DiM | “Grace Wins” by Matthew West

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

October 20, 2015. Today we’ll be taking a look at “Grace Wins” by Matthew West which currently sits at #19 on the 20theCountdownMagazine.

I confess that the first time I heard the song, I thought I was going to like it. At the end of the song, I was a little unsure of what the song was pitting against Grace, so I had to carefully listen a second time with the lyrics in front of me. The song seems to suffer from category errors and shallow theology. On the one hand, I feel like I know what Matthew West is trying to say with this song… that no one is out of reach of God’s Grace. That there is forgiveness for all who call upon the Name of the Lord in repentance. However, there are so many problems in what is presented in the lyrics that we simply cannot recommend this song.

Matthew West VEVO (Audio) Video

Lyrics (via KLove)

Grace Wins

In my weakest moment I see You
Shaking Your head in disgrace
I can read the disappointment
Written all over Your face

Here come those whispers in my ear
Saying, “who do you think you are?”
Looks like you’re on your own from here
‘Cause grace could never reach that far

But in the shadow of that shame
Beat down by all the blame
I hear You call my name saying it’s not over
And my heart starts to beat so loud now
Drowning out the doubt
I’m down, but I’m not out

There’s a war between guilt and grace
And they’re fighting for a sacred space
But I’m living proof
Grace wins every time
No more lying down in death’s defeat
Now I’m rising up in victory
Singing, hallelujah
Grace wins every time

Words can’t describe the way it feels
When mercy floods a thirsty soul
The broke inside begins to heal
And grace returns what guilty stole

And in the shadow of that shame
Beat down by all the blame
I hear You call my name saying it’s not over
And my heart starts to beat so loud now
Drowning out the doubt
I’m down, but I’m not out

There’s a war between guilt and grace
And they’re fighting for a sacred space
But I’m living proof
Grace wins every time
No more lying down in death’s defeat
Now I’m rising up in victory
Singing, hallelujah

Grace wins every time

For the prodigal son
Grace wins
For the woman at the well
Grace wins
For the blind man and the beggar
Grace wins
For always and forever
Grace wins
For the lost out on the streets
Grace wins
For the worst part of you and me
Grace wins
For the thief on the cross
Grace wins
For a world that is lost

There’s a war between guilt and grace
And they’re fighting for a sacred space
But I’m living proof
Grace wins every time
No more lying down in death’s defeat
Now I’m rising up in victory
Singing, hallelujah
Grace wins every time, every time
Yeah, I’m living proof
Grace wins every time

Publishing: © 2015 Highly Combustible Music / Atlas Music Publishing / House Of Story Music (ASCAP) (Admin. by Atlas Music Publishing obo itself, Highly Combustible Music and House Of Story Music)
Writer(s): Matthew West

Discussion

I was going to go through the song as usual, but I fear losing sight of the forest through the trees. I will say that the line in the chorus that gives me great heartburn is “There’s a war between guilt and grace and they’re fighting for a sacred space but I’m living proof Grace wins every time“. We are living proof of the victory of Grace over guilt? Really? No. The Resurrected Christ is the living proof of the Victory of God’s Grace over sin and death. Today, lets just focus on the problem of the forest without getting tangled up in the trees.

There are several key terms missing from this lyric: Law, Gospel, sin, confession, repentance, forgiveness, and the Cross. I’m not saying every song needs to include every word, but if the song is about the Grace of God that surely some of these terms would be included.

Throughout the song, guilt is pitted against grace. This is a glaring category error. Exactly what is being compared? My guilt versus my grace? My guilt versus God’s Grace? God’s Judgement versus God’s Grace? The song asserts that there is some war being waged between guilt and grace. No matter how I try to expand these definitions, I cannot get around the category error. The war being waged within our members (as Believers) is that between our sinful flesh and the Spirit of God living in us.

