Romans 9:6-13 – Who’s in Charge?

God is in control

Don’t suppose for a moment, though, that God’s Word has malfunctioned in some way or other. The problem goes back a long way. From the outset, not all Israelites of the flesh were Israelites of the spirit. It wasn’t Abraham’s sperm that gave identity here, but God’s promise. Remember how it was put: “Your family will be defined by Isaac”? That means that Israelite identity was never racially determined by sexual transmission, but it was God-determined by promise. Remember that promise, “When I come back next year at this time, Sarah will have a son”?

And that’s not the only time. To Rebecca, also, a promise was made that took priority over genetics. When she became pregnant by our one-of-a-kind ancestor, Isaac, and her babies were still innocent in the womb—incapable of good or bad—she received a special assurance from God. What God did in this case made it perfectly plain that his purpose is not a hit-or-miss thing dependent on what we do or don’t do, but a sure thing determined by his decision, flowing steadily from his initiative. God told Rebecca, “The firstborn of your twins will take second place.” Later that was turned into a stark epigram: “I loved Jacob; I hated Esau.” (MSG)

I want to break this to you as gently as possible yet as straightforward as I can: My friend, neither you nor I are in control!  Any semblance of control we think we have is merely a delusion.  Now, before you push back its important to make the distinction between control and responsibility. We are to own our decisions and take responsibility for their outcome.  The Bible describes this as “self-control.”

God’s saving kindness has appeared for the benefit of all people. It trains us to avoid ungodly lives filled with worldly desires so that we can live self-controlled, moral, and godly lives in this present world. (Titus 2:11-12, GW)

Attempting to control others is not our job – never was, isn’t now, and never will be – that’s God’s business.  God makes his choices.  This was the Apostle Paul’s point to the church at Rome.  The congregation was a volatile mix of both Jew and Gentile.  There was some bad history between them that stretched back centuries. Yet, here they were together in one church worshiping Jesus.

Paul made a responsible choice to step into the mess between them and let each group know something important: It is neither their choice about who’s in and who’s out as God’s people, nor their choice about how someone gets in to start with.  Again, this is God’s choice.

The Jews needed to know that Gentiles are in the kingdom because God does his work of choosing, calling, and including Gentiles just as much as Jews.  The Gentiles needed to know that they were not replacing Jews as chosen people.  The point? God chooses whomever he darn well pleases to choose, and the choice is not up to you or me.

This speaks on so many levels about how to conduct ourselves with one another in the church.  The foundation of all good church dynamics is the recognition that God is the one who calls and gathers people together in the church.  This always needs to be the starting point in our relations with each other. The church is not a random collection of persons who happen to be in the same place at the same time. God puts us where we are.

He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. (Ecclesiastes 3:11, NIV)

The Church is a covenant community. Believers in Jesus are receiving the blessings first promised by God’s covenant relationship with Abraham in the Old Testament that all nations would be blessed by grace through faith.  God has graciously committed himself to acting on their behalf through election, adoption, and redemption.  The new covenant community, the Church, receives the promises of God and exists to follow Jesus Christ in all things.  The Church is not a voluntary society, like every other human institution. Rather, it is the divinely called community of the redeemed whom God has joined through his Spirit to Christ.  Therefore, an individual, theologically speaking, does not join a church; instead, God joins the Church to Jesus.

Church in God's hands

The Nicene Creed describes the Church with four identifying marks:

  1. The Church is one. The unity of the Church comes from God’s covenant people being in fellowship with him through Jesus in the Spirit.  This unity is expressed through the bond of love and a common worship that includes the spiritually forming practices of preaching, liturgy, and sacraments.  Since believers serve a triune God of Father, Son, and Spirit who exists in unity, so Christians are to work toward maintaining their unity through the bond of peace.
  2. The Church is The Church is holy by virtue of Christ’s finished work.  Therefore, the members of the Church are saints, called by God to live in holiness and participate with him in carrying out his purposes on earth.  As God is holy, so believers are to be holy in all they do.  Since Christians are holy through God’s justification in Christ, so the Church as saints must uphold justice in the world.
  3. The Church is This means that God’s people are found in all parts of the world throughout all times in history, including every race, class, gender, and ethnicity.  Since the Church includes all kinds of people from different cultures, these believers must work together.  The Church, across all kinds of denominations, ought to minister together to the total life of all people through gospel proclamation and good works done in the Spirit.
  4. The Church is Apostolic means “to be sent.”  The Church is not only a people who are gathered for worship and teaching; they are also sent into the world as salt and light to those who are in darkness.  Where the Church goes, the rule and reign of Jesus goes with them so that the gospel is spread to all nations.

Sovereign God, you choose whomever you want to include in your kingdom.  Allow me to see Jesus in each person you call and save so that I can love and encourage them in the faith which is mutually and graciously given to us all; through Christ our Lord, and the ministry of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Philippians 4:10-15 – Generosity is Like a Warm Bowl of Grits

Jethro Bodine
Max Baer, Jr. playing the incomparable country as corn flakes Jethro Bodine on The Beverly Hillbillies

I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength. Yet it was good of you to share in my troubles. Moreover, as you Philippians know, in the early days of your acquaintance with the gospel, when I set out from Macedonia, not one church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving, except you only. (NIV)

In the English language, the words “you” and “your” can be either singular or plural. Unless, of course, we go with the southern “y’all.” But for a northerner like me, I’ve got to determine which by looking at the context that it’s in.  In the language of the New Testament, Greek, we know which words are singular and which are plural because, well, they’re different words which aren’t spelled the same.  It’s important to know in the book of Philippians that all the “you” pronouns are plural.  That’s important because the theme of unity and solidarity runs affectionately throughout the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Church in Philippi. In fact, for Paul, the reason he gibbers on so much about joy in his letter is because it’s only realized when unity is around. Unity really dills Paul’s pickles.

The entire Philippian church and not just those two really caring parishioners like Uncle Bundlejoy and Cousin Cozysweet, shared in Paul’s troubles with him. The whole kit-and-caboodle partnered with him through financial resources, prayer, and ministry.  Paul had confidence that every need the Philippians had would be supplied just as sure as God put worms in sour apples.

They learned a valuable lesson from Paul: that unity through generosity brings contentment in all circumstances and eases anxieties. The Philippian believers got a glimpse of the paradox that through giving they become rich. When tightwad believers are around, a church frets so much they could worry the horns off a billy goat. But when generosity settles in, people are more content than a flea on a pup.

Folks who only care about their personal needs and independent wealth aren’t right in the head – their cornbread’s not done in the middle. God wants everyone to know the blessing of working together in a worthy common cause.  Generosity and contentment go together like bacon and eggs. A charitable spirit in a group of people leads to more joy and happiness than a gopher in soft dirt.

Hoarding makes a church more nervous than a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs. If we want to be free of backbiting and worry, then we need to be wild about generosity. Give like the sun and the whole world grows tall.

Be generous with your money, generous with your words of encouragement toward others, and generous with your gratitude to God. Besides, giving is more fun than a sack full of kittens. And if you do give till you laugh, maybe you’ll see good ol’ Paul standing there grinning like a possum eating a sweet potato.

Generous God, your storehouse of grace and mercy is infinite and unending.  Help me to partner with you in a way that makes my generosity flow in the same direction yours does so that Jesus Christ is glorified, and his church is edified through the power of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Genesis 46:2-47:12 – How to Live in the World

Joseph presents Jacob, his Father, to Pharaoh, Gen xlvii 7 and 8
Joseph presents Jacob and his brothers to Pharaoh by French artist James Jacques Joseph Tissot (1836-1902)

And God spoke to Israel in a vision at night and said, “Jacob! Jacob!”

“Here I am,” he replied.

“I am God, the God of your father,” he said. “Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for I will make you into a great nation there. I will go down to Egypt with you, and I will surely bring you back again. And Joseph’s own hand will close your eyes.”

