12. Place of Trust

Wilderness Meditations: 12. The Place of Trust

Jn 3:14 Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up

Lev 16:10 the scapegoat shall be presented alive before the Lord to be used for making atonement by sending it into the wilderness as a scapegoat.

Recap:  We have been considering how we think, how we look at the world and look at life, how we have to come to the end of ourselves before we can truly be open to God. We reminded ourselves in the last study how we need people in our lives. We can’t get by without God and it is difficult to get by without people. People are one of God’s resources to us, that was a primary lesson we learned afresh in the early months of the 2020 Pandemic lockdown.

Things Taken for Granted: In a previous series about guilt, about how we can fall short of the things God has for us, we noted things we take for granted in our lives, and the wonder of our salvation was one of those things. Now I am sure there are many, many Christians, who have simply attended church, joined in the worship and prayers and listened to the sermons, week after week, month after month and year after year, but as we have done that the shear repetition of it all has meant that it has dulled our appreciation of who we are and what Jesus has done for us. As a result of that, so often our repetitious ‘services’ have meant that we hear the words but we still try to make ourselves good, make ourselves righteous, make ourselves spiritual, in order to win God’s approval. And it is there we fall down.

Through the lockdown period, church-going ceased, services started up online, meetings were conducted via Zoom. Suddenly many felt isolated from what they had known of as ‘church’. Suddenly, with the trappings stripped away, many were looking afresh at what they believed. It was a time of reassessment, of realising God’s salvation through Christ was THE only way, knowing Him personally had to mean more than turning up at a building on Sunday mornings.

The Old Testament Speaks: A snake on a pole? “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up.” (Jn 3:14) As the snake in the wilderness became of focus of both repentance and faith for healing (Num 21:9), so Jesus was lifted up on the Cross, lifted up by God in reputation (Phil 2:9) and lifted up from death into heaven where he rules at his Father’s right hand (Acts 2:33, 5:31, Eph 1:20). We may be in the wilderness but we too have died (Rom 6:2), have been raised (Rom 6:4,5),  and there, in the Spirit, we are seated with him (Eph 2:6). It doesn’t matter about the limitations of Covid-19, rejoice in the fact that we are divinely supernatural people who have been ‘lifted’ with Christ.

But then a scapegoat in the wilderness? The word ‘scapegoat’ is familiar, one who takes the blame – unfairly! There were two goats in Lev 16, one offered as a sin offering to take the guilt, the other sent into the wilderness to take the act of sin out of God’s presence. In the New Testament the application of that is brought to us: Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many.” (Heb 9:28) He took our guilt and punishment on the Cross and passed into the wilderness of death, carrying our sins away. If, in this wilderness, you see this scapegoat more clearly, understand God is just reassuring you that you can’t take your sins away, Jesus can and has. Don’t take them back.

Reality? So there is the teaching which, it is quite likely, you’ve heard before. But there are various things in those two pictures involving the wilderness, that should create questions in us:

Coming to the snake on the pole (the Cross) in the wilderness (of the lost and fallen world) required recognition that, having been bitten by snakes (the many expressions of sin in the world), we were at the end of ourselves and death faced us. Repentance meant facing the pole (the Cross) and the one on it, seeing the cause of our woes being nailed to death and taken by our Saviour, accepting his death was on our behalf. We receive it and are forgiven, cleansed and healed. Have we taken that for granted?

One of the two goats took our guilt. Jesus took our guilt. Do you still live a life tinged with guilt? Your guilt has been dealt with. Once you confessed it and repented, God forgave you. (1 Jn 1:9). Done deal, there is no more to be said. The other goat took our sins away into the wilderness (of death). Do the wrongs of your past still lurk in the background? Realise they have been removed, taken far away, you are a new creation in Christ, “the old has gone, the new is here.” (2 Cor 5:17).

