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Archive for December, 2018

By Mike Edwards

J.D. Myers title WHAT ARE THE SPIRITUAL GIFTS is perfect and delivers in identifying spiritual gifts mentioned in the Bible and how to personally discover your gifts to help others. Those who grew up going to church are very familiar with the topic of spiritual gifts. I would encourage those who didn’t grow up in the church to read as well if wishing God’s help to make a difference in the lives of others through your talents, interests, skills, and abilities.

J.D. Myers greatest insight into this subject may be that God desires to empower us to love and serve not just those in church but those we encounter in all aspects of our life. J.D. explains “the church” in the Bible isn’t referring to a building but individuals seeking to make a difference in the world.

There is a Spiritual Gifts Inventory at the end of the book that many will find very useful. But, don’t overlook Chapter 4 – How Can We Know Our Gifts? The Chapter is easy to read and offers several ideas of how to discern our gifts to help others.

Chapter 5 rightly disputes the notion that some gifts are better than others. That is good for us introverts. Extroverts often get credit, though they don’t need it because others are telling them what a difference they are making. The great news is God loves introverts and extroverts the same. Introverts can make a difference in ways extroverts can’t.

Now, those who grew up going to church want to understand more about gifts such as tongues, prophecy, etc. The book does a great job of discussing whether some gifts no longer exist and how we can understand such gifts.

WHAT ARE YOUR SPIRITUAL GIFTS concludes by encouraging all to embrace their unique gifts. God does! I enjoyed reading J.D.’s personal story about his and his wife’s gifts. Couples can actually enjoy helping others though different and with a fun than critical spirit. Be and accept who you and others are! God would not have it any other way!

https://www.amazon.com/What-Are-Spiritual-Gifts-Christian-ebook/dp/B07L1KBTJM/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1544969890&sr=8-1&keywords=jd+myers+spiritual+gifts

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by Jim Gordon

When it comes to accepting others most of us Christian people are quick to say yes, we are accepting. But we find many times we are accepting of only those who believe the same way we do.

If someone comes from a different faith, no faith or different way of life, we would rather argue with them and defend our way of thinking trying to prove they are wrong or unworthy.

When looking at the way Jesus lived, we see a life of loving others and accepting those who the religious crowd did not like. He was kind, loving, forgiving and caring to all he came in contact. It seemed his main conflicts came from the religious self-righteous leaders.

Jesus walked with the prostitutes, the demon possessed, the heathen, tax collectors and people who the religious crowd felt they should stay away from. Today we seem to think we have to stay away from those who are different or doing things we disapprove of to prove how righteous we are.  Yet we never see Jesus doing such things. He enjoyed spending time with people from all walks of life. He got in trouble with the religious people of his day for living this way, and we find this still happens today when we accept people just the way they are.

Acceptingthosewhoaredifferent

Fact is, each and every one of us could have a label or something that someone else would think is wrong. Rather than being judgmental and pointing out to others what we think is wrong, we should seek what God has for us and then show the love of God to everyone we meet. After all, we are not called to point out the sins of others and say what is and what is not sin. We are called to love God and love one another.

Jesus never said to separate from people. He said to go into all the world and preach the gospel. We do this by living a life of love, acceptance and allowing the love of God to touch people right where they are.

It seems to me rather than fight and argue over doctrine, interpretation and belief we would do better to love, accept and show compassion. This certainly does not mean we have to agree with everyone but we do not have to fight and defend our way of thinking.

Many of us think we have it all figured out and our way of faith is the only way. We think we have to persuade others to come to our way of thinking or they are doomed to hell. As we grow in the Spirit over time, we come to realize we were wrong many times in interpretation or belief, so why should we be telling others what is right and wrong and how they should believe? This should be something between the individual and the Spirit within.

I am not sure any of us have it all figured out, in fact I know none of us do. We all have room to question, learn and change. I know my wife and I are doing more questioning than we ever did and we are finding new truths as we walk daily in the Spirit.

When it comes down to it, we should be open to accept others no matter what their way of thinking. People want to be loved and accepted, they want to be happy and get along with others. When we get all religious and defend our point of view it does more harm and drives people apart more than anything.

