I Get It

I’ve got it down now. I get it. I even have my teaching notes in order so that I can impart this understanding to others, those who have not grasped the truth of this concept. It’s scriptural, too, and should be very clear. “Your life is not your own; you have been bought with a price. Therefore, glorify God in your body.”

Of course, I glorify God. Everyone knows I lead a moral life and am not “that kind of girl.” My shelves are full of Christian books, manuals from endless courses and seminars, soaking CDs. I am known for being a counselor to the troubled, a safe listener, a source of wisdom to the confused.

Yes, I belong to Christ. I am indwelt by the Triune God so that I may re-present Him to the world. Overcomer, too. Walking in victory with authority over the evil one. I’ve dealt with my issues, forgiven every offense, laid any personal ambitions on the altar. Therefore, life is good. What more could God want?

Oh. The attitudes of the heart, too? The lingering selfishness? That sense of ownership of my time? He wants a cheerful giver? I thought that referred to our tithes and offerings. Oh.

I am suddenly faced with the truth that there is another triunity jostling for space within: Me, Myself and I. Suddenly it becomes clear that idolatry has been lurking behind the polished exterior, waiting to exert its presence, elbowing God aside for the right to my life.

Oh no. Faced with that truth, I also encounter another one – I am weak and unable to wrestle it to death on my own. Helpless now, I throw myself, the good, bad and the ugly, upon His kindness, grateful that He gets it. Really.

Emotions: the Color and Chaos of Life

Emotions: the Color and Chaos of Life

Created in God’s image, man was given among other things, the gift of emotions. Can you imagine life without feelings? It would be flat, colorless, gray, robotic, boring beyond measure. But with anticipation, excitement, hope, happiness, fondness, caring, love, satisfaction, and joy we feel fully alive, participants in the world around us.

The Bible reveals God as having some emotions, but not nearly such a long list. He is described as having joy, delight and satisfaction with his creation, anger at sin which twists and defiles that creation, and love which is a constant – the fabric of his being.

All the negative emotions in mankind are the result of our fallen nature. Here we find the source of most of the earth’s troubles. Anger, hatred, greed, domination, anxiety, fear and dread, desire for power and recognition, hopelessness, despair, jealousy, the pain of rejection plus a host of others contribute to the breakdown of relationships and eventually every society.

It seems only natural to conclude that if there is to be any hope for our society and mankind in general, we must deal with those negative emotions at their root, bringing our lives more in in line with those of the One who created us. Or, in short Bible-speak, be conformed to the image of Christ.

This has to happen, I submit, before the Christian world will have any impact against the forces of the secular world. With our unhealed emotions our behavior is often no better than the world around us, and is made worse by the addition of our self-righteousness.

How is it that people can spend years of their lives as Christians without dealing with the root causes of their negative emotions?

One major reason is simply unawareness that life could be any different than what they have known. Their lives are shaped by the box of their experiences. The box contains their original personhood as designed by the Creator, but it is also filled with memories, events, emotions, pain, teachings received from the culture around them, and their interpretation of all this. All of the box is considered normal, the way things are, the way they are. It is all they know, and it is real and true to them. Accepting Jesus Christ and the message of the church becomes an addition, an external, much like a coat of paint on the outside to make the box more attractive. A common phrase used by them to explain or justify their more negative behavior patterns is “That’s just the way I am!” The idea that there may be another way to see things, another way to live, has not been received or believed, often because it has not been taught. “You mean to say I don’t have to live in fear? Or with this short fuse? Or this shame? How can that be?”

Another reason for the continuation of the status quo is the deception of pride which says “I’m cool the way I am. If you don’t like that, there is something wrong with you. Certainly not me!”