Guilt isn’t merely a feeling, it is a reality

We are all sinful people and we are guilty of sin. In fact, we are born dead in sin and trespasses, the guilt of Adam’s sin is what we are born into. There is but one remedy for sin, that is the Gospel of Grace, that God would send His Son to bear the full punishment for sin in our place on the Cross. It isn’t like our guilt was just forgotten, Jesus Christ the Son of the Living God paid the full penalty of sin by offering up His flesh and His blood as the final sacrifice. My Grace through Faith in Him our guilt is exchanged for His Righteousness, so that in the Day of our Lord Jesus Christ we who are of Faith will be seen guiltless, joined with Christ in His death and Resurrection. Maranatha!

The shallowness of this song is reflected in the abuse of the word “guilty”. It uses the word in place of “sin” in a few lines, but it doesn’t fully commit to the Truth that we are sinful beings, guilty under the Law. We’ll address this later on when we discuss Law, but for now the song uses “guilty” as an out-of-place feeling of blame or condemnation. There’s a big problem with that when we consider the fleshly problem of self-righteousness that refuses to acknowledge that we are indeed sinful and bear the guilt of that sin if not for the Grace of God in Jesus Christ.

Grace: Christ’s Finished Work on the Cross

While we still talk of God’s common grace to creation in delaying the coming judgement, this grace being referred to in this song (I assume) is God’s Saving Grace. I take issue with the notion that God’s Grace continues to wage war against anything… Christ’s finished work on the cross is all-sufficient. The Holy Spirit of God works on the hearts of men, drawing them to Christ. The victory has already been won as far as Grace and Sin are concerned, for Jesus Christ is reigning and ruling in Heaven and we wait for Him to return in the Last Day. We experience God’s Grace every day, and we pray for it, “Give us this day our daily bread” humbly. But the Grace of God has no contender… nothing can overcome the Grace of God. As Paul wrote in his introduction to the letter to the Romans.

Romans 1:1-7 (ESV) | Greeting

Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord,through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations, including you who are called to belong to Jesus Christ,

To all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Romans 1:16-17 (ESV) | The Righteous Shall Live by Faith

16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”

The focal point of God’s Grace is the cross, where a Holy and Just God poured out His full Wrath against sin upon God the Son (Jesus Christ), the pure and spotless Lamb of God, so that He might Justly extend Grace and Mercy to sinful man so that by Faith they might not perish but be born again to everlasting life.

Romans 3:19-30 (ESV) | The Righteousness of God Through Faith

19 Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. 20 For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. 27 Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith.28 For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.29 Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, 30 since God is one—who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith.

The Man/Woman of Faith is not Condemned

Now let’s address what seems to be a major concern in the song… that of blame, shame, and condemnation. When we rightly understand sin, guilt, and the Gospel of Jesus Christ, then we can rest assured that in Christ Jesus we are made righteous by Faith.

Romans 8:1-11 (ESV) | Life in the Spirit

8 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.10 But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.

Law and Gospel are not at War, they Work Together

One final thought on what might be (mis)represented by the song’s assertion that there’s a war between grace and guilt, is the error of thinking there is a war between Law and Gospel. The Law points out sin in our flesh and crushes us into humble submission unto repentance so that the Gospel can bring us out of sin and death and into the Kingdom of Heaven.

Conclusion

I’m not happy with the song. I’m not happy having to disapprove of it. Though I do think the writer was trying to say something good, the lyrics didn’t deliver and in-fact introduce a lot of confusion in its poor treatment of terms and categories. I’ll concede I may have been a bit harsh on this one, but I simply couldn’t find a rescuing hermeneutic that could be applied to the song. It was simply errant.

Amen.
In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

DiM | “The River” by Jordan Feliz

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

October 06, 2015. Today we’ll be taking a look at “The River” by Jordan Feliz which currently sits at #18 on the 20theCountdownMagazine.

Overall, this song has a very catchy rhythm and melody. The song has a Monet quality to it in that there seems to be a decent theme to the song when viewed from a distance, but it loses clarity in the details when observed up close. In trying to unpack the theology driving the song, I got confused, which is typically a red-flag for emergent or progressive “christianity”. Let’s check out the song.

