Author Archives: Stephen Rodgers

Thy Redeemer

by Charles Haddon Spurgeon

Isaiah 54:5

Jesus, the Redeemer, is altogether ours and ours for ever. All the offices of Christ are held on our behalf. He is king for us, priest for us, and prophet for us. Whenever we read a new title of the Redeemer, let us appropriate Him as ours under that name as much as under any other. The shepherd’s staff, the father’s rod, the captain’s sword, the priest’s mitre, theprince’s sceptre, the prophet’s mantle, all are ours. Jesus hath no dignity which He will not employ for our exaltation, and no prerogative which He will not exercise for our defence. His fulness of Godhead is our unfailing, inexhaustible treasure-house.

His manhood also, which he took upon him for us, is ours in all its perfection. To us our gracious Lord communicates the spotless virtue of a stainless character; to us he gives the meritorious efficacy of a devoted life; on us he bestows the reward procured by obedient submission and incessant service. He makes the unsullied garment of his life our covering beauty; the glittering virtues of his character our ornaments and jewels; and the superhuman meekness of his death our boast and glory. He bequeaths us his manger, from which to learn how God came down to man; and his Cross to teach us how man may go up to God. All His thoughts, emotions, actions, utterances, miracles, and intercessions, were for us. He trod the road of sorrow on our behalf, and hath made over to us as his heavenly legacy the full results of all the labours of his life. He is now as much ours as heretofore; and he blushes not to acknowledge himself ‘our Lord Jesus Christ,’ though he is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords. Christ everywhere and every way is our Christ, for ever and ever most richly to enjoy. O my soul, by the power of the Holy Spirit! call him this morning, ‘thy Redeemer.’


Spring Up, O Well; Sing Ye Unto It

by Charles Haddon Spurgeon

Numbers 21:17

Famous was the well of Beer in the wilderness, because it was the subject of a promise: ‘That is the well whereof the Lord spake unto Moses, Gather the people together, and I will give them water.’ The people needed water, and it was promised by their gracious God. We need fresh supplies of heavenly grace, and in the covenant the Lord has pledged Himself to give all we require.

The well next became the cause of a song. Before the water gushed forth, cheerful faith prompted the people to sing; and as they saw the crystal fount bubbling up, the music grew yet more joyous. In like manner, we who believe the promise of God should rejoice in the prospect of divine revivals in our souls, and as we experience them our holy joy should overflow. Are we thirsting? Let us not murmur, but sing. Spiritual thirst is bitter to bear, but we need not bear it-the promise indicates a well; let us be of good heart, and look for it.

Moreover, the well was the centre of prayer. ‘Spring up, O well.’ What God has engaged to give, we must enquire after, or we manifest that we have neither desire nor faith. This evening let us ask that the Scripture we have read, and our devotional exercises, may not be an empty formality, but a channel of grace to our souls. O that God the Holy Spirit would work in us with all His mighty power, filling us with all the fulness of God.

Lastly, the well was the object of effort. ‘The nobles of the people digged it with their staves.’ The Lord would have us active in obtaining grace. Our staves are ill adapted for digging in the sand, but we must use them to the utmost of our ability. Prayer must not be neglected; the assembling of ourselves together must not be forsaken; ordinances must not be slighted. The Lord will give us His peace most plenteously, but not in a way of idleness. Let us, then, bestir ourselves to seek Him in whom are all our fresh springs.


The Blessing of Serving in Sparklers

by Arthur Wang

My wife and I have been serving in the Sparklers preschool ministry for two years, and with our utmost joy, we can say that God has used this ministry to grow us in the knowledge of God’s truth and in love for God’s people. It has been an incredible blessing to serve and teach.

The preschool ages are such a wonderful stage of a child’s life. As many know, they are also the most fundamental years in development. They are so energetic, silly, curious, and can be very receptive to teaching. In Proverbs 22:6, the Bible says “Train up a child in the way he should go, Even when he is old he will not depart from it.” If we establish a strong foundation for the gospel message in each child’s heart, our prayer is that God would use those seeds to someday save them. That said, our Children’s Ministry as a whole emphasizes seizing the time we have with them so that they may learn God’s Word while their parents are in service.

