Test His Truth

Test His Truth

Tuesday Column: Dale Mail

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Dale Pollard

(now the pulpit minister of the Tompkinsville church of Christ, Tompkinsville, KY)

   With countless opinions and information out there, God is just another “option” and the Bible is just “good advice to follow.” Dave Mustaine summed up how many people feel when he said, “The Bible and several other self help or enlightenment books cite the Seven Deadly Sins. They are: pride, greed, lust, envy, wrath, sloth, and gluttony. That pretty much covers everything that we do, that is sinful… or fun for that matter.”

Is the Bible just an ancient “self-help” book that tells us not to do anything fun? Questioning God is not something new. Even Epicurus said, “Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then He is not omnipotent. Is He able, but not willing? Then He is malevolent. Is He both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil? Is He neither able nor willing? Then why call Him God?” I truly believe that you can understand who God is just based on scripture. When He gave that book to man, He gave us a piece of Himself.

God wants a relationship with us (I Peter 5:6-7). This is why He has purposefully informed us about Himself. People need God whether they know it or not. I’d encourage you, as an individual,  to put the Bible on trial. Put the accuracy of its pages to the test. It has withstood hundreds of years of accusations and doubt. Often we are able to grow in our faith and belief as a result of seeking and searching. As His church, we have a responsibility to proclaim the excellence of our creator. We do it by our love for others, exposing the evidence of His existence, and introducing Jesus every opportunity we have. 

 
“Speak Your Truth”?

“Speak Your Truth”?

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

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Neal Pollard

“Speaking your truth means that you stay true to who you are, whether it’s your feelings, opinions, or morals. Don’t hide what you feel for the sake of someone else’s approval of you, it shouldn’t work that way (sic). Rather, you should stay true to your own opinion and voices, no matter what anyone else may think. While it’s easier said than done, you won’t ever regret speaking your truth” (source). Look at website after blog post, philosopher after supposed pundit, and you get further definitions of what people mean to convey by the phrase, “Speak your truth.” How did the phrase originate? 

Huffington Post credits Oprah Winfrey in a speech at The Golden Globes in 2018. She advocated creating positive change by “speaking your truth.” The article’s writer, Claire Fallon, seemed shocked and aghast at backlash to the phrase. Like Byron Tau of The Wall Street Journal, who tweeted, “Oprah employed a phrase that I’ve noticed a lot of other celebrity (sic) using these days: ‘your truth’ instead of ‘the truth.’ Why that phrasing? ‘Your truth’ undermines the idea of a shared set of common facts'” (1/8/18). She quoted Joseph A. Wulfsohn, who objected, “When we rely on ‘our truths,’ we get to choose what to believe.” Fallon defended the phrase as an exhortation for the less powerful to find their own voices and credited a 1927 poem as the genesis of the phrase, in a Max Ehrmann poem entitled “Desiderata” (source). 

So while there can be great merit and value to one respecting the feelings and opinions of others or advocating for those without power, there is inherent danger in the very idea of individual, subjective truth. In her excellent book, Total Truth, Nancy Pearcey quotes Udo Middelmann, who said we learn about objective truth from the time we are born. She then writes, “When a baby crawls to the edge of the crib and bumps his head against the wooden bars, he learns in a painful way that reality is objective. When a toddler tilts his high chair back until it falls to the floor, he learns that there is an objective structure to the universe. Reality does not bend itself to our subjective desires–a lesson that can be painful to learn even for adults. Thus we can confidently reject any philosophical position that leads to subjectivism. Why? Because it fails to account for what ordinary experience teaches us day by day. It is in tension with the data of experience” (395). 

Our calling is much higher than being true to self, following our own feelings, opinions, and morals. So much can distort and deform these things–selfishness, fleshly desires, improper and immoral guides and guidance, etc. (cf. Eph. 2:1-3; 4:17-19). Truth is transcendent (existing apart from and not subject to the material universe) and immutable (unchanging over time or unable to be changed). 

