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Monday, September 24, 2018

God is not man, that He should lie, or a son of man, that He should change His mind. Has He said, and will He not do it? Or has He spoken, and will not fulfill it? (Numbers 23:19 ESV)

I'll Vote for That

I was amused today when I pulled the mail out of the box. A political candidate had sent a postcard asking for my vote for mayor in our upcoming city election. He said he wasn't the kind of guy to make campaign promises with no intention of keeping them. I had to smile at that.  Most of us know in the world of politics a lot of promises are made and then broken.

The one thing that ought to excite all of us is that the promises of the Lord never fail. They will all come to pass. Every one of them. If you are a student of the Word that should make you jump up and shout “hallelujah.” Read Revelation chapters 21 and 22. Yes, in the end Satan is defeated and we win, becoming partakers of the glorious eternal kingdom and reign of Jesus Christ. That's a huge promise!

One of the attributes of God is His omnipresence. That means He is everywhere at the same moment in time. He is aware of all that goes on with our lives 24/7. He sees everything, suffering, heart aches, pain, sleepless nights of pain or worry, you name it. Nothing gets past Him. In His knowledge and wisdom He knows what to do and exactly how to do it so that hard times bring growth, strength, and trust to our lives and glory to Himself. He will never forsake us. That is another one of His sure promises (Deuteronomy 31:6, Matthew 28:20).

So if you ever get a card in the mail from someone wanting your vote  remember man's promises will fail. But when you trust in the Lord you can be sure He will do all He promises to do. He is not only the covenant making God, He is also the covenant keeping God. You can always mark yes on that ballot. I'll vote yes on it every time.


Monday, September 17, 2018

While Ezra prayed and made confession, weeping and casting himself down before the house of God, a very great assembly of men, women, and children, gathered to him out of Israel, for the people wept bitterly. (Ezra 10:1 ESV)

They Worshiped, Wept, and Went Their Way

G. K. Chesterton, a prolific Christian writer of the 20th century, wrote of the Christian experience: “Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried.” (What's Wrong with the World”, Part 1, Chapter 5, “The Unfinished Temple”). So it has been throughout the ages that God has set an order of worship and service to Him by His people, both Jew and Gentile. His own chosen, the Jewish people, indeed found serving God with a pure and devoted heart difficult. As water takes the path of least resistance they chose the easy (and sensual) path of creating religion through worshiping other gods. God brought the nation of Babylon to discipline them in their continued rebellion. Babylon conquered them and most of those who were not put to the sword were taken away from the land of Israel into a captivity that lasted 70 years (Jeremiah 25:11). But God did bring them back to their land as promised (Jeremiah 29:10).

Those who returned at the end of the captivity rededicated themselves to the Lord and His Law. They worshiped Him, wept over their sins, repented, and went their way rejoicing (Nehemiah 8:6-12). America can take a lesson from these people who wept over their sins and repented.

Our nation is in its greatest crisis since the events leading up to and including the American Civil War. But millions are praying even now that this nation will experience a revival of God's grace. They pray that those seeking meaning and significance in their lives will find it through the regeneration of Christ and His Holy Spirit.

Weeping is not enough. There must be repentance, a turn around and a change of heart. The ultimate remedy cannot come from any political party or organization. We cannot trust in government, social programs, nor any other means for an answer other than God Himself. If there is no repentance then God in His righteous wrath will have no choice but to judge America for our many sins. Worshiping, weeping, and going our way rejoicing in the salvation Christ freely offers to both Jew and Gentile alike (Galatians 2:8-9) is the resolution. Christ is the only answer to preserving our beloved nation. He is enough for our Land. He is its only hope.


Monday, September 10, 2018

How forceful are upright words! But what does reproof from you reprove?” Job 6:25 (ESV)

Be Nice

One of the reasons I love the Bible is it presents the followers of God open and frank in their dealings with life's issues and especially with the strengths and frailties of men and women of faith. Outside of the example of trust that was shown by our Lord to His Heavenly Father is the faith of Job through a horrific time of testing.

