn’t an attack on TobyMac for having an empty song as much as it is on the Evangelical community that eats this stuff up propelling it to the Top 20. We’ve become theologically diabetic, and it’s killing the Church, particularly our youth.

The song starts in a bad place. Rather than address the substance of the singer’s dreams and aspirations, it just assumes that these dreams were God-given. It then springboards from that presupposition to justifying “dreaming big” as a clear sign that God wants him to know he needs God. Is that supported in Scripture? No. We aren’t promised individual greatness or individual “potential”… we are promised a Savior, Jesus Christ.

The message of the Gospel is indeed that righteousness is “way beyond me”. That’s why He gave us His Son, the Lamb of God. The message of this song is skewed to suggest that God’s plan for our lives (our dreams) are way beyond me but He’s gonna make it happen. Well, what if greatness isn’t in God’s plan for our lives? The post-modern answer would be to simply redefine “greatness”. That’s ridiculous. The problem isn’t in the definition of “greatness” it is in the perspective of the song and the theology that is driving it.

Conclusion

The song is just a self-esteem, dream big, purpose driven, seeker hook. I used to follow the TobyMac Facebook page, but had to stop because of the routine sharing of false memes like this one. TobyMac is running a very successful musical enterprise; however, this song has questionable theological underpinnings. The seeker-sensitive prosperity or purpose-driven versions of the Gospel are false Gospels. Toby has been involved in a lot of good work over the years, and I do not question his sincerity in ministry. I pray he isn’t swept away in the seeker-mergent sludge being passed off as Christianity these days.

Romans 15:13 (ESV) 13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

To God be the glory, Amen.
In Christ Jesus,
Jorge