Senin, 26 Agustus 2013

Once Saved, Always Saved?

Once Saved, Always Saved?

I sometimes get asked if I believe in “Once Saved, Always Saved.” One reader recently sent in this question:
Can a Christian lose their salvation?
The old saying is once saved, always saved.
I have two ways of answering this question, both of which are stated below.

1. Why I do NOT Believe “Once Saved, Always Saved”

The reason there is so much debate over this statement is because of the word “saved.” As I have written about on numerous times previously, the word “saved” (and other related words such as “save” and “salvation”) are used in a variety of ways in the Bible. When you do a study of the ways these words are used, it quickly becomes obvious that the vast majority of them have absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with anything related to gaining or keeping eternal life.
once saved, always savedSo, for example, the word “saved” might refer to being delivered from one’s enemies, or getting healed from a sickness, or being rescued from drowning at sea. Obviously, these words are not related to gaining or keeping eternal life. I would guess that the majority of times the words saved, save, salvation, etc., are used in Scripture, they are used in this way (e.g., Matt 8:25; Acts 27:31).
Another percentage of words refers to various ideas that are related to eternal life, but are not eternal life themselves. Often, the words in these contexts refer to some aspect of sanctification, or maybe getting rewards at the Judgment Seat of Christ, or some other related idea (cf. 1 Cor 3:15).
Finally, there is a tiny fraction (I would say less than 1%) of uses where the term probably does refer to receiving eternal life, though even in these contexts, the actual meaning of the word is debatable.
In Acts 16:30-31, for example, the Philippian jailer asks Paul and Silas, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” They answer, “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.” On the one hand, it seems that the jailer might have been asking about how to receive eternal life. But frankly, at this time, that may not have been the primary question on his mind. At that time, if a jailer let prisoners escape, the jailer would be tortured and killed. Maybe the jailer was not asking how to get eternal life, but how to be delivered (saved) from being killed by the authorities. This reading is possible. I am not sure how the jailer meant his question, and so don’t mind reading it either way. Besides, whatever he meant by it, Paul and Silas answer the most important question, which is how to receive eternal life: believe in Jesus for it.
There are a few other examples of places where the word “saved” could be understood as eternal life, or could be understood as referring to something else (Eph 2:1-10 is one), but these examples are less than 1% of the uses in the Bible.
But here is what happens. Most church-going people assume that the word “saved” almost always means “get forgiveness of sins so you can go to heaven when you die” even though it rarely means that. So when they come across a passage like 1 Corinthians 15:2 where Paul says the Corinthians will be saved only if they hold fast to the word that was preached to them. And people say, “See? If you don’t hold fast, then you aren’t saved? See? Once saved, always saved is false!”
Right. But what does the word “saved” mean in this context? Is Paul really talking about the concept of “forgiveness of sins, escaping hell, going to heaven when you die?” No, he is not. Paul is using the word “saved” in the same way he uses it in 1 Corinthians 3:15. The word “saved” in 1 Corinthians refers to reward and honor at the Judgment Seat of Christ. This is something Christians can lose.
So the question, “Do you believe in ‘Once Saved, Always Saved?’ is a trick question. There are numerous verses in the Bible which indicate that there are some things in our Christian life which can be lost, and these texts use the word “saved” to talk about how to be saved from losing these things.
So do I believe in “Once Saved, Always Saved?” No. I do not. This slogan is unclear, imprecise, and does not fit with many Scriptures which indicate that there are many spiritual blessings in the Christian life that can be lost.

2. Why I believe “Once Saved, Always Saved”

Of course, after saying what I have said above about “Once Saved, Always Saved” I always try to then answer the question that people are really asking. When people ask if I believe in “Once Saved, Always Saved” what they are really asking is if I believe that eternal life can be lost. That is, do I believe in eternal security?
And the answer to that is a resounding Yes!
outrageous graceOnce you see the difference in Scripture between the word “saved” and the terms “eternal life” or “everlasting life” or even something like “justification” you begin to see that while there are numerous verses which talk about saving something that can  be lost, there is not a single verse in the Bible which talks about losing eternal life, losing everlasting life, or losing our justification. All of these gifts of God, once given, are never revoked or taken back.
There is no place in the Bible that talks about getting unjustified, unsealed, unregenerated, unindwelled, unbaptized by the Spirit, or any such thing.
If everlasting life can be lost, it has the wrong name.
If everlasting life can be lost, it has the wrong name.
Yes, I know there are difficult verses in the Bible, and troubling passages (Hebrews 6 and Hebrews 10 for example), but with a basic framework understanding of what Jesus teaches about eternal life being given freely to everyone and anyone who believes in Him for it, and that since Jesus died for us while we were yet sinners there is no sin that can take away the benefits of His death from us, and dozens of other Scriptures which talk about God’s infinite, unmerited, outrageous, scandalous grace, the clear teaching of Scripture seems to be that once God gives eternal life to someone, they have it eternally.
Yes, yes, there are people who might abuse this idea. Yes, there are people who think they have eternal life, but don’t. Yes, there are lots of false ideas out there about what eternal life is and how to get it. I am not talking about any of that. All I am saying is that according to Scripture, if a person has eternal life, then they have eternal life eternally. They shall never perish!
So do I believe in Once Saved, Always Saved? You tell me! What are your thoughts about the saying, “Once Saved, Always Saved”?

