Monthly Archives: October 2012

Conscious and Competent

Menlo Park Presbyteryian

30th July 2012


Like the distinction of “Conscious” and “Competent”


Some things are “Conscious and Competent”

Some are “Unconscious and Competent”

Some are “Conscious and Incompetent”

Some are “Unconscious and Incompetent”


Christian faith in many ways starts in the last of these.


Also looks at the idea of Disintegration.


Key passages are Matthew 5 (sermon on the Mount), 1 Corinthians 13 (the idea of all our strengths being worth nothing if we do not love), Matthew 23 (Jesus attack on the unconscious sins of the Pharisees), 2 Samuel 12, Mark 12, Galatians 5, 1 Peter 2, Ephesians 4, Luke 12, Matthew 11

Love and the Soul


Talks about the way that we can take things for granted, and forget that this is the great gift of God, because when our souls are in peril, we are in grave danger.


Speaks about the way that people name their boats differently, it’s a big thing that you name your boat.  He knew one person at a Christian college who called his boat “Faculty Development” so that he could say “I’m spending my time on Faculty Development”; but another person called their boat “Deserving”.


There is a terrible thing that we think ourselves deserving, but actually we need to throw ourselves at the mercy of God.  The Biblical description of the one who is turned away from God is that of hell, that we are not lost because we are going to the wrong place, but we are going to the wrong place because we are lost.


We should call ourselves the “First Church of the Undeserving.”


So God values our soul – talks about the way that God has his eye upon the sparrow, and the way that Nephesh (soul) is first used of animals in the book of Genesis.  There is a question about whether animals go to heaven, but a good quote from Joni Ericksson Tada who says “If God brings our pets back to life, it wouldn’t surprise me at all.  It would be just like him, totally keeping with his generous character, extravagant in grace after grace” (this was after the death of her dog Scrappy)


Our soul was created not just in a physical environment, but within a spiritual community.  Our soul was not just created for physical existence, but our soul was created for love.


The language of love and the soul in the Bible is remarkable – take the story of David and Jonathan and the way that they were bonded to each other.


Tells story of Joel Jager who contracted polio, and cannot run, but his son can and when you see a picture of his son running (he is an Olympic standard steeple chaser) you can see a bit of Joel’s soul running with him.


Talks about Holy Kisses which appear in the KJV and the way that we are to become the first Church of the Holy Kiss.


Ortberg ends by inviting people to move out of the “Religious non-disciple” category and make a commitment to God , who cares for, and who can protect our souls.


Dealing with Enemies


A Commentary by John Stott.

MATTHEW. 5:43-48. Active love (continued).

Words can also express our love, however, both words addressed to our enemies themselves and words addressed to God on their behalf. ‘Bless those who curse you.’ If they call down disaster and catastrophe upon our heads, expressing in words their wish for our downfall, we must retaliate by calling down heaven’s blessing upon them, declaring in words that we wish them nothing but good. Finally, we direct our words to God. Both evangelists record this command of Jesus: ‘Pray for those who persecute (or abuse)you.’ (Mt.5:44; Lk.6:28). Chrysostom saw this responsibility to pray for our enemies as ‘the highest summit of self-control’. Indeed, looking back over the requirements of these last two antitheses, he traces nine ascending steps, with intercession as the topmost one. First, we are not to take any evil initiative ourselves. Secondly, we are not to avenge another’s evil. Thirdly, we are to be quiet, and fourthly, to suffer wrongfully. Fifthly, we are to surrender to the evildoer even more than he demands. Sixthly, we are not to hate him, but (steps 7 and 8) to love him and to him good. As our ninth duty, we are ‘to entreat God Himself on his behalf’.
Modern commentators also have seen such intercession as the summit of Christian love. ‘This is the supreme command,’ wrote Bonhoeffer. ‘Through the medium of prayer we go to our enemy, stand by his side, and plead for him to God.’ Moreover, if intercessory prayer is an expression of what love we have, it is a means to increase our love as well. It is impossible to pray for someone without loving him, and impossible to go on praying for him without discovering that our love for him grows and matures. We must not, therefore, wait before praying for our enemy until we feel some love for him in our heart. We must begin to pray for him before we are conscious of loving him, and we shall find our love break first into bud, then into blossom. Jesus seems to have prayed for his tormentors actually while the iron spikes were being driven through his hands and feet; indeed the imperfect tense suggests that he kept praying, kept repeating his entreaty ‘Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do’ (Lk.23:34).


