The door is closing

Saturday June 22, 2013

I asked God this morning – How long will this last, Lord? The revival that is going on around the world right now…

He showed me a huge door coming down slowly, like one of the locks of the Panama canal.

Not much longer, he said.

Revival is happening around the world in many nations, thousands are being healed, delivered, with creative miracles, signs and wonders demonstrating the power of God.

The blind see, the deaf hear, the paralyzed walk. On every continent, God is moving in power. Spiritually hungry multitudes are coming to Christ when they realize God is real, he is powerful, and he loves them.

And at the same time, people are dying by the thousands in disaster after disaster, chaos, destruction, war. Floods, fire, typhoons, earthquakes, new diseases. It’s growing very dark in the world.

I thought about the subdivision on the west coast where houses started sinking into the ground several months ago.

If that had happened when people were asleep, they could have been swallowed up without ever knowing they were in danger. If they weren’t believers, they would be eternally lost.

I went online and searched for death tolls just this year so far. It is incredible how many are dying in disasters. I finally quit recording the numbers.

So many don’t see the danger coming. Who is warning them?

Is the American church asleep? Sick, weak, tired, self-absorbed with their own problems? They come to church sick, they go out sick. They can’t seem to help themselves. How can they help anyone else?

They need to be hungry! Make them hungry, Lord!

The door of this revival is closing.

Weapons / Joshua the warrior

CombatTrainingUrbanJoshua was a warrior. He spent many years with Moses, serving first as his aide de camp and eventually named by God as Moses’ successor.

Although serving in several roles, Joshua was primarily a soldier. And more than a soldier; a warrior.

During their days in the desert in what today is Jordan, Joshua was training men for the battle ahead. He had to hand-pick the best, teach them how to fight and how to use their weapons. He was well aware that as soon as Israel crossed the Jordan River, they would be in enemy territory.

“About forty thousand armed for battle crossed over before the Lord to the plains of Jericho for war.” (Joshua 4:13 NIV) Joshua’s first major target was to be Jericho, a fiercely guarded walled city.

“Now when Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand. Joshua went up to him and asked, “Are you for us or for our enemies?”

“Neither,” he replied, “but as commander of the army of the Lord I have now come.” (Josh. 5:13-14 NIV) The Lord’s commander; captain of the Lord’s hosts, it says in the King James version.

He was there to give Joshua first an intelligence briefing, then his battle orders. (Those instructions may sound a little strange to us, marching around walls, but that’s what they were: battle orders.)

Who was he? An angel? Michael or one of his subordinates? Perhaps Jesus himself? We’re not told. But we are told that war, warriors and warfare were part of his mission on earth.

I was thinking about all this one evening and the fact that the scriptures describe another battle looming in Israel and probably other places in the middle east, in the not too distant future. Who will be trained well enough to fight and win in that war, I wondered? Most of the believers I know certainly aren’t.

The Lord began to answer that question by showing me an activity going on in heaven. Combat training. Arm to arm combat. Physical, mental, emotional – and spiritual – training. Weapons. Armor.

I thought at first I was dead wrong about what I saw. That simply could not be heaven, it had to be some sort of hallucination, a mistake. But it wasn’t. The Holy Spirit took me to several scriptures about the battles ahead, and explained in some detail what I was seeing.

Many believers will still be here on earth when that war needs to be fought. Untrained, ill-equipped believers who don’t know one end of a rifle from the other. They won’t know how to defend themselves, much less fight an enemy soldier. Like the children of Israel facing the Jordan River, most of them aren’t warriors.

But they aren’t called to be.

Out of a million or more men of Israel, only forty thousand were called to be warriors. They were chosen, trained, equipped and ready. And in the coming warfare, God’s warriors will be ready. They will be returning to earth with Jesus, fully trained and equipped. (See Revelation 17:14, 19:19)

Right now they are going through that training period. I watched some of the training. I saw some of the weapons, both material and spiritual. I have never seen anything on earth exactly like them – not in any of those action and adventure and spy movies I’ve watched for years.

The Holy Spirit explained how some of them worked and how some are already working here on earth. Not technically weapons, some are designed to gather information, such as three-dimensional cameras that can see around solid objects. Invisibility cloaks for people and machines. I actually saw a news video about that one several months ago, being tested here on earth.

