I was recently reading an email from a friend of mine who was warning about the threat of Islam in America. It caught my attention because for many years I too warned folks about the threat of radical Islam. In fact, following an attack by a deranged Muslim in Chattanooga a few years ago, I personally organized an event that featured a prominent international expert on Islam. That event drew over 400 individuals, garnered plenty of media attention and as you can imagine, created a fair amount of controversy as well.
My friend’s email went on to warn that “the hand writing is on the wall” with regard to the Islamist incursion into America’s government. While I don’t disagree with the assessment in general, the “hand writing on the wall” took my mind to a verse I read a few days ago. Jesus was speaking with His disciples when He shared this truth:
“…You know how to interpret the weather signs of the earth and sky, but you don’t know how to interpret the present times.” Luke 12:56
It’s likely many Americans are well versed in interpreting the dozens of warning signs that have been apparent for decades now in our nation. We see the threat of radical Islam, the pending repercussions of an exploding debt, the impact of a crumbling moral decline, the results of a failing educational system, along with the too many other obvious threats to mention here. And these threats are all real, without question.
But these threats, are merely signs of a much greater storm that is brewing — an eternal one. While the aforementioned threats pose great danger to the future of a nation, and they have no doubt awakened the passion and activism of many to expose and defeat them, I question whether there are some greater signs, of eternal consequence, that we are missing or perhaps ignoring?
I don’t assume that everyone who might read these thoughts will embrace the Bible, but I would venture to guess that many do. So if this is true, I’m also reminded of the verse that asserts, “What does it profit a man if he gains the world but loses his soul?” Perhaps an amplification of this verse (which I believe is true based on numerous other passages) could be “What does it profit a man if he gains a nation, but loses the souls of his fellow citizens?”
As real as the threat of radical Islam is to our nation, the truth is that each Muslim has a soul. God loves every one of them. And God’s Son Jesus died for each Muslim. For that matter, He died for each of us. So as we may warn about the ideology of radical Islam, and its questionable history, (of which I am quite familiar), there is a greater sign that I believe Jesus was referencing when He warned His disciples. (By the way, I’m reminded of a radical Jew who went about persecuting and killing Christians, until Jesus transformed his life and he became one of the most widely read authors in the New Testament, who we know as the Apostle Paul.)
There is nothing bad about being informed about today’s highs and tonight’s lows when it comes to our weather. But the greatest value of forecasts is when a tornado or hurricane is bearing down on your home. At that point, having the most relevant info to protect against such a storm, is of great value.
Likewise, there is a spiritual storm brewing. The eternal implications vastly exceed the temporal impact of the myriad of issues, many of them good, that can distract us from one day to the next. But the truth is that the battle that is raging is for “all the marbles” and those “marbles” are the souls of men and women, not merely the future of a nation.
I do not share these thoughts to judge or convict anyone who might read this, as they are written to me as much as to anyone else. These are thoughts I have been thinking through for some time.
Someday each of us will stand before our Creator to answer for the use of our time, treasure and talent. Personally I must confess I’ve misused all three of these over the years. So I have wondered if attempts to save a nation, will be impressive to God, or will He ask me and you, a different set of questions?
What about your neighbor? Did you love him/her? Did you share My truths with him? Did you reach out to that one that you disagree with, but I died for? Did you show him the love My Son expressed towards Him? Did you love your enemies (as I instructed you to)? Did you forgive your enemies, as Stephen did when he was being stoned to death by his enemies?
Only you can weigh whether these questions are valid. Only you can evaluate what you believe to be the pressing “signs of the times” to which Jesus alluded. But as you consider these thoughts, and evaluate the signs, I would encourage you to read the entire chapter of Luke 12 so as to gain the context within which Jesus warned His disciples about the “signs of the times.” For me it was instructive to better understand just what Jesus was discussing.
I look forward to any thoughts you might share as you consider my thoughts and this verse. And may we all be like the sons of Issachar who we are told were men who “understood the signs of the times and knew the best course for Israel to take.” (I Chronicles 12:32)
First, let me say that I’m a big sinner. I struggle with sin. My daily battles are not engaging with some jihadi terrorists half-way around the world. But the battles I face are as real, and in some regards even more consequential. Without a doubt, our troops are engaged in many physical life and death encounters, with some really bad guys. But if you’re alive and breathing, you’ll acknowledge that you, like me, are engaged in very real spiritual battles every day… oftentimes many, many times each day. And the consequences of these battles are eternal in nature. Think about that for a minute.
