Pastor Chad's Itinarary

Monday, February 20, 2017

"The Nature of God Revealed: The Critical Doctrinal Difference Between Islam and Christianity" (pt.3)


The Transcendence of God
            As there is a commonality and distinction between Islam and Christianity of God’s oneness, there is also a similar belief and distinction of God’s transcendence. God’s transcendence means, to exist above and independent from; to rise above, or to succeed. Abdulla Saeed expresses Allah’s transcendence as, “there is nothing like Him in creation.”[1] The word transcendent is used to describe an incommunicable attribute of God’s otherness, supremeness, and distinction from all of His creation. Although transcendence could be defined the same between the two religions, their understanding greatly differs.
Allah of the Qur’an
            The transcendence of Allah is one of the fundamental beliefs in Islam. According to the Qur’an 57:4, “It is He who created the heavens and earth in six days and then established Himself above the Throne.” Allah’s transcendence means he is above and beyond his creation. Allah is not surrounded by his creation, as he is above it, nor does he dwell within it. He is wholly distinct, independent, and superior over the entire universe. As the scholar At-Tawiah explains, “Allah is independent of the Throne and whatever is beneath it. He surrounds everything and is above it, and what He has created is incapable of surrounding Him.”[2] The Muslims belief of Allah’s transcendence insists his nature is unknowable and unapproachable.
            The Qur’an is the primary source for the Muslims understanding of Allah’s transcendence. It states, “It is Allah who created the heavens and the earth and whatever is between them in six days; then He established Himself above the Throne”[3] Allah is above the Throne sovereignly ruling and reigning separated from all of his creation. The Qur’an makes it clear that Allah is unlike his creation by his total separation of it. The reality of Allah’s transcendence causes one to ask: Can Allah be known?
            According to the Qur’an 17:9, “Indeed, this Qur’an guides to that which is most suitable and gives good tidings to the believers who do righteous deeds that they will have a great reward” Allah’s will has been revealed, but not his nature. Allah’s has revealed his will through the Qur’an and prophets. As one Islam scholar states, Allah’s will,
is all we have, and we have it in perfection in the Quran. But Islam does not equate the Quran with the nature or essence of God. It is the Word of God, the Commandment of God, the Will of God. But God does not reveal Himself to anyone."[4]
            Allah’s will has been revealed as to living a submissive and righteous life. At the same time, Allah’s transcendence does not mean he is not in control or aloof out in space. The Qur’an mentions of Allah’s presence with his people by stating, “And We have already created man and know what his soul whispers to him, and We are closer to him than [his] jugular vein”[5] but does not mention interacting with his creation. Allah is the righteous judge who expects righteous obedience and total submission to his will, which was given to his prophet Muhammad in the Qur’an. 
God of the Bible
            The God of the Bible is presented as having the same attribute of transcendence as that of Allah in the Qur’an. God’s transcendence describes His relationship with the world. Transcendence is language used in the Bible describing God’s holiness or majesty. Like Allah the Bible reveals God as above, beyond, and separated from his creation in one sense. The Bible depicts God as incomprehensible when it says, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”[6] Although God is incomprehensible the Bible never denies the knowability of God. This is a fundamental difference between the Christian and Muslim faith.
            In Christianity the transcendence of God does not limit His ability to make Himself known to the world. The God of the Bible glories in revealing not only His will but His very nature to His creation. John Frame points this out in His book, The Doctrine of God as theologians such as Justin Martyr, Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Eusebisus, Augustine, and others viewed God’s transcendence as being “God is so far above us, so very different from anything on earth, that we can say nothing, at least positive, about him.”[7] This view of God’s transcendence can cause one to become skeptical of the Bible and God.
            The Bible never declares God’s transcendence as a barrier for knowing or speaking truth about Him. One of the fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith is the ability to know the transcendent God. As Frame states, “Scriptures never suggest that the human mind is incapable of knowing God or that human language is incapable of speaking truly about him.”[8]
            Unlike the Qur’an, which presents Allah, is a transcendent cosmic god who is not willing to interact personally with his world. The God of Bible is transcendent and yet reveals himself personally to His creation. This is where the Bible and Qur’an go their separate ways as it relates to God’s transcendence.