Not everyone in heaven is assigned to be trained as a fighter. Some are assigned to be designers of weapons, inventors or engineers or scientists. Or writers, composers, artists or musicians. But warriors will certainly be needed, and so some are chosen and taught how to be.

I am understanding more and more what heaven is like, and what it’s for. Worship. Work. And training for warfare.

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A type of Christ, the man Joshua is a fascinating character. His original name, Hoshea, simply meant salvation.  Moses changed it to Jehoshua (Joshua), however, which means Jehovah is salvation (Numbers 13:16). The Greek form of the name Joshua is Jesus.

Follow his unique career from being one of Moses’ “young men,” being with Moses on the mountain when he received the ten commandments, one of twelve tribal leaders sent to spy out the land, serving as Moses’ assistant and then being named his successor — read through the book of Numbers and associated passages. He was one of the two spies who were faithful (Caleb being the other) and because they believed God, only those two of the twelve spies were promised to survive the 40-year trek through the wilderness.

Predestination

Predestination, a controversial subject. The original Greek word simply means to determine ahead of time, like drawing the boundary lines on a plat.

It’s a destiny and destination pre-planned by God for anyone who accepts Jesus as Saviour.

When we accepted Christ, God changed us.
Not into a frog.
Not into a millionaire.
Into a human habitat for the Holy Spirit, who then enables us to be conformed into the image of Christ.

God also changed our eternal destination.
Not a planet of our own to rule.
Not some great universal mind.
To God’s own home, heaven.

That’s not hard to understand. God didn’t decide who would get those changes, he just decided what those changes would be.

When God created whatever he created, he first thought about it. Once he’d given it every consideration, he decided to do it. He planned it all out, down to the tiniest detail. He designed the what, when, where and how, extrapolating every action and reaction to cover every contingency, all this in his mind before he ever moved to create anything.

Among his plans, God decided to create a being. (He actually created more than one type of being, angels, for instance, but these notes center around human beings.) God planned, designed and created human beings. Mankind. We can speculate as to his reasons but he did it.

When he did it, he designed the human being in his own image. The human didn’t resemble an asteroid, an octupus, a speck of dust or a black hole. God designed man – predestined him – to be made in God’s own image. He energized him with his own life, setting his existence on earth into motion.

Before God created the human being, he designed a habitat for him. He created an expanse we call the universe. There he housed untold numbers of objects, organized into what looks to us like messy and complicated interconnected systems. Some objects he created as stars, nuclear engines that provide energy to power and sustain other objects. Other objects he designed to orbit those stars, forming what we call solar systems. Those include planets and their satellites (moons), planetoids, asteroids and comets. Not to mention interstellar dust and light waves in their myriad forms; building blocks from the universe creation. “Left-overs?” Planets and suns coming and going? Maybe.

When God created that habitat, he planned, designed and set into motion great numbers of solar systems interacting together, smaller circling greater, larger circling even greater. These rotating systems filling the universe are grouped into collections we call galaxies; even the galaxies rotate and orbit something else. NASA’s orbiting telescopes bring us spectacular full-color photographic images of them by the thousands. Amazingly beautiful!

Now, asteroids and comets can be odd shapes but God designed planets to be orb-shaped. Some are mostly dry, others mostly liquid, but our own planet earth He predestined to be an orb containing a balance of gases, solids and liquids.

When God was creating all this, he determined that humans would have a physical lifespan occupying space and time on planet earth. Once the physical lifespan was finished, however, God decided that the spirit – the person himself – would not end.

But what should become of the human’s spirit then? Should he continue on without a physical form on the planet earth? As a ghost, perhaps? Should he occupy some other planet where he wouldn’t need a physical body? Or would he be reincarnated, born into a new body and begin another earthly existence?

No. In the Bible God has told us plainly what He desired for the human being: Eternal fellowship with Him in his own home.

And before he ever created mankind, God designed – predestined – the mechanism to achieve that fellowship. Believe and accept God’s way to be in Christ Jesus, and where Christ goes, we’ll go.

Some folks have made it far too complicated.

