Inspirational Spoken Word

“Mic Check” by Tina B

“You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you.” John 15:16 (NIV)

This week we’ve been looking at who needs who more. Does God need us, or do we need God? If you’re one who regularly visits this site for the Hump Day Prayer, you know that we need God, desperately. We can’t go a day in this life without Him. Jesus says that with God all things are possible (Matthew 19:26; Mark 10:27), and yet, sometimes we still need a little reminding of who is God.

God said to Job, “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?” (Job 38:4), and sometimes He has to ask us this same question, especially when we start to think that we have the power, that we don’t need God. But where were we when God created the heavens and the earth? Waiting to be born (Psalm 139:13), waiting for Him to draw us to Christ (John 6:44). And while God has called us to do many great things for His kingdom—spreading the good news of salvation through Jesus Christ to the world (Matthew 28:19-20), producing the good fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) thirty, sixty, and one hundredfold (Matthew 13:23)—we have to remember that we are not God, that it is not by our own power that breakthroughs are made, chains are broken, sinners are coming into the light.

“But we have this precious treasure [the good news about salvation] in [unworthy] earthen vessels [of human frailty], so that the grandeur and surpassing greatness of the power will be [shown to be] from God [His sufficiency] and not from ourselves.” 2 Corinthians 4:7 (AMP)

We are just vessels. The New International Version of 2 Corinthians 4:7 calls us “jars of clay,” which definitely helps us to visualize who we are compared to God. 1 Corinthians 1:27-29 says that God “chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.” This basically means that God can use anybody to accomplish His will, that by using an insignificant little jar of clay, He reveals His great power, and by doing so, He will ultimately get all the glory in heaven, not man—who is like the grass while God is God from everlasting to everlasting (Psalm 90:2-6). This can be quite humbling for those of us who’ve gotten a little too proud.

Whether you’ve stopped praying and tried to handle various trials on your own, or you’ve gotten outside of the will of God and tried to take control of your own destiny, or you’ve experienced many successes in your life and have temporarily forgotten from Whom all your blessings flow, ask yourself one question: Where would I be if not for God’s grace and mercy?

“So we praise God for the glorious grace he has poured out on us who belong to his dear Son. He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins. He has showered his kindness on us, along with all wisdom and understanding.” Ephesians 1:6-8 (NLT)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, forgive us for thinking we can make it without you. You said in your word, Let not the wise boast of their wisdom or the strong boast of their strength or the rich boast of their riches, but let the one who boasts boast in the knowledge of you. So we boast that with you, even in our weakness, we are strong. We boast that by your stripes we are healed. We boast that by your grace, we are saved, by the blood or your dear Son we are redeemed. We boast that you have blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places and that it is only by your power at work within us that all things possible. So we give you all the glory, honor, and praise, because you deserve it, for you are God from everlasting to everlasting, the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, who was and is and is to come. By your wisdom and power, you created all things, and you created us to be your children. So we give ourselves over to your will. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

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Inspirational Spoken Word

“American Persecution” by Jackie Hill Perry

“Those who do wickedly against the covenant he shall corrupt with flattery; but the people who know their God shall be strong, and carry out great exploits.” Daniel 11:32; NKJV

Do you know God? Will you stand firm in your beliefs of Him when someone tries to persuade you in the opposite direction? There will come a time, and some would argue that time is already here, when being a Christian in America won’t be so popular. It is even projected that in twenty-five years, America will become an atheist nation. I dread to see the day.

It is important for us not to waiver in our faith when facing persecution. Jesus never said this life would be easy (John 16:33). In fact, He said the world will hate you because He has chosen you to be his disciples (John 15:18-19). Remember that James tells us to “count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing” (James 1:2-4). Various trials, persecutions, temptations, tests, etc. help us to mature in our faith, become better Christians, wanting nothing, not continuously asking, “Why, Lord? Why me?” but welcoming whatever trouble comes our way with joy.

Peter tells us to resist the devil, standing firm in the faith, because we know believers all over the world are going through the same kind of sufferings, and in due time, He will restore our strength and give us a firm foundation (1 Peter 5:9-10). Isaiah 40:31 says, “They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint” (KJV). This verse reminds us to trust in God, be patient with God. As we learned last previously, God is our source. Put your dependence in Him, not man. Acts 5:29 says to obey God rather than man. Men are fickle. We change, we change our minds, we change our laws, but God’s word is perfect and true—it never changes (Matthew 5:17-18). And God is not a man that He should lie, nor is He a son of man that He should change his mind (Numbers 23:19). So when we obey Him, we know the rewards will be greater (Proverbs 11:18), and whatever He promises, if we’d only have the patience, it will be fulfilled.

One of the best examples of men who stood firm in their belief of God is the three Hebrew boys, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego. When King Nebuchadnezzar set up the gold image and gave the decree that everyone was to bow down and worship it lest they be cast into the fiery furnace, these three refused to bow. They remained strong and steadfast in their belief of God, and firmly resisted the king.

“If that is the case, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up.” Daniel 3:17-18

There will come a time when the world will want you to go completely against what is commanded in the word of God. Will fear get the best of you? Will you silently agree so as to remain safe, to not be labeled, to stay within the bounds of being politically correct so as not to offend? But who’s punishment are we more fearful of—man or God’s (Matthew 10:28)? Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego rejected the king’s decree because it directly violated God’s law, which states, “You shall have no other gods before Me” (Exodus 20:3). When the king asked who could deliver them out of his hand, they confidently proclaimed God will, but even if He doesn’t, they will not bow.