Teaching a group of 20 or so preschoolers can have its challenges. Any small distraction can lead to complete chaos during Sunday school lesson time. I naively thought in the beginning that it would be easier to teach to a preschool audience rather than an adult audience. Let’s just say God humbled me in a very big way. Preparing a lesson that did not dilute God’s Word and yet is understandable to a three to five-year old is no small feat. It involves many hours of preparation and creative ideas to engage the children, using age appropriate terminology. Teaching in Sparklers has taught me to be succinct and concise with God’s Word while at the same time not minimizing the valuable truths of the passages we go over each week.

It involves a lot of patience, love, and understanding the unique traits of each special soul. I pray more prior to when I am scheduled to serve. I pray that God would give me the strength and energy to be super enthusiastic around the children. They may be young, but they are also very perceptive and constantly observing. We need to be good testimonies with the aim to exemplify Christ-like behavior.

Some things I really try to emphasize are God’s attributes. For example, what does the story of Jonah tell us? It is not simply about Jonah, but it is about a forgiving God who gave Jonah not one, but multiple chances. In our lessons, I emphasize who God is (holy and just) relative to who man is (sinful and wretched). Even though there is a huge discrepancy between God and man, God lovingly provided His Son as the sacrifice on our behalf for the sin of all men. How amazing is that? We hope to clearly communicate our need of God to the children, being sure to remind them that we are sinners too.

Preschool-aged children, however small they seem, are capable of learning God’s truth by what we formally teach them during lesson time and by what they observe us say and do outside of teaching time.

Serving in Sparklers has been so much fun and a tremendous blessing. God has taught me that it is only by His mercy and grace that any of us are able to understand the great gospel truths in Scripture. We look forward to not only serve, but to grow alongside other Sparklers staff and the Sparklers’ parents as we continue to study and teach the amazing truth of God.

Renewing Our Minds for Rejoicing, Pt. 6 – “Think Accurately”

by Pastor James Lee

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. (Philippians 4:4-8)

To think well is to think accurately. We’re commanded to dwell first on “whatever is true”, not on whatever might be true, or whatever we’ve convinced ourselves to be true. But, we’re to dwell on the facts of who God is and what He’s promised, on what the gospel says about our reality. We’re to think accurately about our sinfulness and to think accurately about His amazing grace! Instead of thinking about whatever is true, instead of pondering, mediating, giving our fullest attention to, intentionally and carefully evaluating, and joyfully celebrating whatever is true… when we’re struggling with depression, when we’re not doing well spiritually, when we’re engaged in bitter unforgiveness like Euodia and Syntyche in v.2, whatever is true is exactly NOT what we’re dwelling on. Instead, we tend to dwell on our pride, our unmet expectations, our unfulfilled desires, our vindication, our very real hurts, our immediate relief, our reputation. We’re fixated on falsehood, or selected facts, and not on loving God and loving others. Satan likes to prey on weak minds, seeking to devour us and undermine the unity and witness of the local church. So, the command to think accurately in light of God’s Word is to combat the serious error of thinking only about what’s wrong. Thinking the worst of people and the worst of situations and the worst of our future, is NOT living in a way that takes God at His Word! We’re not consistently resting our hearts and minds with thankful, humble, reliant, prayerfulness and submission, as we see in v.6-7. Unfortunately, instead we’re either believing lies or inventing lies, or we’re trapped in the fear promoted by them, unwilling to trust God and serve others.

Our minds are a battlefield, but the key to our lives is our hearts. That battle rages for the conquest of our hearts. And the command center of our minds is involved in a very real spiritual war, so it’s not that we merely let “Jesus take the wheel”, but that we acknowledge His Lordship over all of us… including over our minds, especially how we think. He’s called us to actively, not passively respond. It’s not the heresy of “let go and let God”, but it’s dependent responsibility. Thus, we’re fully responsible for how we think.