In Christ Alone

Jesus’ trial, crucifixion, suffering… all took a very short time compared to eternity. Many men and women have undergone that much and more physical torture for their faith, their race, their allegiances.

Jesus’ payment for everyone’s crimes against God, everyone who has ever lived or ever will live, was not limited to physical pain and humiliation. The separation from his very immortal existence, his identity as creator of the universe, his being God – that spiritual punishment was required.

He created us. He loves us as a father loves his newborn baby, with ferocity. To rescue us from an eternity of separation and torment, he was willing to forsake and be forsaken by his own father and undergo that separation and torment himself.

No human being can begin to imagine the agony in that cry, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me!”

For me. And for you. That is why.

All Heav’n Declares

All Heav’n Declares
Noel Richards, Tricia Richards 1987

All heav’n declares the glory of the risen Lord
Who can compare with the beauty of the Lord?
Forever He will be (Forever He will be)
The Lamb upon the throne (The Lamb upon the throne)
I gladly bow the knee (I gladly bow the knee)
And worship Him alone

I will proclaim the glory of the risen Lord
Who once was slain to reconcile man to God
Forever You will be (Forever You will be)
The Lamb upon the throne (The Lamb upon the throne)
I gladly bow my knee (I gladly bow my knee)
And worship You alone

Suppose

Suppose…

I always existed, as pure thought and energy. Alone and completely self-sufficient, I needed nothing outside myself to eternally exist.

Yet at some point I chose not to be alone. I created immortal beings with the ability to think, learn, reason, make decisions, travel, and do work. Not identical to each other and none like myself, I made hierarchies of these creatures and gave them personality, power and purpose. Communication. Fellowship. Worship.

For their habitation I created a place outside myself, efficiently designed to best serve their purpose and mine. The dimension of heaven.

To facilitate communication, fellowship and worship, I made a space for myself within their habitation, creating one without danger of damage or destruction from my presence.

Sounds okay, yes? God, angels, heaven. Seems complete to me.

But it wasn’t, in God’s mind. Something more remained to be created.

For whatever reason, God desired fellowship with a being “in his own likeness.” Angels did not meet that criteria, no matter that they had free will, could love and obey and worship him for eternity. (Some chose otherwise; that was their right to do, and the consequences of their choice have been and will be played out.)

To facilitate the existence of this next being, the material universe, constellations, galaxies, solar systems, stars, planets, moons, movement, light and dark matter were created. Time and space.

The habitat came first, then the human beings. Once again, God made creatures with the ability to think, learn, reason, make decisions, travel, and do work. And free will. But with a critical difference: beings created in God’s image and imbued with God’s essence… zoe: God’s life; eternity.

Meditating on this one day, I asked: Why give them eternity? Why wouldn’t creating these personalities in God’s own image be sufficient? So we live for a while and then die, so what? We would never know the difference, how could it matter?

Ah, but that’s the point. God’s own image is eternal. Without zoe, it’s not his image.

Fast forward through the timetable of temptation, rebellion, sin, Christ, cross and redemption, to what I believe is a relatively near-future item on God’s agenda.

A headquarters for God in all his personas – Father, Son, Spirit – combining the dimension of heaven with the dimension of earth.

Before that happens, earth will undergo drastic remodeling, perhaps a thousand years of reconstruction. The powers (dunamis) of the present heavens (air, sky, everything from the dirt up) will be shaken (vibrate, waver). The original language in these verses from Matthew 24, Mark 13 and Luke 21 is interesting.

What is in the air and sky that has power? Space station. Satellites in orbit. Planes, cell towers, television signals, radio waves. Electrical wires. Skyscrapers.

There will be no visible sunlight or moonlight, and stars (meteorites ?) will fall to earth. Volcanic eruptions caused many months of darkness in times past; that could happen again. The very atmosphere will be different. Will the air still be breathable?

Shaking of the entire planet will occur, as well as demolition of the elements — that word elements actually means order. Anything constructed will be de-constructed. Men will be in great anxiety and anguish over what is happening in the skies and oceans.

To survive in the next planetary form, human beings may need to evolve considerably. They may need God’s genetic makeup in their very cells.