This line of thought is akin to those who have grasped 2 Corinthians 5:17 as a shield against any need to change. Declaring that verse without reading it in its full context is to misunderstand it. “Old things have passed away; behold, all things are new.” Or as the NIV has it: 2Co 5:17    “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” The next several verses expound on that by saying it is all about being reconciled to God, from whom we are estranged until Christ enters our lives. That’s it. Reconciled, yes. Healed from our bad selves, no. If we were all totally cleaned up from our emotional pain and ungodly reactions there would be no need for all the Scripture admonishment to “put off the old self which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude if your minds.” Eph.4:22. We are told to renew our minds, work out our salvation, become mature, not babes. That means taking our “perfect” selves and doing something about them!

One major blockage to dealing with our boxes of negative emotions and pain is the fear of looking within. We don’t know what is in there, but we have a pretty good idea it could be too nasty, or scary or shameful to bear coming to the light. There be dragons and beasties, things that go bump in the night! The fear of revelation with its accompanying shame makes us keep a strong lock on the tight lid of our boxes.

At base, the failure to deal with these pesky emotions reveals a lack of trust in the goodness of God. Not entirely sure that He really has our best interests in mind, we stay safely on the perimeter of life, putting up with our “normal” and never coming to that place of peace, joy and abundance Jesus talked about.

Want high adventure living? Take the risk. Dare to pursue dealing with your issues. You know you have them; so, sadly, does everyone else. The end result will be a delight to all.

Going to Bethel

Morning in the Word

In Amos 4:4-5 I read “Go to Bethel and sin; go to Gilgal and sin yet more. Bring your sacrifices every morning, your tithes every three years. Burn leavened bread as a thank offering and brag about your freewill offerings— boast about them, you Israelites, for this is what you love to do,” declares the Sovereign LORD.

You can hear in His tone that God is obviously displeased with this worship, this way of approaching him.

Deuteronomy 12:4    You must not worship the LORD your God in their way. 5    But you are to seek the place the LORD your God will choose from among all your tribes to put his Name there for his dwelling. To that place you must go; 6    there bring your burnt offerings and sacrifices, your tithes and special gifts, what you have vowed to give and your freewill offerings, and the firstborn of your herds and flocks. 7    There, in the presence of the LORD your God, you and your families shall eat and shall rejoice in everything you have put your hand to, because the LORD your God has blessed you. 8    You are not to do as we do here today, everyone doing as they see fit.

There is only one way to do it right, He is saying, and that is His way.

We use a lot of words in our worship and prayer, words to prove our acceptability to God, words of which it is a question if we actually believe. Do we stop to ask if all this is pleasing to Him? Are our words and worship methods really arm-twisting to get a leg up? God obviously does not expect every believer on the earth to go to Jerusalem. His Spirit departed from the temple there centuries ago, but is still active today in the lives of millions. So what exactly is the right way, the God-ordained way to worship?

Thinking about the power of our words, and where I could find Scriptural basis for my thesis of their importance, I was then led to search for “the word is nigh thee” and came to Matthew 12:34    You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. 35    A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him. 36    But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken. 37    For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.”

Jesus undoubtedly knew the Scriptures in Deuteronomy 30:11    Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach. 12    It is not up in heaven, so that you have to ask, “Who will ascend into heaven to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?” 13    Nor is it beyond the sea, so that you have to ask, “Who will cross the sea to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?” 14    No, the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it.

This led me to Paul’s statement in Romans 10.
Romans 10:3    Since they did not know the righteousness of God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. 4    Christ is the culmination of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes. 5    Moses writes this about the righteousness that is by the law: “The person who does these things will live by them.” 6    But the righteousness that is by faith says: “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?'” (that is, to bring Christ down) 7    “or ‘Who will descend into the deep?'” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). 8    But what does it say? “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,” that is, the message concerning faith that we proclaim: 9    If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10    For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.

Ok, so I had read this passage hundreds of times without ever truly understanding what Paul’s illustration in vs 6 and 7 had to do with his point of confession of faith being connected with being righteous.

So what does one do then? Ask Holy Spirit for the clarification.

When we ask for someone to ascend to heaven to bring us righteousness, we are establishing our own way of approaching God, just like those who went to Bethel with their strange fire. We “bring him down” by declaring our goodness, our works, our sacrifices, our right behavior. We want someone like a priest to offer us holy food, holy ritual, holy anointed service to confirm our (self-made) righteousness.