Jumat, 23 Agustus 2013

Your Appointment Still Awaits You

Your Appointment Still Awaits You

Appointed Times
In spite of escalating turmoil in our world, there still remains one last, great outpouring of mercy before the time of the end (Matt. 24:14; Acts 2:17). This supernatural season is not something for which we must beg God. No, its coming has been predetermined. It is the "appointed time" of the Lord.
An "appointed" or "fixed" time is an open display of the sovereignty and power of God, whether it is in calling a person or calling a nation. In it we discover with absolute certainty that nothing is impossible for God. It is a season when God fulfills the hopes and dreams of His people.
As it is written,
"But You, O Lord, abide forever, and Your name to all generations. You will arise and have compassion on Zion; for it is time to be gracious to her, for the appointed time has come" (Ps. 102:12-13).
During an "appointed time" it is as though the Lord physically rises and moves in unfailing compassion on behalf of His people. It is the time when divine promises, dreams and spiritual hopes are fulfilled. Recall: Abraham and Sarah had waited in faith for a quarter-century for the promise of God. Finally, as they neared one hundred years of age, the Lord told Abraham, "At the appointed time I will return to you . . . and Sarah will have a son" (Gen. 18:14). One year later, "at the appointed time" (Gen. 21:2), Isaac was born to aged parents!
While there are, indeed, appointed times of judgment (Mark 13:33), this phrase most frequently represents a time, preset by God, when He invades mankind with "wonders, plans formed long ago, [that unfold] with perfect faithfulness" (Isa .25:1).
Demons may stand arrayed against the Lord; nations may align themselves to fight Him. It does not matter. "He who sits in the heavens laughs" (Ps. 2:4). For He makes all things His servants (Ps. 119:91), even His enemies' plans for evil are reversed and made to serve the purpose of God (Gen. 50:20; Rom. 8:28; Acts 2:22-24).
If God gave you a vision, a spiritual hope or dream for your future, there will be an appointed time when that which God spoke comes to pass. Thus the Lord assures us, "Record the vision and inscribe it on tablets, that the one who reads it may run. For the vision is yet for the appointed time. It hastens toward the goal and it will not fail. Though it tarries, wait for it; for it will certainly come, it will not delay" (Hab. 2:2-3, italics mine). Though your vision may tarry, wait for it. For it will certainly come to pass at the appointed time.
Appointed Servants of God
Consider the Lord's word to His disciples. He said,
"You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain" (John 15:16).
The disciples certainly felt that they had chosen Christ. Yet the deeper truth was that God chose them before the foundation of the world. Likewise, He chose us and predestined us to come to Christ (Eph. 1:3-5). We could not even come to Christ had not the Father drawn us (John 6:44). Yet He who chose us also appointed us to bear fruit. The same power that worked in us our surrender and faith continues to work in our hearts, appointing us to bear fruit. Do you believe God has chosen you? Then believe also that He has appointed you to bear fruit.
The Enemy's Work
One may argue, "But I know people who were good Christians who have fallen away." Yes, but in most cases you will find that prior to falling away they fell into deep disappointment about a failed spiritual expectation. Disappointment is not just a sad emotional state of mind; deep disappointment actually can sever our hearts from faith. It can "dis-appoint" us from our appointed destiny.
I have known many who were doing well, moving toward their destiny. The future God had for them seemed close enough to taste. Then they became disappointed in someone or something. By accepting a demonically manipulated disappointment into their spirits, and letting that event germinate and grow into a disappointment with God, a bitter cold winter overtook their souls and their destiny went dormant.
When one is dis-appointed, he is cut off from his appointment with destiny. Their appointed breakthrough remains in the heart of God, but the individual is isolated by unbelief. Hope deferred has made their heart sick. It is here, even in the throes of disappointment, that the righteous must learn to live by faith (see Hab. 2:1-4).
Listen well my friend: Satan will stop your destiny if you accept the power of disappointment into your life. Disappointment cuts us off from our vision, and without a vision people perish.
Therefore, let me ask you: Are you carrying disappointment in your heart? Renounce it. Forgive those who have let you down. Have you personally or morally failed? Repent deeply and return to your Redeemer. Right now, I ask the Holy Spirit to remove the paralyzing sting of disappointment from your heart! Holy Spirit, deliver your people this day from the effect of the disappointment. Let them know that their appointment with destiny is still set.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Originally a chapter in This Day We Fight! (Chosen Books); rewritten and updated for Spiritual Discernment and the Mind of Christ.
Books by Francis Frangipane -
Available for a limited time for just $10.50 (Retail $12.85) at

Sabtu, 17 Agustus 2013

"Lord of the Rings" Actor Talks About His Faith Journey

"Lord of the Rings" Actor Talks About His Faith Journey

"Lord of the Rings" Actor Talks About His Faith Journey
Sean Astin, an actor featured in memorable films for the last decade, recently opened up about his Christian faith and the path that brought him there. Astin, 42, played such critically acclaimed characters as Samwise Gamgee in the Lord of the Rings trilogy as well as the leading roles in Rudy, The Goonies and Memphis Belle. Astin's newest project is a faith-based family comedy titled Mom's Night Out, directed by the brothers who directed October Baby, Jon and Andy Erwin.
Astin's faith journey has brought him through the religions of his parents, actors John Astin (The Addams Family) and Patty Duke, who were a Buddhist and Catholic, respectively. According to The Blaze, Astin has said in the past that he doesn't wear his faith "on his sleeve," but he affirmed his Christianity during an interview with BeliefNet. Today, Astin is a Lutheran, having been officially baptized along with his wife at a church in Indiana.
Astin told BeliefNet about how his stepfather influenced him to "pick something" as he was leading an agnostic lifestyle.  “'What do you mean?'" Astin asked his father. "There are a lot of Jewish people in our community. My daughter, when she was 13, she went through the Bat Mitzvah circuit (of her friends) which is an extraordinary thing to behold and I assumed that he meant pick Judaism. (My stepfather) said 'Judaism, Christianity, Hindu, Muslim,' he goes 'you need community. Pick something and stick with it.'  So, I think we arrived at a Christian posture."
Astin continues to participate in faith-based projects, such as Mom's Night Out and providing the voice of Matthew in the "Truth and Life Dramatized New Testament."
“I don’t actually walk around wearing my faith on my sleeve or anything but I went to Catholic school for three years," Astin said in a 2011 interview about the voiceover project. "You get to certain passages about the Last Supper or the Crucifixion and I’ve heard them a lot in church and they were spoken by a priest.
“And now the words that were being uttered by a priest to a congregation are coming through my eyes and sound! These massive ideas are being poured out and it gives you goose bumps sometimes. You’re portraying revealed truth!”
Mom's Night Out will also star Patricia Heaton, Trace Adkins and Alex Kendrick in a story about three women who leave their children with their somewhat inept husbands for a much-needed night out.

