Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Seth Sowah, Minister of Music @ CCQF


Worship in Spirit & Truth By Seth Sowah, CCQF Minister of Music

WORSHIP IN SPIRIT AND IN TRUTH
This happened in one of Michael Jackson’s concert:

Every once in a while, as the cameras panned out to show the fans response to Michael, you’d see tens and thousands of people holding on to every word Michael was saying, completely fixated, almost obsessed on Michael. Every zoom depicted people crying, reaping out their hair because of Michael. People were being pulled over the security rails by the guards because they had fainted, and passed out because of Michael. Wow! What was that? They were worshipping him; a man that would never do anything for them, wouldn’t provide for their needs or bless them. But they worshipped him.

But in church, during the 5 or 15 minutes we’re called to worship God who does provide every need in our lives and bless us, who does really love us and died and took all our sins upon Himself on the cross, we don’t even sing! If our favorite artist comes on the radio, we sing and dance to every word. If someone talks about President Trump, we get all worked up over him. Everything else gets pushed aside when our favorite sports team and show comes on TV. But when it comes time to worship God who created and saved our lives, we stand as if we have no life. We are on our phones, texting or scrolling through our social media feed, having conversation with the next person; most of us.

Perhaps we don’t know what worship is. So what is it?
Worship is an activity of glorifying God in His presence with our voices and our hearts. Everyday of our lives should be an act of worship. The reason we converge here is to worship God collectively. Worship is therefore the direct expression of our purpose for living. A direct display of our inward beliefs; we are commanded to do it! It is a privilege, an honor, our proper response to God. The more we get to know Him, the better we do it. But how do we do it? What makes it awesome? Is it the band or the instruments? If the singing is bad, or wrong, is that worship?

Do we worship in Spirit and in Truth? When we sing, do you think about God or how you sound? Or the people around us? Are you completely focused on Him, or is your mind elsewhere?

In John 4 : 20 - 24, Jesus uses 4 words; in Spirit in Truth.
The Jews believed the Temple David built in Jerusalem was the proper location for worship. And the Samaritans believed Mt Gerizim was the proper location.
To this, Jesus explains it’s neither on the Mountain nor in Jerusalem... but in Spirit and in Truth. The real issue is not WHERE but HOW. We have similar issues today in the church. Some churches say hymns. Other churches say contemporary. Some, a choir. Others, a band, solo or acapella. Some churches prefer piano to organ. Charismatics raise their hands in worship, but in other churches, you can’t even sneeze. 

In Spirit doesn’t even sound like something we can do. It sound like an out of body experience. What it simply means, however, is to have a Spiritual life, and be regenerated by the Holy Spirit. That is what happens when we are born again. IF YOU DON’T HAVE A SPIRITUAL LIFE, YOU CAN’T WORSHIP IN SPIRIT. We must pray for the Holy Spirit to enable us worship correctly, with our whole heart engaged according to Roman 12 : 1. Nothing should grab your attention during worship. In Matthew 15 : 8, there are those who honor God with their lips, but with hearts far from Him. Always remember, the heart of the matter is the matter of the heart.

It is possible for our whole heart to be engaged but not in Truth. What is Truth?
In Truth means with true hearts, sincere; you mean it. Not just going through the motions. Do it because it’s true, genuine, real and authentic. It also means according to the Word of God, the Gospel; that we believe and trust that Jesus is Lord! In John 14 : 6, Jesus declared He is the Way, the Truth, and the Light... It is only through Him we have access to the Father.
Do you worship in Truth? Do you mean it, trusting who Jesus said He is? Do you believe the words you sing? Is your worship all about Him? OUR AUDIENCE IS JUST ONE; JESUS. Your voice can be bad and not scaled, but if you worship in Spirit and in Truth, you are a true worshipper!

In jail, according to our first scripture reading, Paul and Silas were set free as they prayed and worship. Jehoshaphat led the Israelites in praise and worship around the walls of Jericho and won the Victory. In a dispensation where the only way to approach God was through the blood of animals, David discovered a better way; he said enter His gates with thanksgiving and into HIS courts with praise. (If you did not enter with thanksgiving in your heart this morning, take a moment, step out and come back in with thanksgiving in your heart) 😊 David’s only qualification to the throne was that he was a worshipper. David was just a boy but God called him a man after His heart, and made David a king. Your worship will do for you what prayer alone will not do immediately

To worship God in Spirit and in Truth means worship that comes from the spirit within and based on true views of God. Your emotions and thoughts must be engaged.
GOD SEEKS SUCH. Is that you?