We are in “the deeps” knowing our unworthiness, sin and defilement which has to be covered; our self flagellation, our self punishment, our hours of good works and suffering toil serve in our mind to atone for us. We look for someone who will be a priestly go-between, a buffer between our unholy selves and a holy God. Every time we beat ourselves up and shrink back from God because of what we have done, we are crying out “Who will descend into the deep?”

And Scripture declares the Jesus provides all the righteousness we will ever need. Ever.

Our attempt at works to prove to God our worthiness to be accepted is just the same to Him as the worship offered by the Israelites at Gilgal and Bethel. There is no worth in it. The only way is Jesus’ work and righteousness. We don’t have to tramp to Jerusalem to offer our sacrifices; we need only to believe in Him and speak it out.

This should bring a huge sigh of relief. I don’t have to be good, or hide my badness. I can just BE and move on from there. There is a life to be fully lived, not spent in endless self-justification. What a concept!

This of course means we have come into agreement with God with our words (thoughts, heart). And coming into agreement is another whole topic.

“Just You Wait!”

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Those words usually strike terror into the heart of the child who hears them. “Just you wait” until Father gets home, or until we get home from the store so that punishment can be adequately applied. Waiting, waiting is a lesson to be learned, seldom if ever connoting something good. I can think of a few unpleasant, fearful waits: waiting while the mechanic fixes the problem on the airplane; waiting outside the O.R. for the surgeon to come out to speak with you; waiting for the court date; even waiting in stuck traffic on the Interstate when you have an urgent call of business.

I was stopped by these words in Psalm 27:14. “Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD.”

There are three commands here – indicating things we are capable of doing because God does not command the impossible from us. The first is “Be strong.” This implies that we can make ourselves overcome our self-doubts. There is no room for the escape clause “This is too hard for me!” or “Let someone else go, do, fight the battle.” It also implies that the capability of strength is built into us as part of our packaging. Whether we believe it or not does not change our inherent potential to exhibit strength. Often the accumulation of life experiences has occluded this truth; God’s word indicates we must deal with them to uncover the strength within.

The second command in “Take heart.” This speaks of values to center our lives on – courage, joy, belief in God’s goodness, letting hope for the future rise within. All of these and more will push back depression and fear which sap our very beings of the strength needed for living, thus destroying our effectiveness in the Kingdom in the process.

Finally, we are told to “Wait” for the LORD.” This is where the real battle is for many, if not most of us. Once He has appeared or acted in a situation the battle is over, the problem resolved. It is the “wait” that reveals our hearts the most clearly. Our fears begin to leak out. Do I really trust Him? Is He really going to do something? Should I not step in here and solve the problem myself? We get into the helping-God-out mindset – and it is clear from the Isaac-Ishmael story that helping God out is not a good idea.

Waiting on the LORD is in truest sense a leaning on Him in full expectation of His fulfilled promise. It is to be a place of rest and assurance. That is ultimately a definition of faith. There is no terror in it.

World Changer?

In recent days I have seen or heard comments about Preterists, Cessationists, Futurists, Trinitarians, Universalists, Charismatics, Fundamentalists, Evangelicals and Anti-Charismatics. Then there are the ones considered fringe by all of these groups – the Nephilim and alien-human-spirits-are-among-us group. This is just within the Christian camp, never mind the rest of the world with its militant Islamists, jihadists, Buddhists, Hindus, New Agers and the like. Increasing at an alarming rate as well are the militant atheists who think all believers in the supernatural have gone mad and are not worthy of consideration in the public dialog. Among those within the fold, the word blasphemy has been often used of one group by another. Rancor, ill will and name-calling seem to be everywhere.

I also note within communities of faith, and in government, a mind set of “Us four and no more.” Each gets defensive, hunkering down within self-erected walls as they gather their ammunition to lob at the outsiders. To this degree I have to concur with the atheists – we have gone mad. Not because we believe in a supernatural God, but because we fail to believe the One we say we believe in! It is He who said the chief object of man (after loving God and believing He exists) is to love one another. I submit that we all have failed miserably at that.