Photo credit: Featureflash /

Kamis, 15 Agustus 2013

Goliath Had a Brother

 The Ministries of Francis Frangipane
Goliath Had a Brother
(En Español)
Here's the scene: You are in a battle against sickness, oppression or some similar struggle. You seek God, and in some way the grace of God touches your life. Your victory may have come through a word or prayer or some other encouragement, but you absolutely know the Lord has delivered you. Using the five smooth stones of divine grace, you defeated your Goliath.
But then, a few weeks or months or perhaps years later, all the old symptoms suddenly return with a vengeance. If you were struggling with an illness, it manifests worse than ever; if your battle was regarding a relationship or a particular sin, it seems as though all progress has been lost. You are back to square one.
Have you ever been there? These negative experiences can drain the faith from your heart. You lose the anticipation and power of faith, and a spiritual paralysis immobilizes your soul. You may still attend church, but your faith is unresponsive. When others testify of deliverance, you worry secretly that they, too, will "lose their healing."
For many, the result is one of faith-shaking disillusionment. Scripture says, "Hope deferred makes the heart sick" (Prov. 13:12). This "heartsickness" is a spiritual disease that can cripple your walk with God. Remember, faith is the substance of the things you hope for; if you lose hope, your faith becomes hollow. How can you trust God when it seems as though He let you down? You wonder: Did I lose my breakthrough, or was I only deceiving myself and never really had it?
Dear one, it is very possible that what you are experiencing is not a loss of God's blessing but an entirely new spiritual battle. This new war is a very clever and effective deception that Satan uses to try and worm his way back into the lives of those delivered by God.
I had been praying about this very thing, this recurring battle, when the Holy Spirit spoke to my heart: "Goliath had a brother." I was immediately reminded of David's war against the Philistine giant. We all know that David became a great hero by trusting God and defeating Goliath. However, things changed as we see in 2 Samuel 21:

"Now when the Philistines were at war again with Israel, David went down and his servants with him; and as they fought against the Philistines, David became weary. Then Ishbi-benob, who was among the descendants of the giant . . . intended to kill David. But Abishai the son of Zeruiah helped him, and struck the Philistine and killed him" (2 Samuel 21:15-17).
Years after David conquered Goliath as a lad, after he became king he had to face other giants. In fact, 1 Chronicles 20:5 reveals that at least one of those warring against David was "the brother of Goliath," and four were his children (2 Sam. 21:22). We can imagine that these giants, being Goliath's kin, looked like Goliath, boasted like him, dressed like him and probably even smelled like him. The Scripture says that while fighting one of the descendants of Goliath, "David became weary" (2 Sam. 21:15). The Bible is silent as to what might have been going through the king's mind as he battled these giants. Perhaps he wondered, I thought I killed Goliath. What is he doing back? But Goliath had not come back; he was dead! David was actually fighting the giant's kin. It just looked like the same battle!
Likewise, you also have had many successful victories. Just because the current giant you are facing looks like one you defeated in the past, do not accept the lie that you never really won the first battle! By the strength of God's grace, you trusted the Almighty and conquered your Goliath. The first giant is dead. Satan is masquerading as your former enemy so he can slip past your shield of faith and thus regain entrance into your life. Resist him. Do not accept the lie that you were never delivered. Stand in faith. Faith is the victory that overcomes the world (1 John 5:4).
The living God who helped you conquer Goliath will empower you to overcome his brother as well.
Father, I come to You as Your servant. Like David, I have become weary with fighting an enemy I thought I had defeated. By the power of Your Holy Spirit, however, I expose the lie that this is the same foe I previously conquered. In Jesus' name, I rebuke the enemy. I ask You, Lord, to send angels to strengthen me supernaturally, just as angels often strengthened Jesus. In the name of the Lord, Amen.
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Adapted from a chapter in Francis Frangipane's newest book Spiritual Discernment and the Mind of Christ.
Books by Francis Frangipane -
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Minggu, 11 Agustus 2013