The struggles you face today, tomorrow and next week, and how you respond to them, will have eternal consequences! As in forever!
When I thought about writing this article, I struggled to do so, lest anyone believe I am holding myself out as some kind of spiritual guru or example. The truth is, I’m the exact opposite. If you could spend a day or two in my shoes, you’d see why I completely identify with the Apostle Paul when he exclaimed that he was “the chief of sinners.” If you doubt me, just ask my wife.
It’s because of the reality that I struggle with sin, that in 2016 I took up the challenge to read through the Bible in a year. I have read the Bible off and on since I was a kid. Sometimes that meant reading through the Bible in a year. But typically it meant reading a few verses or chapters here and there, for a few days or weeks. But it was seldom structured or consistent, and never permanent.
But when I took up the challenge to read through the Bible in 2016, I did it with others in our church. I completed the “Bible in a Year” Plan on schedule and decided to do it again in 2017. But as I began, now two years ago, I recalled the example of my grandfather.
🔹My Grandfather’s Example
When Oscar Werner turned 50, he set a goal of reading through the Bible four times a year so that when he was 75 he would finish reading the Bible 100 times. He met his goal and continued that same schedule until he died in his 80’s. I wrote an article about his story which you can read on my blog. It’s entitled “The Wisdom of the Ages: The Example of My Grandfather“.
So as I began reading through the Bible again in 2017, I began to double or triple up my readings each day. I realized that doing so was actually quite easy. I enjoyed it and was also challenged by the increased amount of time in God’s Word.
Four and a half months into 2017, I completed reading the entire Bible. And it was such a joy to do so. With this renewed love for God’s Word, I felt I needed more. So I found a reading program via my Bible app that would take me through the Bible in 90 days. I set out to do that. In essence this was the same schedule that my grandfather had embarked on 75 years earlier.
But 44 days later, I completed reading through the Bible again. I was impacted, and inspired. When the Bible says that it is “alive and sharper than any two edged sword” I could testify to this truth. I was being convicted and challenged over and over, day after day, in such a meaningful manner. At the same time, my thoughts and philosophy on a host of matters were being changed, dramatically, as I sought to conform them to God’s Word! (That’s a whole separate story.)
So I continued on my reading program, starting on my third time through the Bible in June 2017. As the weeks ticked by, I continued to ingest God’s Word at an ever increasing rate. 18 days. 21 days. 27 days… and on and on. By the end of 2017, I completed reading through the Bible ten times, and nine of those times were in a little over seven months.
Truthfully, I was addicted… in a good way. I started 2018 with a continued fervor to devour the Word. It had become the single most important activity in my life each day and something I eagerly anticipated.
Walking. Waiting in line. Traveling on a plane. Riding in a car (using the audio option). Hiking in Nepal under the shadows of the Himalayas. Whenever I had time where I was not engaged with someone or something else, I found myself continuously opening my Bible app and getting some more “time in the Word.” It replaced my love for music and talk radio.
So as I write this, a few days before Christmas 2018, I just completed my 17th time through God’s Word in 2018 — 27 times in 2 years.
Perhaps the most exciting thing for me though has been to see my wife become consumed with this same passion, as she also completed reading both the entire Bible as well as the New Testament multiple times in 2018, and has now started the 90 Day Plan.
🔹My Challenge to You
Again, I want to reiterate that I don’t share this to bring any focus to me. The fact is I’ve had this article written for months and have hesitated to share it lest it be misunderstood.
Truthfully, I share this for one reason. It’s the same reason I believe that my grandfather allowed his family to know about the goal he had set: to inspire and challenge others to do the same… to get into God’s Word. Oscar Werner knew that if his family would follow his example, we would find the answers to life’s deepest questions, and most difficult struggles.
So like my grandfather inspired me, I want to inspire you to get into the Bible.
No, I’m not suggesting that you read 2-3 hours a day, although some day I hope you will. Rather, I want to challenge you to simply begin reading consistently through the Bible, every day, in a structured manner. Never miss it. Set a reminder if you must.
Every significant habit, begins with a simple decision.