Friday, October 20, 2017


DO NOT WORRY ABOUT YOUR LIFE


Once upon a time two men held a conversation:

“I have a mountain of credit card debt”, one man told another. “I have lost my job. My car is being repossessed and our house is in foreclosure, but I am not worried about it.  No, I’ve hired a professional worrier. He does all my worrying for me, and that way I don’t have to think about it.”

 “That’s fantastic!” his friend replied.  “How much does your professional worrier charge for his services?”
“$50,000 a year”, the first man answered. “$50,000 a year? Where are you going to get that kind of money?” “I don’t know”, responded the first man.  “That’s his worry.”

 

From today’s reading from the SERMON ON THE MT., Jesus says, , please repeat after me, “ Do not worry//about your life.”

 

EASY TO SAY.  HARD TO DO. For Americans living in the 3rd millennium ---we are a people bombarded by stress, anxiety, and worry, according to one author reporting on recent polls. He writes,

·       43% of all adults suffer health effects due to worry and stress.

·       75% - 90% of all visits to primary care physicians are stress & anxiety related complaints or disorders.

·       ·        Worry has been linked to all the leading causes of death including heart disease, cancer, lung ailments, accidents, cirrhosis and suicide.

 

Wow.  That’s a lot anxiety.

 

It think it’s safe to say that most of us expect some short term and minor anxieties, which we typically face in a normal day of life. Most of the time, we can deal with them,  using our own personal resources and coping skills.   But the type of anxiety that Jesus is discussing  is what I call MAJOR WORRIES.    The English word “worry” is actually rooted in old English and German words, which mean to “strangle,” or to “choke.”

 

When faced with upon problems, which we cannot  resolve with our own efforts and resources, many of us frequently react with “life choking worry.”

·      For example--declining health and disease, like cancer, heart trouble, Alzheimer’s may threaten us, or those we love.

·      Or think of the many, many dangers that our children face, including drug & alcohol abuse, car accidents, predators, immorality, and the like.

·      Financial concerns and loss of employment, in a very uncertain economic climate, can cause us to worry. 

·      Caring for infirmed parents or spouses can be worrisome—just wondering if you have the strength to carry on.

 

The potential dangers we face are real---but what about our many unnecessary worries, that are self-imposed?  I am convinced that many of us, including me, have lost many precious years of our lives by overindulging in unnecessary anxiety and worry.

 

Unnecessary worry has happened in my life when a potential or real problem emerges, and I ponder it , in my mind, mushrooming the problem into some catastrophic disaster. So, there was a time in my marriage when my wife and I would had a knock down, dragged out fight, and we stopped talking to each other . I began worrying that we would divorce. While that was a genuine fear of mine, it was not entirely realistic.  The truth is, there is conflict in all  healthy marriages, which never results in divorce. But by anxious spinning out the worse case scenario, I denied the power of God and the commitment of my to me. 

 

·      In this, and in many other ways, Anxiety had taken over like some bully tinhorn dictator. Well, that was it.  I had had it.  I wanted to over throw that dictator, and put Jesus back on the throne of my life, where he belonged.  So, I decided to take some action.  Now, it didn’t happen quickly.  Indeed, there were lots of fits and starts over the years, involving prayer and many conversations with my loved ones, friends, and a therapist. But eventually, the Lord led me to win over worry. And there were three major factors that led to that victory: 

 

1.  FIRST, SOME OF US NEED NEW PRIORITIES.   Across our whole culture, too many of us are consciously or unconsciously on a quest for materialism, which adds unnecessary anxiety to our lives. Materialism is doomed to let us down, because the love of things can separate you from loving God. 

·        Jesus points out that some Christians are so worried about worldly rewards, riches, and pleasures, that they cannot hear God’s word.   They are like seeds, planted in the thorns, which are choked to death before bearing fruit. 