Love Me Where You're At

Love Me Where You're At
(En Español)
I have discovered that, as we seek the Lord, our most difficult periods can be transformed into wonderful breakthroughs into God's love. For me, one such season occurred during the years 1979 to1981. The association of churches with which I was aligned had fallen under spiritual deception. Not only were its core doctrines increasingly seeded with New Age influences, but immorality crept in, and key leaders began leaving their wives for other women. I could no longer remain silent. As a result, in 1979 I left my congregation in Detroit, Michigan, where I had served as pastor, and traveled to the organization's regional headquarters in Iowa. I came to plead for repentance. However, after meeting with the senior leaders, I was asked to leave the group.
So here we were -- we had left our church, we had no money, and we had four little children; we couldn't even afford basic housing. Desperate for anything, we finally found an old farmhouse in rural Washington, Iowa. The home was over a hundred years old, but it actually looked much older. After negotiating with the landlord, we were given a year of free rent provided I did basic repairs to the house, such as cleaning and painting.
Even so, the house needed more than I could provide. The furnace did not work well, so we installed a wood burner stove in the kitchen. That first winter, it turned out, was one of the coldest in Iowa's history. Frost formed on the inside walls, spreading a foot or two around each window; wind chills dropped to 60 below, and even colder on several occasions.
To keep warm each night, the whole family cuddled tightly on one large mattress on the dining room floor, about 18 feet from the wood burner in the kitchen. A fan behind the stove nudged warm air in our direction. My nightly project, of course, was to build enough heat in the stove to keep us warm until morning.
While I worked the fire, I also would pray and seek God. The wood burner became a kind of altar to me, for each night as I prayed, I offered to God my unfulfilled dreams and the pain of my spiritual isolation. Yes, I knew the Lord was aware of our situation. Though we had virtually nothing, He showed Himself to us in dozens of little ways. I just didn't know what He wanted of me.
As the seasons came and went, another child was born, and then we fostered a young girl from Vietnam, giving us six children. Still, as the family grew, the little area around the wood burner became a hallowed place to me. Even in the summer, I would sit on the chair next to the stove and pray and worship.
I would like to say I found the joy of the Lord during this time, but in truth, though I gradually adjusted to my situation, I felt an abiding misery in my soul. Our deep poverty was an issue (I barely made $6,000 a year), but more than that, I felt like I had missed the Lord. My continual prayer was, "Lord, what do You want of me?"
Three years of seeking God passed, and I still carried an emptiness inside. What was God's will for me? I had started a couple Bible studies and spoken a few times in churches, but I so identified with being a pastor that, until I was engaged again in full-time ministry, I feared I had lost touch with God's call on my life.
In spite of this inner emptiness concerning ministry, I actually was growing spiritually, especially in areas that were previously untilled. I went through the Gospels, hungry to study and obey the words of Christ. Previously, I had unconsciously defined a successful ministry as something born of my performance. During this time, however, the Lord reduced me to simply being a disciple of Jesus Christ.
Indeed, a number of things I thought were biblical I discovered were really just religious traditions. The Lord desired that I take inventory of my heart and examine those few truths for which I would be willing to die. He said the truths for which I would die, for these I should live.
Frankly, things like the timing of the rapture or nuances about worship style or spiritual gifts dropped in their priority, though I still considered them important. Rising to the top of my focus was a passion to be a true follower of Jesus Christ -- to obey His teachings and approach life not merely as a critic but more as an encourager. I also found myself increasingly free to enjoy and learn from Christians from other streams and perspectives.
Yet these changes, though deep and lasting, occurred slowly, almost imperceptibly. They were happening quietly in my heart, and only in hindsight did I see what the Lord had done. Throughout this time, I was preoccupied with feelings of detachment from God's will. My prayer to know the Lord's plan for me continued daily.
The Breakthrough
One day, as I stood in the kitchen pantry, I repeated again my abiding prayer: "Lord, what do You want of me?" In a sudden flash of illumination, the Lord answered. Speaking directly to my heart, He said, "Love Me where you're at."
In this time and season, remember, I was not a pastor or minister. I was a television repairman doing odd jobs on the side to provide for my family. I hated what I was doing. In my previous church I taught against TV, and now I was "laying hands" on television sets and raising them from the dead! The Lord's answer cut straight to my heart. I was awed at its simplicity! I asked, "Love You where I am at? Lord, is that all You want of me?" To this He responded, "This is all I will ever require of you."
In that eternal moment, peace flooded my soul and I was released from the false expectation of ministry-driven service. God was not looking at what I did for Him, but who I became to Him in love. The issue in His heart was not whether I pastored but whether I loved Him. To love the Lord in whatever station I found myself -- even as a television repairman -- this I could do!
A deep and remarkable transformation occurred in me. My identity was no longer in being a pastor but rather in becoming a true lover of God. Having settled my priorities, amazingly, just a couple days later I was invited to pastor a church in Marion, Iowa. In spite of all my previous anxiety about returning to ministry, I did not jump at the opportunity. For I had found what the Lord truly desired of me. Though I eventually accepted this call, my focus was not merely on leading a church but on loving God.
What God Seeks
More than one's ministry, God seeks our love. His great commandment is that we love Him, ultimately, with all our mind, all our heart, and all our soul and strength. If we love Him, we will fulfill all He requires of us (John 14:15). And it is as we love Him that He orchestrates all things to work together for our good (Rom. 8:28).
Beloved, loving God is not hard. We can fulfill any assignment -- auto mechanic or housewife, doctor or college student -- and still give great pleasure to our heavenly Father. We do not need ministry titles to love the Lord. Indeed, God measures the value of our lives by the depth of our love. This is what He requires of all true God-seekers: to love Him where we are at.
Lord Jesus, the revelation of Your love has swept me off my feet. Lord, You have drawn me and I run after You. Master, even in the mundane things of life, I shall express my love for You. Consume me in Your love.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Books by Francis Frangipane - Adapted from a chapter in Francis Frangipane's book And I Will Be Found By You. Available for a limited time for just $7.88 at

Using Group Events to Love Others

Using Group Events to Love Others

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This post on Loving our Neighbors through group events is by Sam Riviera, a frequent contributor to this blog.

group eventIn the previous posts in this series (see link list below) we discussed first getting acquainted with our neighbors and then building relationships with them. Once we have built relationships with at least some of our neighbors, we’re ready to move on to the next step, group events. Even though it is tempting to skip getting acquainted and building relationships and go straight to a group event, such as a backyard barbecue, we have discovered that the group events always function more smoothly when we know and have already established a relationship with everyone we invite to the event.

Group Events

Group events are great opportunities for neighbors to get to know each other better, both those we already know, and those we barely know (even though those people may live just half a block away) or don’t know at all. Through group events we will discover new things about each other, including shared interests. We often discover that neighbors we assumed were unfriendly are actually very friendly.
When we’re planning the event, we try to make sure that everyone we invite knows someone else in the group in addition to my wife and me. Since we know everyone in the group, we introduce people to anyone they don’t know. Since everyone already knows someone, the people they know also introduce them to other people. Conversations that begin at group events are often continued in the days and years ahead.

Our First Neighborhood Group Event

My leg was in a non-walking cast. I was unable to help clean the house or to prepare most of the food that would be necessary for a New Year’s Eve party. But our neighbor was terminally ill with cancer and this would be her last New Year’s Eve. We agreed that if she could come for even ten minutes, we’d have a party. She said she would come. Then we invited more neighbors.
My wife cleaned. I made a shopping list. We went to Costco (me in a wheelchair) and bought take-and-bake pizza, salad, hummus, a cheese log, crackers, cheese trays, sparkling cider and champagne. We came home and I made cheesecake and persimmon pudding.
Everyone we invited came, fourteen in all, including our sick friend. She looked fabulous (it was her “best day” between chemo treatments). We talked. We swapped stories. They stayed (even our sick friend stayed almost three hours). We toasted each other. Oh yes, we ate, but the food was not the centerpiece of the event. Spending time together was.
That was a special night, and everyone there understood that. After the event, everyone said they wanted to do it again, and those present who do not live in the neighborhood asked to be invited to the next event (they were and they came). Some people called us later and asked for each others phone numbers. New relationships were begun and old ones strengthened.

Our Second Neighborhood Group Event – Cinco de Mayo Party

Over the course of throwing group events, we have discovered that people love theme parties, especially those centered around holidays. Since we live near the border, we love to celebrate Cinco de Mayo (5th of May). We invited a group of neighbors to a Cinco de Mayo party on Sunday May 1, which was the day our community celebrated Fiesta/Cinco de Mayo.
We made enchiladas and rice, provided drinks and asked everyone to bring a side dish or dessert that went with the theme. Bringing something to share makes people feel more involved and relieves them from feeling obligated to return the invitation. Sixteen people and lots of food arrived around 4:30.
Neighbors met neighbors they barely knew or didn’t know, and reconnected with those they already knew. Half of the group had come to the first event on New Year’s Eve, and half had not. One of the “new” people had never been involved in any neighborhood activity. Everyone (except my wife and I) met at least three or four neighbors they had not known previously.

