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MATTHEW 25:14-30 ESV

“”For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property. To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he made five talents more. So also he who had the two talents made two talents more. But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master’s money. Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here, I have made five talents more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me two talents; here, I have made two talents more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here, you have what is yours.’ But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’”

A couple of weeks ago we asked the question, “Who do you love?” The simple answer is, we love God. But once we’ve established that, we then ask the question, “What do you love?” Or better, what does God love? You see, once you love God, then you start to love the things that God loves. So, what does God love? Ultimately, us.

Everything that God has done has been for His glory. And it is God’s will to share that glory with the ones He made in His image. We were made for glory, but in order for glory to dwell within us, sin has to be removed. Their isn’t room for the sin of this world and the holiness of God. So, Jesus Christ has come to rescue us from a life where sin takes up all the space. The space in our lives was created by God, for God to dwell in. We are complete when we have God. Think of it like this: we are saved from sin and to glory. This is what God wants. He loves us, and everything He has done in Jesus Christ has been for us.

What God wants for those who understand His love is for them to participate with Him in His passion for saving others and revealing His glory and love to them. In short, God wants people to get it, to understand deep within their soul that they are loved and valued by God, meant to share His glory; they are saved for the purpose of experiencing real love for God and for others.

The Scripture text for today has a lot to say about understanding God’s love for ourselves and God’s love for others. But it also tells us what happens when we connect to God out of anything other than real love.

Jesus is talking about the kingdom of heaven, and in that talk He tells a parable of what people can expect from God. We learn from the story that God has employed each of us who love Him to use our gifts, whatever our abilities and capabilities. He recognizes that some people are good at this and others better at that. The point of it all is that we take the goodness God has given us, in whatever measure, and we invest it out of our love for Him.

God’s desire is to use our investment, therefore this is what we should want, too. A side question here is, “Am I using my gifts, no matter how big or small they may seem, for God to use?”

But what happens when our connection to God is based in something other than love? Our text reveals through the third servant that we can be connected to God through something other than love. For this person, it was fear. The servant knew God enough to understand what he was asking, but because of his fear of God, he cowered away from his responsibility. To God, this was unacceptable and the servant was held accountable for their disobedience. And what a consequence they received, being removed from the glory and presence of God.

When we love God and we love what God loves, we engage in a lifestyle and in activities that draw us closer to God. For servant 1 and servant 2, they engaged in the use of their gifts, what we often call ‘ministry’ in the Church, and they drew closer to God. They were rewarded for their engagement, for investing their lives and gifts for Him.

Side question: what things do you do that draw you closer to God and make your faith feel more alive?

Fear is a paralyzer, turning our love-driven faith-lives into statues of what could have been, rather than what God wants for us right now. During the storm, I was so proud of my girls, as they heard the news reports all weekend and constant conversation on whether or not the power would go out or we would have enough food. Its quite an eye-opening experience to hear mommies and daddies talking about trees falling on our homes and being stuck without much help.

On Monday, many businesses and churches closed down for the sake of safety and unknown concerns. It was smart and we still stand by that decision. But Monday afternoon, as the rain picked up and the wind blew harder, Laney and Maggie set up two chairs in front of the fireplace, one with a guitar and the other with a microphone. As they sat next to each other, picking the strings and singing into the mic, they were happy and at peace. And honestly, so was I. I stopped worrying about whether or not the storm would be bad and starting trusting that God was in this, regardless. The girls looked at me and said, “Look, Daddy. We’re playing ‘Sunday’.”

My girls chose to love God in the midst of the unknown. Worship is what they loved because it drew them closer to Who they love—God. Its so important that we understand that fear isn’t a genuine connection to God. Only love is a connection that invites glory into our lives.

If you are afraid today, we invite you to love God through giving your gifts in someway in order to connect to God. Let go of your fear and take hold of the gifts and blessings God has given you so that you can experience the glory of God in your soul. The Lord wants to light you up with life—His life, in you.

Who do you love? What do you love? Love God. Love the relationship He’s given you through Jesus. Let go of your fear. Take hold of His glory. Amen.


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“That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. And great crowds gathered about him, so that he got into a boat and sat down. And the whole crowd stood on the beach. And he told them many things in parables, saying: “A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. He who has ears, let him hear.””

“Who do you love?” That’s the question we want to pose to you today. We live in a society where everything competes for our attention and really our loyalty. Right now, we’re living in the most significant sporting season of the year, as soccer leagues and post-season baseball compete with the beginning of both college and professional football. And the basketball and hockey fans are gearing up for their seasons, waiting for baseball to end and the football hype to go away.

In the technology world, Apple is announcing their latest iPhone on the 12th and Samsung has suddenly moved up the launch date on their competing phone to compete with Apple’s announcement. It’s ridiculous, right? And all of this in the wake of foreign wars and natural disasters that leave people helpless, homeless, and hopeless.

And then there’s Jesus. In our text for today, He’s just created a lot of buzz through statements He’s been making and works He’s been doing. As a result, a large crowd has gathered to hear more. They’ve congregated on the beach, leaving little room for Him to speak. So, He gets on a boat and pushes out just far enough away from the shore for everyone to see and hear Him.

In order to teach them about faith, He tells them a parable about a sower who is spreading seeds, and there are various circumstances that are making it difficult for the seeds to grow. The point of the parable is to show the importance of cultivating our lives so that we do not find ourselves being robbed of faith, shallow in faith, or having faith suffocated.