In almost two simultaneous disasters God allowed Satan to take by death Job's 10 children by a catastrophe, have all his wealth stolen from him and most of his servants put to the sword, and then have his body plagued by running, worm infested sores. He was left sitting in the ashes of his destroyed prosperity scratching his sores with a piece of pottery. His own wife told him to "curse God and die" (2:9) Then three of his friends showed up to “comfort” him. Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zopar.

They were so shocked at his horrific circumstances they sat down for 7 days and said nothing. That was the smartest thing they did during their entire visit. When they began to speak, their entire discourse was to say all the disaster that befell him was because he had sinned. After all, would God do this to a righteous person? Their belief, as with many today, was God blesses the righteous and brings calamity to those who are wicked.

There was a time in my early 40s when I endured nearly 2 years of agonizing pain due to a very large benign brain tumor. All the doctors I saw in my home state during that time, both general practitioners and neurosurgeons, did not find it. Many people thought I was faking except my immediate family who were helpless witnesses to my horrific suffering. I knew I was dying and had come to the point of acceptance of that fact. Many were the nights and days of excruciating pain when I would quote out loud Job 13:15 to the ceiling from my bed, "Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him; yet will I argue my ways to His face." 

One day at the height of this painful and debilitating illness I received a postcard in the mail in what appeared to be a woman's handwriting that said, “If you would just get your eyes off yourself and on to Christ everything would be fine.” I even had my pastor at that time tell me through my pain and suffering, “You just need to get busy with your life.” When my disease had advanced to the point I was bedridden he even asked when he prayed for me on one occasion “Is there any sin in your life you want to confess?” implying, even as did Job's comforters, the reason for my suffering was sin. The final affront was after my tumor was found by the Mayo Clinic and removed and I had returned home, I heard my general practitioner doctor's nurse say to him, “You mean there really was something wrong with him?”

The saying, “The Christian Army is the only army in the world that shoots its own wounded” is still unfortunately true today. As a soldier of Jesus Christ, I strive to lay aside weapons of judgment and be a medic. Christ has called us to bear each others burdens, fulfilling His Law (Galatians 6:2). Do you notice it doesn't make any difference as to what those burdens are? They could be spiritual or physical. As Christians we need to lay our weapons down and let love, mercy, and assistance toward the body of Christ be part of the kit we carry. This can only come through the strength and discernment that comes from daily reading and studying of the Word of God, along with a dedicated and sincere prayer life.
These two disciplines will impart to us the understanding, mercy and strength to also lay aside our weapons of judgment. Perhaps calamity in someone's life could be a lesson in patient endurance where the Lord wants to turn that person's molten pain into spiritual steel, that His works might be displayed in them (John 9:3). He did this for me. And it made some Christians angry! 

It is noteworthy at the end of Job's encounter with his friends God's anger burned against the three men for they did not speak what was right as Job had (42:8). God demanded Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zopar make sacrifices of bulls and rams and have Job pray for them. Fortunately for them the LORD accepted Job's prayers(vs 9). In all the trials Satan put him through Job proved God right for though he questioned Him (which is not a sin), he never cursed Him. 

Let's learn to practice the example of love and compassion Jesus set for us just like the same mercy God shows us through Christ. Think of when you've been in the furnace of affliction, or (God forbid) you find yourself or a loved one there in the future, or perhaps right now. When you consider that, it's easier to accept, love, and to help that person. That's what Christ has called us to do with His walking wounded. Be a medic. Be nice.


Monday, September 3, 2018

And He said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat (Mark 6:31)


Today is Labor Day. The holiday that was specifically crafted to honor workers, specifically taking a day to relax and take it easy. Even Jesus saw the need for rest as did His heavenly Father. In the Law of Moses the LORD God made it the Fourth Commandment to honor the Sabbath and devote it to rest, worship, and sacred assembly (Exodus 20:8-11, Leviticus 23:3) .

According to the U.S. Department of Labor; Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.”

It was first celebrated September 5, 1882. It's a time where many take to the outdoors for parades, picnics, or just hanging out at home and doing backyard grilling and enjoying general relaxation. There are definite benefits to relaxation if done sufficiently; it can improve mood, help lower blood pressure, help in relieving pain and it has been found that even laughing may add to heart and lung wellness, promote muscle relaxation and reduce anxiety.