If the cruel torture of crucifixion could not silence our Lord’s prayer for his enemies, what pain, pride, prejudice or sloth could justify the silencing of ours?
I find I am quoting Bonhoeffer in this chapter more than any other commentator. I suppose the reason is that although he wrote his exposition before the outbreak of war, he could see where Nazism was leading, and we know to what fate his Christian testimony against it brought him in the end. He quoted a certain A.F.C.Villmar of 1880, but his words sound almost prophetic of Bonhoeffer’s own day: ‘This commandment, that we should love our enemies and forgo revenge, will grow even more urgent in the holy struggle which lies before us… The Christians will be hounded from place to place, subjected to physical assault, maltreatment and death of every kind. We are approaching an age of wide-spread persecution…Soon the time will come when we shall pray…It will be a prayer of earnest love for these very sons of perdition who stand around and gaze at us with eyes aflame with hatred, and who have perhaps already raised their hands to kill us… Yes, the Church which is really waiting for its Lord, and which discerns the signs of the times of decision, must fling itself with its utmost power and with the panoply of its holy life, into this prayer of love.’
Having indicated that our love for our enemies will express itself in deeds, words and prayers, Jesus goes on to declare that only then shall we prove conclusively whose sons we are, for only then shall we be exhibiting a love like the love of our heavenly Father’s. *For he makes his sun to rise (Notice in passing, to whom the sun belongs) on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust* (45). Divine love is indiscriminate love, shown equally to good men and to bad. The theologians (following Calvin) call this God’s ‘common grace’. It is not ‘saving grace’. enabling sinners to repent, believe and be saved; but grace shown to all mankind, the penitent and the impenitent, believers and unbelievers alike. This common grace of God is expressed, then, not in the gift of salvation but in the gifts of creation, and not least in the blessings of rain and sunshine, without which we could not eat and life on the planet could not continue. This, then, is to be the standard of Christian love. We are to love like God, not men.

Tomorrow: Matthew 5:43-48 Active love (continued).



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The John Stott Bible Study is taken from The Message of the Sermon on the Mount. The Bible Speaks Today © 1978 John Stott. Used by permission of Inter-Varsity Press UK, Nottingham. All rights reserved

Red Moon Rising


Augustine once said that God puts salt on our tongues that we may thirst for him.  Sometimes perhaps it is our own tears that carry the salt.


Finding answers during periods of turmoil takes time.  First we must find and formulate the questions.  And before even that we must simply face the pain.  The godless philosopher Nietzsche once wrote: “The essential thing in heaven and earth is … that there should be long obedience in the same direction; there thereby results, and have always resulted in the long run, something which has made life worth living.” (page 48)


God thinks much ore of your desires than of the words in which they are expressed.  It may be natural for a scholar to consider the accuracy of your terms, but God especially notes the sincerity of your soul.  There is no other place where the heart should be so free as before the mercy seat.  There, you can talk out your very soul, for that is the best prayer that you can present.  Do not ask for what some tell you, that you should ask for, but for that which you feel the need of, that which the Holy Spiirit has made you to hunger and to thirst for, you ask for that. (from C.H.Spurgeon in a sermon entitled, “Pray, always pray”) (page 53)


Perhaps the atheists are right and God is a figment of our evolving imaginations.  If this is the case, then in the words of Paul we are to be ‘pitied more than all men’ (1 Corinthians 15:19).  If there is no God, then the fact that we have now mobilised may tens of thousands of people to sacrifice sleep and talk to a wall in the middle of the night is the sum total of stupidity.