Bin Laden and Group Events

We ate and everyone talked and talked. We were still sitting and talking when one man received a phone call telling him the president was about to make an announcement concerning Bin Laden. We turned on the television. After the president’s speech, someone asked, “Do you remember where you were when you heard the news about Kennedy? Now we’ll remember where we were when we heard the news about Bin Laden.”
group eventsNear the end of the evening, my wife and I proposed a “block party” for the 4th. Everyone liked the idea. The neighborhood is really getting into this. We now have two co-chairs and people from other streets in the neighborhood are asking if they can come. We’re inviting everyone on our street, and those people may invite anyone else from the neighborhood and friends and relatives. We have not seen this much enthusiasm since we moved here. We may get 30 or 300. We’re passing out “Save The Date” flyers today and tomorrow.

We Like Each Other

Our neighbors did not want to leave. They love spending time with each other. The party finally broke up around 9:00. Two people asked us if they could come back later “just to talk”.
We’re building community. People are talking to people they thought they didn’t like. People are meeting neighbors a few houses away who they didn’t know and neighbors are spending more time talking with each other. Neighbors who didn’t attend either of the first two group events have told us that they’ve heard about the events, would like to come to our next event and are looking forward to the July 4 block/neighborhood party.
In the next post we’ll discuss some pitfalls to avoid when getting to know our neighbors, and then will conclude this series with “Loving Without an Agenda.”
Until then, have you hosted any group events? What did you do, and what was the reaction and response from your neighbors?

get to know neighborsThis "Getting to Know Our Neighbors" series is by Sam Riviera, a frequent blog contributor. This series provides concrete, practical suggestions for loving others like Jesus.

How Genesis 8:21 Reveals God’s Purpose in the Flood

How Genesis 8:21 Reveals God’s Purpose in the Flood

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The flood narrative in Genesis 6-8 is difficult to understand in light of the self-sacrificing nature of God revealed in Jesus Christ on the cross. How can the God who drowns everybody on earth because of their sin, be the same God who dies for everybody on earth because of their sin? Though there are numerous issues surrounding these chapters, Genesis 8:21 helps us understand what God was doing in the flood. When we understand Genesis 8:21, it shows us that God was acting much more like Jesus than many assume.

Genesis 8:21

After the flood, Noah and his family set out to reestablish themselves on the earth, and when  Noah offers a sacrifice to God, God promises to never again destroy every living thing in the same way (Genesis 8:21). God says that even though man’s heart is constantly evil, the flood waters will never again come upon the earth to destroy everything that breathes.
Three things about Genesis 8:21 reveal to us what God was doing in the flood.

1. God Restricts His Own Freedom

First, in previous posts, I have argued that God did not actively “send” the flood, but that it came upon the earth as a natural consequence to mankind’s rebellion. The flood is an example of nature out of control, of sin cannibalizing itself, and of the destroyer seeking to destroy.
Genesis 8:31
One of the primary reasons I have been arguing this is because I believe that God, in the act of creating beings with dignity, value, and free will, God limited Himself from acting in any way that would violate or negate mankind’s dignity, value, and free will.
Though it is popular to say that God can do whatever He wants, God cannot do what is logically impossible (such as make a round square), do anything that violates His own nature (such a sin), or do anything that goes against something He has already decided and determined (such as give humans free will). “God lets the creatures have the freedom to be what God created them to be”  (Fretheim, Creation Untamed, 53).
Lots of people have problems with the idea of God limiting Himself for the sake of humanity. They feel that since we are God’s creatures, He can do with us whatever He wants, even if it means squashing us all like bugs under His divine thumb. They often point to the flood as an example of Him doing this very thing.
Note carefully, however, what God says in Genesis 8:21. He says that even though all humanity is completely evil from their youth, He will never again destroy every living thing as He has done in the flood. However a person understands the flood account, Genesis 8:21 clearly reveals God placing a limitation upon Himself.
Genesis 8:21 shows that God places boundaries upon His future choices so that a worldwide flood is never again a possibility. Whatever you think about the flood account, one thing it shows is that our God is a self-limiting God. He restricts His own freedom for the sake of His creation.
This is the first thing to note about Genesis 8:21.

2. Could God Stop a Second Flood?

The second thing to note is that the verse seems to raise an objection to the theory that has been advanced in previous posts.
This basic argument of some of my previous posts is that God couldn’t have stopped the flood in the first place. It came as a natural result of human rebellion, sin cannibalizing itself, nature spiraling out of control, and the destroyer seeking to destroy.
But if that is true, if the flood was a natural consequence of human rebellion and sinfulness so that humanity separated themselves from God’s protective hand thus inviting destruction upon their own heads, then how is it that in Genesis 8:21, God can now promise to stop the same sort of destruction in the future?
In other words, if all that God could do in the flood event was rescue as many people as possible from the waters when they threatened to take the life of everything that breathes, how can God guarantee that humanity will never be so sinful as to invite the same destruction upon their heads again? If God couldn’t stop such destruction the first time, how can He promise to stop it a second time?
Initially, this seems to refute the argument that has been advanced in previous posts. But in actuality, the fact that God promises not to send another flood actually supports the argument. The reason God makes the promise that He does in Genesis 8:21 is because God knows something about the world He created which makes it impossible that a worldwide flood would ever occur again. Though human sinfulness and rebellion were the spiritual reasons for the flood, God also knew the meteorological reasons for how the flood occurred, and knew that once they happened, a second worldwide flood was not possible.
What reasons might these be? While Genesis is not a scientific treatise, the early chapters of Genesis give hints that the earth may have been surrounded by a thick canopy of vapor. This canopy provided a greenhouse effect over the entire earth, protecting plants, animals, and people from the UV rays of the sun, and allowing people and animals to stay alive much longer than what is typical today. When the rains came for 40 days and 40 nights, some scholars believe it was a result of the vapor canopy falling to the earth (e.g., Dillow, The Waters Above).
Though we cannot say what caused the canopy to rain down upon the earth, some speculate that it might have been a meteorite. Such a cataclysmic event might also explain why fountains broke forth from the deep (Gen 7:11). In the end, we do not really know how the flood occurred, but it seems from God’s promise in Genesis 8:21 that whatever the causes of the flood, that particular series of events is no longer possible.
So when God says in Genesis 8:21 that a second flood will not come upon the earth, we can read this to say that a second flood cannot come upon the earth. The specific meteorological conditions for a worldwide flood are no longer possible. If they were possible, God could not have made the promise that He does. The truth is that God could not stop a worldwide flood a second time—if one came. The limitations that God has placed upon Himself when He created beings with free will is just as true before the flood as it is after.

