I am going on a trip to Israel in the summer of 2015! I’m raising money for lodging, meals, and travel expenses. While I am there I will be studying with Moody Bible Institute as well as serving the people of Israel where possible. Any support you can give will be a big help! The link to my fundraising campaign is here: http://www.gofundme.com/ex0vio
I made it! Today marked a milestone in my short 18 years of living. I graduated high school! The last four years have been an incredible time of growing and maturing, ups, downs, and fellowship. I wouldn’t change a single one of those years (except maybe to add time to my senior year). So, I’m about to take you on a quick reflection on the last four years.
Freshman year: Oh boy. What a big step. I remember walking into my first day of high school as a little immature and scared kid. Now it didn’t take me long to get comfortable, but it was a little nerve-racking for awhile. As I told a friend a few weeks ago, I made some mistakes almost right off the bat. I let the people I was around and my own selfish ambitions shape who I was becoming, how I talked, and how I thought. Somewhere along the right I got back to who I was and I remembered Who I represented. God made me (and everyone of you) for a particular purpose. I forgot that for a time. Freshman year is when I started strengthening the friendships I began over my elementary and junior high career. I lost some friends, but I guess that happens.
Sophomore year: Honestly, I dont recall much of my sophomore year. At least, nothing major really stick out for me. This was the first time I spoke at church though! That was more nerve-racking than my first day of high school for sure!
Junior year: Wow. This was probably the hardest year I had academically. I was so busy with classes that legitimately challenged me. My intention here is not to brag, but school has always come fairly easily for me. I make good grades and most of what I learn will stick with me for quite awhile. Junior year was a test and I passed. I continue to do well in school and make friends. Some of those friends that made a lasting impact on me will be discussed in a minute. Junior year is really when I started maturing both as a person and in my faith.
Senior year: This year was different than all the rest. I took a couple dual credit classes at a local university. That was a great experience! I also spent a lot of time in the front office (my school as a class where I got to work in the front office). I’m extremely glad I chose to do that (again I’ll tell you more about that in a moment). This year was incredibly fun and exciting! I met some new friends, I made a college decision, and obviously graduation was huge! As for my college decision, I will be attending Moody Bible Institute in Chicago with the intent of going into some sort of ministry field after college. I have to do my first year online because of limited space on campus, but I have a good shot of moving to Chicago in the Fall of 2015.
Friends that made a lasting impact: Now don’t get me wrong. I have a ton of friends that I will never forget. The thing is, if I wrote about all of them, I might as well write a book. I could fill pages. I’ll spare you the time and effort by just writing about a few that are really the closest to me.
First, my brother and I have really formed the relationship brothers should have. We used to fight a lot as kids. We didn’t get along. Yes, it’s normal for sibling to quarrel. But, we just never got really close until around my eighth grade year. Maybe even my freshman year. The point is, now we are best friends. We set aside what was hindering our relationship from progressing and allowed our faith in Jesus to shape our friendship. I love Joey and I’m grateful for the relationship we have now.
I have another friend named Craig. I’ve knew Craig a little bit in elementary because we played on the same sports teams and of that good junk. He didn’t go to the same school though until eighth grade. What I love most about my friendship with Craig is the fact that I’ve gotten the opportunity to watch him grow in his walk with Christ. I don’t claim to have any huge part in that growth, but I’ve been completely delighted when we have had the opportunity to discuss the Word and I’ve been delighted when he has had questions about God that I was able to give him an answer to. He’s really been an encouragement to me through the years! He knows what it takes, or rather Who it takes to live the Good Life. He’s got a bright future ahead of him.
Like Craig, I’ve knew the next guy just a little in elementary. Trace also came to my school in eighth grade. Trace is an incredible athlete! I know if he works hard, he can achieve a lot both in life and in his future athletic endeavors. Through high school, Trace and I would poke fun at each other (always in a friendly way, of course!), but he has also been an encouragement. Just watching how hard he works to be the best he can be is what has encouraged me the most. I wish him nothing but the best!