My wife and I have been asking God for strength to accept and love everyone. No matter what they believe, what their faith or doctrine is, no matter their religion, nationality, sexual preference or color we want to see them as Jesus sees them. This is a type of love we cannot do on our own. It is only possible by the love of God within us. We want to love, accept and care for people. Naturally we will not always agree, but we want to look past those areas and love them in Christ.

LoveisfromGod

We feel this is the way that others will come to see the love of God, not through condemning and bashing them. Not in trying to prove we are right and they are wrong, not trying to change them or trick them into coming to our way of thinking.

Love does not mean seeing eye-to-eye, it does not mean we agree or always like some of the things people do, but it does mean we look past the differences and love them as Christ loves them. We see them as human beings equally deserving of love, respect and acceptance.

Let’s try to look past the labels and see people who have feelings, who want love and friendship, people we can get to know, learn from, share thoughts and ideas and accept as human beings who were created in the image of God.

Acceptance does not mean total agreement. It is showing love to people, respecting them and accepting them for who they are without an ulterior motive of trying to change them.

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By Mike Edwards 

It can be confusing or turn others away from God by the way we talk about the Cross. A death doesn’t magically heal the pain we have caused God or others. The most healing we can hope for is when there is confession and forgiveness. A partner can never undo their betrayal, but taking responsibility and not blaming others can be a start toward healing. Many growing up in church may not have a problem with the idea of a child being sacrificed to appease God – neither did the OT gods – but an outsider using common moral sense has to wonder why a God who truly loves requires this. Does the Bible really teach God requires blood before forgiving?

Requiring a debt be paid isn’t really forgiveness.

If you owe a monetary debt and you are required to pay it off, how is that forgiveness of a debt? God can’t both forgive a debt and require repayment. Demanding the blood of an innocent party doesn’t legally resolve another person’s guilt.  My going to jail for a friend’s wrongdoing doesn’t somehow clear my friend of their crime. Guilt is not somehow magically removed by someone else’s confession of a sin they didn’t commit.

We may need to rewrite John 3:16 if Penal Substitution is true.

“For God was so filled with wrath against the world, that he sent his only begotten son to take the beating that we all deserved. That if anyone would want to escape eternal suffering, and would raise their hand and repeat this prayer after me, they would escape this horrible wrath. For the son was not sent into the world to change our minds about God, but to change God’s mind about us. So now that Jesus has taken the punishment for us, God can now finally love us, and forgive us.”  https://www.patheos.com/blogs/keithgiles/2018/11/for-god-so-hated-the-world/

Jesus and the Bible sometimes contradict the necessity of blood to forgive our sins.

Jesus forgave the paralyzed man before His death (Mt. 9: 6-9). Jesus sure seemed to accept supposedly evil people in society before His blood was spilt on the Cross. Why does the Bible talk so much about the Cross defeating evil, rather than the Cross defeated evil so God could forgive us (Gal. 1:4, I Jn. 3:8, etc.)? Jesus seemed on a mission to help us battle ongoing evil, not to pay for a once-for-all crime.

If blood was necessary for God to forgive, why did even OT writers over time begin to write that God doesn’t like animal sacrifices but contrite hearts (Ps. 51:16-17, i.e. Jer. 7:22, Amos 5:21, Micah 6:6). In the OT sacrifices were for unknown sins while known sins were punished not forgiven. Even in the NT God is said to not desire or be pleased with sacrifice and offerings though offered in accordance with the law (Heb. 10:8). These passages contradict passages that supposedly teach God required Jesus’ death to forgive us.

But, don’t Bible verses also say Jesus died for our sins?

Many passages insinuate that Jesus died for us because of our sins (I Pe. 3:18, Rom. 5:8, I John 3:16, etc.). They don’t say Jesus died for God’s sake. Jesus could have died because of our sins rather than for our sins. Jesus’ death actually proves violence doesn’t solve differences. Jesus’ message was acceptance and forgiveness lead to healing. If the Bible was crystal clear the purpose of Jesus’ death, why do so many theories exist as to why Jesus died?

Why did Jesus die? 