Genesis 8:21 and 2 Peter 2

If you are skeptical of this way of reading Genesis 8:21, note that according to 2 Peter 2, a second worldwide destruction is coming. This second “flood” will not be with water, but with fire, and this it will be so destructive, it will not just consume everything that breathes, but all the elements as well. If God promises that He will never again destroy everything that breathes, but then in the future He does so with fire, it seems that either He is playing word games (He only meant that He wouldn’t destroy with water, but fire is still an available option), or, just as with the flood, He cannot stop the destruction with fire when it comes. We will look at 2 Peter 2 later in this chapter, but for now, it seems that given what God says in Genesis 8:21, that He resolves to stick with mankind no matter how wicked or evil they become, only the second option is open to us.
Think of it another way. Imagine a father with his child. The child is disobedient and rebellious, and one day, the father got frustrated that in a moment of anger he hit the child over the head with a baseball bat. The child sustained a severe concussion and went to the hospital. When the child comes out, the father apologizes profusely, and promises the courts and Child Protective Services that no matter what happens, he will never again hit his child with a baseball bat. The next week, the father again loses his temper and hits the child over the head with a shovel, and the child goes back to the hospital with severe brain damage. When the police arrest the man and ask him why he hit his child a second time, the father objects, saying, “I never promised to not hit him with a shovel; I promised to not hit him with a baseball bat.” Do you think the father’s argument would stand in court?
Of course not. Yet that is how many people view God’s behavior in the Bible. He hits His disobedient children over the head with a flood. Then in a moment of sorrow, promises He will never do that again. But later, He lashes out with a fire that incinerates them all. Given such behavior, can God’s promises be trusted? No, they cannot. It seems that the only alternative solution is to say what I have been proposing here, that when the flood came the first time, God couldn’t stop it. Why not? Not because He was powerless, but because in His great power and wisdom, He gave genuine freedom to His creatures. Because of this limitation He placed on Himself, He cannot always stop the negative consequences of our sinful actions.
Yet when the flood occurred, God could confidently promise that such an event would never happen again. Why? Because the natural and meteorological conditions for such an event are impossible to duplicate. But this does not mean that a different form of destruction could not come, such as destruction with fire. Here again, just as with the flood, before the destruction with fire comes, God will work to rescue, redeem, and deliver as many people as possible.

3. God Loves Sinful People

This leads us to the third and final point about Genesis 8:21. This third point makes Genesis 8:21 a beautiful and touching verse. As indicated previously, Genesis 8:21 proves that the flood was not about ridding earth of sinful humanity. If that was what the flood was about, God failed miserably, and seems to be fairly foolish for trying such a tactic. Why can we say this? Because in Genesis 8:21, the condition of humanity is pretty much just as it was before the flood. Before the flood, mankind is described as being “only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5). After the flood, mankind is described in similar fashion: “the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth” (Genesis 8:21).
Genesis 8:31
God didn’t send the flood to destroy an evil and rebellious humanity. No, mankind is evil before the flood, and he is evil after the flood. Nothing changed. But what God says in Genesis 8:21 is that the evil of mankind doesn’t matter. Oh sure, sin and rebellion are bad, and they have terrible, life-destroying consequences. The flood proved that. But what God is saying in Genesis 8:21 is that despite our sin and rebellion, sin is not an issue for Him. He forgives us because He loves us. He wants to dwell with us and make His home among us. He wants to protect us and provide for us. He is not against us, but is for us in every possible way. Though sin and evil are allowed to have their day, “God will work from within such a world to redeem it, not overpower the world from without” (Fretheim, God and World in the Old Testament, 83).

Genesis 8:21 and Romans 8:31

Genesis 8:21 is echoed in Romans 8:31, where Paul writes, “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?”
Yes, this is what God is saying in Genesis 8:21. He looks at sinful humanity and says, “Though you are against Me, though you are evil from your youth, though you have rebelled against Me and will continue to rebel against Me, I am on your side. Nothing can separate you from My love, not even your own sin. If I am on your side, what is there to fear? If I for you, who can be against you? I will always love you. I will stay with you, live with you, and be with you. Because I love you. You are mine.”
The divine decision to go with a wicked world, come what may, means for God a continuing grieving of the heart. Indeed, the everlasting, unconditional promise to Noah and all flesh necessitates divine suffering; a pain-free future is not possible for God. In other terms, the future of the creation that now becomes possible is rooted in the willingness to bear ongoing pain and sorrow. God determines to take suffering of creatures into God’s own self and bear it there for the sake of the future of the world (Fretheim, Creation Untamed, 61).
In the end, as indicated in an earlier post, the flood account truly does turn out to be “a beautiful story about rainbows.
We still need to explain the four difficult verses of Genesis 6:7, 13, 17, and 7:23, but we now have a basic historical, cultural, and contextual background to the flood account of Genesis 6-8 which will provide the exegetical framework for these tough texts, which we will look at in future posts.

Senin, 05 Agustus 2013

Is the Flood Account a Beautiful Story about Rainbows?

Is the Flood Account a Beautiful Story about Rainbows?

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the flood rainbowOf all the violent texts in the Old Testament, the portrayal of the flood in Genesis 6–8 may be the most difficult text to understand.
As I was struggling with the way the flood is presented in Scripture, I had frequent conversations with my wife about this troubling text. One night, as we went back and forth on how to understand this passage, she playfully said, “I don’t know what the flood story means! All I know is what I taught in Sunday school, that it’s a beautiful story about rainbows!”
We laughed, but the tragic reality is that this is most people think about the flood. It is often read and taught sort of like an old-wives tale about how rainbows came to be.