Can we say the same? If God be for us, He’s more than the world against us (Romans 8:31). How much do we believe that statement when tribulations arise? Even when threatened with imminent death, will we remain strong in our confidence of God, in our faith, in our belief that He will deliver us even if He doesn’t, knowing that Jesus Christ has already given us the victory over death (1 Corinthians 15:56-57)? We believe in Him, don’t we? We believe that He rose from the grave so that we too can have life (John 3:16); that’s what makes us saved, right (Romans 10:9)? If that’s the case, then nothing a king—whom God Himself raised up (Daniel 2:21)—can threaten us with should be able to shake our faith.

Then King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished; and he rose in haste and spoke, saying to his counselors, “Did we not cast three men bound into the midst of the fire?” They answered and said to the king, “True, O king.” “Look!” he answered, “I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they are not hurt, and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God.” Daniel 3:24-25

In his anger, the king had the fire turned up seven times hotter and had Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego tossed in. The flames were so hot, the men who threw them in the fire died. But you know what, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego got up, they walked around, and I’d like to think that knowing they were saved, they praised and worshiped God right there in the fire! The king was in shock to even see a fourth person in there with them. You see, God goes ahead of us and is right there with us in the midst of our storms. The Bible says He will never leave nor forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:8). But we have to learn to trust in Him. That is our test. To trust Him. And when we do, miracles happen.

When Nebuchadnezzar saw how God delivered Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego from the fiery furnace, he called them servants of the Most High God and said, “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, who sent His Angel and delivered His servants who trusted in Him, and they have frustrated the king’s word, and yielded their bodies, that they should not serve nor worship any god except their own God”  (Daniel 3:28). The one thing we can look forward to when facing persecution is that when God stretches out His hand to deliver us, He brings all the glory back to Him, that He may be praised, because of our faith in Him.

“Dear Friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.” 1 Peter 4:12

Prayer: Heavenly Father, help us to stand firm in our faith. We know that without faith it is impossible to please you. We want to please you, Lord. Give us the strength to welcome persecution with rejoicing, knowing that you will deliver us, that we already have the victory through Jesus Christ, that your grace is sufficient for us, that your power is made perfect in our weakness. We pray that our sufferings in Christ’s name will help to bring glory and honor to you, O God, that more people will come to you, that sinners will be saved, that backsliders will rededicate their lives to serving you. We pray that we continue to renew our minds in the Spirit, and not be conformed to the patterns of this world, but rather clothe ourselves with Christ and become that city on a hill, letting our light shine, that others may glorify you in heaven. We thank you, we praise you, and we love you, in Christ Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

 

Originally published June 23, 2017.

Inspirational Spoken Word

“Love Revived” by John Reid

“Judge not, and you shall not be judged. Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.” Luke 6:37; NKJV

Has anyone ever accused you of being self-righteous, of not practicing what you preach, of acting as if you’re better than everyone else? Has someone ever said that they don’t come to church because they don’t want to deal with people like you? That’s a hard pill to swallow. To be labeled in the same category as the Pharisees of Jesus’ day, who “shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces” (Matthew 23:13). But that’s exactly what we do when we pass judgement on others.

Understand that no one—that includes us—is without sin. Paul writes in Romans 3:10, “There is no one righteous, not even one.” He continues later in verse 23 with, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” 1 John 1:8 says, “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us,” and then in verse 10 he continues with, “If we claim we have not sinned, we make [God] out to be a liar and his word is not in us.” We’ve got to get out of the habit of thinking that some sins are worse than others…

  • Sex before marriage is worse than watching porn, because at least I didn’t do it.
  • Murder is worse than cursing someone out, despite scripture saying, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue” (Proverbs 18:21).
  • Homosexuality is worse than adultery because they were separated anyway, and we plan on getting married, and at least we’re of the opposite sex, which is what God intended, right? 

While we may feel that our sins aren’t as bad as others, it is all wrong in God’s eye. All sin separates us from God (Isaiah 59:2); all sin keeps us from hearing His voice. James 2:10 says if you are guilty of breaking just one part of the law, you’re guilty of breaking it all, because it all is sin against God, who told you to be holy (1 Peter 1:15-16). And no matter what sin we’ve committed, the penalty is still is death (Romans 6:23).

But let’s look back at Romans and talk about God’s love. That despite our being sinners, He still sent Christ Jesus to die in our place (Romans 5:8). Let’s turn to John, were He again confirms His love and His willingness to sacrifice His only Son, not to condemn us for our sins, but to save us, granting us eternal life (John 3:16-17). Let’s revisit 1 John 1:9, where he says we need only to confess those sins we’ve been trying to hide, and He will be faithful and just to forgive us and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Let’s keep reading to Romans 3:24, where we learn that by the grace of God, we are freely made right in His sight through the redemptive sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

So let’s open those same opportunities to the people we love to call “bad sinners.” In Luke 7:36-50, when the sinful woman came to Jesus and washed His feet with her tears, wiped them with her hair, kissed them, and anointed them with perfume from her alabaster jar, Simon, the Pharisee whose home they were in, looked at her in disgust because she was a sinner and unclean and was touching Jesus. But Jesus instead gave him a parable that caused him to judge himself. In this parable we learned that those who have many sins to be forgiven in turn love much more than those who have been forgiven little.