But, something else is going on here. This discourse isn’t just about the parable. It’s also about the importance of the disciples learning who they really love. If they are going to do God’s work, they must love God and love others enough to step out and spread Jesus’ salvation message to others. He’s saying this for their benefit, something Jesus reveals later in the chapter. The disciples are to take the truth to the people and explain it them. He is cultivating them to be teachers and preachers, who sow the seeds of salvation to a world that is robbed, shallow, and suffocating. And so Jesus puts it to the disciples, essentially saying to them, “Who do you love? Do you love them so as to tell them the truth?”

Will the disciples choose to love the world God came to save or will they keep within themselves the best kept secret in the universe? Do they love God enough to obey Him? Do they love the people enough to save them from a thieving, shallow, suffocating world? Who do you love?

This text reminded me of something my dad, Wesley, did back in the early nineties. He wanted to sign me up for tackle football in our hometown. So he loaded me up and took me down to the Park and Rec center, only to find out that there was no tackle football for the 9 and 10 year olds. My dad knew in that moment that this could be the reason why our middle school and high school football teams were suffering from terrible slumps season after season. There was no culture of football being instilled in the lives of the kids as they were growing up.

So, being the man he is, he asked the director what it would take to start the program. She laughed because the task was too big to undertake. The equipment was too old, there were no jerseys, and besides all that there were no coaches and no kids. That didn’t stop Wesley. He told her to give him a little time.

Dad went home and got on the phone. He called his former football buddies from high school and asked them if they would be interested in coaching. They said yes. He called up his friend groups and literally begged them to let their children play. They said yes. The coaches put in money, the parents put in money, the Park and Rec put what little money in that they could scrounge, without a budget, into the program, and all of a sudden there was football for kids for the first time in two decades.

My dad loved his community and together with the other coaches, they used their love for the game to give their community an opportunity to teach children and their families about athleticism, teamwork, and character development. This was an investment into something bigger, giving people a chance they never had until this. Who do you love?

And so, who do you love? Do you love people enough to go out into a boat and yell up to the folks on the shore? Do you love others enough to take the good seed that you have and spread it in places that seems almost pointless? Will you work outside your family, your friends, and your small group?

Do you love God enough to trust Him with this mission of spreading the gospel? Do you love God enough to follow Jesus to those seemingly pointless places? Who do you love?

Now, I want to address those of you “on the beach,” those of you who are struggling with your faith. Are you on a path where you are vulnerable to God’s good news being taken away from you? Are you surrounded by hard places and shallow soil, and it looks like you might not stand a chance? Are you surrounded on all sides by things pressing in on you, choking out your faith, and taking away any chance of receiving believing faith?

We want you to be on good soil. We are offering you better soil than you have. We want for the seed that the Sower has to fall on a place where it can thrive. But in order for that to happen, you have to come and place yourself before Jesus. He will provide good soil for His life to grow in you.

Who do you love? Today, we can sow and we can be sown, but that will be up to you. Who do you love?


MARK 10:35-45 ESV

“And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came up to him and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” And he said to them, “What do you want me to do for you?” And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” And they said to him, “We are able.” And Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you will drink, and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized, but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.” And when the ten heard it, they began to be indignant at James and John. And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.””

We hope you’ve enjoyed this series as much as Pastor Derek and I have enjoyed preaching it. Our GET IN THE GAME series started with DRAFT DAY, understanding that God has drafted us onto His team; then we learned about TEAM DEVELOPMENT, about how God is equipping us for His redeeming work; then last week we talked about COMPLETING THE PASS, how we are to use our discipleship for disciple-making.

Today, we look at SECOND STRINGERS, and to just go ahead and give it away, we’re going to take a look at how we are not the star players in this game of bringing salvation to the world.

Our text for today is extremely interesting. We find the disciples walking with Jesus, as He is making His way to Jerusalem. He has just told them what is to happen to Him, that He is to be betrayed, handed over to the enemy, tortured, killed, and then resurrect on the third day. This was a lot of information to process all at one time and the disciples just didn’t quite it.

So, two of the disciples, the brothers James and John, ask something of Jesus that seems strange and comes off as awkward. They ask Jesus if they can sit in the places of honor, to His left and His right, at the end of days, after all is said and done. When I read this text, my first response was, “Here they are, walking with Jesus, the One who has come to bring forgiveness of sins; the One who is making room for the outcasts, the unloved, and the forgotten, and His disciples—in the midst of ministry, this ongoing rescue mission—have forgotten about the very ones they’ve been sent to serve, and then have the audacity to ask for honored seats!!!”

I mean, they’ve witnessed things we would give anything to see. They’ve seen miracles, exorcisms, resurrections and then they ask for honor?! How does this happen? Are they ungrateful? Are they blind? Are they selfish? Only after exhausting some of these questions can we come to the truth that, even though they’ve been with Jesus, they still don’t get it. They don’t really understand what they’re doing or know what they’re asking.

Many of us live our Christians lives, praying and giving, serving and singing, reading and studying, and we find ourselves falling short or losing perspective. Its not hard, actually. But our falling short is typically a result of one misplaced idea, that we are somehow doing the work that changes minds and transforms heart.

The truth of the matter is that we are not the star players in God’s game of redemption. Let me illustrate. In football, there is a term for the different classifications of players called “strings.” If you are one of the best players on the team, you are considered to be on the “first string.” These are the players that the coach depends on the most because they get the job done. The substitutes or next best players are called the “second string.” These are the players who go in to relieve the first string if they are tired, hurt, or the score is really high and they don’t want to risk injury to the star players.

One common function of the second string players is to practice with the first string, as they line up against the star players in order to run plays and give the best players the chance to hone their skills. In high school, I was a second stringer. Every single practice, my job was to give the first string my best, so that they could practice and grow in their gifts and abilities. I found out pretty quickly, though, that it was just something the coaches said in order to let the first string beat the snot out of the underclassmen. I’m kidding.