Then Jacob left Beersheba, and Israel’s sons took their father Jacob and their children and their wives in the carts that Pharaoh had sent to transport him. So, Jacob and all his offspring went to Egypt, taking with them their livestock and the possessions they had acquired in Canaan. Jacob brought with him to Egypt his sons and grandsons and his daughters and granddaughters—all his offspring.

These are the names of the sons of Israel (Jacob and his descendants) who went to Egypt:

Reuben the firstborn of Jacob.  The sons of Reuben: Hanok, Pallu, Hezron and Karmi.

The sons of Simeon: Jemuel, Jamin, Ohad, Jakin, Zohar and Shaul the son of a Canaanite woman.

The sons of Levi: Gershon, Kohath and Merari.

The sons of Judah: Er, Onan, Shelah, Perez and Zerah (but Er and Onan had died in the land of Canaan).

The sons of Perez: Hezron and Hamul.

The sons of Issachar: Tola, Puah, Jashub and Shimron.

The sons of Zebulun: Sered, Elon and Jahleel.

These were the sons Leah bore to Jacob in Paddan Aram, besides his daughter Dinah. These sons and daughters of his were thirty-three in all.

The sons of Gad: Zephon, Haggi, Shuni, Ezbon, Eri, Arodi and Areli.

The sons of Asher: Imnah, Ishvah, Ishvi and Beriah.  Their sister was Serah.  The sons of Beriah: Heber and Malkiel.

These were the children born to Jacob by Zilpah, whom Laban had given to his daughter Leah—sixteen in all.

The sons of Jacob’s wife Rachel:

Joseph and Benjamin. In Egypt, Manasseh and Ephraim were born to Joseph by Asenath daughter of Potiphera, priest of On.

The sons of Benjamin: Bela, Beker, Ashbel, Gera, Naaman, Ehi, Rosh, Muppim, Huppim and Ard.

These were the sons of Rachel who were born to Jacob—fourteen in all.

The son of Dan: Hushim.

The sons of Naphtali: Jahziel, Guni, Jezer and Shillem.

These were the sons born to Jacob by Bilhah, whom Laban had given to his daughter Rachel—seven in all.

All those who went to Egypt with Jacob—those who were his direct descendants, not counting his sons’ wives—numbered sixty-six persons. With the two sons who had been born to Joseph in Egypt, the members of Jacob’s family, which went to Egypt, were seventy in all.

Now Jacob sent Judah ahead of him to Joseph to get directions to Goshen. When they arrived in the region of Goshen, Joseph had his chariot made ready and went to Goshen to meet his father Israel. As soon as Joseph appeared before him, he threw his arms around his father and wept for a long time.

Israel said to Joseph, “Now I am ready to die, since I have seen for myself that you are still alive.”

Then Joseph said to his brothers and to his father’s household, “I will go up and speak to Pharaoh and will say to him, ‘My brothers and my father’s household, who were living in the land of Canaan, have come to me. The men are shepherds; they tend livestock, and they have brought along their flocks and herds and everything they own.’ When Pharaoh calls you in and asks, ‘What is your occupation?’ you should answer, ‘Your servants have tended livestock from our boyhood on, just as our fathers did.’ Then you will be allowed to settle in the region of Goshen, for all shepherds are detestable to the Egyptians.”

Joseph went and told Pharaoh, “My father and brothers, with their flocks and herds and everything they own, have come from the land of Canaan and are now in Goshen.” He chose five of his brothers and presented them before Pharaoh.

Pharaoh asked the brothers, “What is your occupation?”

“Your servants are shepherds,” they replied to Pharaoh, “just as our fathers were.” They also said to him, “We have come to live here for a while, because the famine is severe in Canaan and your servants’ flocks have no pasture. So now, please let your servants settle in Goshen.”

Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Your father and your brothers have come to you, and the land of Egypt is before you; settle your father and your brothers in the best part of the land. Let them live in Goshen. And if you know of any among them with special ability, put them in charge of my own livestock.”