How great is your love for Christ? Have you humbly come to him with a broken heart and a contrite spirit seeking forgiveness (Psalm 34:18; Psalm 51:17)? Are you eternally grateful for the sins He’s forgiven you of, knowing where you could have ended up if not for His love and mercy and forgiveness? Do you show that same love to others who have sinned? When asked how many times we should forgive someone who has sinned against us, Jesus answered seventy times seven times (Matthew 18:21-22), in other words, indefinitely, for He forgives us for our many wrongs (Mark 11:25). Are you proving yourself a disciple of Christ through your love for others (John 13:35), through the mercy you show?

Has Christ’s love for you revived your love for others, that you no longer look on them with judgmental eyes but with a passion to see them saved, as you were? The answer from all of us should be YES.

God Bless.

“Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment.” James 2:12-13; NIV

Prayer of Salvation: Heavenly Father, thank you so much for your unfailing love. Thank you for loving me so much that despite all my wrongs, you still sent your Son Jesus Christ to die for me. Father, please forgive me of all my sins and cleanse me from all unrighteousness. You said in your word that if I confess with my mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in my heart that God raised Him from the dead, then I shall be saved. So right now, I do confess that Jesus is my Lord and Savior, that He died on the cross, and that He rose again. And because of that, I am free from the penalty of my sins, because of that, I have eternal life. Thank you, Lord Jesus, for loving me so much that you gave your life. Fill me with that love, that I may pour it out on others, showing your love and your mercy and your forgiveness in everything that I do. In your name, I pray. Amen.

Inspirational Spoken Word

“Worth the Wait” by Joseph Solomon

“Daughters of Jerusalem, I charge you by the gazelles and by the does of the field: Do not arouse or awaken love until it so desires.” Song of Songs 2:7; NIV

I’ll admit I want to be married. I want to meet a man who sweeps me off my feet. A man who without hesitation gives me everything I’ve dreamed of having in a relationship but lost hope of ever receiving because of past disappointments. A man who loves me from the depths of his soul and shows it consistently. A man who doesn’t force me to be anything more that who I already am but instead motivates me to be better. A man who’s interested in more than just my body.

I imagine the day this man, the man of my dreams, proposes to me, an elaborate showing of his undying love in front of all our family and friends. He’ll sing to me, compose a song for me, write poetry for me. There’ll be tears and cheers and one blinding diamond ring.

I think about our future house, with a spacious backyard, plenty of room for our growing family. I long for the day I become a mother, give birth at least three children, possibly a set of twins. I brainstorm their names, the meanings behind them. I fret over how I will raise them—make them go to church every Sunday, no excuses; teach them about their loving Father in heaven; kiss them, encourage them, make sure they know they are loved, read them Bible stories at bedtime.

I can visualize my family portrait, hanging from the wall in our living room above the fireplace. The faces aren’t clear, but I’m hoping that as time wears on, and I inch closer to reaching this dream, I’l begin to picture it, not just in my mind, but through my own eyes.

Is it wrong to have dreams like this? I don’t think so. God gave us minds to have visions, to aspire towards things. But I also understand that I am nowhere close to being ready for this dream. And it’s worth the wait, because the last thing I want to do is settle for anything less than what God has destined for me to have.

I think this is something we struggle with. Men and women alike. Learning to refrain from rushing love before it’s ready. So often we get in God’s way because we’ve grown impatient with Him. We don’t really trust that He can fulfill His promises, grant us our dreams if they are in His will. Sure, we believe He can do it for others, but for ourselves, we need a little more control, we lack the faith—confidence in what we hope for, assurance about what we do not see (Hebrews 11:1).

Unfortunately, when we take God out of the equation, we make a mess of things. One has to wonder, if Abraham and Sarah had truly trusted and believed that God would bless them with a son in their old age, would there ever have been the problem of Hagar and Ishmael? There are so many poor decisions I’ve made in relationships that I wish I could take back, so many storms I could have avoided if I’d simply trusted and obeyed God. Who knows, my husband may already be ready for me, but he’s stuck waiting because I messed up, because God still has a lot of work to do on me, to cleanse me with His word and make me holy like Him, before He can present me to my future husband without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish (Ephesians 5:25-27).

“But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” Matthew 6:33; NKJV

Today, I make the decision to date God. I choose to pursue God instead of sitting on my hands and feet waiting idly for my husband to knock at my door, instead of scrolling through the Facebook posts of all my friends who’ve gotten married, feeling like I’m all alone, being envious of the fact that they found love. Wrong. I have love too. I am loved. God so loved me that He sent is only Son to die for me (John 3:16). No greater love, Jesus says,  has anyone than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends (John 15:13). And not only did He die for me, but He rose again so that I could rise, and live forever with Him (John 14:3). Always remember that when you feel love has abandoned you. God will never leave or forsake you. He desperately wants to have a relationship with you; there are so many things He wants to bless you with, but you’ve got to make the effort. Remember, King Solomon didn’t ask for wealth and long life, he asked God for wisdom, and God commended him for his honorable request and granted him wealth along with that wisdom (1 Kings 3:10-14). Likewise, we should seek to strengthen our relationship with God before anything else, and let Him decide when it’s time for us to receive those things we so desire.

A few years ago, I watched a video on YouTube by Heather Lindsey. In the video she talked about going on a date with God. She dressed up for Him, she prepared this awesome meal, and when she sat down to eat, He spoke, and He revealed so many things to her—the plans He had for her life (Jeremiah 29:11), her future husband, and many others. It blew her out of the water, and it blew me too. First that she went on an actual “date” with God. That was something I had never heard of before. (But should it be that much of a surprise, when we as the church are called the bride of Christ?) Second, that something so simple as “going on a date” ended in a life-changing experience with God. It resonated with me.