The next friend is Drake. To be quite honest and a little blunt, Drake is good at aggravating people. It isn’t often I show frustration and anger in public, but at times Drake has successfully brought it out of me. And on purpose I might add! Regardless, he quickly became one of my best friends. Even though we spent much of our time together joking with each other, he’s always been a person I could talk to just to get things off my chest. All of these friends that I have listed (and the last one I will list) are people I can talk to if I need to. We’ve both share a love for golf. Now, Drake is better at golf than I’ll ever be, but I still enjoy the game. I remember one particular time on the golf course, we had a pretty serious discussion in which we basically shared some of the history in our lives. I won’t get into the actual conversation we had because it was just a talk between he two of us. However, the point is that that is a moment that really stuck out to me.
Finally, the last friend I’m going to talk about. I’ve rambled enough. :) I met this girl for the first time this year. In the front office. Yep. Remember that blow off class I was talking about? It ended up being a bigger blessing than I thought possible. Saylor is an all-around incredible person. Just about every time I’ve been around her, she either laughing at random things, smiling about something, or blankly staring at me because I said something incredibly stupid. Many times this year when I’ve been stressed or down about something, she’s been able to lift me up just because of her attitude. She didn’t know it of course, but just being around her often brightened my day. I looked forward to that time in the office every day just because of the fun and uplifting time I knew was coming. I’ve only known Saylor for a year, but I’m glad I met her and I thank God for her daily. I hope we can continue to grow closer as individuals.
I thank God for all of these relationships I have managed to make over the years. God is good! My time in high school has shaped me and matured me into the person I am now. My faith has grown tremendously as well! Again, there are many more friends I could talk about, but time would not permit me to do so. I sincerely hope to remain in contact with all of the ones I listed as I enter my college career and beyond. I know many classmates and other relationships formed in high school often lose contact after one or both people graduate. It’s just a fact of life. But you can bet that I will do everything within my power to keep in contact with my friends.
I think this verse fits well for the relationships God has blessed me with:
“Two are better than one,
because they have a good return for their labor:
If either of them falls down,
one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls
and has no one to help them up.”- Ecclesiastes 4:9-10
Originally posted on Inspirational Christian Blogs:
I received a request to post a written copy of the sermon I preached tonight! God completely took over this sermon! People were literally healed, set free, and slain in the Spirit. What I got to witness tonight was incredible and I can’t express how happy I am that God allowed me to participate in this. He is a God of awesome power. And as I witnessed so powerfully tonight, miracles still happen. We just have to believe!
Mark 5:21- 43:
“When Jesus had crossed over again in the boat to the other side, a large crowd gathered around Him; and so He stayed by the seashore. 22 One of the synagogue officials named Jairus came up, and on seeing Him, fell at His feet 23 and implored Him earnestly, saying, “My little daughter is at the point of death; please come and lay Your hands…
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We’ve all fallen, haven’t we? We’ve all had bad days. Problems in life. Stress. Confusion. We all just have struggles in general. It’s in those times that we feel like we can’t get to God. Our problems and our struggles hold us back from communing with Him. However, Psalm 51:17 tells us something different:
“The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
A broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.”
As David is writing this and praying this, he knows that all he can offer God is a broken heart. Because, honestly, that’s all we have. Our heart, our soul is the only thing we really own. Everything else will stay behind when you enter eternity. So, the only thing we can truly offer God is our heart. That’s not much, is it? I don’t know about you, but I don’t think I’m anything special. I know that I’ve failed time and time again. The thing is, God accepts what we offer him when we do it with everything we have. When we really mean it, He eagerly accepts our offerings. And they thrill Him because that’s all He wanted in the first place. He wants fellowship with the very people He gave the breath of life.
I hope this short post has encouraged you tonight! God bless!