Yes, we’re influenced, and not all of that is within our control. Nevertheless, no one puts a gun to our head to make us give into whatever worldly or false influence we currently choose to believe. To dwell on whatever is true, is to think accurately from the authoritative standard of God’s Word, especially in the context of our relationship with Him. John 17:17 declares, “Your word is truth.” The Greek word for “true” is truth in its broadest, most comprehensive sense, namely divine truth. So it’s not just parts that we like or that serve our self-exalting agendas, but it must be ALL of the truth of God! Truth begins and ends with the Lord. Anything and everything not in line with His truth is by virtue false and anti-Christ, and let every man be proved a liar. Therefore, it ends up proving self-destructive, though it promises happiness, never ruin?!

Godly living comes from godly thinking. That’s axiomatic. And the converse is true as well, ungodly living always comes from ungodly thinking. That’s why Paul commands us in Romans 12:2, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind.” That’s why John also commands us in 1 John 2:15-16, “Do not love the world or the things in the world (world here meaning anti-God world system not people or creation). If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world- the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions- is not from the Father but is from the world.” It may include good things that we make into idols when we elevate them above the Lord. So if we’re going to be cultivating contentment and joy in our lives, it can’t be divorced from what’s in our hearts and what’s in our minds. But all of us, every one of us, has pockets of bad theology. In different areas, we’re blind to unbiblical thinking. We need to be in a process of continually renewing our minds in progressive sanctification. That doesn’t happen once for all, like our justification, it’s ongoing.

The Bible is very clear that our lives are the product of our thoughts. Proverbs 23:7 states, “For as he thinks within himself, so he is.” Turn to Mark 7:20-23 “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.” In other words, garbage in, garbage out. What we think, what we say, how we act, reveals what’s in our hearts. And so does what we intake, what we eat, what we entertain, what we read, what we watch, what we think most about. In that sense, they expose us, not excuse us!

John MacArthur said,

“Paul’s call for biblical thinking is especially relevant in our culture. The focus today is on emotion and pragmatism, and the importance of serious thinking about biblical truth is downplayed. People no longer ask ‘Is it true? but rather ‘Does it work?’ and ‘How will it make me feel?’… Too many people go to church not to think or reason about the truths of Scripture, but to get their weekly spiritual high; to feel that God is still with them. Such people are spiritually unstable because they base their lives on feeling rather than on thinking.”

In his book, Your Mind Matters, the late John Stott adds,

“Indeed, sin has more dangerous effects on our faculty of feeling than on our faculty of thinking, because our opinions are more easily checked and regulated by revealed truth than our experiences.”

We can’t immediately control how we feel. For example, I can’t command you to, “Be sad, be happy, be angry”, as though we could flip a switch. Thus, in shepherding others, we exercise a certain patience and grace with people until their feelings catch up, so to be speak, to be in line with the truth. But the good news is that we can (and must) influence over time… how we think… and thus come to even impact how we feel, by biblical thinking.

Instead of thinking constantly about what we’re missing and who’s not giving it to us, we’re to think actively about how rich we are in Christ! His prophets, apostles, preachers, and the Lord Jesus Himself were always admonishing, “Do you not know, have you not heard, do you not understand?” No surprise, that Scripture describes the unsaved mind as depraved, fleshly, hostile to God, blinded by Satan, foolish, ignorant, defiled, but Romans 10:17 says faith comes from hearing the word of Christ! That’s really the beginning of the gift and opportunity of renewing our minds, our salvation! So if you’re a true Christian, you are able to do and enjoy something the rest of the world cannot. Yes, they can grow their intellect, but they can’t in of themselves, renew their mind. That’s the opportunity given to every single believer from day one! 1 Peter 1:13 exhorts us, “Prepare your minds for action!” We’re to love God with all our hearts, soul, strength, and MIND! Dr. Robert Somerville encourages us and invites us to rejoice, “The sphere, in which your joy as a believer exists, is totally unrelated to your circumstances of life or your feelings about them, but related to your unassailable, unchanging relationship to your sovereign Lord.” To think joyfully is the beginning of thinking accurately, and to think accurately is the joyful joy of thinking joyfully. Rejoice!