But if – just if – there is a God, we can be sure that we are connecting with the greatest power of the universe.  And so through these years of persevering, sacrificial prayer ‘We do not lose heart’ (1 Corinthians 4:16-18) (page 58)


May there still be thousands of them who, in the plan and way assigned to them, and in the orders into which you have called them, without leaving their way of worship and forming a new church for themselves, prove their identity as inward men of God, as members of your invisible and true body before all people, for your own sake, Amen. – Von Zinzendorf, page 62


They are tests, moments of divine crisis, which the Chinese call ‘dangerous opportunities’ (page 70)


Prayer itself is an art only the Holy Spirit can teach us.  Pray for prayer.  Pray until you can really pray. – Spurgeon (page 88)

A prayer room is not some giant spiritual slot machine – just put in enough money and you’re guaranteed a can of coke.  A prayer room is first and foremost a living room – a place where the Father waits for his children to come and climb into his loving arms. – page 94


The Greek word for rest is hesychia and so Nouwen writes: ‘ Hesychia, the rest which flows from unceasing prayer, needs to be sought at all costs, even when the flesh is itchy, the world alluring and the demons noisy (page 95)


24/7 values

  1. Obedient to the Holy Spirit
  2. Relational
  3. Indigenous
  4. Inclusive
  5. Like Jesus
  6. Deeply rooted
  7. Creative and innovative
  8. Just
  9. Good stewards
  10. Sacrificial
  11. Celebratory
  12. Raw/Simple


Living in Skin

  1. Scent – a pleasing aroma
  2. Touch – just one touch
  3. Sight – glimpses of glory
  4. Taste – O taste and see
  5. Hearing – hearing from God, talking to God


Orders of evangelism

Author and speaker Ed Silovoso, reminds us in Prayer Evangelism, that we often start our contact with the non-Christians with a verbal declaration of the gospel, then healing, then the normality of a meal together and then praying for peace.  Note that the order in Luke 10 :5-9 is completely the other way around. (page 335)

The seven aspect of the Moravian ‘Brotherly Agreement’

–          the need for personal conversion

–          a commitment to simplicity and integrity as marks of the true Church

–          a refusal to be hostile to other believers – even when you believed they were not understanding the Scripture as you might

–          the belief that the sin of some believers was their fault, not the of the Church.  Zinznedorf believed in discipline, no coercion

–          A wariness of labels and names that might divide rather than unite

–          An active quest for spiritual growth. There was to be no reliance on the blessings of the past.  The people of God were to be intentional

–          A readiness to lay aside one’es personal desires and be ready to make sacrifices for the sake of others.  (page 341)


There is a great review of John Wesley on the ship on page 343.


Young people and the purposes of God (page 345) – Samuel, Daniel, Joseph, Josiah, David, Jeremiah, Mary, Jesus, Timothy.  Also looks at people like Anna Nitchsman, the four men of Kells in the Ulster revival, the Welsh revival of 1904 where 100,000 young people made a commitment. (page 348)

Everything Must Change – Part 1



  1. Environmental breakdown – the prosperity crisis
  2. The growing gap between the ultra-rich and the extremely poor – the equity crisis
  3. The danger of cataclysmic war – the security crisis
  4. The failure of the world’s religions, especially its two largest – the spirituality crisis

(page 5)


The popular and domesticated Jesus who has become little more than a chrome-plated hood ornament on the guzzling Hummer of Western civilisation, can thus be replaced with a more radical, saving, and I believe, real Jesus. (page 6)

Tortured For Christ – Part 1


The 14 year old son who would not let his father confess, would not die a traitor – page 33


Saying to the communists “have you no pity” – they quoted Lenin saying that you have to break eggs to make an omelette – this is pure materialism – page 34


A priest who was forced to consecrate human excrement and give them as urine; when asked why he participated, replied “don’t judge me please, I have suffered more than Christ” – page 35


The pastor who used to take beatings instead of other prisoners – page 36


The bride taken on her wedding day, saying “I thank him that I am worthy to suffer for him.”” – page 36


Making the deal, that if we preach, you beat us – page 39


“I have seen beautiful things” – (how lovely on the mountains, Isaiah 52) – page 40


The Communist Reck who would say “I am God”; later he realised his true calling – page 40


This has a truth, you have been created to be a god like being – page 41


Tithing bread in prison – page 41


How his son, Mihai, became a Christian after seeing the persecution of his mother – page 44


How Mihai witnessed at school for standing up for the Bible – page 45


The Christian daughters who became prostitutes in order to protect their family.  Please do not judge says Wurmbrand – page 46


The Church that was told it could never have 36 members, only 35 – page 47


The value of Bibles cannot be understood by “an American or an English Christian who ‘swims’ in Bibles.” – page 48