Jordan Feliz VEVO Lyric Video

Lyrics (via KLove)

The River

I know a place
Where we can go
To lay the troubles down eating your soul
I know a place
Where mercy flows
Take the stains make you whiter than snow

Like a tide it is rising up
Deep inside
A current that moves and makes you come alive
Living water
That brings the dead to life

(chorus)
We’re going down to the river
Down to the river
Down to the river to pray
Let’s get washed by the water
Washed by the water
And rise up in amazing grace
Let’s go down, down, down to the river
You will leave changed
Let’s go down, down, down to the river
Never the same

I’ve seen it move
In my own life
Took me from dusty roads into Paradise
All of my dirt
All of my shame
Drowned in the streams that have made me born again

Like a tide it is rising up
Deep inside
A current that moves and makes you come alive
Living water
That brings the dead to life

(chorus)

Let’s go down
Let’s go down
Let’s go down

(chorus)

Publishing: © 2015 CentricSongs (SESAC) / Colby Wedgeworth Music (ASCAP) / Capitol CMG Amplified & Red Red Pop (SESAC)
Writer(s): Words and Music by Jordan Feliz, Colby Wedgeworth, and Josh Silverberg

Discussion

The high-altitude view of the song displays a general theme of repentance pointing to the imagery of baptism (going down to the River). However, the connection of the River to baptism doesn’t stay consistent throughout the song. So that forces us to look more closely to the details, and that’s where we hit some snags. 

Who is the target audience? The song lyrics don’t make it clear to whom the song is being sung. If the song is being sung to unbelievers in need of faith, repentance, and baptism… then why not just stick with the imagery of the new birth in the baptism? If the song is a call to Christians to repent and be forgiven, why is the reference to baptism something that lies ahead of the singer and audience rather than a reminder of your baptism? Since this is a new song from a new artist, I thought I’d check to see if there is any context provided.

from: Artist Profile @ NewReleaseToday.com

The best example of his singular vision is the record’s powerhouse first single, “The River.” While it sounds like a pulse-quickening mega-hit from the first listen–instantly singable and repeatedly listenable– the song actually rides on a deep current of soul-driven funk influence that serves to set it apart from other contemporary radio fare.

“I’m a big melody guy,” Jordan admits, “and musically ‘The River’ is my own personal happy place. It’s a great driving groove that just feels good to sing. The song itself is an invitation to anyone who hears it–whether they’re stuck in pride and legalism or wallowing down in the mess they’ve made of their lives–it’s an invitation to take whatever we have and to run to Jesus. It’s an invitation to go down in amazing grace and to rise up being made new.”

Okay, so his intended audience is everyone. He’s using the imagery of the River as a catch-all for baptism of a new believer AND repentance and forgiveness for the already baptized. Also, we see some strong emergent language in the “whether they’re stuck in pride and legalism or whatever” comment. We’ll have to keep an eye on this guy. If you’d like to read more about him, simply follow the link.

Verse 1: Here we see an introduction to the idea that there is a place we can go to be made clean. This is true. The blood of Jesus Christ, shed at the cross washes us clean by God’s grace through faith. But this isn’t so much a place we can go as it is a point of faith. Some excellent passages we can look to for this wording of washing away of sin can be found in Psalm 51 and Isaiah 1.

Psalm 51:7-12 (ESV)

Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
    wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
Let me hear joy and gladness;
    let the bones that you have broken rejoice.
Hide your face from my sins,
    and blot out all my iniquities.
10 Create in me a clean heart, O God,
    and renew a right spirit within me.
11 Cast me not away from your presence,
    and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
    and uphold me with a willing spirit.

Isaiah 1:16-20 (ESV)

16 Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean;
    remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes;
cease to do evil,
17     learn to do good;
seek justice,
    correct oppression;
bring justice to the fatherless,
    plead the widow’s cause.