“Well my love is over
It’s in between
The times that you’re healing
And when your heart breaks
The times that you feel like you’ve fallen from grace
The times you’re hurting
The times that you heal
The times you go hungry and are tempted to steal
In times of confusion
In chaos and pain
I’m there in your sorrow under the weight of your shame
I’m there through your heart-ache
I’m there in the storm
My love I will keep you by my power alone
I don’t care where you’ve fallen or where you have been
I’ll never forsake you
My love never ends”- Tenth Avenue North
This is a video journal I did for Christmas.
This is a research paper I did for my Biblical Literature class. I think it’s also a good teaching opportunity on a debated topic. I may use it in a sermon or to teach a Sunday School class as well. Enjoy!
Throughout the Old Testament, the Angel of the LORD appears in various places to various people. The appearance of the Angel almost always preceded a major turn of events in Old Testament stories. We see this “Angel” in the book of Judges frequently. The identity of the Angel has long been debated. Some say this is just simply a messenger sent from God, but others argue this is a pre-incarnate form of Jesus Christ. Both sides have presented suggested evidence to support their theories. Most of the claims are based on grammatical usage in the text. Does the Bible ever directly tell us who the Angel is? What does the Biblical evidence say about the Angel?
The word “angel” comes from the Greek word, άγγελος. This means “messenger” or “one who is sent” (White, “Angel of the LORD: Messenger or Euphemism”, 299). We know that Jesus was sent directly by God as seen in John 8:29. It is important to note that the Angel of the LORD doesn’t speak in third person, as other messengers seem to do. The Angel speaks in first person as if he is God. Judges 2:1a is an example this: “The angel of the LORD went up from Gilgal to Bokim and said, “I brought you up out of Egypt and led you into the land that I swore to give to your forefathers.” The Angel is talking as God and not just for God. This happens time and time again throughout the Old Testament. The Hebrew for angel and messenger is used 213 times in the Old Testament. The phrase for “Angel of the LORD” is used 48 times in 45 verses in the Bible. We also see people giving the Angel reverence that usually only God receives. For example, in Joshua 5:14-15 we find Joshua fall “facedown” and taking off his sandals before the Angel. (White, “Angel of the LORD: Messenger or Euphemism”, 300-301). This would imply that the Angel is more than just a messenger if Joshua is responding in worship to him.
In Genesis 18, Abraham gets three visitors. The text describes one of the three as “the LORD.” The other two are believed to just be angels. However, the text indicates that one of the men is God himself, a theophany (Pak, “BIB 110 Lecture Notes”, 22). If these people saw God face-to-face, why did they not die like God suggested in Exodus 33:20? The answer is simple. Either the Angel is not God or God came in the form of the Son (pre-incarnate). That would make this a Christophany in the Old Testament.
Daniel 3:25 also seems to have an appearance of Christ. King Nebuchadnezzar sees a fourth man in the fiery furnace after Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego was thrown in for not worshipping the image of gold. When Nebuchadnezzar sees the fourth man he exclaims, “Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.” It is after that the Nebuchadnezzar seems to recognize the God of Israel as at least legitimate because he addresses the three men as “servants of the Most High God.”
Finally, we go to Exodus to look at the Angel appearing to Moses. In Exodus 3, the Angel of the LORD appears to Moses in a burning bush. The Angel actually says this in verse 6 which seems to be a clear hint of the Angel’s identity: “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob” (“Fire Bible”, 410).
The case against the Angel being Divinity doesn’t seem to be as strong. Again, the scholars that say the Angel was only a representative of God use grammar and other linguistic evidence, and custom in the text to support their theory. The main argument is that saying the Angel is deity creates a problem for monotheists, such as the Jewish audience of the Old Testament (López, “Identifying the Angel of the LORD in the Book of Judges…” 15). However, we see the Godhead at work from the beginning. The claim is that the text clearly distinguishes the Angel from Yahweh.