But seriously, it was my job to open up the first string players abilities by giving them opportunities to succeed. The second string served the first string. In ministry, we are not the first string. Jesus is. It is Jesus Christ who came in order to do the work that no on else could. It is the Son of God who has saved the sinner, transformed the heart, and rescued the soul. We are the second string, in service to God’s first string, Jesus Christ.

But when we try and take the limelight, when we exercise our discipleship for the wrong reasons or try to be the star, we act in our imperfections or our pride. What we should want is for Jesus to work, to touch the heart of the sinner and so bring them salvation and glory. As second stringers, we know that glory. We’ve tasted it because we serve God’s best, Jesus Christ, and we open up opportunities for Jesus to have His saving influence in people’s lives.

I love this passage in Luke, as it helps us understand the service of the second string disciple. Luke 14:

“Now he told a parable to those who were invited, when he noticed how they chose the places of honor, saying to them, “When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in a place of honor, lest someone more distinguished than you be invited by him, and he who invited you both will come and say to you, ‘Give your place to this person,’ and then you will begin with shame to take the lowest place. But when you are invited, go and sit in the lowest place, so that when your host comes he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at table with you. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”” (Luke 14:7-11 ESV)

There’s at least one very important thing we need to take away from this, and that is that James and John then, and now us today, should want others to have the glory that we’ve tasted. All of our work and all of our worship should so direct us to introduce others to the saving truth and love of Jesus Christ. We should want this for them. And that means that we should take the lower chair, the furthest spot, so that they can be close to Jesus. For those of us who know God’s love, we should want it for others and so give them a chance to experience it.

We are the second stringers, the one’s who’ve been drafted, developed, and completed for the sake of serving others. We serve and love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and we serve and love others as ourselves (Mark 12:30-31). This is the mission of God, the ministry of Jesus Christ, the work of the Holy Spirit, summed up for us as we play second string to God’s best, Jesus Christ, the First String star–player in God’s game of salvation. Amen.



“In the seventh month, on the twenty-first day of the month, the word of the Lord came by the hand of Haggai the prophet: “Speak now to Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and to all the remnant of the people, and say, ‘Who is left among you who saw this house in its former glory? How do you see it now? Is it not as nothing in your eyes? Yet now be strong, O Zerubbabel, declares the Lord. Be strong, O Joshua, son of Jehozadak, the high priest. Be strong, all you people of the land, declares the Lord. Work, for I am with you, declares the Lord of hosts, according to the covenant that I made with you when you came out of Egypt. My Spirit remains in your midst. Fear not. For thus says the Lord of hosts: Yet once more, in a little while, I will shake the heavens and the earth and the sea and the dry land. And I will shake all nations, so that the treasures of all nations shall come in, and I will fill this house with glory, says the Lord of hosts. The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, declares the Lord of hosts. The latter glory of this house shall be greater than the former, says the Lord of hosts. And in this place I will give peace, declares the Lord of hosts.'””

I hope this has been helpful, looking at the ministry of the prophet Haggai and God using him to call the people of Israel back to making God a priority. My selfish ambition behind moving through this book with you is that you will see the importance of moving God back to the proper place in your life.

100% of the time we can ground the source of our issues in the fact that God is not at the center of the situation. With Jesus Christ at the heart of any matter, we can respond well to the good, the bad, or the ugly. For the Israelites in our text, life was not going to get better until they tapped back into their spiritual lives and God was made central.

Our text this evening deals with God’s desire to bring peace. By the end of these 9 verses, it would seem that God is almost excited about what is about to happen. He and His people are working together, building the temple and making it into something worth celebrating. God has reminded the people that the silver and gold of this world belong to Him and that these things will serve His temple by making it majestic. The house of worship that sat in ruin will now surpass its former glory. It is going to stand out and be known as the house of God.

But this will take their participation. The key terms and phrases we read in the passage are important to point out and they go like this: be strong; work; I am with you; my covenant; my spirit; fear not; these things are mine. Let’s quickly look at how they connect.

The first key term is be strong. In order for this work to pan out, to be completed, the people will need to do what they failed to do the first time. They will need to be strong and be strong in their faith. From the top down, the Lord is calling the people to engage. It will take everyone pitching in to combat the temptation to halt or stop the work.

And what are they being strong in? Their faith and work. This is the second key term. They must work in faith and it will take strength to do it, and the strength that they will work in this time, unlike last time, is the strength of the Lord, for He has declared that He is with them.

This is the third key term We’ve heard this before, in the last chapter. When the Lord is with us there is focus, there is perseverance, there is a strength beyond ourselves that gives us perspective and purpose. The people lacked that before. Remember how when they lost the fear of the Lord, the fell and faltered in their responsibilities. But when the fear of the Lord returned, they found perspective and purpose.

The fourth key term is God’s covenant. God made a promise to bless the nations using the people of Israel. But they can’t bless the world if they are not a light that witnesses to God’s glory. How can they be a worshipping people if they have dropped their faith and let God’s house stay in ruins? And so, God is reminding them of the promise He made and is stirring them to engage their end of the covenant, to be a faithful people.

The fifth key phrase is my spirit remains in your midst. God will not leave nor abandon His people. He will remain with them, in their very presence, as they work, as they worship, as they live according to His redemptive purpose. This plays into the sixth key term fear not. Because God will remain with them, they have nothing to be afraid of, for God is their strength and portion. When they run into trouble, they have but to lean on God for what they need and He will provide.