18 “Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord:
though your sins are like scarlet,
    they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red like crimson,
    they shall become like wool.
19 If you are willing and obedient,
    you shall eat the good of the land;
20 but if you refuse and rebel,
    you shall be eaten by the sword;
    for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

What is important to note with these passages, is that neither one is a call to the unbeliever. In Psalm 51, David is chosen of God, but he has sinned before God and is repenting. In Isaiah, the Prophet of the LORD is speaking to rebel Judah, His chosen people who have sinned against Him. I mention this because many take these passages as proof-texts for decisional regeneration. For the unbeliever to come to faith, the Holy Spirit must open his eyes and ears to the Truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We aren’t born alive and merely struggling with sin, we are born dead in sins and trespasses. We need to be regenerated by the Spirit of the Living God in order for us to make the confession of faith.

Pre-chorus: This pre-chorus can be describing the working of the Holy Spirit, drawing individuals to the knowledge of Christ, and convicting believers of their sin so that they might repent and be forgiven. Unfortunately, it also describes the emotional manipulation that is performed in many a seeker-sensitive service to compel people to “come down to the front to make a decision for Jesus today“. It’s a popular pattern/technique. Once the preacher is finished giving life-tips, he give a queue to the worship band to start playing some slow, emotive “worship” music in the background, as the speaker makes a decisional sales-pitch to any who “don’t know Jesus as their personal savior” or “have not yet asked Jesus into their hearts“. As the music swells in the background, the speaker will give the audience time to give an indication of their willingness to “give Jesus their heart”… Maybe even include a call for those who’d like to “re-dedicate their lives to the LORD” to come to the front. This serves a dual purpose, it allows the speaker to get the sense that their words bore fruit (people walking forward) and it gives others room to follow the commands without clearly identifying which group they are in, so no one needs to know this is their first time of “giving their hearts to Jesus” until they are ready to say so. None of this is Scriptural. This is an emotional technique that works in any environment where group psychology and dynamics is at play. Cults do it, Fraternities do it, workforce seminars, etc. They do it because it works. We are emotional beings, and our emotions are easily worked once we’ve established a common ground. The point being that this pre-chorus is only as good as your doctrine.

Chorus: So, we are going down to the river to pray? In the seeker model of church service, there are lots of altar calls for many reasons. The goal is simply to get folks to fill up the front of the church for an emotional experience and prayer. Most of the time the intention is good, but misguided due to an over-emphasis on emotional experience and not enough focus on Scripture. Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of Christ (Romans 10:17); it doesn’t say “faith comes by weeping and wailing at the front of the church”. Please understand that I’m not saying that weeping (I tend to weep), wailing, or even coming to the front of the church is a bad thing. I’m saying the hyper-focus on emotional experiences is a bad thing. I’m also fed up with the emotional manipulation techniques… don’t whip people up into an emotional mess, preach the Word.

Verse 2: Okay, this is where things get a little odd for me. We are not yet in Paradise, we still walk this earth in sinful tents of flesh. There is a continual need for those who are of the household of faith to confess, repent, and be forgiven of sin. We are not yet perfect. The singer is pointing to his own experience as authoritative for the listener (I’ve seen it move in my own life). If everything else the message is solid, this might be considered a minor point… but the whole song has me a bit confused so I have to present this as problem on equal footing. Emergents don’t hold a high-view of Scripture, they lean on experience and personal understanding for their theology. Jordan can’t point to himself and then say he’s been taken into paradise. He hasn’t been, he’s still on this earth, and if he has Faith, then he is a sojourner in this fallen world. If he lacks faith, he is very much still a part of this world. Dear Christian, don’t point to yourselves and don’t get cute with offering exaggerated promises or benefits of being a Christian… point to Christ always, and testify of your faith in Him.

Thoughts on Baptism

I think it is worth mentioning that attempting to provide a corrective mechanism for enjoying this song needs to be done differently for Creedal Baptists, Presbyterians, and Lutherans. I don’t like splicing up the denominations in DiM posts, but where Baptism is concerned I think it bears mentioning. Rather than try to speak as an authority for each of these doctrinal positions, I am simply going to share what Scripture says and leave the doctrinal discussion for you and your Pastor. We’ll start with the Great Commission and move on to the Apostolic writings. Again, these should be taken to your pastor if you have any questions regarding them.