This research project has further confirmed what I already had a strong belief in. The appearances of the Angel of the LORD are indeed pre-incarnate appearances of Jesus Christ. The Biblical evidence is overwhelmingly in favor of this. I even believe that God told us exactly who the Angel is on more than one occasion. There are a few Christophanies in the New Testament, too. Even though none of them are described as “the Angel of the LORD,” Jesus is the one who appears. Take the example of Saul’s conversion to Christianity while on the road to Damascus. Jesus appears to Saul, later known as Paul, in the same dramatic way that the Angel of the LORD reveals himself in the Old Testament (Newman, “Israel’s God and Rebecca’s Children…”, 155). Christ’s appearance to Saul also brings about a major turn of events just like the Angel of the LORD did in the Old Testament. The people the Angel appears to also fall in worship when they realize who he is as well. Other angels told the people to not worship them. Along with the textual evidence, the Angel’s claims and messages indicate that the Angel of the Lord is actually a pre-incarnate Jesus Christ. God had a plan from the very beginning and he has always uses the Son to fulfill the plan.
I’m going to write a different type of article than I usually do. I am going to write about my views on Obamacare, one of America’s hottest political topics right now. I believe Christians should not shy away from being involved in government affairs, but should be active while reflecting Christ. I’m not saying Christian should completely run government, I’m just simply saying that if you are a Christian, I think you have a duty to be educated and somewhat involved in your government. Not to mention it is our American duty to at the very least vote for our leaders.
First, let me say that the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) has already begun to negatively impact my family. I don’t want to get into that right now, but your prayers would be appreciated.
Now, let me say that the Affordable Care Act should have never been passed. The bill originated in the Senate, which makes it unconstitutional. The reason is that this was a spending bill. Those, according the our Constitution, have to originate in the House of Representatives. The Senate just simply categorized it as a separate type of bill.
Next, I would like to ask a question. If Obamacare is so great, why doesn’t congress want any part of it? Before the shutdown a couple of weeks ago, the House proposed 3 or 4 different resolutions to avoid the shutdown. One of those was that government would be fully funded, but an amendment would be made to the ACA. That amendment would take away the exemption for Congress. The Democrats in the Senate just threw it out. So, Congress passes a law, that they refuse to live by. Senator Ted Cruz from Texas led the charge to save America from Obamacare in the Senate. What’s supposed to happen is that Congress will pass a law AND live by that law whether it’s good or bad. Not in this case. We can not have that from our politicians.
At this point I’d like to focus the attention to the government shutdown that ended earlier this week. Before I start on this point, please keep in mind I’m not placing all blame on Democrats. Republicans were at fault too. However, President Obama and Democrats in the Senate took Republicans hostage during this shutdown. Here’s some points for the government shutdown:
- President Obama lied.
- Democrats refused to negotiate.
- President Obama lied again.
Let’s start at the negotiations, or lack thereof. From what I saw, the Republicans (particularly those in the House) tried to compromise. But Speaker Boehner and others was also trying to represent the American people. I usually don’t complement the Speaker because he has been to weak in the past, but he was tough over the last three weeks. I appreciate that. President Obama kept saying he was willing to negotiate and compromise with anyone, yet he told the Speaker that he would NOT negotiate with him. Basically it’s his way or the highway.
Now, Obama also said that we would default. Well, there’s a problem. Constitutionally, the United States is required to pay her debts. The only way that we would default is if the President told the Secretary of the Treasury to not pay our debts. That would be an impeachable offense.
I could start on how much of a wreck the Obamacare website is, but I’d rant for another thousand words.
Our federal government has lied to the People. The federal government has become way too invasive. When 2014 and 2016 comes around, the American people need to elect fiscally conservative politicians. Today, we broke the $17 Trillion mark on our national debt. It will just keep growing from this point. Here’s to hoping Congress works out a budget deal before the next “crisis” happens early in 2014.
This post is open for discussion as long as you can keep yourself respectful.
The topic I’m about to discuss if very controversial. If you commit suicide, will you go to Heaven? I’ve heard both sides of the argument on this one. Here’s what I believe.