When a person is suffering from a debilitating disease, oftentimes the only cure might be a blood transfusion. Their own diseased blood must be replaced with new, fresh, pure blood. Likewise, we as humans are diseased. Our nature is sinful. Our thoughts are impure. And our hearts are unrighteous. And only through a daily transfusion of God’s Word, can we ever hope to live a life of humility, repentance and victory through Christ’s strength.
So I challenge you to get into the Word. Start today. And if you do, or are already doing so, I’d love to know that you do. In fact, let’s do it together!
Finally, as a result of my time in the Word over the last couple years, the following verse summarizes this season in my life:
💡 “Let all my words sink deep into your own heart first. Listen to them carefully…” Ezekiel 3:10
I hope you will allow God’s Words to sink deep into your own heart as well.
Let’s make 2019 the Year of the Bible. Will you do so?
💡 “When I discovered your words, I devoured them. They are my joy and my heart’s delight, for I bear your name, O Lord God of Heaven’s Armies.” Jeremiah 15:16
Here are my reading suggestions, but they are simply what work for me:
Find “Read Through the Bible” Plan (It’s a one year plan)
Click “Start Plan”
My favorite version is the New Living Translation (NLT). Not only is it in modern vocabulary, but it has a great Audio option.
I both read (with eyes) and listen (with my ears) via the Bible App. Even when I’m reading with my eyes, I have the audio playing, so I can see and hear simultaneously. It helps me to better understand and retain what I’m reading.
Regarding the “Audio” option, it’s pretty much all I listen to anymore when I’m driving, walking/exercising, etc. It connects well with any Bluetooth device. Also, the NLT audio is by far the most pleasant to listen to, in my opinion. It also includes dramatization where various voices are used to “act out” the stories in the Gospels and Acts.
I recommend you Register with “You Version” so you can track your Bible reading, interact with friends and so much more. If you do, please send me a friend request so we can encourage each other via the app.
If you start on this journey, and have any questions whatsoever, please reach out to me. There’s nothing more important to me than encouraging others to read the Bible. So if I can help in any way, including questions or problems with the Bible app, please let me know.
Anyone who believes Christianity is for the faint of heart, or the mentally weak, has never tried living the Christian life. The truth is that the Christian life, when experienced like Jesus lived and taught it, is the most difficult thing you will ever do. In fact, Jesus Himself referred to it as “taking up your cross” which by all accounts would hardly be easy. Likewise, the Apostle Paul referred to the Christian life as running a race… not a quick sprint, but rather a marathon. And this race would involve many hardships along the way.
I’ve run several half marathons, and even one marathon 10 years ago (before I seriously injured my back). Running my first marathon at age 48 was hardly an easy feat, but completing it was something I’ll always cherish. Despite all the months and months of training, and the sacrifice and pain (both mental and physical) associated with the marathon, it was more than worth it.
The same holds true with the Christian life. Despite the sacrifice and difficulties associated with living the Christian life as Jesus taught, if we actually do so, the rewards are literally out of this world! The standard “three score and ten” we live here on earth includes many heartaches, trials and difficulties. To be fair though, it will include joy and peace and freedom as well.
But can you imagine preferring our 70 years on earth over an eternity with God, in a new world created especially for those who simply trusted God and took Him at His word? Is it worth it? Only you can decide whether it is for you. But your choice to pursue or reject Christ, and the life He offers, will be affirmed the moment after your last breath on earth.
Your choice will lead to either eternal reward and blessing or eternal separation from God in a real place prepared for Satan and his minions.
So are you ready for this marathon called a Christian life? You don’t have to run it alone, and you will be strengthened supernaturally as you begin it. So let’s do it! Ready, set, GO!
Check out these verses for encouragement and strength, as you travel down the narrow and less travelled path:
Greed is a character flaw that runs deep within the heart of America and one that we see too often in business, government and individuals. The sin of Greed is a powerful force that can easily infect us individually, and it’s one I have struggled with at times. So we must constantly be on guard against it. But we should also call it out when we see it reflected in our government and its institutions.
In case you missed it, TVA just filed suit against several individuals to gain access to their farmland “for the taking of a temporary right under the power of eminent domain and award of just compensation to the owners and parties of interest.” It has been reported that the owners of the subject land are not interested in selling their land.