Please feel free to share your thoughts, concerns, or questions in the comment box below.. I will be posting another part in the next few days. Don't forget that you can subscribe to this blog by placing your e-mail address in the "follow by e-mail" location on the home page.  
           [1] Abdullah Saeed, Islam’s Thought An Introduction, 79.
            [2] www.abuaminaelias.com/aqeedah-of-imam-tahawi/
            [3] Surah As-Sajdah 32:4.
            [4] Isma’il al-Faruqi, Christian Mission and Islamic Da`wah, 47-48.
            [5] Surah Qaf 50:16
            [6] Isaiah 55:8-9.
            [7] John Frame, The Doctrine of God, 110.
            [8] Ibid. 110.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

"The Nature of God Revealed: The Critical Doctrinal Difference Between Islam and Christianity" (pt.2)

    Nabeel Qureshi's book No God But One: Allah or Jesus? is a very helpful read. Nabeel is a converted Muslim to Christianity as when he set forth studying the Trinity. I commend this book to you if you have a desire to learn more about the similarities and differences between Islam and Christianity. Here a link to purchase the book:  "No God but One" Allah or Jesus?"




 This is the second post concerning God's nature revealed in the difference between Islam and Christianity. The post will focus on the Muslim and Christian understanding of monotheism. The Christian believes God reveals Himself through the Trinity, whereas the Muslim believes Allah reveals himself in their belief of Tawhid. I pray this post would help in understanding this fundamental difference in Christianity and Islam.



Christianity and the Trinity
            Though Islam and Christianity have some similarities, they are fundamentally different regarding God’s nature. One of the foundational beliefs in Christianity is that a person can know God, and in order to know God, a person must have a personal relationship with God through His Son, Jesus Christ, as revealed in the Bible. Christians believe the God of the Bible has revealed Himself as One being, yet He is expressed in Three Persons known as the Trinity. Christians also believe that in order to know the God of the Bible, the Triune God must reveal Himself to that person in a real and personal way as Father, Son, and Spirit.
            However, the belief and understanding of the Trinity does not come without its controversy between the Muslim and Christian. One of the arguments Muslims make is that the Bible does not mention the Trinity, or that Christians worship three gods. Wayne Grudem responds to this argument by saying, “The word trinity means ‘tri-unity’ or ‘three-in-oness.’ It is used to summarize the teaching of Scripture that God is three persons yet one God.”[1] When the Christian refers to God as being revealed in Three Persons, they are not saying they are worshipping three gods as the Muslim would believe, but they are worshipping the very essence of God revealed in each person of the Godhead.
            Though the Oneness of God is a common belief between Muslims and Christians, the difference lies in the way God reveals Himself to each of them. The Bible declares throughout that God is One; for example, the shema states, “Hear, O, Israel: The Lord Our God, the LORD is one.”[2] This Bible verse is a primary verse in which the Muslim and Christian would agree on God’s Oneness. However, a closer examination of this verse in the original language one would detect that the word “one” is echad. Echad is often used in the Old Testament when referring to a composite of unity. Examples of the usage of echad in the Old Testament are found in Genesis 1:5, Numbers 13:23, and Ezekiel 37:17. Each one of these verses reveal a number of subjects contained in one unit. This is where the Muslim would disagree.
            Christians hold the position that there is a consistent teaching of God’s Oneness revealed in Three Persons throughout both the Old and New Testament. One of the most prominent verses in the New Testament used for the Trinity is found in Matthew 28:20. Matthew writes the words of Christ, which were given to His disciples, “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…” (Matt.28:20). Jesus reveals to His disciples that they were to make disciples and then baptize those disciples in “the name” of God, revealed as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. As Nabeel Qureshi states, “All three persons in this verse share one name, because they are one being.”[3]
            The Christian’s belief in the Trinity is not confined to only these few Bible passages, for the Christian conviction and belief that God has revealed Himself in Three Persons stems from Genesis 1:1 to Revelation 22:2. The Trinity is the Christian’s only reasoning in their ability to know the nature of God. The Christian is helpless and hopeless in knowing God unless God makes Himself knowable. Therefore, Christians believe the Trinity is the way God has revealed Himself to His people from the very beginning. The Trinity allows the Christian to know God and His attributes.