·        It’s interesting that the root word for “worry” in the Greek, means being of a double mind.  This is what Jesus means when he says, “No one can serve two masters.  Either he will hate the one, and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” Rather than elevating money to such an important place in our lives and being choked with worry, Jesus has a different idea.  He says, “Seek first my kingdom anomy righteousness, then all things will be added to you.”

 

 

2. SO, SOME OF US NEED NEW PRIORTIES, AND WE ALSLO NEED A NEW PERSPECTIVE.

Instead of living life, where we are whacked around by anxiety and worry, we need a champion who can help us. For some of us, we need to confess our excessive worry as sin, and receive God’s forgiveness.

 

When I choose to ask for God’s help in that way---most of the time, I begin to feel my burdens lifting.  

·      Would you please take out the tricolored insert, and look at the line in blue, on the right side of the center page:   Repeat after me, “Rest in my love.”  (REST IN MY LOVE.)   That comes from Jesus words, when he said, “Come unto me, all you who travail and heavy laden burdens, and I will lift your burdens, and give you rest.”   (Mt. 11:28) When I come to God in this way, I feel released from oppressive worry, because I have humbled myself before God, and articulated before Him and me, the true priorities of my life.

·      God’s word is so encouraging in helping to change our perspective from exhausting anxiety, to resting in faith.  Let’s look at another word: This one is printed in red, and is one the right hand center page, above the red tulips.  Please repeat after me, “Trust me, and I will not fail you in anyway.”

·      As each of us grows to more fully embrace God’s perspective that 'we are important to Him,' we will also learn to trust him more, and not be so anxious.

 

 

 And that leads to our third point of winning over worry, which is to remember and to receive GOD’S PROVISION.

·      Let’s look at the top right hand corner in blue, and read together, where God says, “I am your provider.”

·       Then let’s look at the very last line in blue on the page, saying together, “I will give you good gifts.”

·      And next let’s read the read line above the center, which is in red, “Nothing that is good will be withheld from you.”

·      The there is one last piece, in black at the top left side of the page.  Let us read in unison, saying, Do not be anxious about anything.”   That particular verse goes on to give us the antidote for worry.  Listen:  “DO NOT WORRY ABOUT ANYTHING, BUT IN EVERYTHING BY PRAYER AND SUPPPLICATION WITH THANKSGIVING, LET YOUR REQUESTS BE KNOWN TO GOD.”

 

      The key word in this section is “THANKSGIVING.”  Tell God you are thankful for what he has already given you.  If I give you a present, and you never thank me, can you expect me to give you another?  Giving thanks to God is a powerful force that acknowledges the truth that we proclaims every Sunday, “Praise God from whom all blessings flow.”

·       When we thankfully remember the ways He has already helped us, we find greater inner confidence to believe Him.   For the last while,  I have spent some of my prayer time listing ten or more things for which I am grateful to God---without repeating the same one two days in a row.  So, I can thank God  for a nice note that I just received; thank God for a beautiful day; and thank God that my new grass is growing.  But then I will thank God how He helps me to address issues and problems at church; thank God for you all; for my family; for all little and big things. Consequently, my heart is  not filled up with worry, but with faith.  Yes, I have anxieties like everyone else, but they no longer  dominate my life.  

 

So, three steps to diminishing anxiety involve perspective, priorities, and provision.   1) Get God’s fresh perspective; 2) set Godly priorities; and 3) remember & and receive God’s provision. 

 

You see, like the man in the story at the beginning of the sermon, God hired a man to take all your worries upon himself.  He carried them to the cross and died.

THEN HE rose from the dead, lifting those burdens for all who come to Him. Through Him you have been set free; AND THAT IS SOMETHING THAT YOU DO NOT HAVE TO WORRY ABOUT, THROUGH JESUS CHRIST OUR LORD.  AMEN.  

Friday, October 6, 2017

"Blessed arfe the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God."

Note:  This sermon was preached on Sunday, Oct. 8, the week following the sniper attack in Las Vegas, Sunday, Oct. 1.


This past week, people kept saying,

·       How could that happen?    Why did he do it?

·       Dumfounded by another senseless massacre of innocent people; we all know that we have previously been here, and many of us worry that we’ll cOme back here again.