It is okay to speculate why Jesus was willing to die on the Cross. Biblical scholars haven’t figured it out. Jesus jumping off the Cross or overpowering His enemies was expected or hoped for but we would have learned nothing. We may still be talking about Jesus’ message of radical love as the best path for reconciliation, because He was willing to die rather than power over others. Jesus’ desire to inspire unselfish living empowered by our Creator is what really changes the world.  Jesus’ death rather than His power has inspired billions to live unselfishly.

Jesus’ death can enable us to not feel overwhelmed by guilt and truly loved by God. Terrorists blow others up for a message they feel strongly about. Jesus only blew Himself up for a message He believed very strongly in. Soldiers often sacrifice their lives because they are convinced certain freedom are that important. Jesus died in hopes we may understand true freedom is found by understanding what God is really like.

God forgives if we seek God’s forgiveness – no strings attached!

God is dying to forgive you of wrong doing in hopes to inspire you to change for your interests and the interests of others. God’s love and mercy, not God’s need for punishment, is our necessary nourishment in being the person we desire to be. That doesn’t get you a free out- of-jail card for a serious crime. That doesn’t mean when forgiving a friend that has betrayed you, that you have to pretend the relationship is back to the way it was. It takes two to tango. Unfortunately, most of us don’t seek forgiveness from humans or feel a perfect Creator accepts us and could simply forgive us for sins we have a hard time forgiving ourselves for.

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by Rocky Glenn

Lord is it possible to get this far
And just now understand who You are?

In 2014, after two years of repeatedly hearing preaching and teaching on the true nature of God’s love and how I did nothing to earn it, I could do nothing to deserve it, and I would never do anything to lose it, the message of grace was starting to crack through my thick skull and I found myself asking the question listed above. It was around this time contemporary Christian artist MercyMe released their 8th studio album, Welcome to the New. Not really an avid fan of the band, the release of their new album would not have normally been on my radar, but I had been hearing and reading interviews and promotional material from lead singer Bart Millard about something new in his life. Here’s a statement Bart shared on social media at that time . . . “Did you know the enemy most likely has a better grasp of who you are in Christ than you do? Roughly 2 years ago, a couple of dear friends helped me realize this. Daily they would remind me who I am in Christ. Constantly telling me I’m holy, righteous and redeemed. And you know what? Over time I started to believe it. Maybe that’s what it means to set your mind on things above.” Needless to say, having just been awakened to those same ideas myself, I awaited the album release day with great anticipation . . . and I wasn’t disappointed. It was if they had created my own personal soundtrack asking every question, expressing every doubt, and capturing every emotion I was experiencing as the churchboy chains and shackles were falling from me.

You broke your back kept all the rules
Jumped through the hoops
To make God approve of you
Oh tell me was it worth it
The whole time you were spinning plates
Did you stop to think that
Maybe He is okay with just you
There’s no need to join the circus

Just like that, with the lyrics of the second verse from the title track and opening tune, the band had captured my entire life of working, striving, and trying. From there, each subsequent track was one more reminder of the freedom, love, and joy available and I was just starting to experience.

Flawless not only described the churchboy life:

There’s got to be more
Than going back and forth
From doing right to doing wrong
‘Cause we were taught that’s who we are
Come on get in line right behind me
You along with everybody
Thinking there’s worth in what you do

It then went on to remind us:

No matter the bumps
No matter the bruises
No matter the scars
Still the truth is
The cross has made you flawless

Take a breath smile and say
Right here right now I’m ok
Because the cross was enough

My favorite track from the album, Wishful Thinking, comes at number eight. The lyrics not only serve to open this post but are also featured as the permanent tagline on the banner of this blog:

Lord is it possible to get this far
And just now understand who You are?
Feeling foolish yet relieved as well
‘Cause what I bought before, I just can’t sell
But now my eyes are open wide
If this is wrong
I don’t wanna be right
Could it be that on my worst day
How you love me still will not change
What if it’s really not about
What I do but what you did, oh what if
This ain’t wishful thinking it’s just how it is

Although this album was not the motivating factor for beginning a soundtrack series, I can think of no better starting point due to its constant presence and importance during the early days of my recovery. For a period of six to eight weeks after the album’s release, it was rarely removed from the CD player unless it was being carried from vehicle to vehicle or vehicle to house or vehicle to office. Bart Millard continued in the social media post referenced above, “I believe if you stand around truth long enough, it just might change you. So by all means, stay a while. The truth has certainly changed me!” Hearing these ten tracks repeatedly for weeks allowed me to stand around truth and, just like Bart, it “certainly changed me!”