So I raise my one small voice to say I want to be a world changer by encouraging those who read this to come out from behind whatever bunker your are in and begin to love and accept “those other misguided folk.” The world will be a better place for it.

Still

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Total stillness now, interrupted only by the cawing of crows in the sycamore down the way. In that stillness there is space and time for reflection, for listening to inner dialog. To think, to ponder, to get in touch with the self within has become a rare thing, a luxury enjoyed by too few. I become aware that I am playing with phrases, constructing and deconstructing sentences, describing even the air around me. People come to mind–family members who are struggling, friends not seen in years, those talked with just yesterday. This brings me to reflection on my own attitudes and emotions. The change, I realize, has been deep and wide. I am not now the person I was 20 years ago, 5 years ago, last month. And I like the person I am becoming. Notice the continuing present. Life is a process. When we stop growing and changing, we start dying.

I hear other birds as well. Some newcomers to the neighborhood add their unrecognized song to the surroundings. My pondering continues, now observing creative thoughts, deeper thoughts are stirring. I am struck by the great treasure that is available to everyone, the ability to process and create, bringing forth a new aspect of reality unique to them. However, a world of unceasing noise and distraction removes the stillness, that space and time of quiet in which the individual’s thoughts can take shape, to the blessing of us all. We are therefore all losers in a noisy environment. The unrealized potential creative idea that each person could bring is lost to the din of the day. Our culture has trained us to be restless unless there is a steady stream of noise — the background store and elevator music, the ubiquitous TV. Headphones, iTunes, Pandora. We fear to be left alone with our thoughts; the very idea is foreign to us. In the process, we lose our true selves.

What is that fear of stillness, of silence? What drives us to turn on the TV or radio the minute we walk in the door? What within in us do we fear? Or is it possible that our “surround sound” is all that tells us we have being, are alive? A primal fear is that of non-being; for many, silence is equivalent to that state of non-existence.

Yet God says, “Be still and know…”  Elijah didn’t hear God in the storm, but in the still small voice. It is when we know, from that stillness, that we then know who we are and are to become. In that becoming, treasures are discovered and shared with the world. For the benefit of our world, then, we should begin by quieting down to listen. Time to use your mind to explore, invent, create. Shhh. A mind is working here. This is a quiet zone. Shhh.

A Flock of Robins

 

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A flock of robins has gathered on my lawn. Self directed cleaning machines, they pick through the grass cleaning up bugs and stray seeds, nature’s feathered Roombas. It is time to move on. In the spring, the time of love and increase, robins are seen in pairs. But now, it is time to move. There is a long distance to travel before reaching a warm haven for the winter. Instinctively they gather together for the journey. Is it safety in numbers, or companionship they seek?

Thickening clouds and sun hanging low speak of difficult days ahead. Each robin has to make the journey on his own; no other bird will flap the wings for him. Yet the other bird’s flight in some way inspires and silently encourages the faltering one to keep on. Keep on. This is what we do. This is how we fly. Don’t quit now. Keep on.

Now gathering in a flock, comforted by the very presence of others like them, they prepare, fueling for the trip ahead.

…Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another–and all the more as you see the Day approaching. Heb. 10:24,25

Disappearing Words

I was pondering today about the disappearance of some words from common use in our culture. Words like splendor and majestic. Integrity and honor. Virtue. On the negative side we have lost words used to describe disapproved societal values: vile, fornication, sin.

When was the last time you heard or used them?

Words are powerful, more powerful than we realize at first look. The words we use shape the very way we think, the way we relate to one another. They can be curse or blessing. In our personal dialog the wrongful use of words is the chief reason for breakdown in relationships. Careless use of words has often caused lasting pain. Nothing is more inaccurate than the childhood singsong: “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me.”