The Bible teaches us that our relationship with Christ should be a model for our marriage (Ephesians 5:21-33). How often do we go out of our way to make a romantic relationship work, yet take our own relationship with Christ for granted? How often do we call a lover just to talk, but we let our praying fall to the wayside? How often do we dress up for a date, but we enter the presence of God looking “any ol’ kind of way”—still half-asleep if it’s morning, haven’t washed our face, brushed our teeth, put on clean clothes? These things seem small, but they can have a big impact. Do I want a husband? Yes. But I want God even more. So my challenge for myself and for you is to make an effort with God. Stop daydreaming. Stop begging for Him to give you something, and give Him what He’s asked for—your love and devotion. Treat your relationship with God like you would treat a marriage. That life you dreamed of is worth the wait, especially when you already have the best thing you could have ever asked for in your Lord and Savior.

God Bless.

“An unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord’s affairs: Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit. But a married woman is concerned about the affairs of this world—how she can please her husband. I am saying this for your own good, not to restrict you, but that you may live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord.” 1 Corinthians 7:34-35; NIV

Prayer: Heavenly Father, you said about us that we are worth the wait. You were patient with us, not wanting any of us to perish. You loved us while we were still sinners, and you drew us back to you by your Holy Spirit. Help us to be patient in our desires for marriage. Help us to seek a life of undivided devotion to you first. You said in your word that if we seek you first all these other things will be added, that if we delight in you, you will grant us our heart’s desires, that after we do your will we must be patient. Help us not to rush love, but to model the relationships we hope for after the love you have shown us. We give you all the praise, and we thank you for your continued faithfulness and unconditional love as our steady example of what true love should be. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.

Inspirational Spoken Word

“No Excuse” by David Bowden

“Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is man’s all. For God will bring every work into judgment, including every secret thing, whether good or evil.” Ecclesiastes 12:13-14; NKJV

Today we are bringing a conclusion to the whole matter of whether or not the Old Testament is still relevant for the modern Christian. These final words in Ecclesiastes, written by King Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived (read 1 Kings 3 to see where, or more specifically, from whom he received his wisdom), sums up all of man’s purpose here on earth in three simple statements: fear God, obey His commands, prepare for judgment. There is no excuse, especially now, when it is becoming more obvious that we are approaching the end of days (Romans 13:11; Hebrews 10:25).

As I’ve said before, there are many things we can glean from reading the Old Testament. Don’t write it off with the excuse that “we’re under a new covenant now.” Remember, Jesus did not say He came to abolish the Law, but to fulfill it (Matthew 5:17), because God’s word will never return to Him void, but will accomplish what He sent it do (Isaiah 55:11; Matthew 5:18). With that in mind, understand that there is no unimportant scriptures in the Bible, especially in the Old Testament, but everything is written, as said in 2 Timothy 3:16-17, for “teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

So let’s take a closer look at Solomon’s final words to understand what exactly is “man’s all.”

Fear God

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow his precepts have good understanding. To him belongs eternal praise.” Psalm 111:10; NIV

To fear doesn’t necessarily mean to be afraid of God, although it can, for Matthew 10:28 does say to fear “the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” But to fear also means to have reverence or to show great respect. Recognize that God is God, the only true God, who is worthy of all the praise and honor. He created you. He created me. He created everything in this earth. He is all-powerful, all-knowing, and He is everywhere.

And despite how great and mighty God is, He still cares for us. Psalm 34:1-3 says, “I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul shall make its boast in the Lord; the humble shall hear of it and be glad. Oh, magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His name together” (NKJV). Later in that psalm, David says, “There is no want to those who fear Him . . . but those who seek the Lord shall not lack any good thing” (v. 9-10). God wants to see us succeed, He wants to see us prosper (Jeremiah 29:11). It’s not His intention that we should perish (2 Peter 3:9). He sacrificed His One and Only Son, better yet, He came to earth to die, just for us. Romans 5:8 says, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (NIV) Any God willing to do all of this for a creation that is far from the perfect and holy beings He originally created, deserves all the reverence and praise. And to do that we must . . .

Obey His Commands

“Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You.” Psalm 119:11; NKJV

Fearing God and keeping His commandments go hand in hand. If you look back at the verse in Ecclesiastes, you’ll notice that the two statements are joined together by the conjunction “and.” This tells us that we cannot do one without the other. We cannot fear or respect God if we do not keep His commandments or obey what He tells us to do. Remember, Jesus said, “If you love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15), and anyone who keeps His commandments will be loved by Him and by the Father also (John 14:21; 15:10).

What are His commandments? What has God always asked us to do, from Genesis to Revelation? To be holy, as He is holy (Leviticus 19:2; 1 Peter 1:15-16). 2 Timothy 2:22 says to flee youthful lusts and pursue righteousness. Ephesians 5:3 says, “But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people.” Colossians 3:5-8 tells us to put to death all that belongs to our sinful earthly nature. And Galatians reminds us that the fruit of the Spirit is not “sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like,” but ” love, joy, peace, forbearance (long-suffering/ patience), kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Galatians 5:19-23).