But many faithful people, also ask another question:  “How could God let this happen?” Silence

·       Boy, when people are grieving and shocked, there is just no answer to that question. How could a loving and all powerful God let this happen? This seems to be just another example of how our world is going down the tubes.

·       Most of us feel powerless to stop it.  We just stand back in  horror, one more time.   And where is God?

You know, evil can take many forms. But this man of flesh and blood worked so hard to put this plan of massacre together---meticulously arranging the details.

·       And his brother, in absolute shock, says that he was just a normal guy.

·       Evil can be deceptive. Jesus warned of wolves in sheep’s clothing.

This massacre makes no sense, unless you factor in the problem of evil; indeed, those who try to make sense of such horror just go around and around in circles; because , as the bible says, nonbelievers cannot understand the workings of  spiritual world, which directly impact our material world.

The Bible tells us that the devil has been at work opposing God and murdering his children, ever since the dawn of time. And on God’s part, his heart has been broken by the cries of anguish from his children.  Since God is love, he does what we do. He cries.

·         The prophet Jeremaiah  quotes God saying, “Let my eyes run with tears, day and night let them not cease, for my hapless people have suffered a grievous injury, a very painful wound." Jeremiah 14:17 (JPS)

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One author puts it this way:

1. PRE-FLOOD in the times of Noah. "The Lord saw that the wickedness of humankind was great in the earth… and it grieved Him to His heart" (Gen. 6:5,6 NRSV). YES, GOD CRIED.

2.  EUROPE (1096-1100). During the crusades, Christian soldiers enroute to the Holy Land slaughtered Jews on the way. Some were herded into their synagogues. Cries of anguish shrilled unto heaven as the wooden structures were torched.   All this, plus the countless slaughter of Muslims; followed by the Muslims slaughtering Christians.   AND GOD CRIED

3.  EUROPE (1204-1799). Protestant blood flowed freely in Roman Catholic countries. The victims of the so-called "Holy Inquisition totaled in the millions. AND GOD CRIED.

4.  CHRISTIAN WORLD (1490-1850). Over 20 million Black Africans killed in Middle Passage on way to slave markets for purchase by white Christians.

 AND GOD CRIED.

5.  EUROPE (1941-1945). Six million Jews were hunted, hounded, driven, butchered, gassed and burned in the Holocaust. AND GOD CRIED.

6. HIROSHIMA (August 6, 1945). A single atomic bomb claimed 129,558 victims and terrified the world. AND GOD CRIED

q THE WORLD (1914- now)....an estimated 225 million were killed as a result of the insane policies of governments like Germany, Communist Russia, Cambodia, radical Isalamic terrorists, other horrors etc. AND GOD CRIES.

Then there are the personal tragedies of loved ones endured daily by hundreds of thousands—senseless death or mutilation on the highways, babies born physically deformed or mentally deficient and victims of senseless crime. Hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, earthquakes, and other disasters steal the lives of millions in their onslaughts of destruction and deprivation. Psychological tragedies of dysfunctional families, drug addiction and the multitudes of lonely, neurotic, homeless people in turn have left tens of thousands of families emotionally scarred. AND GOD CRIES.

Yes, these statistics fill the daily news, but only when they strike us or our loved ones are we overwhelmed with the pain of tragedy. Everyday these statistics have faces—millions of faces of real people shattered emotionally and mentally. The cries of sickness, sorrow, suffering and death encircle the globe. Not one of us can comprehend the enormity of the total sufferings of all humankind. Only God can and does see this humongous picture of human miseries. AND GOD CONTINUES TO CRY.

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So, we worship a God who shares our sorrows.  But crying is not his final word.  God decided to take defintitive action to defeat this evil. He sent the Mighty Warrior, Jesus Chirst, head of the Angel armies.  For God so loved the world, that He send His one and only Son, so that all who believe in Him would not perish, but have ever lasting life.”

·       Under Jesus, God is creating a force of resistence, whom he calls “peacemakers.” Please repat after me, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God.”

·       And God trains us not with guns and weapons , but with what the Bible calls the sword of His Word.  This training revolves around the changing of our own hearts—so  that we would be inspired to fully commit ourselves to his work.

What is his work?

·       As we heard today, instead of hating our enemies, we are to learn to love them the way that Jesus can inspire us to love.