Jesus knew the importance of rest, and He called His disciples to it. The Psalmist also calls us to take time to rest our bodies, our minds, and refresh our spirits and souls in the Lord (Psalm 55:22). Jesus said to those that are laboring under a heavy burden of care to come to Him and find rest (Matthew 11:28-30).

Take time out today to mediate upon these words of our Lord and God, Christ Jesus. Take time to do as He suggested to His disciples and go to a nice place and rest a while. Eat a burger, toss a Frisbee or just sit in the shade and enjoy your family. Labor Day is a misnomer. It isn't a day for labor but for rest. It pleases the Lord for you to do so. Refresh yourself today and rest body, mind, and soul. He isn't commanding you to do it but it's still a good idea and He will be pleased you did. Enjoy the Lord and enjoy a day of rest! God's blessings to you.


Monday, August 27, 2018

And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. Matthew 27:51

The Way is Open

The Apostle Matthew recorded some strange occurrences during the crucifixion and death of Christ. There was a darkness on the land from noon to 3pm, the time Jesus was crucified up to the time He died. When Jesus voluntarily gave up His life and died (John 10:18) there was a great earthquake and the veil (curtain) in the Jewish temple was torn from top to bottom revealing the inner room where God's presence dwelt. There were other amazing events that happened you can read about in the Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 27:45-54.

The tearing of the temple curtain is to me perhaps the most pivotal physical event of the day Christ died. The veil was a curtain that separated the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies where the presence of God dwelt. It protected the priests that ministered in the temple from dying from being in the direct presence of the holy power (shekinah) of God. Aaron the priest was warned not to come into the Holy of Holies except once a year (Exodus 30:10) on the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur), lest he die. In coming into the Holy of Holies he atoned for his sins, that of his household (Leviticus 16:6), and for the sins of the nation of Israel (Leviticus 16:15, Hebrews 9:7).

Upon the death of Christ God tore the curtain from top to bottom. The parting of the veil represented that the way of access for humanity to God had been opened up by the means of the all-sufficient sacrifice of Christ for our sins (Romans 6:10). It is significant the veil was torn from top to bottom. Only God could tear it top to bottom. If it had been torn bottom to top men could have taken credit for it. The tearing of the veil means our abundant hope and eternal life has been confirmed by God Himself.

Christ was our once and for all sacrifice for sin doing away with the animal sacrifices commanded in the Law of Moses (Hebrews 10:1-18). He has now become our great High Priest to which we hold firmly in our confession of faith (Hebrews 4:14). The torn curtain gives us free access to God through our Lord Jesus Christ. When we dare to walk through it we find ourselves standing at the foot of the cross. The way is now open to all who wish to walk through and come in to the presence of the Holy through His Own Dear Son.


Monday, August 20, 2018

Hezekiah the king and the officials commanded the Levites to sing praises to the LORD with the words of David and of Asaph the seer. And they sang praises with gladness, and they bowed down and worshiped. 2nd Chronicles 29:30 (ESV)

When God is Enough

In past devotional thoughts I've talked about the kings of Israel and Judah.  Only 5 kings of Judah obeyed and served the Yahweh. Sadly to say though some of the 5 who began serving Him later fell into apostasy.

One king who stayed the course of righteous obedience to the end of his life was the 13th king, Hezekiah. He is considered a very righteous king by the author of the books of First and Second Kings and is one of the most prominent kings of the Bible. He is also in the genealogy of Jesus Christ (Matthew 1:9-10). He loved the Lord with his whole heart (Deuteronomy 6:5, Matthew 22:37) and God blessed him and the land of Judah because of it.

Today many people, without the church and many within, look at the commandments of God and His Son with a laid back outlook and treat them mostly as statements to be questioned or even totally ignored. Why practice them? 'Obey' to many is a four letter word or they have such a low opinion and perspective of God they can ask “What's in it for me?”