Bringing the joys of Christ to communists who are so empty spiritually – page 50


The way that the angel meets Joshua and says “Nay” – these are not human responses; I am seated in the heavenly places (Ephesians 2) – page 50 (Joshua 5)


In solitary confinement, the Lord’s prayer was too much for us, we used to pray “Jesus, I love thee” – Romans 8, groans that words cannot express (page 53)


The minister who was beaten, and as some cursed the communists, he would say “Please don’t curse them” – page 53


Only love can change the communists – love which differs from the compliance exercised by many Christian leaders (page 55)


Need for strategic view in Missionary work, and to aim for the leaders – page 57


Wars can only be won by offensive strategy and strategy in mission – page 58


Why so many Christians had nicknames, and why people use secret signals – page 58


“A man really believes not what he recites in his cree, but only the things which he is ready to die for” – page 59


What encourages us to preach the Gospel in communist countries is that there those who become Christians are full of love and zeal.  I have never met one single lukewarm Russian Christian.  – page 65


God is “the Truth”.  The Bibles the “truth about the Truth.”  Theology is the “truth about the truth about the Truth”.  Fundamentalism is the “truth about the truth about the truth about the Truth”.  – page 66


Some tell me to “Preach the pure Gospel!”  This reminds me that the communist secret police also told me to preach Christ, but not to mention communism.  Is it really so, that those who are for what is called “a pure Gospel” are inspired by the same spirit as those of the communist secret police? (page 71-72)


My suffering consists first of all in the longing after the unspeakable beauties of the Underground Church, the church which fulfils the old Latin saying Nudis nudum Christi sequi (naked, follow the naked Christ). (page 73)


The suffering Church are like those who receive only cabbage with unmentionable filth when they ask for bread, yet continue to praise God (page 73)


“I suffer in the West more than I suffered in a communist jail, because now I see with my own eyes the western civilisation dying.” – page 73


On the defence of the individual and those who complain that Christ is not an intellectual – page 79-80


Ordained next to the tomb of a martyred bishop because the communist bishop would not ordain – page 81


In Russia no-one remembers the arguments for or against infant baptism or millennial controversies – page 83 (and more on arguments with the communists)


The professor being asked to drink the water he said he had turned into wine.  “This is the whole difference between you and Jesus.  He, with His wine, has given us joy for two thousand years, whereas you poison us with your wine.” – page 89


Elsewhere there is talk of Communist tracts which attacked the scriptures in doing so gave the Christians access to the Christians (do not know page)


Constantly the argument is that man is more than matter, that people are spiritual beings (page 90)


It is only when a train goes over a bridge that it proves its great strength (page 90)


There is something positive in the enormous amount of drunkenness in communist countries, it is about people seeking something beyond the material – page 91


Meeting a Russian captain who was getting drunk, sharing Christ and it turning out to be a former Orthodox priest who now regretted all that he had done for the communists – page 91


The soldier who turned up at a Church and held the gun to a ministers’ head.  When the minister refused to change the Russian said “It is true” and turned to Christ (page 93)


The Russian soldiers who said that those who did not abandon the faith would be shot at once, and when they were left with those who stayed, were delighted to share fellowship with true believers.  “We too are Christians, but we wished to have fellowship only with those who consider the truth worth dying for.” (page 93-94)


The parts of the communist Church – the underground pastors and leaders, the laypeople, the official clergy who have a parallel life running the underground Church – page 96-98


The remarkable street demonstrations of Churches in communist countries (page 101)

The Divine Go



Also remarkable is the way that Abram is called when he is old, and quotes Craig Groeschel who says “If you’re not dead, you’re not done.”


But you don’t go by sight, you don’t get to know what is happening.


Looks at Terah who goes on the journey and can’t leave, and stops at Haran, which like Ur (according to Ezekiel) is known for idolatry.


Abram goes into the land and builds altars, which is the beginning of prayer and worship in a regular way, and illustrates that to go out, we also have to go up.


Jesus comes to Abraham’s land many years later and he sends people out saying “I will be with you” – this is the with God life, it always sends you out, and always means that we have to rely on God to be out there.


Great passage where he says (although can’t find this)


Abraham was the wrong age – and God says “Go”

Moses has the wrong skills – and God says “Go”

Gideon was from the wrong tribe – and God says “Go”

Ruth was from the wrong nation

Rahab was from the wrong profession

Joshua was sent to the wrong city – and God says “Go”

Louis Zamperini – lessons from prison


3. Time doesn’t heal all wounds, God heals wounds.

Talks about if anyone is in Christ, he is a new Creation (2 Corinthians 5).