Looking back at Psalm 34, David says he will teach us the fear of the Lord (v. 11), and that is to “depart from evil and do good” (v. 14). Remember, obeying God’s word isn’t optional just because we’re under grace now. Grace doesn’t free us to sin without consequence, it frees us to pursue righteousness and holiness (Romans 6:15-23), because now we have His Holy Spirit with us 24/7 to guide us the whole way through. 1 John 3:8-9 says the one who sins cannot be of God. Does that mean we’re damned if we make a mistake? Of course not. Proverbs 24:6 says “a righteous man may fall seven times and rise again.” Just get back up, know that you have His forgiveness if you only ask (1 John 1:9), and continue on that path to righteousness, obeying His every word, because ultimately you must . . .

Prepare for Judgment

“You are great in counsel and mighty in work, for Your eyes are open to all the ways of the sons of men, to give everyone according to his ways and according to the fruit of his doings.” Jeremiah 32:19

Preparing for judgment sounds so ominous, but the truth is, if you’ve been doing good, actively pursuing righteous living, obeying God’s commands, etc., there’s nothing to worry. Hebrews 4:13 says, “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account” (NIV). When the end comes, we will all have to give an account of our deeds, whether good or bad. 1 Corinthians 3:13 says that on that day of judgment, our works will be tested by fire, and those whose works endure will receive a reward (v.14), for God sees what’s done in secret, and rewards it openly (Matthew 6:4;6).

So what good things have you done for the kingdom of God? Do you fear Him and walk in obedience to His word? Are you pursuing righteousness rather than chasing after sinful passions? Are you praying that you fulfill God’s will rather than your own? All of these things will be brought to light at the appropriate time. That’s why we must always be ready, as Jesus says in Matthew 24:44, because He will come at an hour we least expect, and when He finally does arrive, it is better for us to be doing the very thing He’s commanded us to do rather than not, because “not” can have grave consequences.

Which brings us to that ominous part of judgment, the part we don’t like to talk about, the part reserved for those who don’t accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savoir, who continue to live in sin, who hold an utter disregard or disdain toward the Father in heaven and His word. There’s a reward for them as well, and it’s not a good one. Look again at Matthew 10:28, when Jesus says to fear Him who has the power to destroy both body and soul in hell. Throughout the Gospels, Jesus describes the final destination for those who do evil as a place of torment, eternal fire (Matthew 25:41), wailing, and gnashing of teeth (Matthew 24:51). It’s the last place any of us want to be, and it’s the last thing God wants to do to His own creation (1 Timothy 2:3-4), but our actions will determine our destination. So, what are your actions saying?

The best way to avoid such a damning fate is to recognize what our true purpose in life is, as Solomon has reminded us. First, to fear God and obey His commands. Obey His commands because you love and respect Him, because you desire to please Him, because you want to receive eternal reward in heaven, or because you simply don’t want to go to hell. That could be how your fear of God starts. Hopefully it will develop into something stronger as you grow in knowledge and in your relationship with Him, but not wanting to go to hell is a good reason to obey God in the beginning. And finally, we need to prepare for judgment, because a time will come when we have to show God all we’ve done for Him, and I pray that all your works will stand through the test so that you will receive your reward in heaven.

God Bless.

“As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work.” John 9:4

Prayer of Salvation: Heavenly Father, forgive me for not making my all about you. I realize that everything I have in life is vanity if you are not in it, for what would it profit me to gain the whole world and still lose my soul? Jesus, please forgive me of all my sins, and cleanse me once and for all from the desire to pursue anything that is not righteous in your sight. You said in your word that if we just believe in you, that you were sent by God, that you died on the cross for our sins and rose again, then we are saved and have eternal life. So, Jesus, I believe in you, and I make you Lord over my life. Fill me with the desire to do your will and obey your commandments that I may be prepared when the time comes for you to take us all back to glory and eternal life with you forever in heaven. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.

Inspirational Spoken Word

“Facts” by Michael Nelder

“This is what the Lord says: ‘Let not the wise boast of their wisdom or the strong boast of their strength or the rich boast of their riches, but let the one who boasts boast about this: that they have the understanding to know me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,’ declares the Lord.” Jeremiah 9:23-24; NIV

Are you actively pursuing a relationship with God? Do you study the Bible? Do you pray? Do you regularly go to worship service? It’s one thing to know the word, or the “facts” about God, to be able to memorize scripture and quote it on cue, but how much do you know God? Do you have an intimate relationship with Him? Are you living His word, applying it to your daily life? And here’s that pesky question we’ve been asking for several weeks now: Are you doing the will of God?

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 says, “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” How often do you pray, give thanks to God, praise Him for His goodness and mercy? I’ll admit, sometimes it’s a struggle for me to pray daily, distracted with the busyness of life. However, as we learned in last week’s Hump Day Prayer, we should never be too busy to make time for God. What if God was too busy for us? What if He didn’t have time to come down from heaven, wrap Himself in flesh, live as a man, and then die a torturous death on the cross for the sins of the world? Through Jesus Christ, God shows His love for us, how much He is willing to sacrifice just so we can know Him. Surely we can give Him five minutes of our time. Not just to study the word as an obligation, a task to check off a list, but to fellowship intimately with God.

“You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.” John 5:39-40

When we looked at the difference between the sisters, Martha and Mary, in Luke 10:39-42, we saw how Jesus rebuked Martha for being worried about many things, but commended Mary because she was exactly where she needed to be, seated at the feet of Jesus, drinking up His every word. And that’s where we need to be also. We must have that burning desire for nothing other than to be in His presence, soaking in every word that comes from His mouth.