Then Joseph brought his father Jacob in and presented him before Pharaoh. After Jacob blessed Pharaoh, Pharaoh asked him, “How old are you?”

And Jacob said to Pharaoh, “The years of my pilgrimage are a hundred and thirty. My years have been few and difficult, and they do not equal the years of the pilgrimage of my fathers.” Then Jacob blessed Pharaoh and went out from his presence.

So, Joseph settled his father and his brothers in Egypt and gave them property in the best part of the land, the district of Rameses, as Pharaoh directed. Joseph also provided his father and his brothers and all his father’s household with food, according to the number of their children. (NIV)

Jacob Blesses Pharaoh
Jacob Blesses Pharaoh by Welsh artist Owen Jones, 1869

God likes fulfilling his promises to us – even and especially when we are in Egypt – in the world. Sometimes we work too hard at avoiding the world and creating heaven on earth right now.  God knew what the Israelites would face: four-hundred years of slavery in Egypt. Yet, God sent them anyway. Often, the people of God grow more in times of trial and hardship, than in times of plenty and peace.

The trip to Egypt included everyone in Israel. There is a genealogical list of those who made the journey because God fulfills his promises through people.  These are the folks who would carry on accomplishing the will of God.  Joseph and Jacob, the son, and the father, are reunited. Joseph diplomatically planned where the gang would live and work because Egyptians looked down on shepherds. Much like the ancient Israelites, we must navigate a world that is okay with us being in it yet not okay with us in the middle of things.

In the Old Testament, Egypt represents the world.  It is interesting God sent his people to live there. God seeks to create a people for his Name who are distinct from Egypt, yet, live among the people of the world.  There is a continual tension for God’s people to be holy and unique, not assimilating into the world’s mold; and, yet, at the same time, God wants them to have a constant engagement and interaction with the world. Therefore, two extremes are to be avoided: to focus solely on being a holy people through complete severance from the world as much as possible; and, to seek relevance in the culture through wholesale jettison of distinctiveness so that the sacred and the secular are connected.

God safeguards a distinct people so that they will be a preservative in the world. Godly people are neither to live in a vacuum, cut off from the world altogether, nor to be wed to the world so that the two are indistinguishable.  We live in a fundamentally broken world in need of the peace and grace of spiritual people within it. The Church has had to struggle with how to live in the world for two-thousand years.  We have the advantage of drawing from a rich Christian history. For there is nothing we face now which has not been faced by the church before.

St Augustine

Saint Augustine wrote his seminal work, City of God, in about 413 C.E. The Roman empire had fallen, and pagans were blaming the Church because Christianity had become wed to the state. The people of God were unsure how to proceed.  So, Augustine sought to help Christians think about how to live in a post-Christian society.

Augustine’s work is lengthy and quite in-depth, so, the following is a brief distilling of his main arguments.  For Augustine, there are four essential institutions: two visible institutions; and, two invisible institutions:

  1. The Church – is a divinely established institution, designed to lead people to God.
  2. The State – is a political institution, adhering to political virtues to establish the peace.
  3. The City of Heaven – is made up of those predestined for salvation.
  4. The City of the World – is made up of those destined for eternal damnation.

We must pursue the City of Heaven, which for Augustine, is the pursuit of justice and righteousness. Augustine gave a clarion call for people to choose which city they will pursue, especially because many tended to blur the distinctions between the visible institutions of church and state.

Augustine’s conclusion is that the purpose of history is to show the unfolding of God’s plan. This involves fostering the City of Heaven and filling it with worthy citizens.  Therefore, the fall of Rome, a visible city so important to the people of Augustine’s day, was not near as important to the invisible God.

Maintaining an eternal perspective can help us today. The collapse of jobs, the scourge of a racialized society, the loss of life due to COVID-19, and injustice are significant events and circumstances – important enough to consider deeply how those issues will be handled. Augustine called out the people of his day for ignoring invisible spiritual solutions for the great problems among them.

