Day 225: The Resurrection Life

2 Chronicles 35-36; Romans 8:1-17

Key Verses

2 Chronicles 36:15-16
The Lord, the God of their fathers, sent persistently to them by his messengers, because he had compassion on his people and on his dwelling place. But they kept mocking the messengers of God, despising his words and scoffing at his prophets, until the wrath of the Lord rose against his people, until there was no remedy.

Romans 8:1-2
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.

We finish 2 Chronicles today with not much fanfare… The Chronicler flew through the last four kings of Judah in lightning fashion – and blasted through the destruction of Jerusalem and the exile to end with hope…the declaration of the re-building of the temple by the Persian (Gentile) king, Cyrus.

The Davidic Covenant stands strong. The rebuilding of the temple is the first step toward restoration for God’s people as they look forward to the coming of their Messiah!

Fast forward to Romans 8, and we find one of the most hope-filled chapters in all of the New Testament. It is Paul’s celebration of the gospel and the Messiah’s saving work on the cross. You can sense the exuberant joy in his words as he describes the work of the Spirit in the believer’s life to both save and sanctify.

Let me tell a story that illustrates the beautiful principles in Romans 8…

My daughter, Anne, was injured in a horrible automobile accident when she was 5 years old. She almost died, but God in his mercy preserved her life. She now lives with a traumatic brain injury.

She continues to make great strides in her recovery, but in the first year after the accident, if you corrected her… “Anne, please don’t touch that,” there was something in her brain that made her touch “that.” She couldn’t stop herself. She would touch it over and over and then start to cry because she knew she shouldn’t do it, but she couldn’t stop herself. It was heartbreaking.

In a way, her struggle was an allegory of Romans 7-8…. In her heart, she loved the “law” and wanted to obey, but her flesh was broken and she had no power to fix it (7:22-23). Her desire to do what was right caused her to grieve the brokenness in her flesh. She needed help from outside of herself. She needed to be rescued…

Since then, Anne has experienced much physical healing so that she can now overcome her impulse to disobey a command. But she doesn’t take that for granted! She knows that obedience with a pure heart is only possible with the help of God’s Spirit in her. And the Spirit is so evident in her life! She has a miraculous ability to understand deep spiritual concepts and Biblical truth. She looks to God for help and trusts him with a precious child-like faith. The Spirit inside her is evidence that she is a child of God. Romans 8 is Anne’s testimony!

This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike “What’s next, Papa?” God’s Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are. We know who he is, and we know who we are: Father and children. And we know we are going to get what’s coming to us—an unbelievable inheritance! We go through exactly what Christ goes through. If we go through the hard times with him, then we’re certainly going to go through the good times with him! (Romans 8:15-17, The Message)

These verses also describe the restored people of Israel. Christ is their hope, and Christ is their salvation!

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Day 224: The battle within

2 Chronicles 33-34; Romans 7

Key Verses

2 Chronicles 33:12-13
And when [Manasseh] was in distress, he entreated the favor of the Lord his God and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers. He prayed to him, and God was moved by his entreaty and heard his plea and brought him again to Jerusalem into his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the Lord was God.

Romans 7:22-23
For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.

We all have a mix of king Manasseh (evil) and king Josiah (faithful) in us. Romans 7 describes the tension between our new, regenerate nature and our old, sinful nature. It is the tension between the now (that we have been saved from the power of sin) and the not yet (that we still live in a sinful body) that causes Paul to cry out at the end of the chapter, “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:24).

But hear this… Manasseh, the evilest king that ever ruled Judah, the king who placed idols in the temple and sacrificed his children in the fire… when this evil king humbled himself before God and asked for help, God rescued him from his distress.

Manasseh’s apostasy still carried great consequences – as it was his evil influence that led the people so far away from God’s law that God promised to judge them with destruction and exile (2 Kings 21:11-15). The people’s sin was so heinous that not even the faithful King Josiah could turn away God’s judgment. But. The judgment was delayed – first because Manasseh repented, and second, because of Josiah’s faithfulness.

We all struggle with sin. Even Paul struggled with sin! But consider the common thread that runs throughout the Old and New Testaments… If we humble ourselves – that is… if we repent – God is faithful to forgive and restore. (If he restored the evil king Manasseh, then he can forgive anybody!)

But God not only forgives, he works his righteousness into our hearts – like a potter molding his clay. In other words, he sanctifies us. But I’m jumping ahead! Paul teaches about the work of the Spirit in sanctification in Chapter 8, and we’ll get to that… tomorrow :)

Day 222: No Longer Under the Law

2 Chronicles 26-28; Romans 6

Key Verses

2 Chronicles 26:3, 5
Uzziah was sixteen years old when he began to reign, and he reigned fifty-two years in Jerusalem. He set himself to seek God in the days of Zechariah, who instructed him in the fear of God, and as long as he sought the Lord, God made him prosper.