“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoeverbelieves in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.” -John 3:16, 17
This passage makes it very clear that whoever believes in the Son of God, will have eternal life. So if you commit suicide, will you go to Heaven? If you have accepted Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior, if you have faith in Him, then yes you will go to Heaven. If not, then you would have just sent yourself to Hell. Did I just say that if you kill yourself you can still go to Heaven? Yes. Suicide’s a sin, but here’s the thing: Jesus hasn’t just paid for your sins from the past. He doesn’t just forgive every time you ask. If you are truly in Christ, he has forgiven ALL of your sins….past, present, and future. He doesn’t wait for you to ask forgiveness every time (you should still do that though). Your sins are already forgiven. He already has paid for them.
I’m not condoning suicide by any means. “Suicide doesn’t prevent a life from getting worse, it just prevents it from getting better.” However, sometimes even Christian lose sight of what’s ahead and get desperate. We’re still human. I have to believe that God’s grace extends to those who take their own life. If God’s grace can redeem a murderer like King David, it can still reach someone who took their own life.
That’s my answer. If you are in Christ and you commit suicide out of a moment of desperation, I have to believe you will still go to Heaven.
If you are having suicidal thoughts though, I would encourage you to seek help from a godly friend, counselor, or minister. Jesus can set you free from the bondage of these thoughts. Keep your eyes on the King.
So many who come to faith in Christ seem to want to return to where they were before. Why? They think it was better or “more fun” to live in slavery to sin. As I have shared before I call this place a “Christian’s Spiritual Egypt.” Obviously I am referencing when Israel wanted to return to slavery in Egypt instead of continuing to the Promised Land. They thought they’d be safer and more comfortable there. So a Christian (I am not referring to all believers) thinks their old life was better and they want to return. They want to return to their slavery to sin. That comes from a lack of trust in God which is exactly what the Israelites were suffering from at the particular time I’m referencing. My message here is to those Christians who are on the fence. I pray the Holy Spirit draws you close before you fall back into the vicious cycle of an utterly sinful life.
“How long will you waver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him.”- 1 Kings 18:21
In this passage of scripture Elijah is establishing to the people of Israel this same message that I’m trying to give to you: You can’t truly serve more than one god. You need to either choose the One True God or you can choose the worthless gods who will do nothing for you. I’m talking about money, popularity, power, sex, relationships, etc. Those are all idols when you put them before serving the Lord.
Elijah isn’t the only one who spoke this message in the Bible. Jesus told us that we can’t serve two masters. We’ll hate one or the other (Matthew 6:24). Sin is rebellion against God. And that is ultimately hatred towards God. Also, God can’t go against his own character. If you choose to live in slavery to sin, God will be forced to withdraw His presence, His Holy Spirit from you. We saw that happen to Israel’s first king, Saul.
“Now the Spirit of the LORD had departed from Saul…”- 1 Samuel 16:14
Saul chose to disobey God and lead a life of rebellion. He paid the price for it. God doesn’t change, so He is required to do the same today because He is just.
Sin is so deceiving and it sneaks up on you like a predator. You begin to tolerate one little thing and that gives a foothold for the enemy. Sin then slowly takes over your life. Finally, you feel trapped and you can’t get out. No matter how much you want to and how much you try you can’t. I’ve been there. Then, if you don’t confess your sin to the Lord and repent, you begin to love your sin and you’re back to where you were before Christ. Finally, you’ll begin to plunge deeper and deeper until you are destroyed by your sin unless you turn back to Christ. That is the downward spiral of sin.
“How come every time we buy into and idol, we’re the ones that get devoured?”- Jefferson Bethke
Because as Jefferson Bethke states in the video I just quoted, “An idol takes, it never gives.” When you’re so wrapped up in what people think of you that you’ll do anything to gain their acceptance, you are a slave to acceptance. You have now put that before God. It’s the same way with anything else. Popularity isn’t bad, unless you turn it into an ultimate. Money isn’t bad until it’s turned into an ultimate. What are your idols?