Muslims and Tawhid          
            The worship of Allah in Islam is referred to as Tawhid. Tawhid is the belief in the singular oneness of Allah and is the central affirmation of Islamic theology. Unlike the Christian’s belief that God is One and reveals Himself in Three Persons, Islamic teaching of the Tawhid, as David Thomas notes, decrees that “…God’s unity cannot be divided, or that as the absolute other he cannot be related to creatures. They are confronted as rivals to the teaching of the Qur'an, and refuted on that basis.”[4] The tawhid is where the initial monotheism agreement separates Muslims and Christians.
            Just as the Christian believes the Trinity because the Bible teaches it, the Muslim denies the Trinity due to the Qur’an. One of the clearest rejections of the Trinity, or at least to polytheism, is found in Qur’an 4:171 when it says, “And do not say, ‘Three;’ desist – it is better for you. Indeed, Allah is but one God…” In the beginning of this ayah (verse), the Qur’an is exhorting “the People of the Book” (Christians) to forsake adding to their worship of Allah. The Qur’an admonishes them to refrain from worshipping all other gods such as Jesus and Mary. Allah, Jesus, and Mary may have comprised the early Arabic Muslims’ understanding of the Christian doctrine of the Trinity. Jonathon Berkey reveals:
  Some reflection of this may be present in the Koran itself, which seems to suggest that some Arabs understood the Christian trinity to consist of God, Jesus, and Mary: ‘And when God said: ‘Oh Jesus, son of Mary, did you say to men, ‘Take me and my mother as gods next to Allah’? (5.116).[5]

            Christians would reject this understanding of the Trinity since the early church councils had already agreed on the teaching of the Trinity prior to Muhammad and the Qur’an. Regardless if the Qur’an was misinformed, Muslims rejected any notion of worship other than Allah.
Therefore, the oneness of Allah calls the follower of Allah to supreme allegiance and submission to him. The Qur’an 2:56 states:
None but Jews and Christians shall enter into paradise.' Such are their wishful fancies. Say: 'Let us have proof, if what you say is true.' No. He that surrenders himself to Allah and does what is right shall have his reward with his Lord.[6]

Muhammad’s mission was to bring back the pure worship (tawhid) of Allah to Mecca. Like Abraham, Muhammad had instructed the believers of Allah to worship him alone, as the Qur’an notes, “…He that surrenders himself to Allah and does what is right shall have his reward with his Lord.”[7] Maxime Rodinson argues, “In the same way, Abraham (Ibrahim in Arabic) tried to persuade his father and his people to give up the cult of idols. He was not listened to either, and had to emigrate because of the threats against him.”[8] Muhammad understood that his calling as a prophet was to turn the people back to the pure worship of Allah.
            The Muslim belief in tawhid comes from the authority of the Torah, Gospels, and the Qur’an. As Isaiah 45:21-24 declares the singularity of God as no other, the Muslim understands there is no other god but Allah, and he is due their worship. In fact, it is made evident in Qur’an 7:59 that Muslims understand the dire consequences for the worship of another when it states, “Indeed, We sent Nuh (Noah) to his people and he said: ‘O my people! Worship Allah! You have no other Ilah (God) but Him. Certainly, I fear for you the torment of a Great Day!’”[9] The Qur’an makes it clear that Muslims are required to worship Allah.
            Just as Christians believe in the Trinity due to their confidence of the Bible’s authority, Muslims deny the Trinity because they are confident in the authority of the Qur’an. It is one thing for an individual to say, I worship God or Allah, but it is another to say, “I know God or Allah.” Although both seem monotheistic, there is a vast difference within both religions. The answer lies in the reality of this: does Allah make himself know specifically and specially? Does the God of the Bible make Himself known specifically and specially? The answers to these questions will reveal the reality of knowing God’s nature.

Please feel free to share you thoughts, concerns, or questions. I will be posting part 2 in the next few days. Don't forget that you can subscribe to this blog by placing your e-mail address in the "follow by e-mail" location on the home page. 

