DiM | “All I Need is You” by Lecrae

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

November 5, 2015. Today we’ll be taking a look at “All I Need is You” by Lecrae. This song held the top spot on the Top Billboard Gospel Songs for the week of September 6, 2014. The Billboard chart really loves Lecrae, who held 4 of the 15 spots on the chart that week. Why are we reviewing this song today? Because I was driving my car this past Tuesday…

I’ve mentioned it before, but there are 2 main Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) stations in my area (Augusta, GA), WAFJ 88.3FM and Air1. I generally have my radio set to WAFJ, but I frequently have to switch to Air1 to dodge Beth Moore or some advertisement for a heretic coming to the area to speak at a local conference/church. Sometimes I just have to turn off the radio altogether. I don’t always remember to flip back to WAFJ, since while I’m driving that’s my priority… driving. This past Tuesday, while I was grabbing some fast food on my way back from errands, this song played on the radio. I was completely confused by it. Since I was in my car, waiting in the drive-thru line, I didn’t take the time to look up the back-story of the song… so I took to twitter with my first reaction after the song finished and the lyrics still tumbled in my mind…

confusedtweets

The first tweet went out just before I was handed my food. Once I got to my desk I finalized the DiM post for Tuesday and then started researching this Lecrae song to find some backstory. While this song does stay firmly in the “disapprove” category, I want to clearly state its intended context up-front. It was not properly setup by Air1 either in an intro or outro, so just hearing these lyrics in the mix of other vaguely “Christian” songs immediately tripped by “Jesus is my bearded girlfriend” brand of false-worship alarm. The lyrics themselves don’t clear it up, unfortunately, but I found an MTV interview that clarified Lecrae’s intent with the song. Not stellar, but at least it clears up the focus of the song… it’s to/for/about his wife, not God.

Let’s be honest — for all the great things that hip-hop has achieved culturally, shining a positive light on monogamous relationships certainly isn’t one of them. The genre has faced plenty of criticism for being misogynistic, and while we have to accept that a sizable portion of that is purely for entertainment, there are still very few artists waving the flag for healthy relationships. Lecrae hopes to change that, beginning with a song like “A I Need is You.”

“When you see Jay Z and Beyonce, [you think], okay, marriage is cool now. They set a trend and I think that’s healthy,” he explained. “It’s just continuing with that trend of — what if we’re monogamous? What if we’re consistent in our relationships? What if we tell the truth? What if we don’t lie? What if we don’t cheat? What if we love somebody and we’re not afraid to say it in a hip-hop song? You’ve gotta continue to set trends and be different.” Read More

Lecrae also did an interview with Billboard Music where this track was discussed a bit:

“I just want to be able to die saying I gave it my all in terms of being a voice,” says Lecrae. “All this stuff is nice to me — being seen and heard and all that stuff — and I’m sure that’s the dream for a lot of people. But for me, they’re hammers and nails. So it’s like, the Grammy is a hammer, but what am I going to build with it?”

Lecrae is well aware that the fans who have carried him this far — from the Christian music community to the stadium locker rooms — may worry that he will leave the inspirational message behind as he eyes the mainstream. “Some people assume that you’re now going to be talking about whatever appeals to culture,” says Lecrae. “Like, ‘Now you’re going to be talking about drugs and sex.’ I’m not going to do that. But I will be talking about things that both people in the church and out of the church are concerned with and think about. Love. This whole video shoot is about love and being in love, and everybody can relate to that.”

As if on cue, Darragh enters the kitchen carrying their son, who has just been woken up from his afternoon nap. The little boy is not happy about this, aggressively rubbing his eyes and fighting consciousness.

“Hey, champ!” whispers Lecrae. “I love you!” Darragh hands the toddler to Lecrae, and the child nuzzles his head into his father’s chest and seems to relax. “Consistency, man; integrity, character — [I’m just] representing those aspects that are not, for whatever reason, within hip-hop culture,” he continues. “It’s almost like people can’t even believe that they can coexist. That’s a win for me, for people to be able to say, ‘Faith, fatherhood, monogamy exists in hip-hop.’ Yes, we’re here.” Read More

While these interviews give enough clarity for me to back down from my first tweet regarding this song, it doesn’t tip me in favor of this song being played on Christian Radio. Why? Because I struggle to find any Christian message in either of these interviews. Sure, the label “Christian” pops up here and there, but not pointing to Christ. The word “gospel” gets mentioned, but the Gospel isn’t being proclaimed. There was even mention of a cross… the one that Lecrae bears (a stigma of being a bible-thumping Christian), not the Cross of Jesus Christ. With all of this in place, let’s now look at today’s song.