And receiving what they need is the seventh key term, as God claims the materials that are needed to make the temple a greater glory than it was in the former days. God will make this people’s witness and worship brighter than in the days before it. He has claimed the silver and the gold and all the resources that are required. He declares He will shake the nations, as if to say He will turn them upside and shake the riches of the foreign lands to fund and fix the temple properly.

Want I want for you to take away from this text tonight is that God will provide you with the peace of heart and mind to live your life successfully, according to God’s definition of success. The peace that surpasses all understating that we read about it in Philippians 4.7 is a peace and comfort that allows us to live as a witness to God’s redemption in our lives that can be others redemption if they’ll be receive it.

In Haggai, God is restoring His temple so that the world may see His glory. For us today, God is restoring the temple that is His faithful followers so that the world may see God’s glory in us. God will furnish for you and in you what is required for you to be restored and for others to be restored because of you.

You may be here tonight and need to be restored. You are a temple that has experienced rot or ruin. I want you to know tonight that you can come to Jesus and begin again. You may be person who thinks you have little or nothing to give this world, for whatever reason, and I’m here to tell you that God wants to shake the nations of this world upside down to empty their pockets in order to adorn you as a holy witness, a walking temple, that shines forth His glory to someone who needs His presence and peace within themselves.

I hope that you will be revived and restored, in your own very important way. I pray that you will welcome God into your life and see His power and glory through a vibrant and strong relationship with Jesus Christ. The Son of God desires to make you whole. Let Him complete you today. Let the peace of God come upon you. Let the Holy Spirit give you life. Amen.


“So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”

In our text this morning, we’re dealing with the Christians that are found in Philippi. There were houses churches all throughout, supporting Paul’s mission and ministry through giving, but these churches didn’t all get along. Part of Paul’s mission was to spread the gospel in such a way that it mobilized Christians into churches and communities of believers that could further the message.

But, if the communities couldn’t get along, then sharing the same vision, mission, and mindset would sabotage the success of spreading the message of salvation throughout the world. And even worse, if they couldn’t put the good of others first, as we read in vv3–4, then they would be missing the character of Jesus altogether, and the gospel they would share as a result would be void of power.

So, today we want to focus on team development. Using our football theme for this series is intentional because we are starting new routines that include new opportunities. For some its back to school and work, for others its adjusting to the routine of family life and traffic patterns. But for us in the Church, this is a time for us to hear the call to GET IN THE GAME; to re-engage our spiritual disciplines and our mission-mindedness.

Last week we talked about DRAFT DAY, how God desires to equip you and use you for a redemptive purpose in the world. Today, we talk about team development because once we have the players on the field (or the people back in the church), its our time to become a redemptive force in our community.

We become a powerful force for God when we are engaged in our spiritual lives. If you are growing, then you are reflecting more and more of Jesus to those around you. If you are involved, then you are working for the formation of other people. What we want to see for our church is a team that shares the same mind of making disciples who make disciples.

The mission of the United Methodist Church is to “make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.” In order to do that, we have to share that vision as a team. We have to put the salvation and transformation of those around us first.

Friday afternoon, I put together a video that I think will help us out. I spend time with Coach Alan Nicely, our director of missions and evangelism. That is how we know him. But to the rest of Smyrna, he’s Coach Nicely, the 32 year Cobb County educator, 28 year football coach, 7 of which he was the head football coach for the Campbell High School Spartans. I want you to listen to Coach talk about team development and see how perfectly it translates into Christian discipleship and ministry.

Among all the important things Coach said, there’s two things I want you to take away from his message, if nothing else: 1) fundamentals—the basic, ground level things that undergird all that we do; and 2) love one another. Loving one another is the essential, foundational piece of everything we do as Christians. When we love one another and practice this fundamental characteristic, we prove Christ to be in our hearts and alive in the world. The love of Jesus Christ overcomes all manner of evils and sins.

I can’t help but think about the hate and the evil of racism that took place in Virginia this past weekend. Folks, if we want to show the world Jesus Christ, then we must open up our arms with a supernatural power and unleash God’s presence through our words and actions. Our mission to make known the saving knowledge of Jesus can’t happen without us being grounded in the fundamentals, founded on love, and developing as a team each and every day. This message depends upon you knowing your Bibles, praying often, and raising your children to know the transforming love of God! These fundamentals are what grow us into the image of Jesus for the world to see and know.

So, will you join us in the mission to making disciples, of transforming the world? Will you be developed as a team by learning and practicing the basics so that Christ is known? Will you get in the game, and play your role in God’s mission to the world? I pray you will and I hope you will come talk to us about it. There’s more to come next week. Amen.


HAGGAI 1:12–15 ESV
“Then Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, with all the remnant of the people, obeyed the voice of the Lord their God, and the words of Haggai the prophet, as the Lord their God had sent him. And the people feared the Lord. Then Haggai, the messenger of the Lord, spoke to the people with the Lord 's message, "I am with you, declares the Lord." And the Lord stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and the spirit of Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and the spirit of all the remnant of the people. And they came and worked on the house of the Lord of hosts, their God, on the twenty-fourth day of the month, in the sixth month, in the second year of Darius the king.”

Last night, we began in the book of Haggai. The prophet was raised up to tell God’s people that they needed to resume the construction of the holy temple or their lives would continue to experience discontent. The people had focused all their energy when they returned home from captivity on building back up their lives, but they neglected God’s sanctuary. Haggai’s message was clear: restore the temple and you will be restored to peace.