And us? With all the trappings stripped away, have you been able to see in this wilderness with a fresh clarity the reality of your salvation. You are what you are not because of your church-going or other ‘spiritual acts’ but entirely because of the combined work of Christ on the Cross and now the applied outworking of that by the indwelling Holy Spirit: the past work, the present outworking, all coming from Him. Our part? Just to believe it and receive it in reality. May that be so.  

18. Consequences through People

The Truth about Guilt Meditations: 18. Consequences through People 

2 Sam 12:9,10   You struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and took his wife to be your own. You killed him with the sword of the Ammonites.  Now, therefore, the sword will never depart from your house, because you despised me and took the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your own.’

Recap: We are considering the consequences of our wrongs and have two more examples to consider, the first being that of King David in the Old Testament. In some ways David epitomizes the human race, capable of achieving such great things and yet also capable of falling so low.

David’s Guilt: The story of David and Bathsheba tends to be well known. Davis is in his palace and looks out and sees Bathsheba bathing in the sun on the roof of her nearby house. He sends for her, lies with her, and makes her pregnant. But she is married and so he arranges for her husband to be killed in battle and then she becomes one of his wives. That is the short potted version of what you can read in 2 Sam 11.

Accountability: Powerful people have a tendency to thinking they can get away with sin but God sees all and holds all to account, whether here in this lifetime or at the Final Judgement. David has been God’s man, a man after God’s own heart, and yet he gave way to a temptation that set off a train of sin: adultery, cover-up, murder. In the same way his judgment is going to follow along a train of events, but we are seeking to see how they work.

Step 1: God’s Activity: David is God’s representative and he needs to know that God will “by no means clear the guilty”. David is a very public person and what he has done is going to get out and the office of king of God’s people will be demeaned. God will not let that happen here. He sends Nathan who confronts him with his sin (2 Sam 12:1-7) but then declares God’s judgment on him: the sword will never depart from your house,” (v.10) and then, “This is what the Lord says: ‘Out of your own household I am going to bring calamity on you. Before your very eyes I will take your wives and give them to one who is close to you, and he will sleep with your wives in broad daylight. You did it in secret, but I will do this thing in broad daylight before all Israel.’” (v.11,12) He isn’t going to kill David, He is going to discipline him so that the nation will see and learn.  But before all this, because David is a heart man, the Lord is going to cut him to the heart and so the child Bathsheba is carrying dies (v.14-23). Now what is yet remarkable is that afterwards they have another child named Solomon who becomes the richest man in the world and bears the greatest testimony to the Lord, before he too falls to sin. The Lord uses both of these men mightily even though they both fail him. When challenged, David repents (v.13) but still there are consequences to follow.

Step 2: Human Activity: Sometimes it seems the Lord steps back and lets the natural foolish inclinations of men and women just flow out in a chain of events. The Lord doesn’t need to make these things happen, He just steps back and lets the folly of mankind proceed. There is a chain of events here that really starts with David’s polygamy (see 1 Chron 3), not forbidden but unwise. Thus the chain appears:

– the son of one wife, Amnon, desires the daughter of another wife, Tamar, and contrives to rape her (2 Sam 13:1-6). David appears obtuse and sees nothing strange about what goes on and so Tamar is raped by Amnon. (v.14)

– Tamar’s brother, Absalom, protects her. David hears about it, is angry (v.21) but takes no further action.

– Absalom sets up a feast and although David is suspicious, he does nothing (v.23-27).

– at the feast he kills Amnon (v.27,28) and flees living in isolation for three years (v.37,38)

– Absalom uses Joab to get reinstated in Jerusalem (2 Sam 14:1-24)

– Absalom eventually contrives to become king (2 Sam 15) and David has to flee Jerusalem while Absalom takes over and this continues until Absalom is killed (2 Sam 18:14). David eventually returns to Jerusalem and to his concubines who he now puts in isolation (2 Sam 20:3)

– Meanwhile there is a rebellion, led by Sheba, and many turn from David (2 Sam 20:1,2)

– and so the violence continues and throughout all this David’s heart is wrecked by anguish again and again.