The Flood Story is Appalling

The flood story, however, is anything but a beautiful fairy tale. On its surface, the flood story is an appalling account of how millions (and possibly billions) of people died a horrible death by drowning because God was angry at them.
the flood story is an appalling account of how millions (and possibly billions) of people died a horrible death by drowning because God was angry at them.
family drowning in the floodAside from the grim image of every living thing on earth gasping for breath and choking on water as they sink beneath the waves, the flood story also paints a troubling portrait of a God who seems incompetent because He regrets that He made mankind (Didn’t He know this would happen?), and who then foolishly tries to solve the world’s addiction to evil and violence by committing the greatest atrocity of all: worldwide genocide. One author describes the story with these words:
The Old Testament also describes God as a mass murderer. …Despite cute songs, child-friendly play sets, and colorful artistic renderings of the story, “Noah’s Ark” is not a happy tale of giraffes and panda bears clambering aboard a floating zoo. It is a story of catastrophic death and destruction that, incidentally, results from divine decree. Nearly the entire human population perishes because God drowns them. It is a disaster of such epic proportions that even some of Hollywood’s doomsday scenarios pale by comparison (Seibert, Disturbing Divine Behavior, 20).
Strong words! Yet the apparent genocidal behavior of God in Genesis 6–8 is not the only troubling element to this text. Although there is a rainbow at the end and a promise by God that He will never do such a thing again, one is left with several questions about the way God is presented in this text.

The Troubling God of the Flood

For example, if He can promise that He will never do it again, why did He send the flood in the first place? Did He realize the flood was a mistake? If so, He sure seems prone to mistakes, for He first regretted making mankind, and then He regretted killing them all. So is God schizophrenic? Is He bi-polar? Did God realize the flood didn’t work as intended, and that mankind would not learn to refrain from evil simply because God annihilated them all? Maybe He realized this isn’t the example He wanted to set for mankind, and so resolved to be a nicer, gentler, more merciful God in the future? Was the flood “Plan A” and when the violent drowning of all mankind didn’t work, God decided to go with “Plan B” in eventually sending the Messiah?
None of this sounds like any God we read about in Scripture. If He had any foreknowledge at all (as God does), He would have known that the flood wouldn’t stop humans from committing evil. So what was the flood supposed to accomplish? Since it didn’t “work,” it seems like nothing more than gratuitous evil on the part of God, or at the bare minimum, some sort of childish temper-tantrum when the people He created stop doing what He wants. He creates humanity. They sin. He gets upset. So He kills them all.
Then after everyone is dead, He says He is sorry for getting angry, and asks us to love Him anyway. And look! Here’s a beautiful rainbow to prove how much I love you!
Imagine a man got angry because his children didn’t obey him, and so he drowned them all in a bathtub. When his wife showed up, he says, “I’m sorry I did that. I promise not to do it again with our future children. And to prove it, here’s a bouquet of roses!”
Do you think she’s going to be too eager to go make more babies with him? No, most likely not.
This is why the traditional reading of the flood account is so troubling. You may not like the way I propose we read the flood account in the posts that follow, but at least it does away with this violent, murderous, schizophrenic, second-guessing God that is present in the traditional reading of the flood account.
People will object, of course, that in this post I painted a caricature of God that is not actually present in the text. If you think so, just find an atheist friend and have them read Genesis 6–8 and ask what they think of the way God is presented in these chapters. Check out this picture to see what I mean:
the flood atheist
We Christians too often read the Bible with blinders on. We think that since God is God, He can do what He wants.
We Christians too often read the Bible with blinders on. We think that since God is God, He can do what He wants.
 The problem with our Christian way of reading this text is that at the end of the flood account, God Himself recognizes that what He did was so wrong, He will never do it again (Gen 8:21). If God is God and can do what He wants, and so it was okay for Him to send the flood, why would God promise to never send another flood? If it is okay for God to do it once, isn’t it okay for Him to do it a second time, or a third time, or however many times He wants? If it is true that “God is God and can do whatever He wants” there is no good explanation for why God decides to never send another flood. The reading I propose in the following posts, however, will give an explanation for God’s statement in Genesis 8:21 and will show that under the surface of this troublesome and tumultuous text, the flood account truly is beautiful story about rainbows, just as my wife said.
In the events surrounding the flood, we will see a God who looks surprisingly like Jesus Christ.

Troubled Translations of Genesis 6:13

Troubled Translations of Genesis 6:13

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Bible translation Genesis 6When I first sat down to study and research the flood account through the lens of Jesus Christ, I initially thought that the key to this text was found in faulty English translations.
We must admit that the vast majority of Bible translators hold a view of God in which He is angry about sin and violent toward humanity as a result. As such, they often translate texts to reveal this theological bias, even if the text as originally written does not. I initially thought that the account of the flood was a perfect illustration of this bias.

Translating Genesis 6:13a

For example, according to many translations, the first part of Genesis 6:13 says that because God saw the great evil and violence that was upon the earth, God decided or determined that He would destroy everything living upon it. Here are three sample translations which show this perspective:
So God said to Noah, “I am going to put an end to all people, for the earth is filled with violence because of them…” (NIV).
And God said to Noah, “I have determined to make an end of all flesh; for the earth is filled with violence through them…” (RSV).
So God said to Noah, “I have decided to destroy all living creatures, for they have filled the earth with violence…” (NLT).
As can be seen from these two translations, the text seems to indicate that as a result of violence in the world, God decided or determined to send some violence of His own, and wipe out every living thing.
But a brief look at a few other English translations shows that another way of reading the text is possible:
And God said to Noah, “The end of all flesh has come before Me, for the earth is filled with violence through them…” (NKJ).
And God said unto Noah, “The end of all flesh is come before me; for the earth is filled with violence through them…” (KJV).
Then God said to Noah, “The end of all flesh has come before Me; for the earth is filled with violence because of them…” (NAS).
These three translations show that the first part of Genesis 6:13 can clearly be translated in a different way. In contrast to the first three translations above, these second three translations show that it is not that God decided or determined to send destruction upon the earth, but that God saw that death and destruction was going to come upon the earth. The destruction of the earth had come before Him. The Hebrew literally reads that it had come “before His face,” or “into His presence.”