Well, let's take a look at the advantages of obedience. Obedience leads to glory, honor, and immortality (Romans 2:6-8). It leads to being blessed (Luke 11:28). Christ has called us to it (John 14:15). It is an act of worship (Romans 12:1). God rewards obedience (Genesis 22:18, Exodus 19:5, Luke 11:28, James 1:22-25). It proves our love (1st John 5:2-3, 2nd John 6). It demonstrates faith (1st John 2:3-6). It is better than sacrifice (1st Samuel 15:22-23) and through it we experience the blessing of holy living (Psalm 119:1-8, Isaiah 48:17-19).

David said “I will also speak of Your testimonies before kings and shall not be put to shame, for I find my delight in Your commandments, which I love” (Psalm 119:47). Desiring to truly know God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit in all His power, glory, and active attributes can bring the purest delight to every aspect of our being. When we have nothing left but God and we gladly bow down and worship, faithful to do His best for us in His commandments, we come to discover that He is truly enough.


Monday, August 13, 2018

I will bless the LORD at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul makes its boast in the LORD; let the humble hear and be glad. Psalm 34:1-2 (esv)

A Rock Speaks

I had a world history class in my 10th grade year in high school. My teacher was an avowed atheist and was vocal in his atheism and especially in his scorn of Christians and Christianity. I remember him saying “The law says I have to give the views of Christianity so I will briefly cover it.” Very brief it was and he never mentioned it again unless it was in a negative context.

I don't remember much this man taught except for one day when he covered ancient Israel. As he went along I recall one of his statements on the subject that seemed ironic; he said, “The time of King David and his son Solomon were the golden years of the nation of Israel.” I remember thinking 'Yes, and if you read the Psalms you would know why.' Frankly, I was shocked that he even admitted it but eventually came to realize his statement only verified the historical accuracy of the Bible and testified of the blessing God poured out on Israel through the righteous life of David and the impact of his life totally devoted to loving God with a full heart. Without realizing it my atheistic teacher testified to the glory to God's work, love, and grace in King David's life, a man after God's own heart (1st Samuel 13:14, Acts 13:22).

We all realize David's life was less than pristine. Yet through all of his rebellious actions God still gave him the promise that a member of his family would always be seated on his throne and it would last forever. Jesus Christ was a descendant of David through His Father Joseph (Matthew 1:1-17) and His mother Mary (Luke 3:23-38). As God's only beloved Son (Matthew 3:17) He would be the promised One who would sit on his father David's  throne in an eternal reign (Luke 1:32).

There's no escaping God's plans even to a convinced atheist glorifying the works of God without knowing it. The age of David and Solomon was indeed blessed but the Golden Age is yet to come at the Second Coming of Christ when He restores Israel and the Jewish people to their promised and honored place among the nations (Isaiah 10:20, Jeremiah 31:7, Micah 2:12, Zechariah 8:23). He will begin an eternal reign of righteous dominion of all things. 

In Christ's triumphal entry into Jerusalem His disciples went before Him praising God as His anointed Messiah. The religious leaders were incensed and told Him to rebuke them. Christ replied, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out” (Luke 1940). For the Lord of Hosts has purposed, and who can thwart Him? His hand is outstretched, so who can turn it back? (Isaiah 14:27). God will not be silenced. He can proclaim His praise and glory in the most unusual places and ways. He can even do it from the lips of a rock-hearted atheist.


Monday, August 6, 2018

For great is his steadfast love toward us, and the faithfulness of the LORD endures forever. Praise the LORD! Psalm 117:2

God Is Still Working

I've shared the Gospel with several people in my life who told me they were completely convinced they could never receive forgiveness of their sins from God. Whether or not they were just saying that to put me off I can't say, but to verbalize such a thing revealed their ignorance of the power, grace, and redemptive love of God.

In 1st Kings 12 and 2nd Chronicles 10 we read that the nation of Israel split into two nations over a disagreement with the new king. Ten tribes of Israel created a northern kingdom. All of its 19 kings did evil in the sight of the Lord.

But here's the incredible part; God continued to work His grace through the prophets He sent to Israel who boldly confronted the evil kings (and queen) telling them to put away their idols and again follow the commandments of the LORD. They never did, but despite their rebellion and the rebellion of the people God continued to reach out to them for many years.