Terrible Consequences: David’s is possibly the classic instance of a family head who didn’t control his warring family and reaped the consequences of it, but we cannot help feeling that none of this would have happened if David had remained true and not fallen for Bathsheba. In some ways we might have wanted the Lord to bring David to the point of death by way of discipline but the Lord works on our hearts in His work of redemption of individuals and His nation. The lesson seems to be that letting go in one instance possibly reveals a heart that is vulnerable and which will also fail to pick up on various aspects of life, i.e. one sin reveals the potential for others. Avoid sin at all cost, but if we do succumb, repent and commit yourself to do a total cleanup of your heart and life, else other sins and other consequences will follow. The Lord allows the ongoing consequences, coming through other people to discipline and change us. That is what redemption is about, changing us. If we are willful – actively or passively – and that points us away from the Lord, expect His disciplinary activity to bring us back and so often, the discipline follows the nature of the fall. A serious lesson.

15. God of Variety (2)

Getting to Know God Meditations:  15. God of Variety (2)

Eccles 1:2 “Meaningless! Meaningless!”  says the Teacher. “Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.

Jn 20:30,31  Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. 31 But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

Continuation:  In the previous study we briefly pondered some of the varieties of styles of writing, and gaps in understanding we find in the Bible because of when and where it was written and when and where we live today, but now I want us to move on to the much bigger observable varieties, those of the nature of the books of the Bible.

A Brief Outline of the Bible

Old Testament

  • Pentateuch: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers & Deuteronomy – thought to be compiled by Moses, covering Creation, early history up until the Exodus.
  • Historical Books: Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 & 2 Samuel, 1 & 2 Kings, 1 & 2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther – a period from about 1280BC through to about 430BC.
  • Poetical Books: Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs.
  • Prophetic Books: Major Prophets (4 + Lam), Minor Prophets (12).

New Testament

  • The Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke & John – the life & ministry of Jesus Christ
  • The Acts of the Apostles – the activities of the early church continuing Jesus’ ministry.
  • The Epistles – 21 letters from the leading apostles.
  • Revelation – a book of prophecy for the End Times.

Even from this listing we can see the varieties of writing styles we considered in the previous study: history, teaching, prophecy, poetry.

Books of Cultural Context: In one sense all the books of the Bible come in the context of God and Israel, developing and opening up to God and the whole world. Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers & Deuteronomy in the Old Testament and maybe Hebrews in the New, really paint the background, often in great detail, of the life and culture and beliefs of Israel. Hebrews takes those beliefs and translates them into the context of Christ. It is important to understand this ‘cultural context’ because it stops the modern believer getting confused and wondering should they be living like a Jew. The simple answer is no, because those early books were written first and foremost for Israel and only secondarily for us so that we can learn how God moved with them and the principles by which He operated with them. For the modern Christian the New Testament is the essential reading, with understanding of God and the cultural background of Christ coming from the Old Testament. We need to study both.

Books of Different ‘Weight’ and significance: Our first header verse above comes from Ecclesiastes, a book I love because of the way it shows how pointless a work-driven life is. It was written by Solomon, clearly one of the wisest and eventually richest rulers of history. His basic message is, I have done everything and got the tee-shirt five times over and my conclusion is that all this effort is pointless without God. It has a boldness and brashness about it found nowhere else in the Bible, but its message is vital for these most affluent and materialistic days in which we live. It is simple and straight-forward to read, but uncomfortable if that is your outlook on life. Could you be a Christian without ever reading it? Yes, but you’d be missing out on a powerful message to the Western world today.