Matthew 28:16-20 (ESV) | The Great Commission

Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted.And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Acts 2:36-40 (ESV)

Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.” Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” And Peter said to them,“Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.”

Romans 6:1-11 (ESV) | Dead to Sin, Alive to God

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

Ephesians 4:1-7 (ESV) | Unity in the Body of Christ

I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in allBut grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift.

Colossians 2:6-15 (ESV) | Alive in Christ

Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily,and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority. In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.

1 Peter 3:18-22 (ESV)

For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit, in which he went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison, because they formerly did not obey, when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water. Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him.

These are the clear passages that teach on Baptism. Your doctrine of baptism will greatly affect your take on some of the lines of today’s song.

Conclusion

I’m not happy with the song. It is muddled and confused. How bad or salvageable the song is will depend greatly on your doctrine/confession of Salvation, Faith, Regeneration, Justification, Sanctification and Baptism. I don’t think the song can be fully salvaged for any of the orthodox doctrines. I suspect the artist is heavily seeker-sensitive / emergent and cannot recommend him to anyone at this time.

Amen.
In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

CTT | “I Deserve to be Happy”?

CTTToday’s Completing The Thought (CTT) post is a reaction to some disturbing trends in social media. The ideology behind the trends is nothing new, sinners are absolutely confvinced that they deserve whatever they want, that they deserve to “be happy”. The recent #ShoutYourAbortion campaign was an all-time low in American depravity, in that these unrepentant sinners shamelessly celebrate their murder and twist the narrative to paint their evil as though it was a good thing. Their proof? How happy they were. I much prefer the #ShoutYourAdoption response.

This weekend I saw something else that falls in that same vein, albeit stopping short of murder. I saw an acquaintance posted the following Facebook announcement:

divorce

This lady is not a Christian. A few years ago she and her now ex-husband jumped headlong into a cult that hosts what they call Insight Seminars. It’s a humanistic and pantheistic self-affirming cult that sometimes poses as workforce or family unity seminars. It’s a load a garbage, and the result is full-grown adults becoming infantile in their selfishness and self-actualization. Notice the hashtags. The self-absorbed can rationalize many things by declaring themselves empowered by them or somehow liberated from some form of bondage (real or imagined). Even the hashtags that seem to thank others, do so in light of what the others had done for her… which, from the text of the comment, was clearly encouraging her that she was doing the right thing by seeking her own happiness above all else. She is not alone in this. The world is filled with selfish sinners… this sin is in our fallen flesh, each and every one of us.

No, You Don’t “Deserve” to be Happy

Let’s begin with the reality of our sin. We are so depraved we don’t even have a right understanding of “good” and “happy”. These terms are grounded and defined by the very nature of God. Depending on the Bible translation you use, you could search for the word “happy” and not even find it in the New Testament. The KJV uses it a few times when translating the word makarios. In the ESV this word is translated “blessed”, and even in the KJV it is more often translated “blessed” (44x) than it is “happy” (5x). So what happens when a fallen and sinful world tries to understand a concept like “happy” with out the God who defines it? It bases “happiness” on its own desires, passions, and emotions. Let’s look at Romans 1 again.

Romans 1:18-32 (ESV) | God’s Wrath on Unrighteousness

18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.

24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

26 For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; 27 and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.

28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. 29 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents,31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.

It’s that last part that gives this away. Sure, the folks celebrating their divorces and the ladies celebrating their abortions use words like “love”, “empowerment”, “peace”, and “life” they are using these words to give approval for themselves and others who practice the very things that God hates, like murder and divorce.

Okay but Christians Deserve Happiness, right?

God is the one who blesses… and He chooses who to bless according to Grace and Mercy. Dear sinner, what do you DESERVE?

Ephesians 2:1-10 (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.