As this post is published, it is now four days before the celebration of Christmas. I had considered taking a break for the holidays, but as I decided what the first post in the soundtrack series would be I realized how timely it was as Christ’s birth is God announcing to the world, “Welcome to the new.”

Rocky

Below is the list of scriptures Bart shared of which his friends would remind him and brought him to the knowledge of his identity in Christ. Learning who we truly are is the first step of recovering from being a churchboy.

John 1:12 – I am a child of God (Romans 8:16).
John 15:1,5 – I am a part of the true vine, a channel (branch) of His Life.
John 15:15 – I am Christ’s friend.
John 15:16 – I am chosen and appointed by Christ to bear His fruit.
Acts 1:8 – I am a personal witness of Christ for Christ.
Romans 3:24 – I have been justified and redeemed.
Romans 5:1 – I have been justified (completely forgiven and made righteous) and am at peace with God.
Romans 6:1-6 – I died with Christ and died to the power of sin’s rule in my life.
Romans 6:7 – I have been freed from sin’s power over me.
Romans 6:18 – I am a slave of righteousness.
Romans 6:22 – I am enslaved to God.
Romans 8:1 – I am forever free from condemnation.
Romans 8:14,15 – I am a son of God (God is literally my “Papa”) (Galatians 3:26; 4:6).
Romans 8:17 – I am an heir of God and fellow heir with Christ.
Romans 11:16 – I am holy.
Romans 15:7 – Christ has accepted me.
1 Corinthians 1:2 – I have been sanctified.
1 Corinthians 1:30 – I have been placed in Christ by God’s doing; Christ is now my wisdom from God, my righteousness, my sanctification, and my redemption.
1 Corinthians 2:12 – I have received the Spirit of God into my life that I might know the things freely given to me by God.
1 Corinthians 2:16 – I have been given the mind of Christ.
1 Corinthians 3:16; 6:19 – I am a temple (home) of God; His Spirit (His life) dwells in me.
1 Corinthians 6:17 – I am joined to the Lord and am one spirit with Him.
1 Corinthians 6:19,20 – I have been bought with a price; I am not my own; I belong to God.
1 Corinthians 12:27 – I am a member of Christ’s body (Ephesians 5:30).
2 Corinthians 1:21 – I have been established in Christ and anointed by God.
2 Corinthians 2:14 – He always leads me in His triumph in Christ.
2 Corinthians 5:14,15 – Since I have died, I no longer live for myself, but for Christ.
2 Corinthians 5:17 – I am a new creation.
2 Corinthians 5:18,19 – I am reconciled to God and am a minister of reconciliation.
2 Corinthians 5:21 – I am the righteousness of God in Christ.
Galatians 2:4 – I have liberty in Christ Jesus.
Galatians 2:20 – I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. The life I am now living is Christ’s life.
Galatians 3:26,28 – I am a child of God and one in Christ.
Galatians 4:6,7 – I am a child of God and an heir through God.
Ephesians 1:1 – I am a saint (1 Corinthians 1:2; Philippians 1:1; Colossians 1:2).
Ephesians 1:3 – I am blessed with every spiritual blessing.
Ephesians 1:4 – I was chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and without blame before Him.
Ephesians 1:5 – I have been adopted as God’s Child.
Ephesians 1:7,8 – I have been redeemed and forgiven, and am a recipient of His lavish grace.
Ephesians 2:5 – I have been made alive together with Christ.
Ephesians 2:6 – I have been raised up and seated with Christ in heaven.
Ephesians 2:10 – I am God’s workmanship, created in Christ to do His work that He planned beforehand that I should do.
Ephesians 2:13 – I have been brought near to God.
Ephesians 2:18 – I have direct access to God through the Spirit.
Ephesians 2:19 – I am a fellow citizen with the saints and a member of God’s household.
Ephesians 3:6 – I am a fellow heir, a fellow member of the body, and a fellow partaker of the promise in Christ Jesus.
Ephesians 3:12 – I may approach God with boldness and confidence.
Ephesians 4:24 – I am righteous and holy.
Philippians 3:20 – I am a citizen of heaven.
Philippians 4:7 – His peace guards my heart and my mind.
Philippians 4:19 – God will supply all my needs.
Colossians 1:13 – I have been delivered from the domain of darkness and transferred to the kingdom of Christ.
Colossians 1:14 – I have been redeemed and forgiven of all my sins. The debt against me has been canceled (Colossians 2:13,14).
Colossians 1:27 – Christ Himself is in me.
Colossians 2:7 – I have been firmly rooted in Christ and am now being built up and established in Him.
Colossians 2:10 – I have been made complete in Christ.
Colossians 2:12,13 – I have been buried, raised, and made alive with Christ, and totally forgiven.
Colossians 3:1 – I have been raised with Christ.
Colossians 3:3 – I have died, and my life is now hidden with Christ in God.
Colossians 3:4 – Christ is now my life.
Colossians 3:12 – I am chosen of God, holy and dearly loved (1 Thessalonians 1:4).
1 Thessalonians 5:5 – I am a child of light and not of darkness.
2 Timothy 1:7 – I have been given a spirit of power, love, and discipline.
2 Timothy 1:9 – I have been saved and called (set apart) according to God’s purpose and grace (Titus 3:5).
Hebrews 2:11 – Because I am sanctified and am one with Christ, He is not ashamed to call me His.
Hebrews 3:1 – I am a holy partaker of a heavenly calling.
Hebrews 3:14 – I am a partaker of Christ.
Hebrews 4:16 – I may come boldly before the throne of God to receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
1 Peter 2:5 – I am one of God’s living stones and am being built up as a spiritual house.
1 Peter 2:9,10 – I am a part of a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of God’s own possession.
1 Peter 2:11 – I am an alien and stranger to this world that I temporarily live in.
1 Peter 5:8 – I am an enemy of the devil. He is my adversary.
2 Peter 1:4 – I have been given God’s precious and magnificent promises by which I am a partaker of the divine nature.
1 John 3:1 – God has bestowed a great love on me and called me His child.
1 John 4:15 – God is in me and I am in God