            [1] Wayne Grudem. Systematic Theology, 226.
            [2] Deuteronomy 6:4. All Scripture will be cited from the English Standard Version unless otherwise stated.

            [3] Nabeel Qureshi, No God But One: Allah or Jesus?, 57.
            [4] David Thomas, The Bible in Early Muslim Anti-Christian Polemic Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations, 29.

            [5] Jonathon Berkey, The Formation of Islam, 46-47.
            [6] Surah Al-Baqarah 2:56
            [7] Surah Al-Baqarah 2:105-6
            [8] Maxime Rodinson, Muhammed 122.
[9] Al-A’raf 7:59.

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Friday, February 10, 2017

"The Nature of God Revealed: A Critical Doctrinal Difference Between Islam and Christianity" (pt.1)

     I will begin a new series of blog posts over the next few weeks. They will pertain to a critical doctrinal difference between Islam and Christianity. The majority of Christians and Muslims fail to understand the fundamental differences when it comes to each one's faith. Therefore, my desire is to help us understand one of the most fundamental, as well as critical, issue that separates Islam and Christianity. The critical doctrinal issue I will focus upon will be the nature of God, more specifically the knowability of God in Islam versus Christianity. The ability to know God is a common doctrine in Christianity due to the fact that God chooses to make Himself known by special revelation through the Trinity. However, this is not the case in Islam. I pray you will read, critique, and ask questions concerning this fundamental difference when it comes to Islam and Christianity.





Introduction
       For over six thousand years, humanity has been conflicted regarding how one should worship God. After the fall in Genesis 3, sin entered into the world, and then Genesis 4 revealed that Cain and Able desired to bring worthy sacrifices in their worship of God; however, God received one and rejected the other. This led to the murder of Able and the judgment of Cain. There have been worship wars ever since, and they still exist today. These worship wars are between religions that claim the exclusive rights on how they know and worship God.
            The last twelve hundred years have contained sharp controversy and conflict between the Muslim and Christian faiths. Muslims and Christians alike ascribe to the worship of the one true and living God, yet only one is truly correct. Christians believe they can know their God in a personal way, while Muslims believe they can only know Allah’s will since he does not reveal himself in a relational way. Therefore, this paper will attempt to expose the superficial similarities between the Allah of the Qur’an and the God of the Bible, as it relates to the knowability of God. The argument will be presented as following: first, by contrasting the Oneness of Allah and God; second, by investigating Qur’anic and Biblical texts concerning the transcendence of Allah and God; third, by presenting evidence for the contrast of Allah’s and God’s immanence; and fourth, personal application in the importance of the Trinity as it relates to evangelizing to Muslims.

The Oneness of God
            The Scriptures testify that there is only one true God. The belief in the one true God is known as monotheism [Greek: mono, one + theos, god]. The belief in more than one God is called polytheism [Greek: poly, many]. The Islamic and Christian faiths are monotheistic in the sense that they worship one god. God’s Oneness is a point of similarity between the Muslim and Christian, but it also presents a major doctrinal difference when it comes to God’s nature of knowability.

            Both religions have a core conviction that their worship consists of worshipping One God. The doctrine of God’s Oneness can be traced throughout both histories as stated in the Qur’an and in the Bible. The Oneness of God is a vital doctrine, even though neither camp would agree on each other’s view. So the question that should be asked is, if both religions agree on the Oneness of God, what is the major difference when it comes to Islam and Christianity’s view of God’s Oneness? The writer will offer similarities and differences concerning the Tawhid and the Trinity.

Please feel free to share you thoughts, concerns, or questions. I will be posting part 2 in the next few days. Don't forget that you can subscribe to this blog by placing your e-mail address in the "follow by e-mail" location on the home page.  

Thursday, February 2, 2017

"Saved By Grace"

"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." Ephesians 2:8-10

     There is no hope for him. She is beyond help! There is no way they will ever change. Have you ever been guilty of making such a statement? I am sure we have all said these words concerning someone we knew. These statements presuppose that a person is able to change themselves or their current situation. I am also sure people with enough willpower can do just about anything they put their mind to like; quit smoking, drinking, cussing or overeating. People can change their habits but they cannot change their heart, only God can do that.