Now come to the book from which our second header verses are taken, John’s Gospel. First, its setting. If you want the simplest and straight forward of the four Gospels to read, it is often said Mark should be your starting place. The first three Gospels – Matthew, Mark & Luke – are often called the Synoptic Gospels, meaning presenting the same view, and it is clear that there are three different writers or compilers of the things that happened in Jesus life but with some different sources and perspectives. The early pages of Matthew and Luke include what we call the Christmas story, Jesus’ birth.  It is usually though that Matthew is clearly written for a Jewish audience with more prophetic Old Testament references to suit that background, Mark (practically) for the Gentiles, Luke (historically) for the whole world, and John (spiritually) for the church. It is sometimes said that Matthew conveys power and authority, Mark conveys servant-heartedness, Luke conveys sympathy, care and compassion (that you might expect of a doctor writing), and John conveys wisdom and understanding.

John: I believe to catch something of the wonder of John’s Gospel we have to understand something of the traditional scholars’ assessment of John. He was one of the inner three or four of the twelve apostles who traveled with Jesus for three years. He was an elder of the church in Jerusalem and after the sacking of Jerusalem in AD70 (the Christians probably left before then) he ended up as an elder and apostle in the church at Ephesus. For his beliefs he was relatively briefly exiled to the prison island of Patmos where he would have lived in a cave, praying and contemplating the past. It is believed he probably wrote his Gospel when he was at least ninety. Now something I have observed is that as people get older, their short-term memory fails but their long-term memory strengthens.

I can imagine this elderly saint sitting with his young students in the church at Ephesus and his memory drifts back to those three most incredible years of his life when he was probably in his early twenties. Because of the incredible nature of what happened and with strengthening long-term memory, he reminisces with his younger believers and as he does (and I see this happening with older Christians) he finds things coming to the surface, the things Jesus said which the earlier three writers had never bothered with. They had been concerned to record the bare bones of what had happened, but John now recalls what was said and why it happened. Maybe they encouraged him to write it down or it was simply the Holy Spirit’s prompting, but the result is his amazing Gospel, full of depth and profundity, wisdom and understanding that cannot be found in the other three.  The depth of revelation, the blatant declarations of John, leave no room for any other conclusion than Jesus Christ was and is the unique Son of God who came from heaven, lived and served on this earth, was put to death by crucifixion, rose from the dead and ascended back to heaven. Take it or leave it, that is the clarity of John and the New Testament.

And So: I have sought to give a simple outline of the Bible and then give an example of the variety by giving a brief comparison of two of its books, finishing with John’s clear and obvious aim. Perhaps in line with that, it would be appropriate here to conclude this study with a famous quote from that great Oxford scholar and writer, C.S.Lewis, writing about Christ:

“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”

46. Believing Moses

Short Meditations in John 5:  46. Believing Moses

Jn 5:46  If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me.

Jesus draws this conversation to an end with a challenge to these religious Jews in respect of Moses. We have already considered the challenge that they did not obey the Law of Moses and thus needed a Saviour (implied) but now the challenge becomes more personal. We did briefly refer to this before but now we need to note what Moses had written: I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their fellow Israelites, and I will put my words in his mouth. He will tell them everything I command him.” (Deut 28:18)

Over the years the scholars searched the Old Testament scrolls finding these references to a ‘Coming One’, a Messiah who would come from God to deliver His people, an ‘anointed one’. More often those references were found in the Prophets, but of course Moses was also seen as a prophet and this verse (which is repeated a short while later) became part of that collection of prophecies in respect of the ‘Coming One’.

So why, we might ask, did Jesus not give a full teaching of the many prophecies from the Old Testament, as we now call it, and show that they clearly spoke about him when you considered the things he did? The answer is that Jesus almost went out of his way NOT to be ultra-clear about who he was and only spoke about himself very clearly on rare occasions. Why, again we might ask? Jesus knew that belief in him was a heart issue (and we have considered that previously) and therefore it was only seekers who would find him and realise who he truly was.