Weekly Links (9/4/2017)

by Stephen Rodgers

You all know the drill by now: new month, free stuff. Here we go:

  • Between Heaven & the Real World by Steven Curtis Chapman (free audiobook) – This appears to be the auto-ish-biography of a popular Christian singer. Some people might enjoy that, and if you’re one of them, it’s free this month.
  • NIV Application Commentary: Mark by David E. Garland (free Logos book) – There’s a free commentary this month if you happen to be a Logos user.
  • Soul Winning (free Tabletalk magazine) – Ok, so Tabletalk has gotten a bit more complicated. Apparently now it has its own website that you can peruse, which probably means that all the links we’ve gathered here for years are now going to break (they have a new archive link as well). Tabletalk is actually good enough that it’s worth fixing them instead of just deleting those posts though.
  • Themelios 42.2 (free journal) – Technically this came out last month, but I don’t remember if we sounded the trumpets or not. In any event, there’s a new edition of TCG’s journal available.


Help, Lord

by Charles Haddon Spurgeon

Psalm 12:1

The prayer itself is remarkable, for it is short, but seasonable, sententious, and suggestive. David mourned the fewness of faithful men, and therefore lifted up his heart in supplication-when the creature failed, he flew to the Creator. He evidently felt his own weakness, or he would not have cried for help; but at the same time he intended honestly to exert himself for the cause of truth, for the word ‘help’ is inapplicable where we ourselves do nothing. There is much of directness, clearness of perception, and distinctness of utterance in this petition of two words; much more, indeed, than in the long rambling outpourings of certain professors. The Psalmist runs straight-forward to his God, with a well-considered prayer; he knows what he is seeking, and where to seek it. Lord, teach us to pray in the same blessed manner.

The occasions for the use of this prayer are frequent. In providential afflictions how suitable it is for tried believers who find all helpers failing them. Students, in doctrinal difficulties, may often obtain aid by lifting up this cry of ‘Help, Lord,’ to the Holy Spirit, the great Teacher. Spiritual warriors in inward conflicts may send to the throne for reinforcements, and this will be a model for their request. Workers in heavenly labour may thus obtain grace in time of need. Seeking sinners, in doubts and alarms, may offer up the same weighty supplication; in fact, in all these cases, times, and places, this will serve the turn of needy souls. ‘Help, Lord,’ will suit us living and dying, suffering or labouring, rejoicing or sorrowing. In Him our help is found, let us not beslack to cry to Him.

The answer to the prayer is certain, if it be sincerely offered through Jesus. The Lord’s character assures us that He will not leave His people; His relationship as Father and Husband guarantee us His aid; His gift of Jesus is a pledge of every good thing; and His sure promise stands, ‘Fear not, I WILL HELP THEE.’


Rest for Moms

by Pastor Patrick Cho

A few weeks ago, we were pleased to have Pastor Mark Chin from Lighthouse San Jose come to speak for our annual Grace Life Weekend Conference. Mark addressed the theme of “Time, Work, and Rest: Ours or God’s?” The messages were timely, convicting, and extremely helpful. One of the principles Mark walked through was the importance of maintaining a time of spiritual rest amidst our hectic lives. A question that came up several times was: How can moms do this effectively when their responsibility to their children is seemingly endless? Here are some practical helps to consider:

  1. Turn Off Your Phone. This obviously does not apply to all mothers, but many who complain about not having time for the Word of God spend significant time on social media. Understanding that this seems outrageous in today’s culture, consider uninstalling Facebook and Instagram (or at least severely regulating your usage). Enjoy life’s moments without the incessant need to capture every one of them. You might be surprised at how much time this frees up!
  2. Maximize Nap Time. If you have young children, chances are they take at least one nap during the day. It is easy to utilize this time to catch up on chores and emails or even to nap yourself! But if you are one who really struggles with finding refreshing time in Scripture, take this time to spend with the Lord and feed your soul. You can discipline your children to help you with chores, but they cannot spend time with God for you.
  3. Go to Bed Earlier. God has designed us to need rest. He is the only one who neither sleeps not slumbers (Ps. 121:3-4). Implement a stricter schedule that will allow you to go to bed and wake up earlier. If it is not practical to spend time with the Lord before the children wake up, at least you will have greater energy throughout the day.