 Jocelynn and me
      Jocelynn James is my younger sister by five years. She and my brother Jeremie are paternal twins, we have the same mother but different fathers. We grew up pretty close knit as siblings who loved each other despite having different fathers and at times living in difficult situations. As we got older and time passed I moved out of the house on my own. I went one way and they went another. Even though we did not see each other much we still loved each other. 

     As the years passed we each got married, had children and started our own families. It was during this time Jocelynn began to journey down a dark and dangerous road. It was a road filled with drugs that eventually consumed her life. A place where I had been at one time myself. A place filled with lies, begging, and stealing in order to get the next fix. Jocelynn finally found herself at the end of her drug-filled road, which landed her in the Franklin County jail for 6 months. It was during this time God began to do a work of grace in her life.


     As children, we were taught the difference between right and wrong. We went to church where we learned about God, Jesus, and our need for the forgiveness of our sin. However, going to church never changes a person's heart and merely knowing about God is totally different than knowing God. As Jeremiah wrote, "Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard his spots. Then also you can do good who are accustomed to do evil" (Jeremiah 13:23). Jocelynn was in need of something more than just going to church, she needed an encounter with the Lord Jesus Christ.

     Family and friends prayed often for her but once she was incarcerated there was nothing anyone could do but keep praying. God in His grace allowed her to serve 6 months in the county jail where God began to do a work in her life. I say, "in His grace" because this allowed her to sober up and to begin to think straight. I remember making a visit or two while she was there and how I wept as I left the jail. She was released to an all women's Christian rehab center in Birmingham, AL called the "Love Lady" after her six-month sentence. It was during her time there God in His grace had mercy upon her and graced her with salvation. I remember she had the chaplain there contact me to come and minister to over 100 women at their chapel service. While I was there Jocelynn and I had a conversation about true conversion. I told her, "that time would tell if she had truly been converted." 

     I would say, time is telling, so far. The Lord has used Jocelynn in a multitude of ways. She is growing in the grace and knowledge of the Lord. She has traveled to different states, churches, and venues to share what God in Christ has done in her life. She now has an on-going ministry at the county jail, which she called home for six months, where she shares the hope of Christ to other women inmates. She is a woman who is not perfect but has been redeemed and forgiven by the blood of Jesus.


Jocelynn giving her testimony

     I am constantly amazed by God's grace. The very one's we would think there is no hope are the very one's God chooses to call and save. It reminds me of some of the last recorded words of the hymn writer of Amazing Grace, John Newton, when he said, "I know not of two things. I am a great sinner, but I have a great Savior."





 So, what can we learn? We learn there is no one beyond the reach of our Great God. God is able to save and change whomever, whenever, and it is for His glory and that person's good. I marvel at what God is doing in my little sister's life. God's grace causes me to rejoice and give thanks to Him for all that He is doing. For it is only God who can change a heart and He does this solely by His grace. 

Here is the link to a magazine article that featured Jocelynn last month (article begins on page 14):
https://issuu.com/franklinco/docs/franklin_living_janfeb_2017_web

Saturday, December 31, 2016

2017 Reading Challenge List

     
   