Lecrae Reach Records Video

Lyrics (via Air1)

All I Need is You

By my side, thick and thin
Highs and lows, don’t let go
We gone ride, we gone win
Don’t know how, all I know
(All I need is you)

Keep me in my timezone when my mind’s gone
When I’m flying home
And I’m stressed out and I’m tempted to get that styrofoam
And go pour it up, but you know what’s up
And you know that ain’t gone solve nothing
I mean Lord forbid I might fall or something
And I’m all or nothing cause (all I need is you)
To hold me down like bed straps to the psych ward
It’s killing me but you still with me when I fight hard
And (all I need is you)
You diggin’ me when I’m iggin’ you
Get with me when my card’s pulled
Coulda dealt with me but you fell for me ‘for I fell for you
To keep me on that right path and the right math
Cause you plus nothin’s everything
You my everything, saying
(All I need is)
You, ain’t gotta question my allegiance
Cause the way you love me I could never leave ya, I need ya

You, you’re all I ever needed
You’re all I ever needed

You, you’re all I ever needed
You’re all I ever needed

How did I fall in this?
No condition that get a mention but you offer this
Unconditional love, I swear I sell it all for this
I’m tryna keep it together, forgive my awkwardness
But umm, often it’s just you and me off in this
Valley of shadows and I know they tryna pick me off in this
But all I need is you
It’s funny just how off I get when I ain’t riding with you
No adjectives for yo’ awesomeness
They burning one for that burn out
This life done got ‘em all turnt out
Took time out to put time in so I turn to you when I’m worn out
All I need is you
You slow me down cause you know me now with my phony smile
And I’m acting like it’s all copacetic
It’s so pathetic, so juvenile
Know what you do
You keep me cool in the summer
When they be dressing less and I be wantin’ to show off and stunt
There ain’t nothing to want, you give me all that I need
All I need is you to keep that fire burning for me
All I need is you

You, you’re all I ever needed
You’re all I ever needed

You, you’re all I ever needed
You’re all I ever needed

Ain’t nobody gone get in the way
Put that on my money in the bank
Cause you do what them others can’t
And I love that, yea
We gone ride till the wheels fall off
Above it all, we can never fall, yea
Hold my hand, we can have it all
Hold my hand, we can have it all

You, you’re all I ever needed
You’re all I ever needed

You, you’re all I ever needed
You’re all I ever needed

You always pick me up when I’m feelin’ down
You always make it better for me some how
All I need is you, cause all I need is you
(All I need is you)

Publishing: Fellowship of The Unashamed (BMI) A Man Broke Free (ASCAP) Dramatic Pen Publishing/Almo Music Corp (ASCAP) Unashamed Music/Joseph Prielozny Music (ASCAP) Before I Die Publishing (BMI)
Writer(s): Lecrae Moore, Dustin Bowie, Latasha Williams, Joseph Prielozny, Chris Mackey

Discussion

God doesn’t even get an honorable mention in this song. There is a “Lord forbid I might fall or something”, but that’s just a turn of phrase like “heaven forbid” or “goodness knows”. The hook is “All I Need is You” with a backup track that echos “you’re all I ever needed”… when played on a CCM Radio station, I’m thinking the “you” is intended to be God the Father, the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Our LORD and Savior. But I’m thankful that is not the case, considering how many of the lines would fall into works-based self-righteousness in that setup. However, since this is a song sung to his wife, we have a different set of problems. The song has several lines of praise to his wife that leave Jesus out of the picture:

To keep me on that right path and the right math, Cause you plus nothin’s everything, You my everything, saying (All I need is)

You, you’re all I ever needed

But umm, often it’s just you and me off in this Valley of shadows and I know they tryna pick me off in this But all I need is you

There is no context given to frame this praise that could leave any room for a Christ-honoring relationship. I get the desire to promote monogamy, but God created marriage and He did so to point us to Him. The Apostle Paul anchored his admonishment for married couples in Christ, and we should do the same…

Ephesians 5:15-33 (ESV)

Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise,making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.

Wives and Husbands

Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is fully articulated in Paul’s teaching on the marriage relationship. So how can a Christian artist get through an entire love song to his wife without even mentioning our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ? By focusing on appealing to MTV and Billboard while “bearing the cross” of them assuming certain things about his Christianity… like that he would talk them through the Bible. Well, there’s no bible in this song. Sure, the Valley of Shadows gets a mention, but it’s okay… Lecrae only needs his wife… no one else. Never mind that when David wrote Psalm 23, the “You” is the LORD, not one of David’s wives.

Psalm 23 (ESV) | The Lord Is My Shepherd
A Psalm of David.

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
    He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
    He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
    for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
    I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
    your rod and your staff,
    they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me
    in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
    my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
    all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
    forever.