Any husband who has taken care of the kids while mom was away understands how incredibly challenging it can be. Whenever Christine goes out even for a little while, and I have to watch the kids, I can hardly get anything else done! This should clue you in to the fact that your wife needs a break from time to time. Dads, what are some ways you can provide your wives time alone to spend with the Lord or even to recuperate from the daily challenges of motherhood?

  1. Give Your Wife an Evening Off. If this can’t be weekly, then plan for at least twice a month. This time could be used to enjoy some much-needed fellowship with other ladies in the church, or it might best be spent going to a coffee shop to read her Bible and pray. Since you know that your wife needs these times to rest in the Lord and that she seldom gets time when she is home with the kids, this is a great way to serve her and encourage her faith.
  2. Institute a Quiet Time. Most families understand that with young kids there is hardly a quiet moment in the house. One thing fathers can do is to implement a quiet time in the evening before bedtime. Try starting with a fifteen-minute period and over time extending this to half an hour. The way this works is that you, your wife, and your kids enjoy some quiet reading time together before the kids go to bed. If your child is too young to read, they can work on a puzzle or draw, but they have to do it quietly. This might seem impossible for your kids, but with perseverance and discipline it could develop to be a refreshing oasis in an otherwise spiritually barren day.
  3. Weekend Retreat. Consider providing your wife a weekend retreat away with friends. One great way to implement this is to send your wife to a biblical women’s conference. Usually, groups from church will attend these conferences together. Plan ahead to clear your schedule and watch the kids. This also gives you a chance to have some extended quality time with the kids. Take them to the park, the beach, or the zoo. Or better yet, encourage them to help you clean the house or do chores to serve Mommy.

Introduction: Love

by Jenna Kim

“I love In-N-Out!”

“I love the Chargers!”

“I love your eyebrows!”

“I love this song!”

“Love” is a word we use a lot, which isn’t necessarily bad or linguistically heretical. But in an era of shouted superlatives, it’s too often much easier to spend more time occupying the space of innocent, facetious affections than that of the infinitely profound love of the divine.

Century after century, every pocket of humanity has attempted to define and elevate the swirly, ethereal concept of “love,” but ultimately every iteration is a mere echo (some echoes more perverted than others) of love’s original, defining source in the nature and person of God. This love is less easily confined to a cursory definition and better marveled at through the rich crescendo towards Calvary’s hill in the ultimate display of grace and mercy extended to the undeserving and in the living hope therein of future grace to come, and all this on top of the panoply of common graces enjoyed universally.

Now the love of God is something we sing about often. It’s a topic that’s seemingly basic “milk” compared to the big, meaty guns of controversial secondary issues and finer heady theological nuances. However, the number one issue underlying every human problem from relational discord to political discord comes down to a failure to love as we ought. It’s easy to love people in theory, or at least to say so.

  • But it’s not easy to love your roommate who isn’t aware that dishes should be washed.
  • It’s not easy to love your co-worker who schmoozes and weasels their way up the ladder.
  • It’s not easy to love your male significant other when he’s being denser than a brick.
  • It’s not easy to love your female significant other when she wrongly assumes upon your motives.
  • It’s not easy to love your screaming babies who don’t let you sleep more than minutes at a time.
  • It’s not easy to love your kids when they won’t stop fighting during vacation.
  • It’s not easy to love your teens when they treat you like an enemy.
  • It’s not easy to love the awkward wallflower that you’d rather avoid.
  • It’s not easy to love the abrasive jerk who always knows the wrong thing to say.
  • It’s not easy to love the selfish mooch who takes more than they give.
  • It’s not easy to love the needy person who always wants you when you’re busy.
  • It’s not easy to love the gossip who slanders you.
  • It’s not easy to love the former friend who betrays you.

If asked if we have anyone hard to love in our lives, it’s not hard to picture specific names and faces. But this is no surprise. We are a broken people living in a broken world, and love does not come naturally. But for the broken that have been redeemed, we have been immersed in an outpouring of divine love that forgives, welcomes, heals, and transforms. And for those who partake of this limitless reservoir, there is more than sufficient resource with which to love the unlovable.