As we look at the text for tonight, we see a complete 180º turn in the people. As the text tells us, the Spirit stirs Haggai, then stirs the governor, then stirs the high priest, and then stirs the people to obedience. The work of the temple resumes! The people listened to the words of the prophet and obeyed the Lord’s call. The Spirit stirred the people from the top down.

The real proof is found at the end of v12, when it simply says, “And the people feared the Lord.” This wording is important because it signifies that the people have regained perspective. The reverent fear of the Lord is what sets the proper perspective for approaching and worshipping God.

In Proverbs 1:7 we read, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.” The people of God had little fear or reverence for God, which is why their houses were extravagant and the temple was unfinished and empty. They were foolish to ignore the importance of putting God first, of having Him at the center of their lives and of their livelihoods. But through the stirring of the Spirit, the fear and reverence for God was restored, and the work of the temple resumed. And when the people resumed their work for God, God resumed His work in them.

As Christians, we believe the the Holy Spirit is moving, always and everywhere. God’s presence is available and His power is accessible. But we must listen to the Spirit’s call, whether through the scriptures or through the activity of God around us, if we want to tap into what God is doing. God is stirring up peace in the hearts of those who will love Him and obey His word. Peace is our for the taking, if we will put God first.

The stirring of the Spirit that we read about in our text is something that we can tap into if we will be about the work of the Lord. We must not wait till things get bad and let the ruin start its awful, destructive process. That work, that stirring, is essential and God desires we live with His Spirit as a people who are stirred to action. That action or activity happens through all sorts of ministry. Whether we are table to teach, share, guide, or volunteer, we will be able the Lord’s work. Of all the ways to contribute to God’s stirring up in the world, it is prayer that is central to all of it. Through prayer, we connect our hearts to God and we store up treasures and peace on behalf of those we pray for. Prayer is an essential characteristic of God’s stirring Spirit.

Now, all of this talk about stirring and what that means for us tonight reminds me of something funny but familiar to all of us: cooking. I’m probably going to make you hungry, but bear with me as we look at how the Holy Spirit stirring in our lives is akin to what is required when cooking certain things.

Just this morning I asked my mama about a good recipe that requires stirring. Her grandmother had the most amazing chocolate pie recipe. Growing up, mama would double Nana’s pie recipe. She would make one that we all could eat warm, right out of the oven, and then put the other in the fridge and cover it with foil for daddy to eat later when he got home. Mama liked it warm and daddy liked it cold.

That pie is one of the best things I’ve ever tasted. That good crust with the rich chocolate filling and the fluffy meringue topping. In the end, its that good chocolate that makes that pie what is.

Making the chocolate just right is important. You gotta get the mixture right—the cocoa, the flower, the milk, the eggs, the sugar, the butter, the vanilla flavoring. Everything has to be stirred and mixed and put in at the right time. But most importantly, you have to stir that chocolate or you’ll burn it. If you burn it, the pie is ruined. The scorched taste will permeate the whole dessert. You have to keep that chocolate moving, bringing it to the right thickness, and then pour it into the pie crust.

My friend Kristen is an outstanding cook. She told me about all the things she has to keep stirring when she’s in the kitchen. I’ll quote her here: “You have to stir the old fashioned boiled chocolate icing until it cools or it will lump. You have to keep stirring gravy to keep the lumps out. Anything you put milk or cream in will curdle if you don't stir it. Scrambled eggs will burn to the pan. The old fashioned caramel candies have to be stirred for almost an hour, and it's thick and hard to do if you’re not strong. I have to stir my Alfredo sauce constantly until the cheeses all melt. It takes a long time.”

The people of God abandoned their work because it got hard, they stopped stirring, in other words. The recipe of their lives didn’t pan out because they had both a missing ingredient and a missing ethic. 1) God was not central and the focus of their lives, and 2) they didn’t stir themselves to work hard for God.

The Spirit of God came and moved within the people but this was God’s way of getting their attention and showing them what life could be like. Once the work resumed and their spiritual life began to make sense again, God reminded them of a very important point. He says in v13, ““Then Haggai, the messenger of the Lord, spoke to the people with the Lord 's message, "I am with you, declares the Lord."”

God did not abandon His people the way His people had abandoned Him. For God to show such mercy by saying He would be with them, shows that He was quick to turn His heart to them, even in the midst of their sinfulness. Look at how Paul tells us in the scriptures of God’s love for us, even when we are sinful and neglecting Him, as Paul says, “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8 ESV).

My challenge for us tonight is that we would be stirred back to believing, active faith; that we would be stirred into a powerful, Spirit-filled worship of God; that we would be stirred into Christian action for a lost and dying world. From the top down, the Spirit of God seeks to stir up salvation in the hearts of those who do not know Him; and for the ones that do, He desires to stir up a mercy and grace that would be shown and shed on the hurting and wandering who are outside these very walls tonight.

I would bring back last night’s challenge to make this point. Consider your ways, reexamine your life, reevaluate your faith, and be stirred to action by the ever-moving Holy Spirit of God. Pray and pray often, as is the proper activity of a believer of God and follower of Christ. Ask you pastor or Sunday school leaders who it is that you can be praying for. Join them in the sometimes lonesome-task of lifting up the hurt and the needs of a community you are in the midst of. Put Jesus back at the center and be stirred. Amen.