Returning to the book of Genesis, a question arises: Will the Israelites become a nation through assimilation with Egypt and its institutions, or will they maintain their distinction as God’s people by relying on God’s covenant promises?  There are no easy answers to living in the world. However, it is important we struggle with how to get along in it.

God is the principal actor in the created world. God chooses to use his people as instruments of blessing to it.  Joseph’s wisdom and diplomacy, given by God, turned potentially catastrophic situations into times of prosperity. God, too, will use us as dispensers of wisdom – applying truth to concrete situations for the betterment of all involved.

Joseph handled the delicate situation of his brothers being shepherds while all shepherds were detestable to Egyptians.  Joseph brought the two worlds together through artful negotiation between the interests of both Pharaoh and the Israelites. He created a win/win scenario by setting up his brothers to help Pharaoh with his own needs in caring for livestock. In the end, all parties were satisfied because Joseph maintained a focus on needs instead of only advocating one side.

Rather than getting bogged down in promotion of methods and means, a sage approach is to maintain a focus on needs – which requires careful listening and a stance of empathy. Then, we can work toward prosperity for all instead of hardening into reified positions. A lot of problems in the church, work, society, and family can be turned to blessing if we seek the wisdom that comes from God.

May the Lord bless you and keep you; and, make his face shine on you and be gracious to you. May the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace. Amen.

Ephesians 6:10-18 – Spiritual Warfare

Temptation in the Wilderness by Briton Riviere 1912
Temptation in the Wilderness by British artist Briton Rivière, 1912

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore, put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. Be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. (NIV)

Today’s New Testament lesson has some densely packed verses concerning spiritual warfare. There are three major imperatives or commands for every believer and every church:

  1. Be strong in the Lord because we are in an invisible war.
  2. Put on the whole armor of God and prepare for spiritual battle.
  3. Take up your spiritual weapons and fight.

We are to be vigilant since Satan and his wicked spirits are highly organized for evil with devious schemes and stratagems designed to blunt our spiritual growth.  We are to put on the necessary armor of truth, righteousness, and peace to defend ourselves against the inevitable attacks.  We are to use our spiritual weapons of faith, salvation, and the word of God to advance against the darkness.

To do just that, the following is a focused and thoroughly Christian prayer I have used for many years both for myself and with others. I suggest praying it out loud in its entirety each day for the next two weeks to push back the dark forces:

Heavenly Father, I bow in worship and praise before You.  I cover myself with the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ as my protection.  I surrender myself completely in every area of my life to You.  I take a stand against all the work of Satan that would hinder me in my prayer life.  I address myself only to the True and Living God and refuse any involvement of Satan in my prayer.

Satan, I command you, in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ, to leave my presence with all your demons.  I bring the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ between us. 

Heavenly Father, I worship You and give You praise.  I recognize that You are worthy to receive all glory and honor and praise.  I renew my allegiance to You and pray that the Holy Spirit would enable me in this time of prayer.  I am thankful, Heavenly Father, that You have loved me from eternity past and that You sent the Lord Jesus Christ into the world to die as my substitute.  I am thankful that the Lord Jesus Christ came as my representative and that through Him You have completely forgiven me; You have adopted me into Your family; You have assumed all responsibility for me; You have given me eternal life; You have given me the perfect righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ so that I am now justified.  I am thankful that in Christ You have made me complete, and that You have offered Yourself to me to be my daily help and strength. 

Heavenly Father open my eyes that I might see how great You are and how complete Your provision is for this day.  I am thankful that the victory the Lord Jesus Christ won for me on the cross and in His resurrection has been given to me and that I am seated with the Lord Jesus Christ in heaven.  I take my place with Him and recognize by faith that all wicked spirits and Satan himself are under my feet.  I declare that Satan and his demons are subject to me in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. 