Though a seemingly simple concept, there is much about love that we desperately need to reflect upon again and again. We know it’s more than feeling warm and fuzzy, but often fail to take actionable steps to move beyond that perspective. And while it’s certainly not easy, it’s an endeavor that ultimately will draw us closer to the One who first loved us. And just as sure as we become what we behold, our growing likeness to our Savior will be one that increasingly extends genuine compassion, care, and sacrifice to surrounding friends and foes alike.

In the coming months, we will be going through a four-part series on the practical outworking of love based on 1 Corinthians 13:7:

  • Part I: Love bears all things
  • Part II: Love believes all things
  • Part III: Love hopes all things
  • Part IV: Love endures all things

Brothers and sisters, we all fail to love as we ought on the daily, but thank God for His patient love which does not expire upon our stumblings, and thank God for His active love which works in and through us to slowly but surely grow in our resemblance to Christ.

Recommended Listening

Editor’s Note: This series is based on a number of sermons that Pastor John preached on the text of 1 Corinthians 13:7-8 titled, “Unfailing Love.”

Whom Shall I Fear?

by Charles Haddon Spurgeon

Psalm 27:1

‘The Lord is my light and my salvation.’ Here is personal interest, ‘my light,’ ‘my salvation’; the soul is assured of it, and therefore declares it boldly. Into the soul at the new birth divine light is poured as the precursor of salvation; where there is not enough light to reveal our own darkness and to make us long for the Lord Jesus, there is no evidence of salvation. After conversion our God is our joy, comfort, guide, teacher, and in every sense our light: He is light within, light around, light reflected from us, and light to be revealed to us. Note, it is not said merely that the Lord gives light, but that He is light; nor that He gives salvation, but that He is salvation; he, then, who by faith has laid hold upon God, has all covenant blessings in his possession.

This being made sure as a fact, the argument drawn from it is put in the form of a question, ‘Whom shall I fear?’ A question which is its own answer. The powers of darkness are not to be feared, for the Lord, our light, destroys them; and the damnation of hell is not to be dreaded by us, for the Lord is our salvation. This is a very different challenge from that of boastful Goliath, for it rests, not upon the conceited vigour of an arm of flesh, but upon the real power of the omnipotent I AM.

‘The Lord is the strength of my life.’ Here is a third glowing epithet, to show that the writer’s hope was fastened with a threefold cord which could not be broken. We may well accumulate terms of praise where the Lord lavishes deeds of grace. Our life derives all its strength from God; and if He deigns to make us strong, we cannot be weakened by all the machinations of the adversary.

‘Of whom shall I be afraid?’ The bold question looks into the future as well as the present. ‘If God be for us,’ who can be against us, either now or in time to come?


And They Shall Never Perish

by Charles Haddon Spurgeon

John 10:28

The Christian should never think or speak lightly of unbelief. For a child of God to mistrust His love, His truth, His faithfulness, must be greatly displeasing to Him. How can we ever grieve Him by doubting His upholding grace?

Christian! it is contrary to every promise of God’s precious Word that thou shouldst ever be forgotten or left to perish. If it could be so, how could He be true who has said, ‘Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? Yea, they may forget, yet will I never forget thee.’ What were the value of that promise-‘The mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed; but My kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of My peace be removed, saith the Lord that hath mercy on thee.’ Where were the truth of Christ’s words-‘I give unto My sheep eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of My hand. My Father, which gave them Me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of My Father’s hand.’ Where were the doctrines of grace? They would be all disproved if one child of God should perish. Where were the veracity of God, His honour, His power, His grace, His covenant, His oath, if any of those for whom Christ has died, and who have put their trust in Him, should nevertheless be cast away?

Banish those unbelieving fears which so dishonour God. Arise, shake thyself from the dust, and put on thy beautiful garments. Remember it is sinful to doubt His Word wherein He has promised thee that thou shalt never perish. Let the eternal life within thee express itself in confident rejoicing.

‘The gospel bears my spirit up:
A faithful and unchanging God
Lays the foundation for my hope,
In oaths, and promises, and blood.’