4. Forgiveness is not just therapeutic or relief for the forgiver.  It is a loving, humble, repentant quest for reconciliation.

Talks about the experiences of Louis going, as a result of the challenge from World Vision founder Bob Pierce, to go to Japan and preach in Sugamo prison, of how a man called Jimmie Sasaki and many others believed.  Louie didn’t hold back on the details of his time in prison, because forgiveness had to be real.  At the end, many men raised their hands to receive Christ.


5. God is still in the business of bringing redemption out of evil

Louie was once asked, “Did anything good come out of 2 and a half years in prison.”  Yes, he said, it prepared me for 53 years of married life.


But the story of Louie is one of God using him abundantly through all that he suffered.  Romans 8 – God works all things together for good, and the brining back of someone in Matthew 18.


Where have we decided to actually bear a grudge against someone, to bear them ill will.  I am going to put them in the category of someone I don’t love.


Are we going to say, “God I want to surrender my unforgiving spirit, I am going to confess my heart to you now.”

Louie Zamperini – in prison

Louie was sitting in his cell when a new guard appeared at the door.  Louie looked up, saw a face he didn’t recognised, and felt an upswell of dread, knowing that a new guard would likely assert his authority.


“Your Christian?” the guard asked.


Louie, whose parents had tried to raise him Catholic, hadn’t gone near church since one Sunday in his boyhood, when a priest had punished him for tardiness by grabbing him by the ear and dragging him out.  But though Louie emerged with a sore ear, a little religious had stuck with him.  He said yes.  The guard smiled.


“Me, Christian.”


The guard gave his name, which Louie would later recall, with some uncertainty, as Kawamura.  He began babbling in English so poor that all Louie could pick out was something about Canadian missionaries and conversion.  The guard slipped two pieces of hard candy into Louie’s hand, the moved down the hall and gave two pieces to Phil.  A friendship was born.


Kawamura brought a pencil and paper and began making drawins to illustrate things he wished to talk about.  Walking back and forth between the cells, he’d draw a picture of something – a car, a plane, an ice cream cone – and say and write its Japanese name.  Louie and Phil would then write and say the English name.  The prisoners understood almost nothing of what Kawamura said, but his goodwill needed no translation.  Kawamura could do nothing to improve the physical conditions in which the captives lived, but his kindness was lifesaving.  (page 185)


Then recounts the story of a particularly vicious guard being beaten up by Kawamura on Louie’s behalf.


On page 175, there is the story of the 9 marines left behind during a raid on Makin island.  On the wall of the cell in Kwajalein, the so called punishment island, there is the name of the marines left behind.  It was later discovered that all of them had been killed.  Louie would leave his name on the wall as well.


Louie often stared at the names of the marines, wondering who they were, if they’d wives and children, how the end had come for them.  He began to think of them as his friends.  One day he pulled off his belt and bent the buckle upward.  In tall, block letters, he carved his name into the wall beside theirs. (page 181).


Some people didn’t notice the signs of this living man.  Two months after a campaign of saturation bombing, America seized Kwajalein.  “The entire island looked as if it had been picked up twenty thousand feet and then dropped” said one serviceman.  In what was left of an administrative building someone found a stack of documents.  Outside a serviceman, climbing through the remains of a wooden structure saw something in the wreckage, and dug it out.  It was a long splinter of wood.  Etched along the slat, in capital letters, was the name Louie Zamperini.  (page 215)


Joe Deasy, and American airman, read through some papers and heard and account of two airman who had survived in a life raft and of one who had died – Deasy knew who these men were, but the families were not notified because of the uncertainty of the evidence (page 216).


An airman called Fred Garrett sought out Louie because of something that had given him hope.


Garrett then told Louie why he had sought him out.  As he had lain in fevered agony in his cell on the second island, he had looked up to see ten names scratched into the wall.  He had asked about them and had been told that the first nine men had been executed.  No on e had told him what had happened to the tenth man.  Garrett had spent much of his time mulling over that last name on the wall, perhaps thinking that if this man had survived, so might he.  When he had arrived at Ofuna, he had asked if anyone had heard of that man, Louie Zamperini.  Garrett and Zamperini, both Los Angeles-are natives, had been held in the same tiny Kwajalein cell almost five thousand miles from home. (page 209)


There is something about Louie being the forerunner here, and showing that life beyond Kwajalein was possible, and in that way giving us hope – a bit like 1 Corinthians 15 portrays Christ at the first fruits of the new creation.