More posts in the Soundtrack of a Churchboy’s Recovery series:

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by Jim Gordon

We all know people who are the ‘in-your-face’ type people. You know, loud, sometimes obnoxious, they do everything they can verbally, physically and any other way to let you know where they stand. The dictionary describes it as blatantly aggressive or provocative; impossible to ignore or avoid.

InYourFace

There are people in all walks of life like this. Political, christian, atheist, gay, straight, black, white, there are extremists in everyone group. They do whatever they can to let you know where they stand, to prove their point, and to let you know you had better accept them or you can go to you know where.

For me, I would rather have a calmer, even keel way of getting to know someone over time. That way we would each get to know one another and what we think about things without the in-your-face aggressiveness. No matter what each of us believe I feel we should accept, respect and treat everyone the same. We all deserve the same treatment and rights as anyone else.

Rather than try to force our views on others, I think it best to accept one another as is, even in our differences and various ways of living and be respectful and accepting of one another.

Coming from the christian world, I remember having the attitude that I was right in my belief and if you thought differently you just did not measure up. I still treated people right, but it was my attitude toward them that was wrong. It always seemed like it was me versus them in our views about life.

Jesus came into our world to show us that God is love. Jesus loved and accepted everyone. That does not mean he agreed with everything they did, but he loved them and showed that love. Now days we christians would rather point out the mistakes of others, choose what is and what is not sin, judge and condemn. Many christian people feel they should separate themselves from those who do not believe the same and use any ulterior motive to get them to “see the light”.

Jesus is our example and he loved people unconditionally. All of us have committed sin in one way or another, but Jesus set us free from our sin and condemnation. None of us are worthy because of the way we live, but we are all worthy because of the way Jesus lived.

Rather than be an in-your-face type person, let us allow the love of God that lives within us show others the unconditional love and acceptance of the Father and treat one another with kindness, acceptance and respect.