Romans 6:14
For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.

I think Romans 6:14 is one of the clearest statements distinguishing the Old Covenant (law) from the New (grace).

The three kings from today’s reading are perfect illustrations of the burden of living under the burden of the law.

Uzziah (Chapter 26) began in good fashion… “He set himself to seek God […] and as long as he sought the Lord, God made him prosper” (2 Chronicles 26:5). Uzziah enjoyed the blessings of God in military strength and victory. But Uzziah became prideful and presumed upon the law of the Lord by trying to do the duty of a priest. God gave him the opportunity to repent by sending the priest to warn him, but Uzziah became angry. “When he became angry with the priests, leprosy broke out on his forehead in the presence of the priests in the house of the Lord” (26:19).

Jotham (chapter 27) was portrayed as upright throughout his reign, and he enjoyed God’s favor. Whereas, Ahaz (chapter 28) was idolatrous and suffered under God’s judgment.

This is the Old Covenant. Living under the law was burdensome. Sin was inevitable. But God, in his grace, would relent if His people repented. Otherwise, they faced judgment.

In contrast, the New Covenant is founded on Grace and offers freedom from the burden of the law. Listen to how Paul begins Chapter 6 of Romans…

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? (Romans 6:1-2)

Paul answers, “By no means!” But the reason for his answer is complicated, and it is the key to the difference between the Old and the New Covenants. Paul’s answer involves the difficult concept of union with Christ…

Christ’s death and resurrection have defeated the power of sin in the believer’s life! As believers in Christ, we are united with him in his death and life, so that we have His power to overcome the sin in our hearts. When we turn to Christ in repentance and faith, a powerful spiritual transaction occurs. Our hard hearts are given life…they are transformed from stone to flesh through the indwelling of Holy Spirit.

  • The Old Covenant exposed sin through the lens of the law, but provided no power to overcome sin.
  • The New Covenant defeats the power of sin through the death and life of Christ.

Living under the new Covenant of Grace does not remove our responsibility…we are still able to sin and we are still accountable for our actions! But. We have the power of Christ to help us obey!

Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace. (Romans 6:12-14).

Day 221: The Power of Grace

2 Chronicles 23-25; Romans 5

Key Verses

Romans 5:1-5
Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

Grace. Romans 5 outlines two men and two systems. As children of Adam, we have inherited a sin nature and just condemnation. However, through Jesus Christ, we have the free gift of life.

Paul makes the point that Christ died for us “while we were still sinners.” It is Christ’s death that opens the door to life for “the ungodly.” And then he goes on to reason that Christ’s gift of life is far more powerful than Adam’s sin. Condemnation for all came through the one sin of Adam. Whereas life through Christ’s sacrifice is able to overcome the millions of sins that have been committed since Adam!

Sometimes it’s hard to spot God’s grace at work in the Old Testament – but only because it’s wrapped in the package of the Old Covenant. Consider how God’s grace presents itself in today’s passage from 2 Chronicles…

We read about two kings, Joash and Amaziah… both described as doing what was “right in the eyes of the Lord,” but each with qualifiers… Joash only did was right during “all the days of Jehoiada the priest” (24:2). And Amaziah is described as doing what was right in the eyes of the Lord, “but not with a whole heart” (25:2).

The life of Joash
After all of the good Joash did to repair the temple, when Jehoiada the priest died, Joash, together with his unworthy comrades, “abandoned the house of the Lord, the God of their fathers, and served the Asherim and the idols” (24:18). As you can imagine, this infuriated God – but a closer look reveals God’s grace. Don’t miss it…

Yet he sent prophets among them to bring them back to the Lord. These testified against them, but they would not pay attention (2 Chronicles 24:19).

Joash had sinned, and he deserved God’s just punishment. But before the punishment came, Joash was given the opportunity to repent. If Joash would have repented and turned back to the Lord, there would have been forgiveness. Why?? “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly” (Romans 5:6).

Joash did not repent. Instead, he turned further away from God and killed the son of Jehoiada. He rejected the grace of God, and suffered under God’s judgment as he was defeated by a small army and murdered by his “comrades.” If only he had heeded the word of the prophet…

The life of Amaziah
Joash’s son, Amaziah, didn’t fare much better. He also began his reign well, initially obeying the word of the Lord and enjoying victory in battle. But then he turned away from God to worship idols. See if you can find God’s grace in the text…

Therefore the Lord was angry with Amaziah and sent to him a prophet, who said to him, “Why have you sought the gods of a people who did not deliver their own people from your hand?” But as he was speaking, the king said to him, “Have we made you a royal counselor? Stop! Why should you be struck down?” So the prophet stopped, but said, “I know that God has determined to destroy you, because you have done this and have not listened to my counsel” (2 Chronicles 25:15-16).