On an escape plan

If they were going to die in Japan, t least they could take a path that they and not their captors chose, declaring, in this last act of life, that they remained sovereign over their own souls. (page 226)


Stolen food, especially the Scots’ sugar, was the camp currency, and the “sugar barons” became the rich men of Omore, even hiring assistants to do their laundry.  The Scots drove hard bargains, but they also donated one quarter of the loot to sick POWs.  One nigh, when he found Frank Tinker deathly ill, Louie waited for the guards to pass, snuck to the Scots’ barracks, and told them that Tinker was in trouble.  The Scots sent Louie back to Tinker with a  load of sugar, no charge.  Tinker would later say that Louie’s sugar run “saved my soul.”  According to Martindale, Tinker wasn’t’ the only man saved.  Deaths from illness and malnutrition had once been commonplace, but after the thievery school was created, only two POWs died, one from a burst appendix.  And in a place predicated to degradation, stealing from the enemy won back the men’s dignity.  (page 244)


Joseph of Arimathea and the Inner Ring


Then as Jesus dies something happens – for centurion. It is s change in grabbing on to all that is essential. He goes boldly to Pilate. Joseph is now willing to risk everything to bury Jesus.

He is bold in his actions.

He is generous in what he has.

A tomb was a status symbol. A symbol of family wealth. He has brought Jesus into his family space. He is going to have to say to his family “Guess who we are going to spend eternity with?”

And he becomes humble. This buying of linen and wrapping of Jesus. It is a horrible thing to do. This is a cadaver which has been crucified. It is an awful, horrible job. It is normally the women who do this, certainly not the men and certainly not powerful men.

Joseph and Nicodemus are crossing lines all over the place here. The kind if people that the world needs.

This relates to the being born again of John 3. If you want to come in you are going to have to start from nothing. This is the reason good people hate Christians, why many Church goers refuse the gospel we are told that everything good that I do, but that everything I do counts for nothing. Can we not start as an adolescent or teenager. Can i start with a bit?  No you start as a baby, with nothing.

What is it about the death of Jesus that changes?

Joseph has a reality check. He has been trying to hold things in balance. When Jesus he sees thus world that he is clinging on to for what it is. That the works that he is investing  in is not the solution but the problem.

We are trying to keep Jesus in this radical gospel. Unless something radical changes, this is the road to hell.

Joseph took the body of Jesus – something profound in this. He is the one who first takes the body of Jesus. We have to take into ourselves to take the death of Jesus like the Eucharist.

Jesus is a member of the ultimate inner ring. The most exclusive club in everything.
From all eternity they have existed loving and adoring each other.

The doctrine of the Trinity  says at the heart if reality is not a hierarchy if service but a co-dependency of self giving love.

Jesus  left the inner ring. Mark 10:45 probably about the most important verse in Mark. If you want real power to change the world you have to do what I do.

Your job is not to be served but to serve.

Look at the quote from Lewis on the problem of pain.

“In self-giving, if anywhere, we touch a rhythm not only of all creation but of all being. For the Eternal Word also gives Himself in sacrifice; and that not only on Calvary. For when He was crucified He ‘did that in the wild weather of His outlying provinces which He had done at home in glory and gladness.’ From before the foundation of the world He surrenders begotten Deity back to begetting Deity in obedience. And as the Son glorifies the Father, so also the Father glorifies the Son…There is joy in the dance, but it does not exist for the sake of joy. It does not even exist for the sake of good, or of love. It is Love Himself, and Good Himself, and therefore happy. It does not exist for us, but we for it.” (C. S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain, pp. 136-38)

Three things that flow from this transformation.

1. Being a Christian is not a matter of being happy. It is if you being so transformed. This us about you being so bad Jesus had to die for you. It is about you being so loved that Jesus died

2. The church will be an odd community.

3. It is not about living with others circling around you but Jesus circling around you and this is the essence if what it is to serve Jesus.