Wrath is what we deserve. No, this isn’t an exaggeration for effect, this is the plain Truth. Our sin has earned us (deserved) the Wrath of God. This is the Law. Thankfully, there is more than the Law, for where the Law brings death, the Gospel of Jesus Christ brings Life. Let’s continue in Eph 2:

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.10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works,which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Dear Christian, if your salvation was by God’s grace, a gift of mercy, then where do we ever get the notion that we DESERVE anything more? We get that from our still-sinful flesh, not from the Word of God.

What About the Promises of God?

Okay, so if we’ve properly destroyed the misuse of the word “deserve”, there remains many who make unsubstantiated claims to the Promises of God. What is the Promise of the Gospel of Jesus Christ? Resurrection in Christ Jesus.

Titus 1:1-4 (ESV) Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the sake of the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth, which accords with godliness, in hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began and at the proper time manifested in his word through the preaching with which I have been entrusted by the command of God our Savior; To Titus, my true child in a common faith: Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior.

1 Peter 1:3-9 (ESV) 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, 4 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. 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.

When it comes to focusing on the Promise of Salvation, the focus needs to be firmly fixed in the future, the Day of His Return or the Day of our release from these fleshly bodies. We have been promised comfort in our struggles by the Grace of God and His Holy Spirit, but that is not mean we will live miraculous lives free from pain, hunger, or persecution.

2 Corinthians 1:3-11 (ESV) | God of All Comfort

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.

For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. 10 He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again. 11 You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many.

Conclusion

We don’t live according to what we DESERVE; rather, we live by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. Emotional “happiness”  will come and go. It is foolish to live your life chasing an emotion. As we see in Romans 1, mankind rejected the Creator and was given over to their desires and passions and a depraved mind. As Christians, we are to put to death what is fleshly in us on a daily basis. The Happiness we pursue must be by faith, not by sight/emotion/circumstance.  We seek the blessing of the Lord that comes only by faith in Christ Jesus. Pray for the lost that their eyes and ears will be opened to the Truth, so that they might repent and trust in the Gospel of Jesus Christ to save them in the Last Day. 

Amen.
In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

DiM | “Lift Your Head Weary Sinner (Chains)” by Crowder

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

September 29, 2015. Today we’ll be taking a look at “Lift Your Head Weary Sinner (Chains)” by Crowder which currently sits at #7 on the KLove top 10.

Overall, this song is a call to repentance. There isn’t lot going on in the song, so this review will be fairly straight forward.

Crowder VEVO Lyric Video

Lyrics (via KLove)

Lift Your Head Weary Sinner (Chains)

Lift your head weary sinner the river’s just ahead
Down the path of forgiveness salvation’s waiting there
You built a mighty fortress 10,000 burdens high
Love is here to lift you up, here to lift you high

If you’re lost and wandering
Come stumbling in like a prodigal child
See the walls start crumbling
Let the gates of glory open wide

All who’ve strayed and walked away, unspeakable things you’ve done
Fix your eyes on the mountain, let the past be dead and gone
Come all saints and sinners, you can’t outrun God
Whatever you’ve done can’t overcome the power of the blood

If you’re lost and wandering
Come stumbling in like a prodigal child
See the walls start crumbling
Let the gates of glory open wide

If you’re lost and wrecked again
Come stumbling in like a prodigal child
See the walls start crumbling
Let the gates of glory open wide

If you’re lost and wandering
Come stumbling in like a prodigal child
See the walls start crumbling
Let the gates of glory open wide

If you’re lost and wrecked again
Come stumbling in like a prodigal child
See the walls start crumbling
Let the gates of glory open wide
Let the gates of glory open wide
Let the gates of glory open wide

Publishing: © 2014 sixsteps Music / worshiptogether.com Songs (ASCAP) / sixsteps Songs / Worship Together Music (Admin. at CapitolCMGPublishing.com) / Alletrop Music (BMI)
Writer(s): Ed Cash, David Crowder and Seth Philpott

Discussion

The first verse invokes the sinner to come to the river, which is traditionally a reference to water baptism. There is mention of a path of forgiveness where salvation awaits. There is a refrain to come back to this place like a prodigal child, which brings to mind the song “Prodigal” by Sidwalk Prophets. We didn’t approve of that song because of its poor retelling of the parable. Crowder is using the term in a better way, but there is one concept in this song that bothers me.