  • It can be practiced (John 3:21)
  • It can be known and it emancipates (John 8:32)
  • It is exclusive (John 14:6)
  • It is something we can be guided into, and it is exhaustive (John 16:13)

Men try to suppress it (Rom. 1:18), exchange it for a lie (Rom. 1:25), and disobey it (Rom. 2:8). But, philosophy defeats the idea of subjective truth (“your truth” and “my truth”) and Scripture makes clear that there is only one truth. You don’t have your truth and neither do I. God reveals the truth to us, and He holds us accountable to follow it. 

The Truth Is Out There

The Truth Is Out There

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

 

Gary Pollard

I believe that God exists. I believe that He communicated with His creation by direct contact, messengers, and a series of ancient texts. I believe that He wants His human creation to be with Him after they die. I believe that He expects those who claim to be His to act within the guidelines He set in those ancient texts. I believe that there is life after death and that where we go depends on whether or not we follow this God.

Why do I believe this, though? What reason do I have to believe in something I cannot experience with my senses? I was not there thousands of years ago when the prophets and Hebrews talked to God. I was not there when God came here to teach. I was not there when the authors of the original texts delivered their writings to the early church. The ancient texts translated into English sometimes do not effectively communicate the emotion of the words and concepts in the original language. So why do I believe these things? Why do you believe these things?

Think about this carefully. From Genesis to Revelation the message is clear: God wants His people to exist with Him after time is destroyed. This message was communicated to an impossible variety of people, sometimes separated by hundreds of years, thousands of miles, culture, kingdom, race, and language. There are tens of thousands of manuscripts of these ancient texts in many, many different languages. There are some 25,000 New Testament manuscripts or fragments that are separated by about a thousand years, at least 8 different languages, thousands of miles of geography, and many different cultures. Yet, they are at least 95% accurate to each other. The remaining 5% do not contain a single contradiction; rather, they are spelling errors, slips of the pen, writing on the wrong line, or minor variances (“God said” vs. “He said” or “and” vs. “but”).

Of the rich libraries we have of ancient literature, none can hold even the dimmest candle to the profound accuracy and unity of the scriptures. They could not have been produced by man alone. There had to be Someone not confined by time supervising each person as they wrote. Keep in mind, these ancient cultures did not have the advantage of modern communication. They were almost totally isolated from each other and would have known little of the others’ existence, much less what they experienced or wrote from God. Our Bible has supernatural origins and its contents reveal the nature of our Creator. What I believe comes from this book because I know it is God’s message to mankind. I encourage those who have not already done so to do an in-depth study of the origin of scripture. It is one of the most faith-building studies anyone could undertake. When you know with certainty that what you are reading contains the actual thoughts and desires of God, it bolsters your faith in ways I could not begin to adequately describe.

THE WAY AROMAS HIT PEOPLE 

THE WAY AROMAS HIT PEOPLE 

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

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Neal Pollard

I was originally going to call this, “The way we smell to others,” but thought that might be misleading or inaccurate. Paul uses a very unusual illustration to make an important point in 2 Corinthians 2:12-17. The backdrop of the illustration was when he came to Troas to take advantage of an open door to preach the gospel. It was a trying experience, as he couldn’t find Titus there. He left them for Macedonia (12-13). 

In chapter three, he is going to change metaphors. But, first, he describes their work of sharing the gospel as like God sending His fragrance through them which others evaluate or judge (14-15). The same message “smells” differently to the recipients, based on the receptivity and spiritual condition of those hearers (16). But Paul makes clear that their motives and message are not “rotten,” but if it is rejected it is because the listeners are perishing (17). Think about how so many could hear the Son of God Himself teach and preach, and thoroughly reject it to the degree that they even took Him and nailed Him to a cross! 

When you share Jesus and the message of His saving grace with others, there will be those who find that “fragrance of Christ” (15) a “sweet aroma” (14). It will be so appealing to them that they leave their old life and follow Him, much as the men God chose to follow Him during His ministry. It’s attractive and satisfying. There are still so many with good, receptive hearts out there. We see that when we share Him.