He will never give up on us no matter what kind of sin we've committed. To say God cannot forgive sin through Christ is to say Christ, as God (John 10:30, 33, Hebrews 1:8) is too weak or helpless to do so which totally goes against Scripture. One of the marvelous attributes of God is He is Omnipotent (all powerful). He can do anything and He never changes. He will work in our lives as He did in ancient Israel's times, regardless of what we've done.

The good news is if you have never believed on Christ for the forgiveness of your sins walking a church aisle or even speaking a prayer is OK. But really all you need to do is believe that Jesus Christ is God's perfect sacrifice for sin (Luke 23:42-43, Acts 16:31) and then do what He commands. He said "If you love Me, you will keep My commandments" (John 14:15). 

In that is a sureness in a world of uncertainty. The depth of His continuing love and grace when we fail Him never changes and that love and grace always remains truly amazing.


Monday, July 30, 2018

And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Philippians 2:8 (English Standard Version)

The Opt-Out

There is a word in our vocabulary we can use to get out of something. It's called the 'opt-out.' On the Internet it can be used to stop email newsletters and spam, in banking and insurance companies it can be used to stop your information from being sold to third parties, or it could be used to tell someone you don't want to be involved in their plans. It's an escape clause.

The Gospels teach of the blood sacrifice of Jesus Christ. How on the cross He became God's Perfect sacrifice satisfying His wrath against sin. When we read the Gospel accounts of the arrest and crucifixion of Christ we seldom consider that in all He went through He had an opt-out. As He was being arrested Jesus told Peter He could appeal to His Father in Heaven and He would send twelve legions of angels to His aid (Matthew 26:53). The number of soldiers in an average Roman legion was 5,000. Multiplied x12 it equals 600,000 angels. It is interesting that we find in 2nd Kings 19:35 that one angel of the Lord, in one night, went through the camp of the Assyrian army, camped to attack the city of Jerusalem, and killed 185,000 Assyrian soldiers. Imagine what twelve legions of angels could have done to the earth had Christ asked for them!

Jesus spoke to His disciples telling them He had authority from God Himself to lay down His life and to take it up again (John 10:17-18). Before His arrest He prayed to His Father that if possible the cross and His taking the sins of history upon Himself could be avoided then let it be so, but adding “Not My will but Yours be done (Luke 22:42).” It was God's will that Christ die for the sins of the world since before the earth was created (Revelation 13:8) and Isaiah wrote of the suffering Messiah that it pleased God to crush (sacrifice) Him (Isaiah 53:10) to complete His plan of human redemption from sin. And in obedience to His Father Jesus willingly accepted the will of God (John 14:31).

After His arrest and illegal trials, He allowed His enemies to humiliate Him, beat Him, whip Him half to death, and nail Him to a Roman cross. This was all done voluntarily on Jesus' part. Jesus held total control and could have opted to have gotten out of it and destroyed His tormentors and enemies. But He humbled Himself through it for the joy that was set before Him, enduring the cross, despising its shame and afterward being seated at the right hand of God. (Hebrews 12:2). Christ endured our punishment for sin, crushing the head of Satan (Genesis 3:15) and disarming the rulers and authorities making a show of them, triumphing over them by the cross (Colossians 2:15).

For those that believe on Him Jesus replaces their sin, guilt and shame with the righteousness of God (Romans 5:21). The good news is that God raised Jesus Christ from the grave on the third day after He voluntarily shed His blood and died, that whosoever believes on Him should not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16). Christ could have chosen to opt-out of God's redemptive plan but He chose not to for our sake. That gives the phrase 'opt-out' a whole new meaning doesn't it?


Monday, July 23, 2018

For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God. Romans 2:28-29

A Matter of the Heart

In the Old testament circumcision was required for all Jewish males under the Law of Moses (Brit Milah, or Bris) on the eighth day after their birth. Even Jesus was circumcised on the eighth day after His birth (Luke 2:21). Circumcision can be done for health reasons, comfort or even appearance. God told Abraham to circumcise himself when he was 99 years old. So too were circumcised were Ishmael, Abraham's household, his servants, those born in the house, and those bought with money from a foreigner as an everlasting covenant in their flesh (Genesis 17:24-27). This included all of Abraham's offspring (all Jewish males, even those yet to be born).