Genesis 6 and Job 1

the flood Genesis 6Though slightly different terminology is used, the imagery of Genesis 6:1-13 is echoed in many ways by Job 1:1-12. In both cases there are “sons of God” who are seen in some way to be antagonistic toward mankind (Genesis 6:1-2; Job 1:6). There is also in both accounts a blameless and righteous man who feared God and shunned evil (Genesis 6:9; Job 1:1). And in both cases, an evil power comes into the presence of God, seeking to kill and destroy (Genesis 6:13; Job 1:6, 12).
We will look at Job in more detail in later posts, but we mention it here just to show the parallels. It is the destroyer who seeks to destroy; not God. God seeks to rescue, redeemed, and deliver. We will see how God does this in Job, but we are already seeing it here in Genesis 6 as well. Due to the violence that was on the earth, God saw that all that was on the earth was about to be destroyed. The end of all flesh came into His presence.
There is a vast difference between deciding to send destruction and seeing that destruction will come. If I see a car spinning out of control down a street toward a crowd of pedestrians, and I shout out a warning to them, this is very different than somehow being the one who sends the car spinning out of control toward that crowd of pedestrians. So also with God and the flood. He saw that destruction was coming because of the violence on the earth. The text is quite clear that “the violence of ‘all flesh’ is the reason for the disaster.” (Fretheim, Creation Untamed, 52). This is the best and most literal way of understanding the first part of Genesis 6:13.
But although there are various ways of translating the first part of Genesis 6:13, we do not have this flexibility with the second half of the verse, where God says, “I will destroy them with the earth”? Almost all English translations agree on this part of the text and there is no way of translating it much differently. Furthermore, Genesis 6:7 and 6:17 reiterate this point even more clearly:
So the Lord said, “I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth, both man and beast, creeping thing and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them” (Genesis 6:7).
“And behold, I Myself am bringing floodwaters on the earth, to destroy from under heaven all flesh in which is the breath of life; everything that is on the earth shall die” (Genesis 6:17).
And when the flood actually does come upon the earth, the text pretty clearly states that God destroyed all living things that were on the earth (Genesis 7:23). Though I spent hours researching each word and the few textual variants within these verses, I could discover no realistic way of translating these passages to say much of anything different than what is found in the majority of our modern English translations.
So my initial attempt at finding an alternative explanation for the troubling texts in the flood led nowhere. Overall, the English translations of this account do a pretty good job representing what the original Hebrew says. The surface reading of these texts clearly indicate that it is God Himself who sent the flood waters to destroy all life on earth. So I guess all those Hebrew scholars can be trusted after all! Ha! So I guess I’m not this guy (not today, any way):

What the Bible really says

The Flood of Genesis 6-8 in Context

The Flood of Genesis 6-8 in Context

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In the flood of Genesis 6-8, did God really send water to kill every living thing on earth? We have been considering the issue of the violence of the flood for several posts now, and will continue to do so for several more. This post briefly introduces the context of the flood in Genesis 6-8.

The Context of Genesis 6-8

Though this is the most common view of these chapters, there are numerous clues left by the text itself, by the surrounding context, and by other passages in Scripture which indicate that something else is going on in the flood account. The truths of Genesis 6-8 (and especially 6:7, 13, 17; 7:23) can be understood differently when we grasp the Scriptural and cultural contexts in which these texts were written, what other Old Testament authors had to say about the flood, and also what the Apostle Peter writes about it in his second letter. This section will look at the surrounding context of Genesis 6-8, and subsequent sections will consider other biblical passages that deal with the flood.
the flood in Genesis 6-8
Our understanding of Genesis 6-8 depends in large part on how we understand Genesis 1–11 as a whole, and especially Genesis 1:1-2, 6-10, and 6:1-12. There are numerous questions and issues surrounding the opening chapter of Genesis that will shed light and guide our understanding of Genesis 6-8.

The Creation of the World from Water

We first need to ask questions about the water in Genesis 1:2. Where did these waters come from? Were they part of what was created in Genesis 1:1, or is 1:1 more of a summary/title for chapter 1? If the latter (as many Bible scholars believe), then the text doesn’t really tell us where the waters came from, only that they existed. And either way, how should the waters be understood? Are they referring to literal liquid water or is the water a literary symbol for something else?
We also need to ask what it means for the earth to be “without form and void” (Heb., tohu wa bohu). What does this phrase mean, especially in light of the statements in passages like Isaiah 34:11, 45:18, and Jeremiah 4:23 say that God did not create the world without form and void, but that it would return to this state? If Isaiah and Jeremiah says that God did not create the world formless, but Genesis 1 says it was formless, then how are we to understand both texts? Is there a contradiction in Scripture, or is something else going on in one (or both) of these passages?

The Nephilim of Genesis 6

Then there is the great debate surrounding the sons of god and daughters of men and their offspring, the Nephilim, in Genesis 6:1-4.One explanation for the flood is that the sons of God (as sinister angelic beings) had so polluted the human line that God had to make a clean start. It is thought that one of the purposes of the sons of God in having children with the daughters of men was to pollute the human race so that the Seed of Eve could not come and crush the serpent’s head (Gen 3:15). Therefore, when the text says that Noah was “perfect in his generations” (Gen 6:9), this is not a reference to the morality of Noah, but to the fact that Noah’s bloodline had not been polluted by the sons of God.
Since this account leads immediately into the statement by God that He is saw the wickedness of mankind of the earth and so resolved to destroy everything that breathes, (Genesis 6:5-7), it is essential to have some sort of framework for what is going on in this opening segment of chapter 6 as an explanation for why the flood occurs.
There are numerous other contextual issues from Scripture that could be considered, but these are three of the central background problems for dealing with the events of the flood. But we must also consider some of the cultural background issues, especially those dealing with the ancient worldview of Mesopotamia and Egypt. The imagery that is used in Genesis 1–2 and in Genesis 6-8 finds many parallels in Mesopotamian and Egyptian cosmology, and if we don’t understand these cultural contexts, we will almost certainly not understand these opening chapters of Genesis either.
In future posts we will look at several of these contextual issues. Until then, how do you understand the flood account in light of the creation account in Genesis 1, and in light of what happens between the sons of God and the daughters of men in the first part of Genesis 6?