New ideas begin as thoughts. Thinking uses words as building blocks; it is hard to imagine thinking anything without words, which represent concepts, being a part of the process. Our vocabulary is the stockpile of building materials available to us. Therefore, if it is common or vile, our thoughts will rise no higher than the bricks we have to use. For many, their list of adjectives has few words that exceed four letters.

There are, of course, morally neutral words, e.g. the cat is under the bench, but my concern is the diminishing of grandeur, culture, dignity, grace and virtue which is concurrent with the loss of those words is the public dialog.

As the common vocabulary, both spoken and written, has changed, so has our behavior. That which was once considered shameful or unspeakable is now accepted. Boundaries have been breached, jettisoned. There seem to be no restraints. In fact, the concept of restraint has changed from personal self-discipline to physical things like handcuffs and white jackets.

To change public behavior, then, would require a change in the way we talk and write. Society will rise or fall to the level of our language. Let’s talk (and think) it up.

Wits and Nitwits

Occasionally while on a website I read the comments posted in reply to a presentation on that site. And I am appalled. It matters not whether it is a YouTube video, news item, article on either side of the political divide, or heaven forbid, religion. The language – vocabulary, grammar, spelling and punctuation – is atrocious. Manners have taken a hike. Courtesy, gone. Civilized thoughtful discourse almost extinct.

The most common thought held by the faceless public seems to be to attack everyone, including their heritage, parentage and their character using every kind of vulgarity in the process. Many equate vulgarity with wit when it is the antithesis of it. I suspect they would not even understand that last sentence.

Now, to interrupt myself, I have read some discussion threads that amazed me because of the broad or detailed knowledge of not-so-recent current events being shared. In some cases I learned things done in different administrations which I had been too distracted at the time to become informed about. This is good; this is the Net at its finest. It is also not common.

The gift of wit includes the ability to see things from differing perspectives, to spin them as it were, and play with the presented ideas to the amusement of all. It requires a quickness of mind, without malice or meanness, yet meanness is what I see and hear in many of the exchanges on line.

H.L. Mencken is highly regarded as a man of wit. His quotes can be found and enjoyed on Brainy Quotes. Here is one example: “If a politician found he had cannibals among his constituents, he would promise them missionaries for dinner.” This has enough truth, with enough exaggeration and twist to bring a smile to the reader. It is witty. There is no coarseness needed to reveal the author as a person of power. His mind, and the words he chooses reveal that.

A gift similar to wit, but different from it, is a sense of humor. With common sense and a sense of humor a person will have all he needs to make his way in life. The ability to see something amusing at even the most troubling times has carried many people through. To be able to see the ridiculous, the absurd, the pomposities of the self-important is a gift to be treasured. Many of the best comedians are those who see with clear eyes and then tell the public the truth. They are the secular prophets of the day. Humor is a great defense against tyranny. When jokes start coming about something or someone previously held in high regard you can know a change is coming.

Those with no sense of humor, I posit, are easy to deceive. Without the ability to see the twists, the absurd, the funny, they will in their seriousness believe whatever is presented to them as factual. Satire will be received as truth. A play on word or idea is lost to them.
Yet playing with words and ideas is grist for the mill of the humorist, satirist or punster to the delight of the rest of us.

It is fully possible to be witty without four letter words and defamation of character. I submit Will Rogers as another example. “Everything is changing. People are taking their comedians seriously and the politicians as a joke.” This will bring a wry smile to most people, with possible exception of the politicians.

Our words have power, more than generally realized. They reflect our personhood. Therefore, I suspect that the way to improve the public dialog is to begin within, to clean up the dark corners of hatred, insecurity, inadequacy and any other character issues which defile. The educated person who is secure in his own identity does not need to use his assault weaponry of foul, small-minded words. He can, instead, begin to work on his wit.

Wow!

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Morning’s Musing

I was thinking that there are many things I cannot do – but, there are some things I can do.

Then: Of those, there are things which I do not do well, but there are some which I do do well.

Therefore I am exactly as it pleases The Lord.