However, what we do also find about Jesus in the Gospels is that he was not averse to dropping hints for those who might be looking. Much of his teaching about himself was somewhat oblique – such as the ‘I am’ sayings of John’s Gospel, and in particular throughout the Gospels, his teaching using parables.

When Jesus’ disciples asked him, “Why do you speak to the people in parables?” he replied, Because the knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them,” and then went on, “Whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them.” (Mt 13:10-12) i.e. those who remain close to Jesus will get answers, and once they realise who he is, more will be given them.

So the reference to Moses is one of these ‘nudges’, these hints, given for the seeker but remaining an obscurity for those who criticised him and who were against him.


32. Establishing Scriptures

Meditations in 2 Peter : 32:  Establishing Scriptures

2 Pet  3: 15,16    Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.

The marvel of the Bible – and something I suspect that we take for granted – is that it comprises 66 books with a lot of writers. Sometimes we don’t know who those writers are but that makes even more amazing the unity that is found in Scripture. Critics focus on unclear passages of Scripture or where harmony takes a while to find, but the truth is that there is staggering unity in the Bible. The Old Testament flows like a history book and if you knew nothing of its origins you might think it was written by one person, even though they vary the style from time to time. Yes there is an historical gap of some four hundred years between Old and New Testaments, but the flow is still about a little country in what we call the Middle East, and the amazing things that went on in it. The more you read the Bible you more you come to see this unity. God is NOT portrayed in a variety of ways; He is there in the background the whole time and again and again He reiterates His love for His world.

As Peter draws near the end of this letter and particularly his argument to persuade believers to live holy lives, he appeals to the writing of the apostle Paul. In many ways Peter and Paul stand as the two human giants in the New Testament. They were both Jews but they had very different backgrounds. They both responded to Jesus’ call but Peter was largely called to the Jews while Paul was largely called to the Gentiles.

Peter’s finishing point to his own argument is Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation.”  That was the conclusion to what he had been saying: be patient, be faithful, hold to the truth and live holy lives and realise, as we have now noted a number of times, that every day the Lord delays in coming back means a further opportunity for people to be saved. Then he adds, presumably as a means of adding authority to what he has been saying, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you.” Do you see that – “just as” – i.e. in the same way as Paul has been teaching.

In 1 Thessalonians Paul had spoken of Jesus’ return (1 Thess 4:13-) Moving into chapter 5 he had written, “Now, brothers, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.” (1 Thess 5:1,2) and then a bit later “So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be alert and self-controlled…. But since we belong to the day, let us be self-controlled, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet.” ( Thess 5:6,8)

So there we find exactly the same teaching that Peter has been bringing – Jesus will return, so be prepared and remain faithful and true.  Peter upholds Paul’s writing in a remarkable way. He confirms it is in line with his own teaching, but he also adds that he recognizes that Paul’s writing came with the wisdom that God gave him.”  But even more than that, he puts Paul’s writings alongside the other Scriptures.”  Peter recognizes that hand of God on Paul’s writings which declare it revelation equivalent to that of the Old Testament. That is quite a remarkable attestation.

But Peter is an honest pastor: His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.”   Look, he seems to be saying, he’s a bit of an intellect and so sometimes the things he writes need some thinking about; they are not always that easy to take in – BUT that doesn’t make them any the less the wisdom and inspiration of God!

There is a simple challenge here that comes out of this: if Scripture isn’t always clear and easy to understand, that doesn’t mean it’s not from God. You just have to take more time thinking and praying over it to see what God would say to you through it. If you haven’t seen the unity we’ve referred to, then read and read and read the Bible and you soon will. If you stumble over passages, pause up and ask the Lord to help you understand it. In fact, the wise always pray before they read the Bible because it is a spiritual book and needs help of the Holy Spirit sometimes to understand. Ask Him for that help!

2. Prophets?

Short Meditations in Mark’s Gospel: 2. Prophets?