“In the second year of Darius the king, in the sixth month, on the first day of the month, the word of the Lord came by the hand of Haggai the prophet to Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest: "Thus says the Lord of hosts: These people say the time has not yet come to rebuild the house of the Lord." Then the word of the Lord came by the hand of Haggai the prophet, "Is it a time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, while this house lies in ruins? Now, therefore, thus says the Lord of hosts: Consider your ways. You have sown much, and harvested little. You eat, but you never have enough; you drink, but you never have your fill. You clothe yourselves, but no one is warm. And he who earns wages does so to put them into a bag with holes. "Thus says the Lord of hosts: Consider your ways. Go up to the hills and bring wood and build the house, that I may take pleasure in it and that I may be glorified, says the Lord. You looked for much, and behold, it came to little. And when you brought it home, I blew it away. Why? declares the Lord of hosts. Because of my house that lies in ruins, while each of you busies himself with his own house. Therefore the heavens above you have withheld the dew, and the earth has withheld its produce. And I have called for a drought on the land and the hills, on the grain, the new wine, the oil, on what the ground brings forth, on man and beast, and on all their labors."”

The book of Haggai is timeless for Christian living. There is so much here in this simple book and yet its so small. The message is very simple: put God first. The people of Israel came back from their captivity and found their homeland in ruin. So, like anyone else would have done, they rebuilt. They reestablished their way of life and got things off and running. Except for one thing. They never finished the holy temple.

The people got tired and the work seemed too much and so they stopped. And when they stopped they noticed something significant: their lives were incomplete and filled with discontent. The key verse in this is vv5-6, when the Lord says, “Consider your ways. You have sown much, and harvested little. You eat, but you never have enough; you drink, but you never have your fill. You clothe yourselves, but no one is warm. And he who earns wages does so to put them into a bag with holes.”

That line is haunting, “Consider your ways.” God sent the prophet Haggai to tell the people to reevaluate their lives. What they were doing was not working and God wanted them to know it. God has brought them back to their homeland so that they would be reestablished and experience blessing once again. That blessing was only going to happen with God at the center. If God wasn’t going to be their highest priority, then nothing would work in their favor.

My siblings and I own a farm in South Carolina, about 2 hours from here, right outside of a little town called Calhoun Falls. The property is old, with a long history of activity and ownership. As a child, one of my favorite things was to explore the old home places that once stood on the land. There were 3 or 4, some with still-standing chimneys that rose above the rubble that was once a home. I used to think that I would fine old coins or tools if I dug around them enough, but in the end there was just broken-up debris and copperhead snakes.

As I got older, the ruins of these old homes made me sad. Where once stood a structure that contained a family and a life of hard work, there sat a still nothing. The ruins made me sad. Sometimes I wished I had a builders bone in my body so that I could put them back together, but the fallen in house was too far gone.

I wonder tonight if that is where we are in our faith. Some of us can look at our lives and it seems like we’re surrounded by glory and blessing, but will we or can we maintain such glory on our own? Some of us may be discovering some rot that is creeping into our lives, causing the value of our existence to shift and the threat of ruin to become more real. Still others of us may be in a state of out right ruin, where we look back and we say, “How did I get here? Why is my life the way it is?”

The takeaway from such observations is that we are all susceptible to the ruin and rot that is brought on by sin. No one can escape the effects of sin. We are born with it and bent toward it. The good news for us all is in this: that God hates sin and has chosen to drive a stake in its heart with the cross of Jesus Christ. The coming of Jesus is proof that God is not ok with the suffering of His people. Each and every day, the Holy Spirit is moving across the face of the earth and in the hearts of the faithful in order to remove the rot and ruin that we experience.

God’s chosen way to do His restorative work is through employing those He has changed and transformed. We are called to leave our paneled houses and self-comfort and usher in an eternal comfort that bleeds into our “right now.” For the people of Israel in our text, the challenge was to take back up the work of making God the highest priority. Was building the temple too difficult and worth abandoning? Or would it be much more difficult to live the rest of their lives unfilled and headed toward ruin?

I have two scriptures I want to give you before we close. The first is 1 Corinthians 6:19-20: “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” Each and every person, no matter who they are, are to be a temple of the Most High God. Contained within each temple-person is to be the worship of God and each temple-person is to play the role of testifying to all who look up them that Jesus is Lord. You are a walking church.

The second scripture is my personal favorite, John 14:23, with Jesus saying, "If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.” The desire of God is that the Father and the Son would pack themselves up in the Holy Spirit and come and dwell within us. This happens when we love Jesus and obey His teaching. To love and obey is to witness to the world around you that Christ is the center of your life.
And so, I will leave you with this tonight: consider your ways. Can you keep up the level of maintenance you have on your own strength? Do you have rot that may lead to ruin? Are you in ruin and need restoration? The call tonight is to leave the place you call “home” and “comfortable” and begin working on the temple that God desires be setup in your heart. Do you have a church for Jesus in your heart? I think its time.


MARK 1:14–20 ESV

“Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel." Passing alongside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, "Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men." And immediately they left their nets and followed him. And going on a little farther, he saw James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, who were in their boat mending the nets. And immediately he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants and followed him.”

Draft Day, Deshaun Watson leaves Clemson University and is drafted to the Houston Texans. That was a proud moment for my hometown, to see one of our own that we watched grow up be drafted into the NFL. I loved watching Deshaun in that moment because it was no different than other times when we had seen him overcome. The young man has perspective. His tears are the proof that he feels what is going on and that he knows how blessed he is. The whole world saw that, but thats not why he cried. He’s a humble guy who believes in Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior. He’s a fine young man.

Deshaun Watson spent the last couple years putting the Clemson Tigers on top as their outstanding quarterback. He piloted that team with an outstanding coach, Dabo Swinney. Coach Swinney is a Christian man, who wanted to make sure that Deshaun’s faith was maintained throughout this college football career. That’s rare.