I am thankful for the armor You have provided.  I now put on the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the sandals of peace and the helmet of salvation.  I lift the shield of faith against all the fiery arrows of the enemy; and I take in my hand the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God.  I choose to use Your Word against all the forces of evil in my life.  I put on this armor and live and pray in complete dependence upon You, Holy Spirit. 

I am grateful, Heavenly Father, the Lord Jesus Christ disarmed all power and authorities, triumphing over them by the cross.  I claim all victory for my life today.  I reject all the insinuations, accusations, and temptations of Satan.  I affirm that the Word of God is true, and I choose to live today in the light of God’s Word.  Heavenly Father, I choose to live in obedience to You and in fellowship with You.  Open my eyes and show me the areas of my life that do not please You.  Work in me to cleanse me from all ground that would give Satan a foothold against me.  I do in every way stand into all that it means to be Your adopted child and I welcome all the ministry of the Holy Spirit in my life today. 

warfare praying

By faith and in dependence upon You I put off the old person and stand into all the victory of the crucifixion where the Lord Jesus Christ provided cleansing from the sinful nature.  I put on the new person and stand into all the victory of the resurrection and the provision He has made for me to live above sin. 

Today I put off the old nature with its selfishness and I put on the new nature with its love.  I put off the old nature with its fear and I put on the new nature with its courage.  I put off the old nature with all its deceitful lusts and I put on the new nature with its righteousness, purity, and honesty. 

In every way I stand into the victory of Christ’s ascension and glorification, in which everything was made subject to Him.  I claim my place in Christ as victorious with Him over all the enemies of my soul.  Holy Spirit, I pray that you would fill me.  Come into my life, break down every idol and cast out every enemy of my soul. 

I am thankful, Heavenly Father, for the expression of Your will for my daily life as You have shown me in Your Word.  I, therefore, claim all the will of God for my life today.  I am thankful that You have blessed me with every spiritual blessing in Christ.  I am thankful that You have given me new life into a living hope by the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.  I am thankful that You have made provision for me so that today I can live filled in the Holy Spirit with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and self-control.  I recognize and affirm that this is Your will for me and so I reject and resist all the attempts of Satan and his demons to rob me of the will of God.  I refuse today to believe my feelings of worthlessness and I hold up the shield of faith against all the accusations, distortions, and insinuations that Satan would put into my mind.  I claim the will of God for my life today. 

In the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ I completely surrender myself to You, Heavenly Father, as a living sacrifice.  I choose not to be conformed to this world.  I choose to be transformed by the renewing of my mind.  I pray that You would show me Your will and help me to walk in Your ways today. 

I am thankful, Heavenly Father, the weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world, but have divine power to demolish strongholds, arguments, and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God.  I take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.  Therefore, in my own life today I tear down the strongholds of Satan and smash the plans of Satan that have been formed against me.  I demolish the strongholds of Satan against my mind, and I surrender my mind to You, Holy Spirit.  I affirm, Heavenly Father, that You have not given me a spirit of fear but a spirit of power, love, and self-discipline.  I break and smash the strongholds of Satan formed against my emotions today.  I give my will to You.  I choose to make right decisions of faith.  I smash the strongholds of Satan formed against my body today.  I give my body to You and recognize that I am Your temple.  I rejoice in Your mercy and grace. 

Heavenly Father, I pray now and through this day that You would strengthen and enlighten me.  Show me the ways Satan is hindering, tempting, lying, and distorting the truth in my life.  Help me to be the kind of person who pleases You.  Help me to be aggressive in prayer and faith.  Help me to think rightly, and actively practice Your Word.  Help me to give You Your rightful place in my life. 

I cover myself with the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ and pray that You, Holy Spirit, would bring all the work of Christ’s crucifixion, resurrection, ascension, and all Your work of Pentecost into my life today.  I deliberately surrender myself to You, God.  I refuse to be discouraged.  You are the God of all hope.  You have proven Your power by resurrecting Jesus from the dead, so I claim this victory over all satanic forces in my life.  I pray in the Name and through the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ with thanksgiving.  Amen. 

Soli Deo Gloria