God sent a prophet to warn Amaziah – so that hopefully he would repent. But Amaziah refused to listen to the word of the Lord, and in-so-doing rejected the grace of God.

The Grace
God’s grace can always overpower sin… “where sin increased, grace abounded all the more” (Romans 5:20). But. We have to receive it through repentance and faith for it to defeat the sin in our lives…

If death got the upper hand through one man’s wrongdoing, can you imagine the breathtaking recovery life makes, sovereign life, in those who grasp with both hands this wildly extravagant life-gift, this grand setting-everything-right, that the one man Jesus Christ provides? (Romans 5:17, The Message)

Day 220: A Strange Exchange

2 Chronicles 21-22; Romans 4

Key Verses

2 Chronicles 21:6b-7
And [Jehoram] did what was evil in the sight of the Lord. Yet the Lord was not willing to destroy the house of David, because of the covenant that he had made with David, and since he had promised to give a lamp to him and to his sons forever.

Romans 4:16
That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all [Abraham’s] offspring—not only to the adherent of the law but also to the one who shares the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all.

After faithful Jehoshaphat died, his first-born son, Jehoram, was crowned king of Judah who then killed all of his brothers so that no one would challenge his throne. The royal line of David was dangerously thin – and lay in the hands of a murdering madman who rebuilt the high places and led the people into idol worship.

But it gets worse.

All of Jehoram’s sons were killed in battle except for Ahaziah – who took the throne upon Jehoram’s death. Ahaziah made an alliance with the evil son of Ahab and was killed by the same man who was ordained to destroy all of Ahab’s family. Ahaziah and all of his brothers were killed and there was no one to rule Judah!! So Ahaziah’s evil mother, the daughter of Ahab, took control of Judah and killed everyone in the royal family.

What??!!... The entire royal line of David was destroyed because of their alliance with Ahab’s evil family??  What about the promise that a Royal Branch of David would rule in peace forever??

Ah! We have to keep reading… The narrative continues like a Shakespearean play as we discover that Ahaziah’s sister (who was married to the faithful priest, Jehoiada) hid Ahaziah’s infant son from the royal mother’s massacre. There is one from the line of David who lives! And in tomorrow’s reading, he will take the throne in dramatic fashion!

This is the tragic history of Israel. Paul argues in Romans 4:15 that “the Jews, who had the written law, had even greater responsibility for their sin and as great a need to be saved from God’s wrath and justified by faith*.” The tragic events detailed in today’s reading definitely make it clear that all of Israel had a great need to be saved!

Paul teaches in Romans 4 that all people need to be saved by faith – that the Jews couldn’t trust in their possession of the law – or in their sign of circumcision – to save them. But that Abraham was justified by faith before he was circumcised and before the giving of the Mosaic law (Romans 4:11).

Paul’s argument is clear. Heritage and Circumcision do not make you righteous. That is evident from the horror of today’s Old Testament passage! Rather, it was Abraham’s faith that was credited to him as righteousness.

Paul says that we, also, can be counted as righteous when we “believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord” (Romans 4:24).

We are given credit for being righteous – only because of our faith – not because of our actions. It is a strange exchange. It’s an exchange based on grace!

*quoted from note on Romans 4:15 from the ESV Study Bible, Crossway

Day 219: Jehoshaphat’s Prayer

2 Chronicles 20; Romans 2-3

Key Verses

2 Chronicles 20:12
“O our God, will you not execute judgment on them? For we are powerless against this great horde that is coming against us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.”

Romans 3:23-24
…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.

The Jews had become accustomed to God’s favor. After thousands of years of being God’s chosen race, they wrongly assumed that possession of the Mosaic law gave them favor before God – which was true – but only as a means to reveal their sin and need for repentance – the law was NOT to be used as a means to judge other nations.

The Jews erred by placing emphasis on the external signs of the covenant – like possession of the law and circumcision. But Paul forces their eyes inward to reveal that true Judaism had always been about the internal state of the heart…

…no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter (Romans 2:28).

In essence, Paul had to reframe all of Jewish history in the context of grace. The Jewish nation did not earn God’s favor by observing the law…No! They only brought the wrath of God on themselves because they could not observe the law perfectly (Romans 3:10-18). When did the people receive God’s favor and blessing? When they repented and turned to God in humble reliance!!!!