However, be prepared for some to find that same message repulsive. It’s not what they want and not what they are after. Have you ever been sick in such a way that even your favorite foods nauseated you to smell them cooking? There is no more savory and appealing message than the Bible’s story of grace, but many will reject it anyway! It can leave us feeling so inadequate (16), but we must remember that it is not our message. It is Christ’s message. Our job is simply to spread it with personal integrity, honesty, and righteous motivation. His word will work its power on those who seek their satisfaction in Him.  

Fresh baked, homemade sour dough bread from Kathy’s kitchen!
These Two Just Don’t Mix

These Two Just Don’t Mix

THURSDAY’S COLUMN: “CAPTAIN’S BLOG”

 

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Carl Pollard

Some things just don’t mix. Milk and orange juice, Auburn and Alabama fans, Coca Cola and Mentos. There is one particular mix that can sometimes be fatal. Blood pressure medicine can be a great thing, but when mixed with Advil/Ibuprofen it can harm your body and even give you a brain hemorrhage.  If you mix two common household items, rubbing alcohol and bleach, you can create chloroform. 

It’s safe to say that some things in life just don’t mix. Twenty to thirty years after the ascension of Jesus, Paul wrote to a group of Christians in Galatia warning them of the dangers of mixing two teachings. In Galatians 1:6, Paul says, “I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel.” He goes on to say in verse 7, “not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ.”

Paul is writing to the Galatians to answer a simple question: “What is required for a person to be saved?” Forget circumcision (Acts 15:1), forget additional teachings, what does GOD say? His answer can be summed up as this: “We need nothing other than what is found in scripture to walk in the Light.” 

Paul addresses the problem in verse six, and he uses the word “amazed” (“thaumazo”) (cf. Acts 4:13; Mark 5:20). He was amazed because these Christians should’ve known better than to listen to these false teachers. Paul’s point is that if there is anything added to that which is necessary for the maintaining of your walk in the light, it is not necessary for salvation.

These Christians should’ve known better, but sadly we are sometimes the same way. We know what’s right and wrong, yet still choose poorly. We know how our speech should be as Christians, we know how we should act and how we should think, but more often than not we make the wrong decision. 

The message that these Christians were to accept was that of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus and the correct way to be saved. Any requirement outside of the plan of salvation was to be condemned. If that other requirement is the sinner’s prayer, it must be condemned. If that other requirement is a “new wave of salvation,” as some denominations teach, it is to be condemned. If that other requirement is a tradition not necessary for salvation yet enforced as such, it is to be condemned. We are only compelled to follow what is contained in God’s Word. 

We do this because there is only one source of truth, as Paul goes on to say in Galatians 1:7-9. No one else (not even an angel) has the authority to add to what God has already completed. Scripture is our objective standard, the one source of truth that we can count on no matter what. 

Every year there are new medical breakthroughs that may change how a doctor treats his/her patient. For example, doctors used to bleed their patients because they thought there was such thing as “bleeding out bad blood.” We know this isn’t the case today and that’s because as humans our knowledge is fallible and subject to change. This is not the case for Christians. 

Our methods may change as time goes on, but our message and teachings will never change. Their author is our perfect, unchangeable, all-knowing, infallible God. 

We need nothing other than what is contained in scripture to walk in the light. Paul tells them what is required for salvation. There is only one Gospel that helps to walk in the light. There is only one source that the gospel has come from. We have to decide which gospel we will listen to. Will we let man ruin what God has deemed perfect? Will we let someone else tell us how to be saved? Man, on his own, doesn’t know how to be saved. 

God gave us one gospel through One source, now it is up to us to make the right decision.

 

via Popular Mechanics
8 Interesting Facts About The Bible

8 Interesting Facts About The Bible

 Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

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Dale Pollard

  1. The Bible was written by 40 different writers. 
  2. The Bible was written from 3 continents: Asia, Africa, & Europe.
  3. It was written in 3 ancient languages: Hebrew, Aramaic, & Greek. 
  4. The original manuscripts making up the cannon contain 611,000 words. 
  5. The longest book is Jeremiah. 
  6. The shortest book is 3rd John.
  7. The Bible contains around 185 songs. 
  8. The Bible records around 21 dreams.  