Conclusion

I find myself quite angry once again, only this time my anger is pointed more at Air1 for playing the song than for Lecrae for producing it. It’s our job to be discerning. Read through the MTV and Billboard interviews… Lecrae is aiming for secular relevance… his profession of Christianity is what he relies on to make him look unique in a sea of hip-hop.

“I always liked the content of a Common, but the commercial viability of a Lil Jon,” says Lecrae, who along with Washer (the two had no formal business background) launched Reach Records in Dallas in 2004. “And I would say, ‘Why don’t those worlds ever come together?’ So for me it was like, ‘Let’s do that.'” Read More

There is a need for Christian Music to preach Law to expose sin in all areas, including sexual purity, marriage, and fidelity… but CCM is seriously lacking in proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Instead it is awash in legalism, man-made law, and mysticism and idolatry. Your marriage is a gift from God intended to point you to Him. Our sinful flesh will always strive to worship the created rather than the Creator (Romans 1). Humble yourselves in repentance, and know that Christ died to pay the penalty for our sin, so that by His Grace we are saved through Faith in Christ Jesus.

2 Thessalonians 2:16-17 (ESV)

Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word.

Amen.
In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

DiM | “Just Be Held” by Casting Crowns

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

November 3, 2015. Today we’ll be taking a look at “Just Be Held” by Casting Crowns which currently sits at #15 on the 20theCountdownMagazine.

I tend to hold bands like Casting Crowns to a higher standard because they are not simply musicians, they are youth pastors.  Whatever song they (and other “youth pastor” bands) put out is going to be assumed to carry a Christian message because, for one, the song will play on Christian radio stations, and doubly-so because Mark Hall is a youth pastor (article). The context of these DiM posts remains unchanged, we take each song individually to see if it squares with Scripture. We check the messaging of the song to see if it indeed conveys a Christian message (Law and Gospel) to a recognizable target audience (unbeliever or believer or both). While this song falls short, it is important to remember that Casting Crown still produces themed albums, and the vagueness of this song might be addressed more fully in the remaining songs of the album. Such is outside of our context here.

Casting Crowns Official Lyric Video

Lyrics (via Casting Crowns Website)

Just Be Held

Hold it all together
Everybody needs you strong
But life hits you out of nowhere
And barely leaves you holding on

And when you’re tired of fighting
Chained by your control
There’s freedom in surrender
Lay it down and let it go

So when you’re on your knees and answers seem so far away
You’re not alone, stop holding on and just be held
Your worlds not falling apart, its falling into place
I’m on the throne, stop holding on and just be held
Just be held, just be held

If your eyes are on the storm
You’ll wonder if I love you still
But if your eyes are on the cross
You’ll know I always have and I always will

And not a tear is wasted
In time, you’ll understand
I’m painting beauty with the ashes
Your life is in My hands

Lift your hands, lift your eyes
In the storm is where you’ll find Me
And where you are, Ill hold your heart
I’ll hold your heart
Come to Me, find your rest
In the arms of the God who wont let go

Publishing: © 2013 Sony/ATV Tree Publishing (BMI) All rights on behalf of Sony/ATV Tree Publishing administered by Sony/ATV. / My Refuge Music (BMI) (adm. at CapitolCMGPublishing.com) / Songs of Universal, Inc. (BMI) / G650 Music (BMI) / Songs for Emily Music Publishing (ASCAP). All rights reserved. Used by permission.
Writer(s): Mark Hall, Bernie Herms, Matthew West

Discussion

After listening to this song for the first time, I had some strong concerns over the shallowness of the message. After last week’s DiM post, I wanted to make sure that I was giving each song a fair shake, so I asked my wife to assist me in this review. Now before we discuss the song for ourselves, let us review what Casting Crowns share on their website regarding this song.

“I was out with my students surfing in Florida once and we were just learning how to get up and how to do this thing. I never mastered it, but when I got the closest to getting on the board a wave hit me and I went rolling.  I rolled so many times that I realized I didn’t know where up was. I couldn’t figure out where the air was. The light was going everywhere and that was a terrifying feeling of no control (absolutely no control). I think when life’s storm hits us, that’s what we’re looking for. We’re looking for something we can grab onto and steady ourselves…we may even look at our faith that way. I need to grab onto God and steady myself, but what I’m finding even in our recent storm of life with our little girl Hope, and all the things that she’s been through medically, is that I just can’t grab a hold of something. What I’ve got to understand is that God is taking a hold of me. Instead of being the ‘fixer Daddy’ that grabs a hold of whatever I can and makes this work, I’ve got to understand that I’m already in His hands. I’m already being held and I’m already in His control and in His protection, even in the chaos. This song, to me, reminds me that I am being held by Him. As crazy as it is when I look around me, I’ve got to rest in that truth.”