There comes time when some of us need to spiritually circumcise our hearts, cutting away the things that cover the soul.  Christians can cling to irreligious customs and traditions, interpretations of Scripture taken out of context, unloving and severe attitudes put on other believers considered as all the truth there is, pastors “beating the sheep” with condemnation and disapproval, rejection of other believers from fellowship because they do not practice what the one that practices legalism preaches. There are so many more ways legalism can harden the heart. It can even flow over into the political side of thinking or be something as silly as not liking a brother or sister in Christ because they prefer contemporary Christian music over hymns. That's a hardening of the heart.

In the wilderness Moses told the children of Israel; “Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no longer stubborn” (Deuteronomy 10:16). He was telling them to repent in their inward sinful attitudes so that they lined up with God's word. He commands us to make Him the focal point of our commitment, purpose, and actions.

Calcification is the slow but steady hardening of an object. That can happen to our hearts over time. It is good to keep watch over our thoughts (Psalm 19:14), and make a habit of a consistent time to read and study God's word and to practice a consistent prayer life. In doing so we seek to know God and have a personal relationship with Him. He is highly pleased with the feeblest attempt to do so. As the saying goes, “Nothing trumps prayer.”

These life disciplines bring joy, peace, and by the Holy Spirit a measurement of the tenderness of our hearts. A spirit tender and receptive to the Lord is what He desires. It comes down to a matter of the heart. Who is truly a Jew? Is it one born to man or one whose heart is circumcised in God's sight? To cut away the foreskin of the spiritual heart and be no longer stubborn is to be a true child of Abraham. It is God's will for all believers and will define their lives. And his or her praise will not be from man but from God.


Monday, July 16, 2018

And if you faithfully obey the voice of the LORD your God, being careful to do all his commandments that I command you today, the LORD your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth. (Deuteronomy 28:1)

God’s Provision for Israel

The Israelites witnessed great miracles from the hand of God in their deliverance from slavery in Egypt. But even with the mighty miracles seen with their own eyes they stubbornly resisted God's plan for their lives. There were conditions that would happen if they followed Him with a true and committed heart. In those blessings God would bless them in the city and the field. They would be blessed in child bearing, they would be blessed agriculturally, their herds of cattle and the young of the flock would increase. Their food would be increased and they would go out and come in blessed and without fear. The LORD would defeat their enemies. He would command the blessing of their barns and all they undertake. He would establish the Jewish people as a holy (set apart) people to Himself. 

All the peoples of the earth would see they were called by the name of the LORD and be afraid of them. He would make the Jewish people abound in prosperity. He would send rain for their crops and bless all the work of their hands. They would lend to many nations but borrow from none. He promised if they served Him with a whole heart they would “be the head and not the tail.” He would do all these blessings for them if they faithfully served Him. But if they rebelled just the opposite would happen to them (Deuteronomy chapter 28).

Unfortunately Israel chose to rebel against God and were finally scattered throughout the nations of the earth in God's judgment. However God in His compassion and mercy said even if they were at the ends of the earth He would bring them back to the land (Deuteronomy 30:4). He did so during Israel's history especially regathering many of them after the Holocaust of World War II. Afterward He amazingly delivered them through 4 major wars.

God's promise to Israel is that they will be brought back to their faith in Yahweh and their calling and mission in the future under their Messiah Yeshua. He will reign in Zion (Jerusalem) and restore the Jewish people to become a people set apart (holy). The whole earth will be redeemed during the Millennial Reign of Jesus Christ (Jeremiah 23:3-8, Luke 1:32). 

His promises to Israel and to all believers in Christ should excite and encourage us. There will be no more curses for Christ will rule the entire earth with a righteous rule (Revelation chapter 21, Isaiah Chapter 11). The Jewish people will be blessed above all nations (Daniel 2:44, Zechariah 14:16-21)). Yeshua's provision will overcome Israel's failure. What a promise. What a God.