The Bible is more than just fascinating trivia, it’s the only book that God ever wrote. Let’s make sure we’re spending time in His Word daily. 

Is Hyperbole a Sin? 

Is Hyperbole a Sin? 

Friday’s Column: Brent’s Biblical Bytes

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Brent Pollard

Someone asked if traffic had increased on our little country road. My mother replied that we had more traffic than the nearby town. This response is an example of hyperbole. Hyperbole has long been used rhetorically for effect. So, was my mother lying? It seems that in recent years some are equating hyperbole to lying. Critics routinely called our nation’s previous president a liar because of his frequent use of hyperbole. Reuters published an article in 2015 about how the president’s habit, as extolled in his Art of the Deal, might backfire against him (Flitter and Oliphant). They were correct.

Consider the treatment that the word “hyperbole” receives from Webster’s Dictionary, as demonstrated in the original 1828 edition and 2021 online version. The former is more nuanced.

“In rhetoric, a figure of speech which expresses much more or less than the truth, or which represents things much greater or less, better or worse than they really are. An object uncommon in size, either great or small, strikes us with surprise, and this emotion produces a momentary conviction that the object is greater or less than it is in reality. The same effect attends figurative grandeur or littleness; and hence the use of the hyperbole which expresses this momentary conviction.” (Webster)

And here is what Merriam-Webster tells modern students of English:

“: extravagant exaggeration.”

In other words, as noted by Daniel Webster himself, hyperbole might reflect one’s emotional state rather than a conscious decision to deceive. However, the successful use of hyperbole requires an unbiased and knowledgeable audience. In other words, they must be able to understand you are exaggerating for effect.

Even so, we admit people can use hyperbole to manipulate. Perhaps, this is the type of hyperbole usage that caused President Trump’s political enemies to call him a liar. For example, was he the “best jobs president?” He did create an economic environment that led to historic job growth. However, if God allows time and the United States to continue, another president may create even more jobs. Hence, we can only qualify his statement. The truth as to whether his message is a lie boils down to intent, which may be something requiring omniscience to determine.

We asked at the outset, with our title, whether hyperbole is a sin. It might be helpful to know that the Bible contains hyperbole. Jesus used hyperbole in Mark 10.25.

“It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” (NASB1995)

What about Jesus’ usage of hyperbole in Matthew 5.29-30?

“If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. If your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to go into hell.” (NASB1995)

How would you qualify our Lord’s speech? Was He lying? Certainly not!  Clearly, He is using exaggeration for rhetorical effect. In the latter case of hyperbole cited, He says that you should be willing to do whatever it takes to enter heaven, even if it seems unreasonable or extreme to you since your entry into heaven is of greater importance than anything sacrificed.

If people equate hyperbole with lying today, it seems more likely an indictment of our public education system’s failure or an unwillingness to evaluate the intended purpose of its usage fairly. Someone may be acting too nitpicky. But we do remind the Christian desirous of communicating the Gospel to others that Paul commands us to ensure our speech’s soundness is beyond reproach (Titus 2.7-8). There are groups with whom we must exercise caution since they take things literally, primarily children and those on the autistic spectrum. Neither should we use hyperbole derogatorily since James cautions us not to use the same tongue to praise God while cursing men (James 3.8-10). Otherwise, our hyperbole use may be the greatest seasoning we can add to our speech when making a point. As with all communication, it is best to season it with grace (Colossians 4.6).

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Sources Cited:

Flitter, Emily, and James Oliphant. “Best President Ever! How Trump’s Love of Hyperbole Could Backfire.” Reuters, Thomson Reuters, 28 Aug. 2015, www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-election-trump-hyperbole-insight-idUSKCN0QX11X20150828.

“Webster’s Dictionary 1828 – Hyperbole.” Websters Dictionary 1828, webstersdictionary1828.com/Dictionary/hyperbole.