Mk 1:2 It is written in Isaiah the prophet:

I once heard of a group of people who said we didn’t need the Old Testament, but I find the Gospels and, indeed, the whole of the New Testament littered with quotes from the Old. I wonder if we just take them for granted? We shouldn’t do for they produce a unity and harmony in the Bible.

Do we take for granted (or perhaps ignore or deny) the presence of these figures in the Old Testament who are referred to in the text as prophets?  These were men who, it seems, had an open ear to God and a mouth that passed on what they heard. There are massive chunks of the Old Testament that display the writings of these men.

The prophets say to us that God is a God of communication. The writer to the Hebrews declared, “In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son.” (Heb 1:1,2). There it is: God spoke – again and again! Back then He spoke through prophets, but now he has spoken through His Son, Jesus. No wonder John in his Gospel describes Jesus as ‘the Word’: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (Jn 1:1,14). A word is a means of communication!

So we have these ‘prophets’ who spoke out during the Old Testament period and who, every now and then, made reference to a coming One. It is said that there are over 300 prophecies in the Old Testament that find their fulfilment in Jesus Christ, over 300 times that God’s heart was picked up by these listeners, these prophets, who caught something of the divine plan. It seemed like God couldn’t keep a secret! He had to let out little bits and pieces of the plan that has been formulated, the Scriptures tell us, from before the very foundation of the world.

Today we speak of ‘government leaks’ when someone lets out a bit of privileged information. God was giving it all the time to His chosen people. Jesus’ coming was no surprise to those who listened to the prophets.  Lord, give me an open ear to catch what you are saying in your word and in your world today. Help me be a listener.

God the Beginning

REVELATION OF GOD Meditations No.1 of 10

Gen 1:1 In the beginning God…

Today we start a new ‘overview’ series of studies that will give us a wider perspective of the Bible than we, perhaps, are normally used to. This set of readings will be quite different from previous meditations in that it will be very general making big brush strokes to reveal something of God’s way of working through history.

In the writings of modern crusading atheists, often appears strong criticism of Biblical things far back in history. There is often a derisory note about a God who would make an imperfect world, and how primitive man was unlikely to have been part of God’s plan, and as for dinosaur’s?????

It is only as we start thinking about these issues that we start thinking about

a) why God made the world in the way He did, and

b) why He revealed Himself in the way He did.

When it comes to looking to archaeology for answers, we find we are limited. In his book, Is Religion Dangerous?, professor Keith Ward, who knows about these things, declares, “The truth is that we know virtually nothing about the first origins of religious belief.” He continues, “From a purely scientific point of view, all we have to go on are grave-goods and archaeological remains.”

If we hope to look at masses of old parchments of the Old Testament of the Bible to help us, we again find ourselves disappointed. The reason for this was that the Jews destroyed every old, damaged document once they had fastidiously copied it. Yes, there were lots of copies, but they don’t go back the three thousand years that we might wish.

When we study the nature of how the Old Testament documents came about and how they were passed on we can see that we can trust what we have in what we call the Old Testament. Our work then becomes to understand what is written and ponder how it ‘fits’ what else we know about the rest of the world.

We can look at a variety of religious texts to try to unscramble the origins of religion but, we suggest, the only one with a strong historical basis is the Bible, and for the sake of our studies here, the Old Testament of the Bible.

The opening words of the Bible declare, “In the beginning God.” The further we go in the Bible the more it reveals the nature of this ‘God’ to us, but at the outset it doesn’t seek to define God or defend God. It simply records His activities in respect of the earth and the human race. We may subsequently go on to suggest He is THE Ultimate Being, all-powerful, all-knowing, all-wise, ever-present, good and loving, but for the moment those things are not the concern of the writer. He simply assumes, by all that he personally knows, there IS this God who existed before anything else. That is his starting point and, in a sense, that is all he asks of us in the opening words of Genesis. Much more will follow, but for the time being, that’s all we will focus upon – the IS this one Supreme Being.