There is a sense throughout the song that the Gospel is something you come to once you’ve grown weary in your sinning… then you get cleaned up and go back on your way. Notice the “if”. It’s the “if” that gets to me. There is no “if” regarding sin. We sin. The Christian life isn’t about trying to walk as far as we can until we get wrecked, and then make our way back to the river. We are to walk according to the Spirit, denying the flesh, and confessing and repenting continually for our failings. In light of this truth, repentance is by faith, not by works. That the song stays cloaked in metaphor and imagery leaves room for a listener to feel that they need to “do something” to “return to the river”. This sort of pietism leads folks to “revival conferences” and “re-dedication altar-calls” with lots of weeping and seeking an emotional experience for a forgiveness that comes not by works, but by grace through faith. Brothers and sisters in Christ… emotions only stir up more emotion… faith comes by hearing the Word of Christ.

The song has strong points, to be sure. Once our eyes have been opened to the truth of our sin and of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and confess & repent we are forgiven by faith in Jesus Christ. We need to let what is old be dead and gone. But we must also trust in the Word of God to put to death what is fleshly and sinful in our day to day lives. It is also important to note that once the Holy Spirit convicts you of your sin, that there is no sin Christ’s finished work on the cross cannot cover. Confess, repent, and be forgiven in Christ Jesus.

Romans 6 (ESV)

Dead to Sin, Alive to God

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions.Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.

Slaves to Righteousness

What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification.

For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

1 John 1 (ESV)

The Word of Life

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.

Walking in the Light

This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

Conclusion

In general, I like this song. The messaging of the song is cloaked in metaphor, so I’m not comfortable with the idea that this song stands on its own. However, where the listener’s theology is sound, this song can be of some encouragement.

Amen.
In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

CTT | Stand Firm and Hold onto the Traditions…

CTTToday’s Completing The Thought (CTT) post is a bit of reflection on the traditions we hold in our local churches. Let us begin with the passage supporting Traditions in the Church followed by some discussion of traditions we see today. I think the greater context of this passage coming immediately after Paul reminds the church of Christ’s return and the man of lawlessness is important to understanding the implications of having a right understanding of keeping traditions.

2 Thessalonians 2 (ESV)
The Man of Lawlessness

Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we ask you, brothers, not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by a spirit or a spoken word, or a letter seeming to be from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God. Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things? And you know what is restraining him now so that he may be revealed in his time. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work. Only he who now restrains it will do so until he is out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will kill with the breath of his mouth and bring to nothing by the appearance of his coming. The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, 10 and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. 11 Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, 12 in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.

Stand Firm

13 But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the firstfruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth. 14 To this he called you through our gospel, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.15 So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by our spoken word or by our letter.

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.

Now, we do not have the spoken word of the Apostles, what we have is the written words of the Apostles (or spoken words that have been written and preserved by God the Holy Spirit). The pastoral epistles serve as our blueprint and guidance for church leadership, for offices within the church, and the call to preach Law and Gospel. We are taught how to pray, the importance of confession and repentance, forgiving our brothers in Christ, dealing with the unbelieving world. We are clearly instructed in baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Yet in all of these things and in many more, we run into some serious differences in the traditions observed by denominations and local church bodies.

Evaluate Traditions Objectively in God’s Word

Not all traditions are good. How do we determine which traditions are good and which are not? The first step is to identify origins… and they should originate in God’s Word. There is some bad teaching out there that suggests that the Gospel can redeem pagan practices and make them fitting for Worship. God eliminated such rationale in Deuteronomy 12, which was recently the topic of a sermon by Dr. James White.

Deuteronomy 12:29-32 (ESV) | Warning Against Idolatry

29 “When the Lord your God cuts off before you the nations whom you go in to dispossess, and you dispossess them and dwell in their land, 30 take care that you be not ensnared to follow them, after they have been destroyed before you, and that you do not inquire about their gods, saying, ‘How did these nations serve their gods?—that I also may do the same.’ 31 You shall not worship the Lord your God in that way, for every abominable thing that the Lord hates they have done for their gods, for they even burn their sons and their daughters in the fire to their gods. 32  “Everything that I command you, you shall be careful to do. You shall not add to it or take from it.