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By Mike Edwards

It is difficult for many to be drawn to a God that has anything in common with the God of terrorists. I am not saying Christians believe in resorting to beheading unbelievers. It is sensible though for all God-followers to consider any of their portrayals of God that look anything similar to terroristic views. A good God couldn’t possibly have anything in common with such views.

We must avoid all appearances that a good God is solely determined by a Book.

The idea of an infallible Book seems to shut down questioning and common moral sense. An infallible Book would not be so dangerous if extremists acknowledged literature is subject to interpretation, thus their interpretation cannot be proclaimed as “certainty” in God’s name. We must always openly admit our interpretation could be wrong, thus allowing personal views to be challenged.

Let’s avoid suggesting a loving God would deny freedom of beliefs.

One would think a God who is powerful enough to create, unless a respecter of freedom of beliefs, would annihilate immediately those who choose evil and oppose God. God’s love in the Bible is most frequently compared to that of a human parent. No human or spiritual parent brings children into the world desiring their children not freely reciprocate their love as opposed to being forced. Forced love is an oxymoron. A good God couldn’t possibly want to control beliefs through fear.

Let’s avoid suggesting a loving God tortures unbelievers before or after death. 

Delayed torture is still torture in the eyes of many. We mustn’t claim Hell is real according to the Bible because biblical scholars don’t agree Hell exists in the Bible. Most humans wouldn’t even create such a place for their worst enemies! The word hell is a substitution not translation for certain Hebrew and Greek words and seems invented over the centuries to scare people into obedience. It is important to defend God respects the right to choose your own personal beliefs in this life, and God does not torture people after death for such decisions. 

Let’s avoid claiming a loving God’s view of women hints of inequality.  

I am not suggesting some Christians are saying Paradise is a lustful adventure for men at the expense of women, but it is important to not be dogmatic that the Bible teaches women are under the authority of men in the God of the Bible eyes. This can encourage dominance on the man’s part. Women and men surely need unselfish partners who have the heart of a servant. Some religious extremists would rather be dead than advocate for that. We must avoid proscribing gender roles which more frequently are used to oppress women than men.

What can Christians be certain of about God?

All religions must differentiate themselves from terrorist or extremist views to avoid misunderstandings about a God worthy of trust. Jesus simply wanted us to know God was the kind of Creator or Parent desiring a friendship to encourage a journey of shunning evil and doing good. Our views must encourage loving others like we want to be love. Accepting the freedom of beliefs, if not physically harmful to others, is foundational. A good God surely respect freedom of beliefs in this life and life to come and encourages roles according to one’s gifts not gender or race.

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by Rocky Glenn

Music has always played an important role in my life.  Growing up with a CD collection containing over 350 albums, each season of life contains its own soundtrack.  If certain songs are heard, memories — both good and bad — flood in like a tidal wave instantly taking me back to times and places past.  The journey of the last few years is no exception.  This path of recovery has had and continues to have its own soundtrack.  Although the style of music I enjoy ranges from hip-hop to country to gospel and to metal, admittedly, growing up as a churchboy, the majority of artists I allowed myself to hear almost exclusively had to be labeled Christian or I simply would not play them or purchase their material.  Part of being a churchboy was boasting in the fact that I could find a “godly” alternative for any genre chosen.  This narrow-mindedness severely limited not only what I heard, but also at times, and probably more often that I even realize or care to admit, alienated me from peers and schoolmates because I didn’t know their music and they didn’t know mine.

Since waking up to the realization of God’s true grace and acceptance, I have stopped determining what I allow myself to hear by limiting it to those artists only found on a Christian radio station or in a Christian bookstore or labeled as Christian at all.  I’ve not only found myself enjoying many artists and songs who would never be considered holy and righteous by the religious elite, I am finding God in their lyrics as they cry in agony or scream in rage or celebrate the joys of everyday life.

My intent is to share many of these songs, the ideas they present, and what they have spoken to me in upcoming posts.  I plan to update this introduction piece with a link to each writing as it is shared and look forward to possibly providing each of you a new way of hearing a tune you’ve may have been humming for years or exposing you to something you’ve never heard before.

Stay tuned and keep reading for a recovering churchboy’s soundtrack.

Rocky

More posts in the Soundtrack of a Churchboy’s Recovery series:

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