“One thing I have desired of the Lord, that will I seek: That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in His temple.” Psalm 27:4; NKJV

Philippians 4:6-7 tells us that there’s an inner peace that washes over us when we come into the presence of God. And inner peace of our hearts and of our minds, is something we desperately need during these times of turmoil and unrest both in our nation and in our world. Psalm 46:1 says, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in times of trouble.” He isn’t just the “man upstairs” that we study, but He is so much more. Jesus says in John 15:15 that He considers us not His servants but His friends, because everything He learned from the Father, he has made known to us. Think about it. Who other than a dear friend would give up His life for us (John 15:13)? Who other than a loving Father, concerned with our growth and maturity, would reveal to us the amazing plans He has for our lives (Jeremiah 29:11)?

We just have one requirement: Drawn near to God, and He will draw near to us (James 4:8). He says in Proverbs 8:17, “I love those who love me, and those who seek me find me.” So seek after the Lord. Actively pursue an intimate relationship with Him, and see if your life doesn’t dramatically change all for the better.

God Bless.

“And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” Hebrews 11:6; NIV

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we desire an intimate relationship with you. You said in your word that eternal life is that we know you, the one true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. We diligently seek to know you more, Lord, and not just the facts about you, but your love, your mercy, your kindness, your patience, your forgiveness, your faithfulness, your plan for our lives—everything! For anything else is considered worthless garbage in comparison to the infinite value of knowing you as our Lord and Savior. We give you all the glory, honor, and praise. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.

Inspirational Spoken Word

“The Gate” by Chris Webb

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 7:21; NIV

On Sunday, we asked you the question: Are you doing the will of God? It requires a simple answer—yes or no—but according to Matthew 7:21, that answer bears so much weight. It can determine whether or not you will be welcomed into God’s kingdom once you die.

For those who think that after you’re saved that’s it, there’s so much more you could be doing. James 2:17 says faith without works is useless. We must be like the one in Jesus’ parable of the sower, who’s heart was good soil, able to receive the seed and produce a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty, and thirty times what was sown (Matthew 13:23). Likewise, in Jesus’ parable of the talents, a master who goes on a journey leaves his three servants in charge of his property according to their abilities. To one he gives five talents, and that servant goes out and works it and gained five more. To the second he gives two talents, and that servant goes out and works and gains two more. Upon his return, he tells these two, “Well done, good and faithful servant . . . Come and share your master’s happiness” (Matthew 25:19-23).

However, the third servant, to whom the master gives just one talent, goes out and buries his, producing nothing. This is what we tend to do. As my pastor often says, we sit on our rusty dusties, content with being saved, but we do no work to promote the kingdom of heaven. What use does God have for us? In the parable, the master calls this servant “wicked” and “lazy.” He says this “worthless” servant should be thrown outside, “into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 25:26, 30), which could be a direct correlation for where we’ll end up if we don’t do the will of God.

“Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew  you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!'” Matthew 7:22-23; NKJV

We can’t just be hearers of the word, but doers also (James 1:22). What’s the point of going to church every Sunday, praying daily, and studying the word if you’re not applying anything that you learn to your own life? And when applying the works of our faith to our lives, we must make sure that we are always aligned with the will of God and not our own mission. This is the issue Jesus had with the Pharisees of His day. They made a practice of religion for their own selfish purposes. They did works to be seen and to receive the praises of men. They held themselves up on pedestals and did nothing to serve the people in need.

“For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.” Philippians 2:13; NLT

We must be the complete opposite. Look to Jesus as our example, who did nothing on his own, but everything according to the will of the Father. John 4:34 says, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work.” And again in John 6:38 Jesus says, “For I have come down from heaven not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.” Even the Holy Spirit doesn’t speak on His own authority, but only what He hears (John 16:13). In the same way, we too should act only on what we hear from God so that we don’t become self-righteous like the religious leaders of Jesus’ day.

Remember, we didn’t choose God, but He chose us, and He chose us for a purpose. To go out and bear good fruit that will last (John 15:16). Jesus said in Matthew 7:16 that you will know those who are true by their fruit, for a good tree will only produce good fruit, but a bad tree can only produce bad fruit and so should be cut down and thrown into the fire (Matthew 7:16-20). How can we ensure that we are always producing good fruit so that we will receive our eternal reward in heaven and avoid the fire and the darkness and the gnashing of teeth? By staying aligned with God’s will and His word.

God Bless.

“Abide in Me and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.” John 15:4-5; NKJV

Prayer: Heavenly Father, forgive us for focusing on our own desires instead of what you will for our lives. Forgive us for doing works in your name for our own selfish purposes. Forgive us for not doing what you’ve called us to do, for burying our assignments to collect dust. We desire to be your faithful servants in whom your are well pleased, producing a harvest in our hearts thirty, sixty, and a hundredfold, because that is what you ask of us. We desire after your heart, Lord. Help us to be doers of your word and not our own. Help us to do your will and do it cheerfully, without complaining or arguments, so that when the day comes, we will be welcomed with open arms into your kingdom. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.

Inspirational Spoken Word

“Fee Fi Fo Fum” by Kevin Perry

David said to Saul, “Let no one lose heart on account of this Philistine; your servant will go and fight him.” Saul replied, “You are not able to go out against this Philistine and fight him; you are only a young man, and he has been a warrior from his youth.” 1 Samuel 17:32-33; NIV

It’s time we finally face our fears. It’s time we stare those giants directly in the eyes and shout, “We are not afraid!” This week has been all about triumphing over fears—the fear of dying, my personal fear of bugs—keeping the faith and trusting in God’s promise that victory is ours, no matter how fierce the foe.