My wife gave the song a listen and after listening to the song, we discussed several points we will be exploring later in this post. Then I asked my wife to read the above description, and her response was, “Well, so the song is a positive secular song with a really moving back-story performed by a professing Christian“. I quite agree.

So, let’s take a look at the lyric of the song. Who is the target audience of this song? Based on the back-story and some context clues in the chorus and in the second verse, I think it is safe to assume this song is intended for believers. While that doesn’t mean we don’t need to hear the Gospel in this song, it merely means that we needn’t make allowances for how this song comes across to an unbeliever. We don’t expect this song to be played for the unbeliever to understand, and that’s okay, as long as we are aware of this.

Verse 1. The general theme of this first verse is that the listener is living his (or her) life as he sees fit,  under his own control and that in so doing he is resisting God from taking care of things for him. There is an odd separation between the Christian life and the “life” that  supposedly hits us out of nowhere. But life doesn’t come out of nowhere… it’s always right here, in our faces. Sure, we sometimes engage in escapism and choose to ignore life for a season, but we are the ones taking a leave of absence… life continues. More importantly, “life” isn’t some impersonal cosmic force like fate or karma. There is no such thing as “life” separate from God. There is only the Creator, the created, sin, death, grace, forgiveness, and the resurrection for those who Believe. So the song is addressing an errant worldview in the listener, but it isn’t identifying that worldview as errant. Instead, it attempt to provide an answer within the framework of that worldview, that the believer who is struggling to keep “life” under control should instead simply let go of his struggling. While some might argue that the message here is to cast your cares on Christ, that isn’t the language of the turn at the end of this verse. The main problem with this verse, is how it encourages the notion that when things get tough, it’s because of something you did or didn’t do, and the solution is to let go and stop holding on. As a blanket problem & solution statement, it falls flat.

James 1:2-4 (ESV) | Testing of Your Faith

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

Steadfastness isn’t really the same as let go and stop holding on. It’s more of a hold on and stand firm idea. There is also the phrase, “there is freedom in surrender”… not found in Scripture. But it does seem to be a popular charismatic theme… the idea of “surrendering to the spirit” is central to New Age Presence theology. For most, the idea of discerning the spirits runs contrary to this finding freedom in surrender to the spirit. On a practical level… just what is the listener supposed to do with the notion of “surrendering or letting go”? Sound theology tells us to confess sin, repent, and place our faith in Christ Jesus. In his closing remarks to his second letter to the Corinthians, the Apostle Paul writes, “Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.” 1 Corinthians 16:13-14 (ESV)

Chorus. The chorus doesn’t help provide any clarity, really. Sure, the listener is on his knees (either in prayer or in worship), but looking for answers? We look to the scriptures for answers, we pray for strength, forgiveness, mercy, and grace… but prayer is a one-way street. We pray to God, and trust in Him to provide for our needs according to His Will and for His Glory. But when we take this line of the chorus and flip it, what do we get? We get an assumption that spending time on our knees in prayer should produce answers. Do we worship God to get answers or do we worship Him because He is God? No, don’t look to Victoria Osteen for the answer, she’s way off-base. We pray to God because He is God. We make our petitions known to Him, we confess our sins and ask forgiveness, and we worship and trust Him because of Who He Is.

The line in the chorus that really stands out as problematic for me and doubly-so for my wife, is Your world’s not falling apart, it’s falling into place. Presumptuous blanket assertion. Dear Christian, the world is falling apart. It’s going to be utterly destroyed. Your world isn’t yours… and while there are times when things will be better and make sense in this life, that isn’t always the case… because this world is not our home.

1 John 2:15-17 (ESV) | Do Not Love the World

15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. 17 And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.

If the goal is to rescue the messaging of this song, then I say focus entirely on letting go of Your World. Let go of your dreams, aspirations, self-proclaimed destinies. In this way, we can at least save 2 lines of the song, for God is on His throne. When you hear “just let go” instead think, “do not be anxious for anything”. Our hope is not in our selves, or in our circumstances, our hope is in the Lord.

1 Peter 1:3-9 (ESV) | Born Again to a Living Hope

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

Peter wasn’t puffing up his readers with false hope in everyone’s world “falling into place” in this life. Peter was pointing them to the Resurrection, to the Kingdom of Heaven. We should do likewise in our speech, prayer, and songs.

In the end, we get the call to just be held. Well, that’s great… I’m sure this is quite the comfort for the believer enduring real trials and tribulations in this life. This is where we need the body of Christ, our brothers and sisters in the household of faith. To encourage us in the Word, to extend grace and good works for the up-building of the body of Christ.