“Hyperbole.” Merriam-Webster, Merriam-Webster, www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/hyperbole.

God’s “House-Law”

God’s “House-Law”

Wednesday’s Column: “Third’s Words”

Gary III

Gary Pollard

Every home has some kind of system in place to keep order. Maybe you were told to take your shoes off at the door, keep your elbows off the table, make your bed in the morning, or brush your teeth more than twice a month. Every home is different and the expectations for conduct and cleanliness vary accordingly. However your home was structured, you were at least bound to a set of rules in some form.

God’s house is no different. I’m not just talking about the building we meet in for worship, but that anytime His family offers up worship to Him we are expected to follow His rules. I Timothy 1.4 talks about God’s “house-law” (often mistranslated “stewardship” or “godly edification”). The word is οικονομία (oikonomia), combining οίκος (house) with νόμος (law). What does this mean in context? In I Timothy Paul publicly berates two members who were teaching “myths and endless genealogies which do not promote the house law of God in faith” (1.3, 4; 20).

If any teaching goes against what God has told us He wants, it’s a violation of His house-law. We understand this when it comes to daily life outside of religious activities. If we break the law we are held accountable to it. We understand that violating the laws our governments put in place to maintain order and promote justice carries consequences. Some, though, do not act as if the same applies to God’s people in a religious context.

God’s house-law is more specifically defined in I Timothy 2.1-8. Anytime and anywhere Christian men and women offer worship together, God expects qualified Christian men to lead. This is made clear with the phrase, “…in every place” (2.8). God’s house, God’s rules.

Not just any man can lead, though! He must be someone who is able to lift holy hands (that is, he is pure in life and can offer worship without the stain of sin), he must be cool-headed, and he can’t be unstable in his faith (2.8). God’s house, God’s rules.

God expects women to avoid drawing undue attention to themselves (2.9, 10) and are to allow godly men to lead them in worship (2.11-14). His house, his rules.

In all of my vast wisdom and experience as a child, I didn’t always agree with or like all of my family’s house rules. Probably every teen and their unfortunate parents experience this. My feelings about a house rule did not alter its validity in any way. It was not my house so I was not in a position to change or violate the rules. Trying to do so was not only futile but often carried consequences.

God’s design for His church is not acceptable to the secular world. In their disagreement or downright hostility toward it they have pushed many churches into changing God’s house-laws. This doesn’t fly in the legal world, the home, or in any setting where rules were set in place by those most qualified to make them. Why would it work with God?

We may not always understand why God made the laws that He did, but this is where the faith aspect of 1 Timothy 1.4 comes into play. We have to ask ourselves, “Do we trust that God knew what He was doing when He made these laws, and do I really want to challenge Him on the rules He made for His own family?” At the end of the day we must remember that in God’s house we follow God’s laws. Many of the problems facing the church in 2020 can be solved simply by accepting this fact! If we do – as in any family – we will not only have harmony in the church, but a permanent, peaceful home with God after this life.

Job 38.4-7

Where Few Dare Go 

Where Few Dare Go 

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

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Dale Pollard

In the movie 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea there is a scene where one of the main characters finds himself on an island in the middle of the ocean. Suddenly he hears the faint sound of bongo drums in the distance and the sound becomes louder and closer. Out of the jungle a large group of cannibalistic natives appear, chasing this poor man across the beach. The hero escapes, but only by the skin of his teeth. That scene used to terrify me and an irrational fear of cannibals was instilled in me at a fragile age. In the 1830s when European explorers came to the Fiji islands they were horrified to discover the local practice of cannibalism. To me, the sake of exploration is not worth confronting that particular fear. 

We all fear something! The one who claims to be fearless is afraid to admit or confront their fear. Fear isn’t wrong, it’s natural. We’re supposed to have a healthy fear of the Lord (Job 28:28). Facing our fears is a noble thing, but it really only matters in a spiritual sense. 