Consider today’s story from 2 Chronicles 20. What was Jehoshaphat’s response when confronted with a great enemy? He gathered the people (with their wives and children) to the house of God and prayed. He humbled himself and called out to God for help! And what was God’s response?? Grace. God showed up in a mighty way and delivered His people from the hand of the enemy. But. God did have one requirement… faith. He told the people to “go down against them” but “you will not have to fight this battle.” In other words, the people had to confront their enemy with faith that God would keep His word. God’s deliverance came through repentance and faith!

This is the gospel at work. This is grace at work.

Paul goes on to teach at the end of Chapter 3 that the Jews were never justified by works – only by faith (3:21-24). He even argues that God endured the sin of the Jewish nation only by looking forward to Christ’s death on the cross which satisfied the wrath of God on their behalf (3:25).

We must not fall into the old sins of the Jewish nation. We must never think that our good words earn us favor before God! Rather, we must cling to the truth that God’s kindness toward us is undeserved – and has one purpose – one extremely important purpose…

…God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance (Romans 2:4)

Let Jehoshaphat’s prayer be our example… Let us humble ourselves in absolute reliance on our God. And may His kindness produce in us… repentance and faith!

Day 218: Saved by Faith…Alone!

2 Chronicles 17-19; Romans 1

Key Verses

2 Chronicles 17:3-4
The Lord was with Jehoshaphat, because he walked in the earlier ways of his father David. He did not seek the Baals, but sought the God of his father and walked in his commandments, and not according to the practices of Israel.

Romans 1:16-17
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”

We begin Romans today… which is Paul’s longest and most detailed theological dissection of the gospel. The church in Rome was a mix of both Jewish and Gentile Christians – but the majority were Gentiles. This letter probably arose out of tensions between the Jewish and Gentile Christians to define the precise gospel – applicable to both salvation and daily living.

I think I could write a 2,000-page essay on Paul’s salutation alone. He packs so much theology into those few verses!! What stands out to me, however, is how Paul manages to validate both the Jew and the Gentile. Paul mentions that Jesus is the “Son of David” (vs.2) which satisfies the Jewish believer. And then Paul goes on to proclaim that the grace of God is for “all the nations” (vs. 5).

Paul gets right to the point and gives a clear definition of the gospel in vs. 16-17. These verses act as the foundation for the rest of Romans. The gospel is simply this: Righteousness before God is not earned. It is granted to both the Jew and the Gentile by the same means: through faith.

This is how Old Testament believers attained salvation. They trusted in God. (Period). Observance of the law was the way in which they demonstrated their faith – it was not a means to earn their salvation.

We read of two kings in 2 Chronicles 17-19… Jehoshaphat was described as “seeking God” and not in idols. He had faith in God. Jehoshaphat wasn’t perfect, but his upright actions were evidence of his internal faith. Ahab, on the other hand, was one of the evilest kings in all of Israelite’s history. According to Romans 1:18-20, Ahab was without excuse. Even if he had no knowledge of God (which he did) he would still be held accountable for his disbelief because God had revealed his “eternal power and divine nature” through His creation.

Both kings were blood descendants of Abraham – but only one was accepted into God’s Kingdom. There is no distinction between salvation in the Old and New Testaments. Salvation is by grace, through faith, alone. Our outward actions only act as evidence of the internal state of our hearts… Do we have hearts that trust in God alone for our salvation and satisfaction?  Jehoshaphat vs. Ahab = Faith vs. Unbelief. Where do you stand? There is no excuse for unbelief!

Day 236: Blessings of the gospel

Isaiah 19-21; Romans 16

Judgment comes before blessing. This was true for Israel. And this was true for the nations. We see this trend exemplified in Isaiah 19… First Egypt is judged (19:1-15) – and then they are blessed (19:16-25). The end of Isaiah 19 describes a day when both Egypt and Assyria would worship the Lord. These two nations represented Israel’s greatest enemies – both past and present. God would not only save Israel from their enemies – but gather them together to be allies in worship of the Lord! What a beautiful picture of grace and restoration…

The idea of judgment coming before blessing is not unique to the Old Testament, but spills over into the good news of the New Testament.  Jesus received our judgment so that we could receive His blessing! Paul has just spent 16 chapters in his letter to the Romans detailing every good gift we receive because of the death and resurrection of Christ! After reading through Romans, we should be deeply grateful for the gospel and all of its implications in our lives!