James 2:14-17 (ESV) | Faith Without Works Is Dead

14 What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? 17 So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

So, while the song directs the listener inwardly or surrendering in a mystical sense, God’s word urges us to love one another in Christ Jesus. Modern Evangelicalism is drowning in self-focused emotional mysticism… some of it even taking on a sensual note (thankfully, not in this song).

Verse 2. The second verse is better than what we’ve seen thus far in the song. However, there is still the subtle conditional statements that seem to hinge knowledge of the truth upon what the listener does. IF your eyes are on the storm you’ll doubt…, but IF your eyes are on the cross you’ll know… The target audience of this song is already suffering from thinking they need to do something to merit favor… and the song has given the listener empty commands to “just let go” and “stop holding on” and “just be held”… when the listener needs to hear, “your sins are Forgiven you, You are Mine, no one can take you out of My Hand, I am coming back soon, this world is not your home, I’ve gone to prepare a place for you, etc” the real Promises of God to His Bride, to His Body, to His Children. My point being that the truth is the truth even if your eyes are fixated on the storm. Tell me the truth to get my eyes off of the lie, don’t place the truth behind a contingency of me first getting my eyes off of what I’m fearing. That’s too much like “seek God and then the Gospel will set you free”… which is backward.

Bridge/Close. The best line in the entire song is Come to Me, Find your rest. I have a feeling that this was the intended message of the entire song… but it faltered in its execution. Trying to comfort a believer who is burdened by a false worldview without correcting that worldview is an exercise in futility. It’s like trying to treat an infected wound without removing the foreign object. When it comes to finding rest in Christ Jesus, I think the best place to look is Hebrews 4.

Hebrews 4 (ESV)

Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us fear lest any of you should seem to have failed to reach it. For good news came to us just as to them, but the message they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united by faith with those who listened. For we who have believed enter that rest, as he has said,

“As I swore in my wrath,
‘They shall not enter my rest,’”

although his works were finished from the foundation of the world. For he has somewhere spoken of the seventh day in this way: “And God rested on the seventh day from all his works.” And again in this passage he said,

“They shall not enter my rest.”

Since therefore it remains for some to enter it, and those who formerly received the good news failed to enter because of disobedience, again he appoints a certain day, “Today,” saying through David so long afterward, in the words already quoted,

“Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts.”

For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken of another day later on. So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, 10 for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his.

11 Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience. 12 For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. 13 And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

Jesus the Great High Priest

14 Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Amen. This rest doesn’t come by striving, or by escaping, or by lying to yourself (so-called “positive thinking”); rather, this rest comes by Grace through Faith in Christ Jesus.

Conclusion

If the best line in the song could have been made more clear earlier in the song, I probably wouldn’t have disapproved of it. In fact, I’m still somewhat torn on the disposition of this song on the list, but the errors in the song are significant. We can’t just allow such a sloppy worldview to persist while seeking to encourage a struggling brother/sister in Christ. In the end, the problems outweigh the marginal benefits of vague appeals to churchy sayings like “let go and let God” or “find freedom in surrender” or other such nonsense. As Stewards of God’s Grace and His Written Word, we can do better than that. We must do better than that… Preach the Word, both in season and out of season.

2 Thessalonians 2:16-17 (ESV)

16 Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, 17 comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word.

Amen.
In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

CTT | Adopted as Sons and Daughters…

CTTWith the latest under cover video by the Center for Medical Progress, it remains clear that the world is desperately wicked beyond comprehension. That the world defies God and His creation and callously destroys the innocent to satisfy their own lusts. The world stands condemned under the Law… doomed… judged. When Christ returns, He will come in Power, in Might, and in Judgement. While the methods and means of depravity are new, the wickedness of man and the bondage of creation under sin and darkness is not new. While we urge our politicians and doctors to stop the murderous holocaust of unborn babies in this country, and pray for the Grace of God to put leaders in place to remove the government protection of this practice, we know that the only answer to sin, death, wickedness, judgement and eternal punishment is the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Preaching the Gospel to the Lost

We are called to preach the Gospel to the lost. There are groups who preach to the homeless, to the migrants, and outside Abortion clinics. I’d like to see more groups doing it. Sadly, we see a growing sense of militancy in some of these programs that lost sight of the Gospel of Grace and Forgiveness. I’d like to see fewer of these. In our American culture, we’ve lost sight of the individual charge to preach the Gospel. We’ve allowed it to become the sole purpose of the weekly service in Church, where (again, as a culture) we’ve jettisoned the real purpose of the gathering of the Saints for “churching the unchurched” or “making unbelievers feel welcome” or “entertaining goats”. The visible church is in need of a reformation once more… away from post-modern nonsense of this current age, away from the CEO model of church leadership, away from treating the Gospel as a product to be sold in bookstores or memberships in the social club labeled the church. The weekly gathering of the saints is for the building up of the believers, equipping them for every good work, including the work of evangelism.