What is something that you are afraid of? Maybe you’re not necessarily afraid of it, but this particular test has caused you to doubt yourself. You are not as confident in your walk with Christ as you once were. You once had a steadfast prance, but now it’s a wobbly gait. You thought you received God’s calling over your life, but now you’re not so sure. You wonder if it was even God you heard at all, or if the devil has been playing mind games on you.

You meet a giant named Goliath, and he intimidates you. You’re a mere child in comparison. You fear he is more capable of doing your assignment than you. He’s more articulate than you. He presents better arguments. Others admire him for his anointing. He knows the Bible front to back while it still takes you a little extra time to find the verse you’re after. He can ramble off a quick prayer, speaking in tongues a mile a minute, while you still struggle to find the right words in your own language. He’s confident, some would even call him conceited, arrogant. He boasts in his own strength and knowledge. He takes pride in belittling you. He makes fun of your faith.

How can you ever gather up enough strength and courage to battle such a giant?

Well, there is one thing that you have that this Goliath doesn’t. And that one thing, miniscule as it may be to him, is the only thing you need to bring him down to his knees in defeat.

“Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Matthew 19:26

Yes, with God all things are possible, even when facing “giant” obstacles. Stand firm, don’t run away in fear and defeat. Just look to the young boy David as your example and inspiration. When he volunteered to fight the mighty Philistine warrior, Goliath, there was no doubt in his mind that he would win, for he had the Lord God Almighty on his side, and he trusted that God would deliver the fallen giant into his hands. He refused to let his own size, youth, and inexperience deter him from confronting Goliath in God’s name, because he understood that despite his own human weaknesses and short comings, the power of God, which had given him the strength to kill bears and lions, would surely give him the strength to beat the giant as well.

“Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God. The Lord who rescued me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will rescue me from the hand of this Philistine.” 1 Samuel 17:36-37

Romans 8:31 asks this question: If God is for us, who can be against us? When God is on your side, nothing on this earth, above this earth, or beneath this earth can ever defeat you. In Isaiah 54:16-17, God says that He created the blacksmith who forges his sword, and He also created the devil, and He has determined that “no weapon formed against you shall prosper, and every tongue which rises against you in judgment you shall condemn.” How powerless will these created things be against the Creator when He is fighting our battles for us.

And are they really even our battles? 2 Chronicles 20:15 says that the battle isn’t ours, but God’s. Looking back at David, he doesn’t fight Goliath because they’re measuring egos. He doesn’t fight him because he wants to win a bet, or because Goliath stole his girlfriend or talked bad about his mom. He fights him because Goliath “defied the armies of the living God.”

“You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the Lord will deliver you into my hands . . . and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give all of you into our hands.” 1 Samuel 17:45-47

The giants we face in life won’t always be school yard bullies stealing our lunch money. Sometimes they are blasphemy, unbelief, temptations to sin, “principalities, powers, rulers of the darkness of this age, spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places”  (Ephesians 6:12). However, when have on the full armor of God, we are able to withstand any evil threat that comes our way.

Understand that in this life, troubles will come. Jesus said as much. But He also instructed us not to be afraid, for He has already overcome the world (John 16:33), and through our faith in Him we too have overcome this world (1 John 5:4-5). David had only his faith, a couple of rocks, and a sling shot, and he killed the Philistine warrior with one strike. Don’t kid yourself by saying he just got lucky. That was all God.

So why then are we running scared? Stand up to that giant! Tell him commandingly, “You won’t defeat me!” Because you have someone much greater living inside of you.

“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10; NKJV

God Bless.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we put our trust and faith in you, in your strength, and in your power. We know that we can accomplish nothing without you, but with you giants fall. So we cast out the spirits of fear and doubt. We will not be dismayed or discouraged. We stand tall against these giants because we know you will deliver us. You said in your word that you will never leave or forsake us, that you are with us even to the very end of the age. So we hold onto that confidence, that if God be for us nothing can be against us, that we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us, that no weapon formed against us will prosper, that all things are possible to them that believe. We believe, Lord, and we thank you for always giving us the victory, even against the greatest giants— nothing is greater than you. We give you all the glory and honor and praise. In Jesus name, we pray. Amen.

Inspirational Spoken Word

“Jesus Is God” by Preston Perry

“I and the Father are one.” Again his Jewish opponents picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus said to them “I have shown you many good works from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?” “We are not stoning you for any good work,” they replied, “but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.” John 10:30-33; NIV

Is Jesus God? The short answer: YES. In our post on understanding the Holy Trinity, we learned that Christians do not worship three different Gods as pagans, but that our God is in fact ONE, and He has manifested Himself in three different ways—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

This concept doesn’t always make sense to us, as many things of God are beyond our level of understanding. To simplify it, people often use the example of a man being a son, a husband, and a father all in one. However, for some, that explanation just isn’t enough. I think the best way to understand how God can be three persons in one is by reading Exodus 3:14.