·       Instead of nursing hatred and anger in our hearts, which is the root of violence,  we  seek Jesus to help us to forgive, the way He forgives us.

·       Instead of passively sitting by when we see conflict in our lives, we are to be reconcilers and peace makers.  Indeed, God’s Word says that we are to be Ambassators of reconciliation, so that Jesus can make his case to the world. through us.

God’s word also calls us to pray for peace. This past week, I was rather incensed to hear public figures ridiculing those of us take a moment of silence and who pray for those who were wounded and murdered.  They claim that “Prayer is simply an excuse for inaction. What we need is legislation.”  Well, I say to that that prayer is the best action.  Through prayer, we support God and his angel armies who are winning the battle against evil.

 

Because Jesus Christ, who was torutured and murdered, because He rose from the dead—the definitive battle has been won.  Jesus promises to return to defeat Satan and all his allies, sending them to hell where they belong.

·       Then, as we heard in today’s prophecy from Isaiah, Jesus, the prince of peace, will establish his kingdom of peace on earth, with good will for all people.

So, in the end, it comes back down to us.  Previously we have sung the old hymn, “Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me.”  I know that some of us think that this song is quite corny, but the lyrics tell the truth.  

And today, I have one concrete way that you can be a peacemaker. Inside you bulletin, you will see a homemade greeting card.  On the outside, it says  “I value you because…”  On the inside, it is blank so that you can write your message to the person of your choice.

·       I want to encourage you to use this card to reach out to someone for whom you care, someone with whom you may have lost contact, or someone with whom you have been estranged, or to someone  whom you need to forgive.

·       I have given out these cards previously.  One man in my last church sent this card to his estrange daughter.  This was the first step, which eventually resulted in reconciliation with her.

·       Indeed, this past week I sent a copy of this card to someone one, with whom I need reconciliation. Whether it works or not, I will seek to be a peacemaker, as Jesus leads me.

You can choose in small and large ways to be a peacemaker—you can even use your card.

Then, in our lives, the Peace of the Prince of Peace will bubble up; and Jesus will be glorified...and the world will be filled with the glory of God, as the waters cover the sea.

George Sarris as "Jesus" Sermon on the Mount

Did you miss George Sarris' one act play on "The Sermon on the Mount" on Oct. 1? You can view it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A21VdV9xITY
Many thanksto Andrew Peck for taping it.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

SERMON ON THE MT: Beatitudes, Part 1


It is my pleasure to announce the beginning of our  new sermon series on Jesus’ famous “Sermon on the Mount,” which may be found in the Gospel of Matthew, Chapters 5-7. This is Jesus’ quintessential proclamation that you are important to God, and that you, with Him, can change the world.  You see, Jesus was a change agent.  As we spiritually grow in our relationship with Him, he makes us change agents to bring His Kingdom values into our homes, neighborhoods, schools, churches, places of employment, and the like.  This is Jesus ambitious vision, which he lays out for all who have ears to hear.

Today we are discussing the first part of this sermon knowns as the “beatitudes.” The beatitudes is simply a Greek term for “becoming happy.”  Following the values of Jesus can make us, and our world, much much happier.

The ‘beatitudes” are meant to compare and to contrast with the 10 commandments, which we just recited.

·      Moses, the patriarchal figure of the Old Covenant, received the 10 commandments on the mountain of God, from which he announced them to his people as the way to be blessed.

·      Jesus, the patriarchal figure of the New Covenant, sits on the mountain and teaches his people about a new way to be blessed.

·       Jesus made it clear, elsewhere in the sermon on the mount, that he came not to abolish the law, but to fulfill the law through grace. His approach is totally positive in contrast to the “Dos” and “Do nots” of the 10 commandments.

·      The 10 commandments were laws given by a distant God. Whereas the beatitudes are positive attitudes meant to be voluntarily cultivated in our hearts, given by personal God in the form of the human Jesus.

Please open your bulletin to page _____, and let us look at the Gospel.   Does anyone notice anything different about the translation?

·      Yes, it says “happy,” where other translations say “blessed.”  Here is the deal.  In the Greek and Hebrew, the word “blessed” means, please repeat after me, “TO BE SET APRT FOR HAPPINESS.” Indeed, this is the title of our upcoming Small group study, which begins next week, where we will study the beatitudes in depth.