While street-preaching in general has been stigmatized by the anti-christs of Westboro Baptist, and counter-abortion demonstrations have been conducted under the banner of “social activism”, there is another area of ministry that bears an ugly stigma that doesn’t get as much attention these days, so I wanted to spend some time addressing it… the ministry of Adoption Services. There are a few adoption services out there, and the one that my wife and I support and volunteer for locally reaches out to birth mothers with the primary goal of preaching the Gospel to them. Yes, we want to save the baby they are unwilling or believe they are unable to keep, but we also know that lasting change for that woman can only come through the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Adoption is a Gospel Theme

Evangelism isn’t about getting people to agree with you about God or to join your club or even to avoid going into certain buildings on a certain day. Evangelism is about preaching Law and Gospel so that the Holy Spirit can do the work of regeneration on dead hearts, bringing them out of darkness so that they might become adopted sons and daughters of the Living God, through faith in Jesus Christ. We are adopted into Heaven, by the finished work of Jesus Christ on the Cross. Let’s begin reading in Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians.

Ephesians 1 (ESV)

Greeting

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God,
To the saints who are in Ephesus, and are faithful in Christ Jesus:
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Spiritual Blessings in Christ

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, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

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, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. 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, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

Thanksgiving and Prayer

For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.

I struggled to understand the negative stigma associated with adoption, until I realized the biggest appeal of abortion was that it was being presented as a false gospel, a way of erasing sin so that ‘life could go on free from consequences’. Such a demonic false gospel. The truth is that the mankind, including the unborn, bear the image of God. We also bear the sin of Adam in our flesh. Because of Adam’s sin, we are all born spiritually dead… out-of-wedlock, so to speak, without hope, destined for destruction. A point Paul makes very clearly at the start of the next chapter.

Ephesians 2 (ESV)

By Grace Through Faith

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works,which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

One in Christ

Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near.For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.

Amen. The message of the Gospel is that by the Blood of Jesus Christ, we have been adopted into the household of God, as sons and daughters of the Most High God in Christ Jesus. When it comes to countering the murderous sin of abortion, let us not quickly forget, that Christ died so that these birth mothers might be born-again and adopted into the Kingdom of Heaven, along with their unborn baby.

Our hearts break when a birthmother gives up on her baby and is led astray by the false-gospel of abortion. But we rejoice when a child is saved from destruction, and delivered into the world. Sometimes birth-mothers just need the loving support through the tough road of a pregnancy that was unplanned and even unwanted to see God’s redemption at work in it. Some of these birth mothers keep their babies, determined to love them and care for them. Some give their babies up for adoption into Christian families… and still some find themselves being adopted into the household of Faith, along with their babies. Such is the Church, the Body of Christ. We who are of the household of faith are brothers and sisters, heirs and joint heirs with Christ into the Promise of Heaven and into the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. The body of Christ doesn’t grow by the will of man; rather, it grows by the Grace of God. Evangelism is an adoption ministry. The enemy knows this, and this is why he works so hard to stigmatize adoption in the natural. In closing, I’d like to share a few testimonial videos from the local adoption agency we support.

Covenant Care Adoption Services

A Conversation with Birthmothers

 

Adoption Testimonies: Lauren, Matt & Jamie

For more information on this ministry, visit: http://www.covenantcareadoptions.com/

Ephesians 3:14-21 (ESV) | Prayer for Spiritual Strength

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being,so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

Amen, indeed.
In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

 

DiM | “You Are Loved” by Stars Go Dim

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

October 27, 2015. Today we’ll be taking a look at “You Are Loved” by Stars Go Dim which currently sits at #20 on the 20theCountdownMagazine.

Right up front let me just say that this song gets a disapproval not because it’s a “bad song”; rather, because it’s not a Christian one. There is no Law, no Gospel, no acknowledgement of sin or call to repentance. There’s more clear theology in John 3:16 than this entire song… and I don’t quote John 3:16 by itself (at a minimum John 3:16-18, prefer to go all the way to 21).

Stars Go Dim (Audio) Video

Lyrics (via KLove)

You Are Loved

We hide pain in the weirdest places
Broken souls with smiling faces
Fighting for surrender
For now and the after
Just look around and you’ll see that people
Are scared to say how they really feel, oh
We all need a little honesty

You are loved
If your heart’s in a thousand pieces
If you’re lost and you’re far from reason
Just look up, know you are loved
Just look up, and know you are loved
When it feels like somethings missing
If it hurts but you can’t find healing
Just look up, know you are loved
Just look up, know you are loved. ooh

We’re not made to be superheroes,
Photoshopped, all size zeroes
We’re a light not expected
But not quite perfected yet.
Look up see the sun is shinning
There’s hope on a new horizon
Calling you, calling…