The well-known author and pastor, John Piper, spent over 8 years preaching through Romans! In his last sermon on Romans, he prayed the entire sermon. Imagine that! He looked at the congregation – with eyes wide open – praying to Jesus the whole time. He was so thankful for the whole of the gospel that He took an entire sermon to thank Jesus for the work he had accomplished on the cross.

In this final sermon, he listed the benefits of the gospel that are taught in the book of Romans. This list is astounding! But remember, He is praying…

  • We embrace the truth that we have died to sin and to the law and now belong to you alone, alive from the dead forever (Romans 6:2-5; 7:4-6).
  • We embrace afresh the forgiveness of our sins (Romans 4:6-7).
  • We embrace the reality that our condemnation is past (Romans 8:1).
  • We exult in the truth that our justifying righteousness is unshakable, because it is performed by you, not by us (Romans 5:17-19; 4:4-9).
  • We affirm with joy that you indwell us by your Spirit and are with us forever (Romans 8:10).
  • We embrace the truth that you unite us to each other in loving harmony (Romans 15:5; 12:16).
  • We hold fast the promise that we are being conformed to your image, and that your death and resurrection guarantees that this will be completed (Romans 8:28-30).
  • We receive the gift that you enable us to do significant work for the advance of your kingdom (Romans 15:18).
  • We glory in the truth that we are fellow heirs with you of all that God owns and all that God is (Romans 8:17; 4:13).
  • And we take heart that nothing can separate us from your invincible love or from the love of God the Father because of your work on our behalf (Romans 8:32-39).
  • And rooted in all of this, we receive afresh the promise of your everlasting joy. In Paul’s words, spoken to us on your behalf, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope” (Romans 15:13).

By John Piper. ©2013 Desiring God Foundation. Website: desiringGod.org

John Piper prayed his sermon because he was overwhelmed by the love demonstrated for us in the gospel. We must take these gifts and treasure them. We must meditate upon them and let them sink into our soul so that they define our very selves. They must shape our decisions and the way we interpret world events. These are the truths of the gospel. These are our life.

Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith – to the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen. (Romans 16:25-27)

Day 235: God’s desire for a People

Isaiah 16-18; Romans 15:14-33

Isaiah continues his oracles for the nations in today’s reading. And Isaiah broadens his message to include the whole world in Chapter 18…

All you inhabitants of the world,
you who dwell on the earth,
when a signal is raised on the mountains, look!
When a trumpet is blown, hear! (Isaiah 18:3)

In other words, pay attention to the works of the Lord! He holds the nations in his hands. No ruler or authority will ever be more powerful than the God of Israel!

Isaiah not only reveals God’s absolute power and sovereignty in these chapters, but also God’s compassion. From the oracle concerning Moab…

And joy and gladness are taken away from the fruitful field,
and in the vineyards no songs are sung,
no cheers are raised;
no treader treads out wine in the presses;
I have put an end to the shouting.
Therefore my inner parts moan like a lyre for Moab,
and my inmost self for Kir-hareseth.
(Isaiah 16:10-11)

Even though God brought judgment on the proud nation of Moab, it grieved Him to watch the people of Moab – people created in His image – turn away from Him and choose lesser gods.

God not only wants good for us, He knows what is good for us! And it grieves Him to see us choose lesser gods.

Paul finds his purpose in the compassionate heart of God…”to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles in the priestly service of the gospel of God, so that the offering of the Gentiles may be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:16).

Paul understood God’s great desire has always been to have a people. Paul could look back through history and see that everything God has ever done, and everything that He will ever do… will be for the purpose of gathering a people for himself.

And God wants you to be a part of His people!! He knows what is good for you, so do not grieve the heart of God. Rather, trust in His goodness – his strong-arm to save and His grace to change you. Turn to Him in repentance and faith and rest in the compassionate heart of God.

Day 234: God’s plan for the nations

Isaiah 13-15; Romans 15:1-13

In Isaiah, we begin the oracles against the nations. These type of judgment oracles are typical of the prophecy genre. They show that God is sovereign, not just over Israel, but over the Gentile nations as well.

In Romans, Paul stresses again that God’s plan for salvation has always included the Gentiles.

For I tell you that Christ became a servant to the circumcised to show God’s truthfulness, in order to confirm the promises given to the patriarchs, and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy (Romans 15:8).

That’s a mouthful, but oh, the riches contained in that verse!! Christ’s life, death and resurrection proved that God’s word was true. Every Old Testament promise was fulfilled in Christ. And because of Jesus, the way has been opened for all to receive his mercy and enter the Kingdom of God!!

Isaiah’s judgment oracles should remind us to run away from God’s judgment by running into His kindness… Let the truth of the gospel sink into your heart and cause you to wonder at the awesome power and goodness of our God!!