There are also traditions that have a form of godliness, and come from a seemingly historically pious origins, but are merely the commandments of men.

Mark 7:1-13 (ESV) | Traditions and Commandments

Now when the Pharisees gathered to him, with some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem, they saw that some of his disciples ate with hands that were defiled, that is, unwashed. (For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they wash their hands properly, holding to the tradition of the elders,and when they come from the marketplace, they do not eat unless they wash.And there are many other traditions that they observe, such as the washing ofcups and pots and copper vessels and dining couches.) And the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, “Why do your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?” And he said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written,

“‘This people honors me with their lips,
    but their heart is far from me;
in vain do they worship me,
    teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’

You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.” And he said to them, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition! 10 For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’11 But you say, ‘If a man tells his father or his mother, “Whatever you would have gained from me is Corban”’ (that is, given to God)— 12 then you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or mother, 13 thus making void the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And many such things you do.”

The Pharisees added to the Law their own explications, claiming it was a parallel oral Law given to Moses but meant only for the Priests to understand and to pass on, creating an elite class of enlightened God’s chosen ones. Jesus rebuked them strongly, plainly, and repeatedly for this error. But these traditions didn’t simply disappear after the Resurrection and Ascension of Christ. Paul had to address such commandments of men in his letter to the Colossians.

Colossians 2:16-23 (ESV) | Let No One Disqualify You

16 Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. 17 These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. 18 Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, 19 and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God. 20 If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations 21 “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” 22 (referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings? 23 These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.

Colossians 3:1-6 (ESV) | Put On the New Self

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming.

So, you see that when the occasion arises where the traditions of men start to undermine the Gospel of Jesus Christ, we have a problem. Even if these traditions come from the former things: questions of food and drink, festival, new moon, or Sabbath. Now, is observing these former statues a sin of itself? No, just like ritual washing of the hands before a meal isn’t a sin. Undermining the Gospel for the sake of these is the sin. What shall we say about traditions that are not commandments? In as much as the one observing the tradition is encouraged in the faith once delivered to the saints, as long as he/she is doing so for the Glory of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, it is an act of worship done in faith and pleasing to God.

When Our Faith-Based Traditions Don’t Blend

As long as the traditions being observed are not objectively sinful or undermining the Gospel of Jesus Christ, then we have clear instruction from the Apostle Paul in his letter to the Romans.

Romans 14 (ESV) | Do Not Pass Judgment on One Another

As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, andlet not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.

One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God. For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.

Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God; for it is written,

“As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me,
    and every tongue shall confess to God.”

So then each of us will give an account of himself to God.

Do Not Cause Another to Stumble

Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother. I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean. For if your brother is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. By what you eat, do not destroy the one for whom Christ died. So do not let what you regard as good be spoken of as evil. For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Whoever thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.

Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God. Everything is indeed clean, but it is wrong for anyone to make another stumble by what he eats. It is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble. The faith that you have, keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who has no reason to pass judgment on himself for what he approves. But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.

Conclusion

I know it’s an academic no-no to bring in a new topic in a “conclusion” paragraph, but I’d like to challenge those of you who attend non-denominational churches to reevaluate your position on traditions. You have them, too. In some cases, inventing new traditions is itself a tradition… all too often these “new” traditions simple come from whatever can be found in the end-cap of your local “Christian bookstore”. We all have traditions. The traditions taught in the New Testament are essential for the Church to stand firm in the last days and guard against the man of lawlessness and the great apostasy. But whenever and wherever the topic of Church tradition arises… it must ever and always be submitted to the teaching of God-Breathed and all-sufficient Scriptures.

Romans 15:1-7 (ESV) | The Example of Christ

We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. For Christ did not please himself, but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me.” For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.

Amen.
In Christ Jesus,
Jorge