·      , favor. So, Jesus is speaking to his disciples, both then and now.  Disciples are those who have made a commitment to follow and to learn from Jesus. Jesus is saying that we are a people of privilege…we are a people of great privilege.  We are insiders in the 2000-year-old Jesus movement, and insiders of his grace.

So, let’s look at this Gospel verse by verse:

Would somebody read verse 3 for us? HAPPY ARE THOSE WHO KNOW THEY ARE POOR IN SPIRIT.  THE KINGDOM OF GOD BELONGS TO THEM.”

In 1989, I was standing on the Mt. of beatitudes in northern Israel, at the very spot where Jesus had preached the sermon on the mt.  I had heard the words of today’s gospel 100s of times, but on this occasion, it pierced my heart—and I felt loved.

·      “Happy are those who are poor in spirit…or, happy are those who know they need God. Why? Because it is only when we admit to God and to ourselves that we really need Jesus, that we can receive him.

·      Am I spiritually poor? Yes. I sin. I lie. I envy. I dishonored my parents. I made my career and idol, and put it above God and my family. Although to the world I may have looked like a strongman of faith, but inside I knew that I had tried to operate on my own power and not Jesus’

·      You see, we who are poor in spirit are empty without Jesus forgiveness and healing. By making that admission to God and ourselves, Jesus instantly and automatically comes by our side.

Okay, moving to verse 4, let us all read this in unison, saying, ’HAPPY ARE THOSE WHO MOURN, FOR THEY WILL BE COMFORTED.”

·      Think of all the millions of people who mourn man’s inhumanity to man.

·      Think of those Christian in the Middle east, who mourn the martyrdom of their loved ones at the hands of Islamic terrorists.  Think of the millions of refugees who mourn the loss of their homes.

·      Speaking of mourn the loss of their homes, think of the hurricane victims who have lost everything.

·      Think of ourselves, when a loved one dies; or a marriage dies; or when our dreams die, and the like.  How can we, who mourn, be happy?

Well, Jesus’ mission is comfort the grieving.  He does that when we come together to cry when it’s time to cry; to listen when mourners tell their stories; to visit when it’s time to visit; to pray when it’s time to pray; to give hope to the hopeless; and finally, to encourage our mourners to accept the reality of now, and to accept that there is new life in Jesus. Jesus is there is to help us resurrect from mourning, to find new life for the rest of our lives, and beyond.

·      And when you comfort those who mourn, you are doing the work of Jesus.

Moving ahead to verse 5, the meek are those who are content with their lives and what they have.  They are not people who will push the other guy aside, or stab him in the back, just to get ahead. They are not the folks who are so anxious about money, that they obsess about it and make it an idol.  Meekness does not mean you are weak.  Meekness means that you take a courageous stand against the rat race of the world, because you have found contented and peaceful way to live, inspired by your faith.

Looking at verse 6, let us read that together. ‘HAPPY ARE THOSE WHOHUNGER AAND THRIST FOR JUSTICE.  GOD WILL SATISFY THEM FULLY.’

 We look at the world, and see people starving because their crazy /evil dictator is spending all the nation’s money on build bombs.

We look at the corruption and selfishness in business and in government, realizing that others are receiving illegal preferential treatment at our expense.

When we seriously consider the millions of children who are hungry, both at home and abroad, many of us wonder if God will do anything.  And God’s word says, “Let justice roll down like a river, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.

What that means is that one day, the Lord will bring justice to the needy, and retribution to their oppressors.

Meanwhile, as we act with fairness towards all people, Jesus promises us that He will treat us fairly.

We must stop here for now; we will finish up on the beatitudes next Sunday.

But I want to direct your attention to this door picture, which has the 8 beatitudes printed on this.    To sum up what we have heard today, one might say, “Blessed are you when you are poor in spirit, when you mourn, when you are meek, and when you act and work for justice, because yours is the Kingdom of heaven.

·      So, this door, represents heaven.  The keys to open it here on earth are spiritual poverty, mourning, meekness, and doing justice, and the like.  This is how we will live together in heaven once we go to our reward.  Jesus is encouraging us start practicing now—so that we can find our heaven on earth.