     I have spent some time this week meditating and setting a few goals for 2017. And one of my goals for 2017 is to do some extra reading outside of my sermon preparation and seminary work. With that said, let me share my reading list for 2017. It will be a challenge but as one person said, "If your goals don't scare you, they are not big enough."
The Light Reader
A biography: "Decision Points" by Geroge W. Bush. 494 pages (Audible)
A classic novel: "Walden" by Henry David Thoreau. 197 pages (Audible or Hardcover)
A book about history: "Pearl Harbor" by Craig Nelson. 499 pages. (Hardcover)
A book targeted at your gender: "Masculine Mandate" by Richard Phillips. 217 pages. (Hardcover)
A book about theology: "Covenant Theology: A Reformed and Baptistic Perspective on God's Covenants" by Greg Nichols. 365 pages. (Hardcover)
A book with at least 400 pages: "Living by Revealed Truth: The Life and Pastoral Theology of Charles Spurgeon" by Tom Nettles. 700 pages. (Hardcover)
A book your pastor recommends: "Knowing God" by J.I Packer. 286 pages. (Hardcover)
A book about Christian living: "A Quest For Godliness" by J.I. Packer. 367 pages. (Hardcover)
A book more than 100 years old: "Pilgrims Progress" by John Bunyan. 264 pages. (Hardcover)
A book published in 2017: "Reformation 500: How the Greatest Revival Since Pentecost Continues to Shape the World" by Ray Van Neste and Michael Garrett. 288 pages. (Hardcover)
A book for children or teens: "Shepherding a Childs Heart" by Ted Tripp. 215 pages. (Hardcover)
A book of your choice: "Born To Run" by Christopher McDougal. 304 pages. (Hardcover)
A book about a current issue: "The Gospel and Racial Reconciliation" by Russell Moore and Andrew Walker. 128 pages. (Audible)
**Disclaimer: I will be reading my Bible on a daily basis using the 5 Day Bible Reading Schedule. The past few years I have been reading the Bible chronologically and I've decided its time for a change.
Here is the pdf of the plan: http://www.bibleclassmaterial.com/BibleReadingSchedule2017f…
So, what do you think? What do you plan on reading in 2017? 

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

"Cross Major Doctrinal Differences Between Islam and Christianity"

     For the next several weeks I will be undertaking a research and writing project for my History and Religion of Islam class at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. I have chosen the topic of doctrinal differences between Islam and Christianity. I find this topic very interesting, as it relates to what Muslims truly believe and how to engage them with the gospel. 

    However, it is not that simple. The Islamic faith is very complex and can be confusing. This is the reason why I will seek out to understand the major doctrinal differences between the Islamic and Christian faith. I would appreciate your prayers as I continue to learn more on this subject.

Here are my outline and bibliography toward the research and writing.


Cross Major Doctrinal Differences Between Islam and Christianity

Outline for Research Paper:
Introduction:

            The Doctrine of Scripture 
                      (Qur'an versus Bible)

            The Doctrine of the Trinity 
                     (Unitarianism versus Trinitarianism) 

            The Doctrine of Soteriology 
                     (Salvation by Works versus Salvation by Grace)

            The Doctrine of Eschatology 
                     (Paradise versus Heaven)

Bibliography

Arberry, A.J. The Koran: Interpreted. Touchstone: New York, 1955, p358.

Griffith, Sidney. The Church In the Shadow of the Mosque. Princeton: Princeton University      Press, 2008, pp.237.

Grudem, Wayne. Systematic Theology: An Introduction of Biblical Doctrine, Zondervan:         Grand Rapids, 1994, pp.1271.

Guillaume, A. The Life of Muhammad. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1955, pp. 813.

Macleod, Donald. The Person of Christ. Downers Grove: Intervarsity Press, 1998, pp.301.

Peters, F.E. A Reader on Classical Islam. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1994, pp.437.

Reymond, Robert. A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith. Nashville: Thomas           Nelson, 1998, pp.1201.

Reynolds, Gabriel, S. The Muslim Jesus: Dead of Alive?. United Kingdom: School of Oriental &             African Studies, 2009, 237-258.

Reynolds, Gabriel S. The Emergence of Islam. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2012, pp.226.

Saeed, Abdulla. Islamic Thought: An Introduction. New York: Routledge Taylor & Francis        Group, 2006, pp.224.

Samir, Samir, K. The Significance of the Early Arab Christian Thought for Muslim-          Christian Understanding. Washington D.C.: Georgetown University, 1997, pp.52.

Stott, John. The Cross and Christ. Downers Grove: Intervarsity, 1986 & 2006, pp.373.

Swanson, Mark, N. Early Christian-Muslim Theological Conversation Among Arabic-Speaking   Intellectuals.

Thomas, David. The Bible in Early Muslim Anti-Christian Polemic. Islam and Christian-            Muslim Relations, Vol. 7, No.1, 1996, pp.29-38.

White, James. The Forgotten Trinity. Minneapolis: Bethany House, 1998.


Websites



Friday, December 23, 2016

Merry Christmas!


Luke 2:11 "For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord."




Merry Christmas from the Becks