Deshaun was a high prospect draft choice for the NFL for several reasons. He is a versatile quarterback, with the ability to execute consistently, throw with both distance and accuracy, make successful split second decisions, and was a natural leader on the field. He maintained his cool and kept his head in the game. But another factor that made him a prime choice for any team was his leadership and character off the field.

Deshaun is a low-risk player, meaning that his chances of making poor moral decisions and getting himself or others into trouble is extremely low. In fact, Deshaun proved throughout both his high school and college career to be a player who increased the leadership level of other players around him.

I want you to look at this picture. This is a dear friend of ours, Leslie Wallace and two of their three children. Seth and Leslie are missionaries in the Mediterranean Sea, serving the last 6 years on the island of Cyprus. We’ve been supporting them ever since Leslie and Ashley worked together as teachers and Leslie’s entire family felt the call to serve Jesus through long-term missions. Leslie, her husband Seth, and their son and two daughters, left the States to embark on missions to bring Christian education to those who had no chance of growing in the gospel. This is them this past Friday after having come home, celebrating our Home Town Hero, Deshaun.

Now, here’s a picture of Deshaun at his home church, Free Chapel in Gainesville, with one of his pastors, Pastor Michael Thurmond, a good high school buddy of mine. Michael and I grew up together from the first grade through high school. He has seen many challenges throughout his life and just a few short years ago accepted a call to be a light in the Gainesville area through spreading the gospel of Christ as a local evangelist. You will find Michael EVERYWHERE! His social media presence is unmatched, as he posts pictures of prayers walks, devotional times, and photos of the good folks of Gainesville making a difference. You can throw a rock in any direction and hit Pastor Michael.

What do these three examples have in common? They all love the Lord and are committed to His work. What do they all have in common with you? They would tell you that there is nothing special about them, but that Jesus was doing special things with them. These folks understand what it means to get in the game. They have been drafted, not because of their abilities, but because of God’s ability to use the willing. Jesus is inviting you to drop the nets in your life and take up His work.

We worry about whether or not we can do something or whether or not we would be good at something. But in the end, its about what God wants to do within you. Many of you have heard this quote, I myself heard it in college for the first time: God doesn’t call the equipped, He equips those He calls.

Deshaun has a natural talent for sports, but its God’s grace that makes him a successful and humble leader. The Wallaces are smart strategists, but its the hope that God has given them that makes their missions work and their message sink in. Pastor Michael knows his community and everyone in it, but its the gospel that makes his connections significant and eternal.

Jesus drafted a few disciples, who would in turn draft more disciples. It was a multiplication process that developed leaders everywhere. There was nothing extremely special about those Jesus chose, only that they were willing to drop what they were doing and get in the game. They believed in what Jesus was doing. They knew that the world was hurting and that it needed a Savior, and so they spend the rest of their days telling others about Jesus, showing them Jesus in the way they spoke, the way the lived. They were living examples of the living Savior.

What we want for you over the next few weeks is to find your role, your place in the ministry of Jesus Christ, both here and beyond. It's time for you to get in the game, to understand that its Draft Day, a time when the Church is saying, “We want YOU to play for us.” We have many positions on our team and there is a place for everyone.

But we also want you to know that we need you now. There is an very important urgency that is required in Christian discipleship. Waiting puts many at risk, both in regard to temporal needs and eternal consequences. We want you. We need you. Will you get in the game?

There’s a scripture I want to share with you. It comes from Matthews gospel, 9:35-38, “And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, "The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest."”

The Lord wants you in the game. The harvest is His game. The harvest is plentiful, but the workers, the players are few. Will you join the team? Will you get in the game? Amen.


MATTHEW 25:31–46 ESV

“"When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.' Then the righteous will answer him, saying, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?' And the King will answer them, 'Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.' "Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.' Then they also will answer, saying, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?' Then he will answer them, saying, 'Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.' And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life."”

Having kids is great for a 1,000 reasons but for preachers they are wonderful for sermon illustrations. Laney and Maggie are 16 months apart and they have truly grown up together. We basically stay in the same stages of life for a while because one will be exiting something while the other enters into it.

One stage we’re in right now is their ability to play together without Ashley and me watching. We’re getting a bit more comfortable letting them do their own thing around the house. But with the ability to play together comes the ability to argue. So, every now and then, we hear from upstairs, “No, Laney!” Or from the playroom, “Maggie, give it back!”

Its a tough stage because they love each other and show signs of concern at times, but there are moments when they are out for what they want, just as any growing child is. If one gets hurt, the other tries to distance herself from the scene because they do NOT want to get blamed.

It's at that moment when Ashley chimes in, “Laney, you need to check on your sister,” or, “Maggie, you need to ask Laney if she’s ok.” Having concern for the other shows compassion and a genuine interest in the wellbeing of another.

For us today, we hear this call from Jesus’ telling of what the end of days will be like. When the end comes, and life has been lived, God will separate those who have been a blessing and those who have been a curse. Those blessed are called sheep, for they listened well to the voice of their Shepherd. Those who are goats were a curse to those in need because they did not show compassion on God’s beloved.

The part that is hard to hear but must be heard is that the goats aren’t separated from the sheep because they weren’t nice to people. They are separated because they neglected God. For God considers the failure to show compassion to the needy a failure to serve Him. Meeting the needs of others is what moves the heart of God. To act against what moves God’s heart is to be out of sync with God. One of the main reasons for this is because God has chosen to minister to the world through us. Therefore if the ones He has asked to help do not help, we are no longer a blessing but a curse. To neglect is to reject in the eyes of God.

Our lives are either a reflection of God or a reflection of our fallen selves. The point is that judgement is coming and when it does, we will be found as either people who have loved others as God loves them or people who loved ourselves only.