All of the threads that have come down the generational stream contributing to the tapestry which makes up my particular DNA and person-hood play a part in defining my identity and the way I am able to give a unique expression of the glory of God. The threads are many: I pictured the Romany milking a goat, providing for his family’s needs; a seaman facing storms on open water; a stolid Dutchman in meetings attending to village matters.

In all this there is design, purpose. The scripture about the pot confronting the potter comes to mind. Accusing the potter of insufficiency is common to all of us. Why do we do this?  Rather than accepting and rejoicing that our gifts are adequate in God’s eyes, we grouse and complain, in effect accusing the Designer of All of some shortcoming. We suggest to Him that He could do better by us, giving us the gift that someone else has. In this state of dissatisfaction we then strive to become something we are not and were never intended to be.

A caveat here:  As a Christian I am in process to become the very best I can be.  “Yet, to all who received HIm, for those who believe in His name He gives the power (right) to become children of God. “ John 1:12  What a promise, what a hope! In that process we are being conformed to the image of Jesus which is a present and continuing experience. The standard then is not other people’s gifts and talents which we lack, but the standard of Jesus Christ. Excellence should be the norm for every Christ-indwelt believer. But that excellence is to the standard God has chosen for each person.IMG_1099

So I will not be a graceful dancer interpreting story through body movement. I will not be a modern day Rembrandt bringing ideas and concepts to light with paint and canvas. I will not build majestic buildings, invent better surgical procedures, create glorious symphonies. But what I do, I do well to the honor and glory of God alone. Humble as it may be, and unnoticed by the world, if I exhibit excellence in what I do, it is pleasing to God who requires nothing more from me. It is His standard which matters.

Perhaps our personal dissatisfaction is rooted in insecurity about our own value or worth.  The striving to become what we were never intended to be is a clear indicator that we have not grasped fully our true identity as cherished creations of The Lord of the universe. Coming to that understanding brings us (you) to a place of rest where striving ceases.

Hebrews 4:9   - 11  There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God;
for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his.
Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest.

John Paul Jackson, considered by many to be an elder or senior voice among the prophetic community, recently shared his testimony of being caught up to the throne room of heaven. There before the Ancient of Days, the all Powerful One, he was instantly aware that God was totally righteous, and that he, John Paul, was not. It was only the covering of Christ which kept him from being totally annihilated before that source of power.  He reports that a continual stream of light and power came out of the center – which we might call the heart or center – and with each burst the surrounding creatures and angels would erupt into cries of wonder “Holy!”  “Holy”  “Holy!!” The noise was deafening, between the continual erupting bursts and the responses of those around the throne. Translated into our present day and world what they were saying was “Wow!”  “Wow.” “Wow!!”  These were expressions of wonder at His continual revealing of new facets of Himself. They never became jaded, because the revelations were each more awesome than the other. I was reminded of the Scripture which declares that He holds up the world with His power. “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word.”  Hebrews 1:3

Each eruption was another creative act. Each one elicited a “Wow!” Each was something new and truly awesome in the original meaning of that word. It is not too far a stretch to consider that with the creation of each individual – whom the Bible declares is dearly loved and highly valued – the very angels of heaven are exclaiming “Wow!” We are, all of us, made in the image of God. That image is so inexhaustible that even millions upon millions of persons display something distinctive to the glory of God. As no two snowflakes are alike, and no two magnified grains of sand are alike, so is it with His beloved crown of creation: mankind. You are so unique that the angels are “wowing” over you.

The problem is, not knowing or believing that fact causes many of His dearly loved creations to slide into a downward spiral of darkness, rebellion, and woe. The life that rejects the very Creator from which it came is soon a life of strife, a chain of pain. The spouse batterer, the drunk face down in the gutter, the trafficker in pornography have fallen far from revealing the glory of God. The “Wow” has become “Woe.”

It seems to me, therefore, that the first order of business for the church is believing the truth of our identity, teaching it, and best of all, modeling it. Learning our identity is the way into His rest. Anyone who grasps the significance of who he is, becomes changed, radically so. Moving from “woe” to “wow” he displays a clear demonstration of the gospel’s power.