You don’t have to prove yourself
Don’t try to be someone else

Publishing: Word Music, LLC (ASCAP) / Dayspring Music, LLC, Music by Josh Zegan (BMI) / Word Music, LLC, Quick or Die Music (ASCAP) Produced by Casey Brown
Writer(s): Chris Cleveland, Kyle Williams, Josh Zegan, Jeff Sojka

Discussion

No idea who the target of this song is. Is it the unbeliever? Is that the meaning for “broken souls” here? I don’t think so. I think the artist is trying to set the tone for people with hidden hurts. I don’t think the artist sees a distinction between believer and unbeliever for the purpose of this song. Fighting for surrender sounds like a seeker-sensitive paradigm where the Gospel is out there just waiting for us to “surrender to it”… but we have to choose to surrender and that is somehow a fight within us. That’s not how the Gospel is explained/taught in Scripture. Again, I don’t think the artist is trying to make a theological position in this statement, I think he’s focused on surrendering to the notion that we need to stop hiding our hurts, and we all need a little honesty.

The chorus is an anthem declaring to the listener that he/she is loved. The implied reference is God’s love (Just Look Up). It is true that God loves us, and it is also true that hurting people need to be reminded of His Love. It is also true, that God’s love does us no good if we continue in unbelief.

John 3:16-21 (ESV) | For God So Loved the World

16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 19 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed.21 But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”

The second verse moves more purposefully into the everything is beautiful direction. The reference to photoshopped images and being a size zero is woefully shallow. Seriously, that’s what the foolish world considers “deep”, demonizing photoshop images and so-called “body shaming”. A Christian artist should be targeting the weightier matters, like sin and Grace, repentance and forgiveness, Law and Gospel. Is it immoral for magazines to treat their layout and even their photos as art projects? No. Though what is photographed is often times immoral (partial nudity to advertise shampoo or lotion? really?), that the photograph gets edited an manipulated afterward isn’t really much of a problem. That society puts so much stock in Glamour magazine and their ilk is a big problem… and the Church isn’t immune, because we’ve become as shallow as the world around us. It is good to be reminded that our perfection will come in the resurrection (not quite perfected yet). I don’t like the seeker-sensitive appeal to “new horizons”, because God the Holy Spirit is here now, drawing us to Christ Jesus now, and we can have assurance based on what He has already said in His Word. Based on what He has already Promised, by Faith we can look forward with hope in the Resurrection that is to come for all who are of faith in Christ Jesus.

The bridge. You don’t have to prove yourself…. true.

Ephesians 2:8-9 (ESV) For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

Don’t try to be someone else… let’s tap the brakes for a moment. I understand what is being said at the superficial level, don’t waste your life trying to be like the models in the magazines, the actors on the screen, or the person whose life you covet. But there is a deeper sense where this can wind up butting up against the call to repentance.

Ephesians 4:17-24 (ESV) | The New Life

17 Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. 18 They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. 19 They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity.20 But that is not the way you learned Christ!— 21 assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, 22 to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, 23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

I don’t think the song scratches very far under the surface, but it bears mentioning that the call to repentance in many real ways is the call to be set apart from our former selves, to become new creatures in Christ Jesus, not by effort, but by His Grace through Faith in the One who is perfecting us. His Grace is freely given, but that doesn’t mean we walk in auto-pilot, the Christian life is the daily putting off of the fleshly, sinful, self in humble repentance and walking by faith according to the Spirit of God that brought us to life in Christ Jesus.

Conclusion

I’m not happy having to disapprove of this song. I like the melody of the song, the arrangement, and the strong vocals. I just don’t see it conveying a Christian message. At best, it conveys a worldly spiritual message of “you are loved”.  It carries no more weight than an a pep talk from Oprah, Dr. Phil, or Pharrell Williams. The song isn’t “bad” and it doesn’t blatantly teach false-doctrine, it’s just unprofitable for teaching or evangelism. It is encouraging in the general “you’ve got a friend in me” sense, but there’s no substance to the song. We can do better… we have the Truth of God’s Word and the Only Way to God, Jesus Christ His Son.

2 Thessalonians 2:16-17 (ESV)

16 Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, 17 comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word.

Amen.
In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

DiM | “Because He Lives (Amen)” by Matt Maher

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

February 3, 2015. Today, we will be taking a look at song #13 on the Top 20 Songs at 20theCountdownMagazine website, “Because He Lives (Amen)” by Matt Maher. The song has an anthemic vibe (typical of Matt Maher and Chris Tomlin), a catchy tune, and Matt’s vocals are strong. It is cleverly written to get those who know the Hymn to fill in the gaps in the message automatically. Sadly, for those who don’t know what was conveyed in the hymn, the song doesn’t stand on its own. The hymn didn’t tell the full story (no repentance and a little bit self-focused), but it did a much better job than this song does.