As I read this week, it struck me for the first time that the people were separated by what they already were. They were either sheep or goats; blessings to the world or curses to the world. Their designation was a result of whether or not they served Jesus by acting on His love within them or rejected Jesus by choosing their own comfort. To bless others is to meet their needs as Jesus would meet them—with compassion and advocacy. And to curse others is to leave them in their squalor and ruin and so break the heart of God.

We take the love of God within us and let it drive us to the aid of the fallen, and we lift them up. We are called to be a blessing. If we believe that Jesus is our Lord and Savior, then the Holy Spirit that lives in us will compel us to godly love. If we are not compelled, then we have tough questions to ask and answer.

This does not mean that because you have been self-absorbed lately that you are without Jesus and bound for hell. What we’re getting at this morning is simply that if the Holy Spirit lives in your heart, then you are moved to action in all manner of ways. For most people in here this morning, this is a call to get back on the horse and resume your duties of seeing Jesus in the eyes of those in need. For a few today, this may be a call to ask Jesus to be Lord of your life and then begin living out the godly compassion that reigns in the hearts of faithful followers of Christ.

Regardless, we must understand today that you are saved by grace through faith because God loves you and sent His Son to make a way through the sin and death that seeks to sink you. And we takeaway from this lesson that you are saved, yes, but then immediately called to minister to a scarred and broken world as vessels of compassion and grace.

And so we ask you today, where will you be a blessing this week? In what way will you share compassion and grace? How will YOU lift up the broken hearted? What would Jesus do? He would find ways to lift up the heads of the hurt, the hungry, the helpless, and the hung-out-to-dry, and He would show them a better way. He IS showing them a better way…through you. Go, be a blessing. Amen.



PSALM 116:12-14

“What shall I return to the LORD for all his goodness to me? I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the LORD. I will fulfill my vows to the LORD in the presence of all his people.”

This is one of my favorite Psalms, especially these particular verses. It meant a lot to me during my college years, as I was developing a deeper understanding of God’s grace.

I was pretty beat up by lots of bad decisions and wondered how much fight I had left in me. I was starting to think I was incapable of making a decent decision. It took one of my professors to get through to me, as he pulled me aside one day after class to chat. He talked with me about how God’s grace isn’t merely something that tells you its going to be ok, rather God’s grace is something that empowers you. I was acknowledging God’s grace, but I wasn’t depending on it.

To say you understand the goodness and grace of God is one thing, but to experience His goodness and grace is something else altogether. Far too many people have a conceptual view of their faith and not an experiential one. Near the end of college, I began to walk in the way of grace, rather than pass it by on my way to something else. I was reading my Bible, discussing it with my friends, participating in a small group, back to attending worship regularly, and I was praying…about everything.

In our text this morning, we find a Psalm that deals with deliverance. Though it is read at both the Passover meal for Jews and sometimes at the Maundy Thursday services just before Easter, it is actually a rather personal testimony of the work of God in the life of a person who desires to thank God for His goodness and grace toward him.

The testimony of the Psalm is that, in the face of pending destruction, God rescued this person. But its the response to that deliverance that is so important. Once that rescue has taken place, there is a responsibility to let the rescue properly affect the person. If they were unfazed by the action, then they didn’t fully understand it.

So, let me cut to the chase: Do you understand what Jesus Christ has done for you? Do you know that without what Jesus did on the cross, you would be staring at an eternal death sentence that one day would become a forever reality? The core difference between understanding salvation and experiencing salvation is your response to salvation.

What is the response of the Psalmist? He says, “I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the LORD. I will fulfill my vows to the LORD in the presence of all his people.” Let’s break it down. To lift the cup of salvation is to give thanks, or to personally thank, God for what has happened. To call upon the name of the Lord is to commit to a relationship of trust. To fulfill the vow is to follow through on the response of thanks and trust. And to do so in the presence of God’s people is to be a living witness and testimony to what God has done.

That kind of response forms you into a person of living-gratitude and encourages the faith of the people around you, sometimes even revealing faith to others. The Psalmist knows that what God has done for him is both serious and life-changing. He has experienced the work of God’s deliverance and is trusting in God from here on out, both privately and publicly.

And then, there’s those who have not experienced life-change. What if someone hasn’t experienced the deliverance of God? What if someone understands the concept of grace but hasn’t experienced it? Then the truth of the matter is that they have yet to encounter the Lord Jesus Christ. For when one encounters Jesus, their sins become evident. And when faced with the evidence of their sin they are convicted in heart, and when convicted desire relief and forgiveness, and when they turn to the mercy of God in Jesus Christ, they are changed.

How are they changed? Through the welling up and experience of gratitude. They believe in their heart that they have been forgiven and they seek to return thanks to God because they know He has saved them.

Gratitude and service are the natural consequences, the inevitable overflows of a life that truly knows that they are saved by grace through faith. And so the call is to lift it up. Lift up your salvation to God, lift up your gratitude, life up your life and let Jesus Christ heal the world through the healing He has brought you. Don’t try to understand grace like a philosophical idea. Experience it!

For some of us this morning that means crying out to Jesus to save us, to apply His salvation to our lives because we trust and believe. For others it means to move beyond the philosophy, the idea, and to let the grace of God rush from our head to our hearts, so that the fire of His life can burn hot. And for others of us this is a call to lift up that cup for the whole world to see, to fulfill your vow in the presence of the whole world and make the name of Jesus Christ famous throughout the entire world! May God be glorified through the work of Jesus Christ as the Holy Spirit works within you today! Amen.