And God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” And He said, “Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” Exodus 3:14; NKJV

In Exodus 3, Moses has an encounter with God at the burning bush, and He instructs Moses to go back to Egypt to free the children of Israel from slavery and lead them to the promised land. When Moses asks who will he say has sent him, God responds, “I AM WHO I AM.” Another version says, “I AM THAT I AM.” God is the Great I AM. He is anything, and He is everything. He can be whatever we need Him to be; a provider, a way maker, a miracle worker, a redeemer, a savior. God is all-powerful, His knowledge is vast, His ways are pure. We’ve seen the magnificent sites His hands have created. Why then do we continue to doubt that He can split Himself up into three different versions all in an effort to get closer to us? That would contradict everything we understand about God.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life and that life was the light of men . . . The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, and the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father full of grace and truth.” John 1:1-4, 14; NIV

Knowing that God can do anything He puts His mind to, is it so hard to understand that Jesus IS God? John 1 calls Him the Word of God, the revelation of God’s will in the flesh. In Matthew 5:17, Jesus says that He has come to fulfill the Law. In other words, He has to fulfill the will of God. What is God’s will? His sovereign decree, His spoken word, and it never changes (Numbers 23:19; Isaiah 40:8; Matthew 24:35; Hebrews 13:8). Psalm 138:2 says the God has put His word above His name. If you don’t believe anything else, believe His word. Genesis 1 tells us that when God speaks, things happen. “Through [His Word] all things were made; without [His Word] nothing was made that has been made” (John 1:3). This is reaffirmed in Colossians 1:16; “For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him.”

Consistently the Bible tells us that Jesus and God are one, but I think the best example comes in John 8:58, when Jesus brings it all together full circle back to when God first revealed Himself to Moses in Exodus 3: Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.”

Jesus IS God. Jesus IS I AM. Jesus IS.

God Bless.

“For there are three that bear witness in heaven: the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit; and these three are one.” 1 John 5:7; NKJV

Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank you for revealing to us who you are. You are our everything, Father, and we praise you for being all of that and more. Thank you for your Son, Jesus Christ, who came to fulfill everything you have said and to save us. Thank you for your Holy Spirit, whom you’ve sent to guide us into all truth. Thank you for being all that we need in this life, for you are the Great I Am, the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the Ending, who was and is and is to come. We put our trust and hope in you always. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.

Inspirational Spoken Word

“Counterfeit Gods” by Jefferson Bethke

“You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.” Exodus 20:3-6; NIV

Do you have any counterfeit gods in your life? Have you unconsciously put something or someone above God and now it has turned your life upside down? Believe it or not, we’ve all had a golden calf incident (Exodus 32) happen in our lives. Maybe not as blatant, but at some point or another we’ve all forgotten God and made things our idols, whether those things be money, material possessions like a phone or car or shoes, or another person like a boyfriend or girlfriend or a harmless crush that has dangerously turned obsessive.

Why is it that we are so easily lead astray by powerless things that can’t save us? I think it has a lot to do with our need for short-term resolutions. We don’t always look at the “big picture” because the “big picture” takes time. We ask God for answers, and when He doesn’t answer our prayers right away, we panic and look for quick fixes on our own. However, God is not a God of quick fixes. Abraham and Sarah didn’t have a child until they were both very old—Abraham 100 and Sarah around 90, well past child-bearing age. The children of Israel were enslaved in Egypt for 400 years before God sent Moses to free them, and then they had to wander in the wilderness another 40 years before they could finally enter the Promised Land. The coming of Jesus was prophesied as early as Genesis 3:15, but the world still had to wait 42 generations before he was born, and we are again waiting for His return.

When it comes to answered prayers, the key is patience. As the song says, “He may not come when you want Him, But He’ll be there right on time.” God exists outside of time as we understand it; He created time, after all. While we wither like the grass (Isaiah 40:8), to God one day is like a thousand years (2 Peter 3:8-9). It may seem like He’s being slow in keeping His promise, but we must remember the God is in heaven (Proverbs 5:21; Ecclesiastes 5:2); He has a much different view than us. He knows the way out of the maze while we run to the first opening we see, unaware that it leads to a dead end. We have to learn to wait on God, just as He waited on us while we were still in sin. The answers will come, but we get in our own way when we try to take God out of the picture.

“Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord.” Psalm 27:14; KJV

Another and probably the most common reason why we bring idols into our lives is because we’re looking for love and satisfaction in all the wrong places. We feel alone so we think we need a romantic partner. We’re bored so we scroll through meaningless posts on social media. We’re not fulfilled so we spend our money recklessly on things that would make us feel like we have “arrived” like jewelry, a new high-priced wardrobe, expensive cars. Despite having all these things, there’s still something missing. Nothing can quench that thirst we have like the love of Jesus.

In John 4:13-14, Jesus tells the woman at the well, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” Jesus came that we might have life, and that we might have it more abundantly (John 10:10). So why do we continue to seek abundant life in things when we already have it in Jesus Christ? Instead of pursuing people and objects, pursue God. The Bible says draw near to God and He will draw near to you (James 4:8). The Lord is near to all who call on Him in truth, and He will fulfill their desires (Psalm 145:18-19). In comparison, what can a store-bought item or a short-term lover give you other than temporary satisfaction that you will have to come back for again and again?

So make God your only God, put away your counterfeit idols, and see if His love does not flow through you more than it ever has.

God bless.

“Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord? Who may stand in his holy place? The one who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not trust in an idol or swear by a false god. They will receive blessing from the Lord and vindication from God their Savior. Such is the generation of those who seek him, who seek your face, God of Jacob.” Psalm 24:3-6; NIV

Prayer: Heavenly Father, forgive us for putting counterfeit gods above you, the only true and living God. Forgive us for thinking that we could find satisfaction, salvation, promise, fulfillment in things made by man rather than in you, the creator of all, the one who gives life. We seek your face now Lord, knowing that those you seek you first will receive all they need and more. Continue to lead our paths, Lord, that we may never again stray away from you. And we will worship you in spirit and in truth because we know now that you alone are our everything. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.