Music Videos

Lyrics (via K-Love)

Because He Lives (Amen) by Matt MaherI BELIEVE IN THE SON
I BELIEVE IN THE RISEN ONE
I BELIEVE I OVERCOME
BY THE POWER OF HIS BLOOD

(CHORUS)
AMEN
AMEN
I’M ALIVE
I’M ALIVE
BECAUSE HE LIVES
AMEN
AMEN
LET MY SONG JOIN THE ONE THAT NEVER ENDS
BECAUSE HE LIVES

I WAS DEAD IN THE GRAVE
I WAS COVERED IN SIN AND SHAME
I HEARD MERCY CALL MY NAME
HE ROLLED THE STONE AWAY

(CHORUS)

BECAUSE HE LIVES
I CAN FACE TOMORROW
BECAUSE HE LIVES
EVERY FEAR IS GONE
I KNOW HE HOLDS MY LIFE MY FUTURE IN HIS HANDS

(CHORUS)

Publishing: © 2014 Hanna Street Music (BMI) (Adm. at CapitolCMGPublishing.com)/ Sony/ATV Tree Publishing / I Am A Pilgrim Songs (BMI) / Sony/ATV Timber Publishing / Open Hands Music (SESAC) / Alletrop Music (BMI) (admin. by Music Services) / worshiptogether.com songs / sixsteps music (ASCAP) (Adm. at CapitolCMGPublishing.com) / Worship Together Music / sixsteps songs / SDG Publishing (BMI) (Adm. at CapitolCMGPublishing.com)
Writer(s): Bill & Gloria Gaither, Matt Maher, Jason Ingram, Ed Cash, Daniel Carson, Chris Tomlin

Positive Elements

There is an allusion to the Hymn “Because He Lives“, which is a good song. The best thing about this song by Matt Maher is that it reminds older Christians of that hymn. Unfortunately, if you’ve grown up in contemporary worship… you probably have never heard of that song. I’m thinking this is why Bill & Gloria Gaither are included in the list of writers.

Concerns

Had I seen the list of 7 writers before seeing the lyrics of the song, I would have been greatly disappointed by the vagueness and brevity of the message of the songs. Such a vague song. Never identifying who the Son is, or the Father. No mention of repentance and the forgiveness of sins. This song simply can’t wait to jump to “me”.

The second verse is very odd to me. While we are born dead in sins and transgressions, we aren’t yet in the grave. Before we are regenerated by faith in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, we walked in our sin, transgressions, and death. The line “He rolled the stone away” is odd, too, at least in this verse if we are to connect it to our sinful state… are we placing ourselves in the resurrection of Jesus? In the Baptism, we do join (by faith) in His death and resurrection… but is that being properly conveyed here? I don’t think so. I don’t mean to impune the intent the song’s writers, but the brevity of the song and this verse makes clarity tough to achieve. If you cannot be clear with the analogy, either write more verse(s) or dump the analogy and declare the Gospel outright.

I also struggle with the use of the word “Mercy” calling our name. Grace and Mercy are not interchangeable terms in the New Testament. Since this verse is alluding to Ephesians 2, let’s look at the passage.

Ephesians 2:1-10 (ESV) | By Grace Through Faith
2 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

So why use “Mercy call my name”? The song doesn’t preach Law or repentance. When we preach Grace, we include the need for the atonement. Society sees “grace” and they think of a temporary reprieve, but the payment is still due. That is fitting; however, in the case of the Gospel of Jesus Christ the payment has already been made. We still need only confess our sinful state and repent from our sins and receive the Grace of God by faith in Christ Jesus, and this we do on a daily basis for as long as we continue living in these sinful bodies. Mercy comes after the judgment, it doesn’t skip it. While I may be splitting hairs a bit, I feel like keeping the terms and concepts of Grace and Mercy in their proper places in Scripture.

Conclusion

The world is eating up the lawless version of God’s love and mercy, and churches are crumbling under the pressure of “church growth” and “seeker sensitivity”. With the recent news of another megachurch declaring unrepentant sexual immorality to be an acceptable lifestyle for Christians, I think of this song being played on the radio or even in the worship service at such a church. Let’s sing about the self-esteem building side of the Gospel without mentioning the Law which identifies sin in our lives. Ultimately, the song is too vague to be given a pass. It’s a somewhat random collection of ideas that point to the Gospel, but they are not articulated well… and I’m comparing it to a short hymn. Did this song really take 7 writers?

Jude 1:20-25 (ESV) 20 But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, 21 keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. 22 And have mercy on those who doubt; 23 save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh. 24 Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, 25 to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.

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