A common phobia in our world today seems to be the fear of truth itself. Many Christians in the Lord’s church know family members and friends who have refused to listen to and act on the truth found in God’s Word. They’re afraid to give up the teachings taught to them by their families or the religious groups they grew up in. They’re afraid that the truth requires them to give up a sin they tightly hold on to and the sacrifice required to follow Christ. 

The gospel of John is all about truth. In it we learn that Jesus is the only way to salvation and heaven; that’s the truth (John 14:6, 17:17). We must teach through our actions, daily lives, and yes, by inviting them to look at this great truth in Bible study. Though confronting that truth might make some fearful, we must show others that it has the power to free and cleanse us from the guilt of our sins. 

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(Photo: Creative Commons, Flickr, James Vaughn)

THE POSITIVE USE OF THE TONGUE

THE POSITIVE USE OF THE TONGUE

Neal Pollard

David spoke of his tongue as a pen (Ps. 45:1) and his enemies’ tongues as sharp swords (Ps. 57:4). We learn that God hates a tongue which forms lies (Prov. 6:17).  Isaiah prophesied a future time so happy that it would case “the tongue of the dumb [to] sing” (Isa. 35:6). The ungodly tongue is described by Jeremiah as a “deadly arrow” (Jer. 9:8). James calls the unruly tongue a “fire” (Js. 3:6).

The tongue is unique among the body’s members.  It has so many uses. With taste buds, it judges the palatability of the food we consume. With sensitive nerves, it screens the temperatures of the food and drink which enter the mouth.  William McPherson, who lost his sense of sight, hearing, and all four limbs in a mining explosion, used his tongue to read the Bible in Braille. Coordinating with brain and various, undergirding muscles, the tongue is that powerful tool of communication responsible for speech and song.  Like so much of what God created, it is a neutral invention.  According to how it is used, the tongue is either a blessing or curse upon families, communities, and nations.  Benjamin Franklin wrote, “A slip of the foot you may soon recover, but a slip of the tongue you may never get over.”  How can we identify a tongue positively used?

A POSITIVE TONGUE WILL NOT BACKBITE.  Those who wield their tongues positively will say something nice, or at least say nothing at all, about an occupant on the “rumor mill.”  in fact, we should use our tongues to stop the backbiting of others (Prov. 25:23).  A Welsh proverb goes, “Lord, remind us often that a gossip’s mouth is the devil’s mailbag.”  Remember, there’s only one thing more difficult than unscrambling an egg and that’s unspreading a rumor.  We wish only the best for others.  We don’t want to contribute to another’s harm or embarrassment by saying or repeating something evil about them behind their back (Ps. 15:1; Rom. 1:30; 2 Cor. 12:20).

A POSITIVE TONGUE WILL SPEAK GOD’S WORD.  On multiple occasions, the psalmist pledged to use his tongue this way (71:24; 119:172).   When opportunities with our neighbors and friends clearly present themselves, how can we refrain our tongues from speaking Bible truth and divine expectations? When the Bible is disparaged in our presence, how can we hold back our tongues from defending words more precious than gold? God’s Word contain “glad tidings” (Acts 13:32; Lk. 8:1; Rom. 10:15).

A POSITIVE TONGUE WILL SPEAK WHOLESOME WORDS. The Bible praises those who use wholesome words (Prov. 15:4; 1 Tim. 6:5). Profanity, vulgar stories, suggestive language and sexual innuendos do not drop off of a positive, wholesome tongue. Instead, we speak words that improve and sustain our good character.

A POSITIVE TONGUE WILL BE BRIDLED. That’s how you know who is religious (Js. 1:26).  A hot head and a positive tongue don’t rest in the same skull. A blessing tongue and a cursing tongue do not lead to the same end (1 Pet. 3:10-11). A hypocritical tongue and a sincere tongue cannot belong to the same individual (1 Jn. 3:18).  Self-control includes tongue-control.

Someone has written, “To speak kindly does not hurt the tongue.”  It may only be about three inches long, but it can be trained not to do miles of damage. It can be positively controlled.  A bridle for the tongue is a necessary tool which, when used, will cause one to be a shining light in the house of God.