TVA’s lust for the property of others is a sin. But an agency or organization does not sin on its own. Rather, sin is committed by individuals. So when we see an organization, agency or government committing insidious acts, we must resist the temptation to blame the entity alone. Rather, we must look to its members, executives or representatives. Never let this truth pass you by.
There are individuals within TVA who are individually responsible for the Greed that is being displayed in their unjust desire to take and to steal what is not theirs. These individuals may hide behind the three letter agency name they represent, but they are personally responsible, and to blame, for the evil acts of the agencies they lead. And yes, taking another individual’s personal property without their consent, otherwise known as stealing, is evil.
There is a second truth that we can learn from TVA’s latest strategy. Do not be deceived into thinking that just because courts might rule that something is “legal” it is then just or right. This includes ruling that a developer, agency or government can take land from an unwilling party.
Declaring something to be “legal” has never set the bar of what is right, nor righteous. Whenever man establishes an arbitrary standard, that standard can always be reversed or revised, thus affirming the truth that man’s laws are fallible.
There is only one standard that is true, right, infallible, and righteous. And God has weighed in on all matters of significance and consequence, including Greed in general, and taking someone else’s property in specific. There are literally countless passages in the Bible that instruct us about this topic, including the ten commandments, moving boundaries, taking the property of the weak, and so many more. To be clear, all of us are “weak” when compared with the multi-billion dollar budgets, holdings, and resources of TVA.
So, when it comes to TVA’s abusive effort to take what is not theirs, using the power of a court, via the threat and cost of a lawsuit, rest assured that evil intentions are at work. But remember that these decisions are not simply some impersonal government agency’s policies at play. Rather, know that it is a man or a woman, or even several men and women, who are willfully conspiring to take what is not theirs to advance their own selfish desires.
In this specific case, I have met some of the individuals responsible for this Greed via TVA. Some are members of local, bible-teaching churches. Yet their faith is at odds with their choices in their workplace. They are doing to their “neighbor” what they would never want done to themselves. In so doing, these men and women are violating a foundational value that they would likely say they embrace. What a sad reality. But they are not to be condemned but rather challenged in a respectful and even prayerful manner. We should all remember that we are all frail and too often struggle with our own shortfalls and character flaws. But we must still share truth regardless.
Just as God judged Ahab and Jezebel for stealing a citizen’s farmland several thousand years ago, I believe He will judge these men and women who are seeking to steal the farmland of several of their local citizens and their families. Since God is “the same yesterday, today and forever,” He does not change with the whims of man, or the rulings of a court. His Truths remain, as does His Justice.
So the good news is this. Sooner or later Justice will prevail, and Greed will be exposed and punished. Of course, most of us like to see justice prevail in the short-term though. So if you agree with these sentiments, please share this article with others. Perhaps God’s Truth, or a groundswell of opposition in our community, will cause the men and women responsible for this latest TVA effort to reverse their course of Greed.
“Listen to me, you who know right from wrong, you who cherish my law in your hearts…” (Isaiah51:7)
What if I told you that the Key to Life was just one word? Would you believe it? Could you guess the word?
I believe most, if not all, of humanity has often wondered what that Key is. The fact is most who have searched for the Key have never found it because they have gone down the wrong path looking for it. Without the Truth to instruct them, they invariably realize the key they’ve pursued has failed to open the door to Life.
So just what is that Key? I believe we can find it over and over in God’s Word, but perhaps the following verses are as plain as it can be made:
“Today I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessings and curses. Now I call on heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Oh, that you would choose life, so that you and your descendants might live! You can make this choice by loving the Lord your God, obeying Him, and committing yourself firmly to Him. This is the key to your life…”(Deuteronomy30:19-20)
Did you catch that? The Key to Life is a Choice. And that Choice is a deliberate decision: “…loving the Lord your God, obeying Him, and committing yourself firmly to Him.”
It’s really that simple. A Choice.
But to be honest, while simple, it is quite hard, as far as I’ve discovered — hard because we live in a difficult, broken world.
This “Hard” is realized each day because, while we may make this Choice in the morning, by noon, or even earlier, the enemy (Satan) has likely tempted us to forget that Choice. And because we are frail, and our “spirit is willing but our flesh is weak” we may fall, again and again.