“This day I call the heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live”- Deuteronomy 30:19
Life is found in Jesus Christ. Death is found in sin and the ways of the world. It’s as simple as that. Your choice. No one else can make it for you. God’s not going to force you to choose life, but he wants you to. If you turn your heart away from God and choose to be disobedient and serve your idols, you will surely be destroyed (Deuteronomy 30:17-18). Choose life (that is: Jesus) today.
You know who you are. If you are on the fence and are falling into the idol trap, you haven’t gone too far. The grace of God can reach you. No matter what you’ve done you can be made new. If you repent and turn back to your faith in Christ, you will be saved. God promises us that. If you have been ensnared by sin, pray to God and repent now. Don’t wait. Do whatever measures it takes to crush your idols.
Make this declaration:
“As for me and my house, we will serve the LORD”- Joshua 24:15
Here is the video of Jefferson Bethke that I quoted. This poem is inspired by what true manhood is, but I believe everyone can get something out of this.
God bless you!
I’ve noticed that so many Christians immediately confront the sins of unbelievers when they attempt to evangelize them and advance the Kingdom of God. I ask, “Is that the right approach?” The answer is really quite simple: No. It is not the right approach. And I’m going to tell you why. Let’s begin with a passage for Scripture that everyone knows.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”- John 3:16
Most of us know what this means. Out of an unimaginable love for His Creation, God sent His Son, Jesus, as a sacrifice for mankind. This sacrifice would allow us to experience a right relationship with God. We now had free access to the Father. We could walk right into the Holy of Holies. We no longer need a middle-man (priest). Now look at the next two verses.
“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.” -John 3:17-18
Jesus didn’t come to condemn the world. We see this in John 8.
1 But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. 2 At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. 3 The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group 4and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. 5 In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” 6 They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.
But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. 7 When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them,“If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8 Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.
9 At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. 10Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”
11 “No one, sir,” she said.
“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”- John 8:1-11
Let me transition for a minute and talk about this passage.
In thier effort to trap Jesus, the Pharisees actually twisted the law. The law would require both parties involved in the adultery to be killed. They only brought the woman. This was likely a set up by the Pharisees. Jesus answered in such a way that he could not be accused of anything. If he would have completely dismissed the case, then the authorities could have accused him of not supporting the Jewish law. He still spoke of throwing stones, but prevented them from taking the matter into their own hands.
We also, however, need to be careful that we don’t use Jesus’ words to justify sin in the CHURCH. The Word teaches that blatant sins committed by those within the CHURCH are not to be tolerated. These issues should be confronted and exposed by God’s loving grace. Notice the emphasis on “Church.” It’s important.
I also want to look at the second part of verse 11 above: “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”
Jesus’ whole attitude in this situation amazes me when I read this. It reflects his purpose of forgiving sins and restoring people’s relationship with God. He doesn’t condemn her because she is unfit for forgiveness. Instead, he treats her kindly and with mercy in order to lead her to repentance. Don’t get me wrong. Jesus doesn’t look on sin lightly, but he gives us the opportunity to turn from our sinful ways and live as part of God’s Kingdom.
How many times do we, as Christians, exclude people from the Cross because we believe their sins are too great? By doing that we are saying what Jesus did wasn’t good enough to save them. That just drives people away from Jesus! That’ s beyond wrong. Sadly, I’ve caught myself doing that before. I just pray that I don’t exclude people from salvation. I have to remind myself that I still sin and at one point I was just like them.
Now you may be asking something like “Where are you going with this?” or “Why the emphasis on ‘Church’?”
The Holy Spirit is NOT concerned with the sin of the unbeliever as we see it. He is concerned with the unbelief. The reason why is because it is the belief or the faith in Christ that will save us (John 3:16, 18). Verse 18 makes it clear that unbelief is what will condemn you to hell. When they come to a saving relationship with Christ, that is when the Spirit will begin the process of sanctification (which is a life-long process). When an unbeliever come to believe in Christ, that’s when the Spirit will begin to address the sin in that life. So our job as believers is to help lead unbelievers to a belief in Christ. It is not to condemn them for our sins. That will do nothing because they don’t have the Spirit to convict them yet.