But God recognized this trait of humanity. He understood that “the godly may trip seven times, but he will get up again.” (Prov. 24:16) To be clear, this is not because the godly are good, or better or stronger than others, but rather because God promised that “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” (2 Cor. 12:9)
In my own life, I have found myself failing and falling way more often than succeeding. Why is this? I believe it’s because we are truly engaged in the war of the ages. It has been going on since the beginning of time “for we are not fighting against flesh and blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:12)
I have often met to discuss God, the Bible and spiritual matters with friends who question, scoff at, or even reject God. My heart is often heavy for them. But I believe if they are honest with themselves, they too will admit that they are engaged in an inner struggle — one which they most likely cannot understand or explain. Yet God did not desire us to be ignorant concerning Life or these deep personal struggles. Because God “is not willing that any should perish…” (2 Peter 3:9)
But God is also not one to demand or force someone to do something they do not want to do. And so we come back to that simple truth:
🔑 The Key to Life is a Choice.
And it’s our decision. No one else’s. But even though we choose God once and for all for our eternal destination (heaven), we must also continuously choose God moment by moment in order to have the “rich and satisfying life” that Jesus promised (John 10:10).
Rasha was beyond excited as she skipped out of her house. She’d been dating Nazir for several months now and the more she was away from him, the more she longed to be with him.
She accelerated her pace as she saw the bus approaching the corner. From there it was just a short 15 minute ride to the shop where her beloved Nazir worked.
Ever since she and Nazir had met she had been praying for him. As a former Muslim who had found Jesus to be “the way, the truth and the life,” Rasha believed that Jesus would reveal Himself to Nazir just as He had to her. She thought back to how much her life had changed since accepting Jesus as the Son of God, who forgave her of her sins. Things were not easy, with her family shunning her and threatening to disown her now that she was a Christian. But she had a peace that she could not explain.
The bus came to an abrupt and startling stop, jolting Rasha from her thoughts. Sirens were going off again, signaling the potential of falling bombs or mortars. She had grown accustomed to the sirens, but she knew there was always a real threat. The bus remained stopped for another several minutes before they began moving again.
As they rounded the corner, Rasha could see Nazir’s little shop. She jumped off the bus and jogged towards the spot where she would see the love of her life. She hoped she could talk again with him about Jesus.
As Rasha approached the large glass picture window at the front of the shop, she could see Nazir inside. Her pulse quickened. Their eyes met. Smiles spread across their faces. And…
Boom!! Boom!! Boom!!
The concussion from the bombs threw Nazir across the room as the glass from the front window exploded into the shop. Rasha was gone. Those dark beautiful eyes that had always penetrated his soul were there just a moment before. But now a huge fireball marked the spot where she had stood.
Nazir screamed. Tears poured down his cheeks as he yelled Rasha’s name over and over. Shuffling through the shards of glass and debris that now littered his shop, he crawled out through the gaping hole that was just moments earlier a window, through which he and Rasha had smiled.
Rasha was nowhere to be seen. It was as if she had vanished into thin air. But then he noticed a strange smell. A burning smell. One that brought a sickening feeling to his stomach. And then he saw them. Black charred bodies that had been burned beyond recognition. He collapsed. The sense of loss was too great to bear. How could someone he loved so much be gone forever?
How could humans hate humans this much?
How could Muslims kill Muslims?
Nothing made sense…
The above story is based on a real incident which happened to Nazir (name changed to protect his identity) in Damascus, Syria. The name “Rasha” and the moments leading up to her death are my imagination, but the explosion, her relationship with Nazir, his love for her, and the remaining facts are as reported to us by Nazir.
Earlier this month I had the opportunity to travel to Greece by way of Albania. I was joined there with several other men who live in that part of the world, and we were engaged in what was to become a series of life altering meetings.
We had the opportunity and privilege to interview a number of refugees, including Nazir, who had fled from cities in Syria, Iran and Iraq, mostly because of the wars and conflicts there. Many of these former Muslims are now living in crowded refugee camps throughout Greece.
In addition to Nazir’s story above, below is a sampling of some of the comments of these refugees that will give you just a small glimpse into the catastrophes they fled that led to their new life in Christ:
As I made the decision to accept Christ, I realized that my Christian girlfriend gave her life so that I would know Jesus.
I heard a voice say, “I’m with you” while I was in the hospital but I knew the voice was not from the god of Islam because Allah does not speak with people.
After fleeing Aleppo, I began questioning Islam’s teachings. If God created me, how could he tell me to kill people?
If you want to be a Muslim you must close your mind.
When ISIS came to Mosul they killed my brother, and Christians, and did awful things to girls, destroying everything.
ISIS put me in jail twice: once for failing to pray and the second time for smoking. The second time they placed a loaded and cocked gun to my head.
ISIS is still looking for me and would kill me if they found me.
As I was going home from work one day in Aleppo, a bomb exploded near me and I suffered injuries in my arms and legs.
Because of the war in Aleppo I fled to Turkey. While there, I met a Christian who I fell in love with, even though I was a Muslim. When I told my family that he wanted to marry me, they told me they would disown me and I would never be welcome to come home again.
While living in my home country of Iran, I met some Christians there and I became a Christian. But because of my conversion, my life was threatened so I had to flee from Iran to Turkey. While there I met a Muslim girl who I was attracted to. But she was from Syria and spoke Kurdish so I had to use a translator. After several months I asked her to marry me, but I could still not speak Kurdish with her. I needed to be able to communicate with her so I had been praying about this. One night I went to bed, unable to speak Kurdish. The next morning I woke up and could speak Kurdish fluently. When I met my girlfriend the next time, she thought I had been lying to her about my inability to speak Kurdish but I explained to her that it was Jesus who had given me the ability to speak her language. I can still speak it fluently to this day.
We got married and 5 months later left Turkey, ending up in a refugee camp in Greece. My wife miscarried our first baby and became deathly ill in the camp. One night, I was praying for my wife to be healed and a dark smoke filled our tent (which I believe was demonic). As I continued to pray to God I saw a bright white light outside our tent and I heard a voice telling me that my wife was going to be fine in the morning. The next morning two women I had never seen before came to our tent and they said, “We have come from the hospital and are here to help. Where is Amanda?” They prayed over my wife and took her to the hospital.
While I was crying in the hospital I saw visions of Jesus smiling at me and He told me I would be ok. I cried out to Jesus and asked Him to help me and I trusted Him. Later, as I was sleeping, I saw Jesus in white clothes and He touched my forehead and healed me. When I woke up I walked out of the hospital fully healed and my life has changed forever now that Jesus is my Savior.
The Bible is full of stories of our miracle working God, many as dramatic as the ones above. Of course, in America, we see evidence of His miraculous work every time we look in the mirror, look out our window, look into the sky or see a new baby. But how often do we see God working in ways like those experienced by these Muslim refugees? In my case, never. But that does not mean that God is silent. To the contrary.
God promises to be found to those who earnestly seek Him. The more than half-dozen individuals that we interviewed are all powerful testimonies of individuals who were calling out to God in their time of dire distress. They were diligently seeking God. And God in miraculous ways showed Himself through Jesus. Their lives have been transformed for eternity. And these new believers are now reproducing themselves in the lives of dozens of other refugees within the camps scattered around Greece and beyond.
As I was reading through Scripture this week, I came across this verse:
“He showed you these things so you would know that the Lord is God and there is no other. He let you hear his voice from heaven so he could instruct you. He let you see his great fire here on earth so he could speak to you from it.” (Deuteronomy4:35-36)
Many of these refugees heard God’s voice in Jesus. They witnessed “these things” in order that they would distinguish between Allah, the god of Islam, and the one true God, who not only created the universe, but also sent His Son Jesus to die for them (and you, and me). When God showed Himself to be real to these refugees, they embraced Him completely. And every one of these refugees were promptly baptized, to present a public testimony of the fact that they left Islam and embraced Jesus, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.
My good friend Nathan has aptly described what is occurring as a result of the war-torn conflicts throughout the middle east in this manner: “From Catastrophe to Christ.” He is planning a book by that name, as a sequel to his more recent book, that he co-authored with Joel Richardson: The Mystery of Catastrophe.
While wars and violence are horrendous, and any person would seek to avoid, we can clearly see God’s sovereignty at work in a mighty way through these ongoing catastrophes. And each one of these refugees is eternally grateful for the catastrophe they experienced, for without it, they would likely have never met Christ.