Jesus told the disciples that this “generation” (sometimes translated race) will not pass away until all these things have happened. Generation? The word is genea, from which we get genetics. He said that heaven and earth will pass away, but his words will not.

He is the Word – the communication of God – and his spirit inhabits, genetically alters, certain human beings. Human beings who thus may survive, and thrive, on a reconstituted planet, to which one day Creator God will move his headquarters, and occupy space within his creation alongside the beings he created.

It is fascinating to suppose.

Kingdom of heaven

In the book of Matthew, Jesus spoke a great deal about the kingdom of heaven. In the very beginning of his ministry, he declared, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 4:17)

I’ve been thinking about that lately. What did he mean by kingdom of heaven? We don’t live in the kingdom of the United States, so my concept of kingdom has been a little vague.

What did the people think he meant by it, when Jesus came declaring that the kingdom of heaven is at hand?

Did they think empire? Like Rome, Persia or Egypt; massive, powerful, wealthy. Ruled by an emperor, king or pharoah. Conqueror of other nations, other rulers. Collector of tribute and taxes. Conscriptor.

Or did they think nation like Judea, Arabia, Macedonia? Ruled by a local king but under the thumb of the Roman Empire?

Or did they think city state, like Damascus or Jericho? Thick walls, crowded buildings, narrow streets. Ruled by a dictator whose domain was small, weak and poor compared to those above.

A kingdom might begin and end at an ill-defined border. Trade routes and trading posts existed throughout the civilized world and criss-crossed the tiny nation of Israel.  Coarse camps and inns were scattered about where travelers could rest for the night, where for a few coins you could have a campsite, food or water.

Some borders featured check points where fees were collected on behalf of local officials for the privilege of crossing from one territory to the next. (The bribe system has been going on a very long time in the world, civilized countries or not…)

Borderlines changed frequently, as rulers gathered warriors and expanded kingdoms by force. Ordinary citizens received this news by way of traders: don’t go down to Egypt that way, don’t go up to Syria that way, skirmishes are going on, it’s not safe.

Nothing certain but death and taxes? Taxes have always been around it seems; even Jesus and his disciples paid taxes.  Rome needed money to build roads, palaces and ships, equip soldiers and pay administrators.

So, what did the people think Jesus meant? Whatever their experience with kingdom, it couldn’t have been good. Overthrow attempts happened with some regularity.

But kingdom of heaven? That’s different. Heaven is good.

“At hand.” Nearby, or coming soon. Okay, maybe that’s why “repent” was included. If God was going to set up his kingdom soon, and everyone knows only the righteous can be included in His kingdom, and if maybe I haven’t been too righteous lately – or if I have no idea how righteous is righteous enough – maybe I need to repent.

Is that what the people thought? I feel sure the people would have liked for God to obliterate their present rulers, from Caesar to Herod and Pilate and all the other ungodly governors. Call fire down from heaven. Wipe them off the face of the earth, bring justice and peace and a good life.

It took Jesus a while to correct their thinking and turn their attention from the external to the internal, the physical to the spiritual. Along the way he had to more accurately define kingdom of heaven, identify himself and lay out God’s actual agenda. It couldn’t have been an easy task.

Kingdom of heaven is an interesting subject. The more I learn about it, the more certain I am that we all need to learn more about it.

What did Satan look like to Adam?

I was looking at an artist’s rendition of the devil the other day, a horrible, non-human, scaly sort of creature. Very unpleasant to look at. Something you’d really, really hate to run into on a dark street at night, which is where the creature seemed to be standing in the picture – looking straight at you, as if you would make a good bedtime snack.

Then I thought about II Corinthians 11:14: “… Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light.” It was a warning about deception, not to be carried away with pleasant appearances.

I concluded something at that point: we shouldn’t be carried away with unpleasant appearances, either.

The devil didn’t appear to Adam as a creature of darkness. He appeared attractive, charming and delightful. Intelligent, friendly, helpful. Full of advice.

As I thought about what he might have looked like, the Lord said, “Think Solomon.” Handsome, smart, rich, and wise. Oh yes, definitely informed and knowledgeable about eternal things. Wise.

Adam didn’t turn from worship of God to worship of himself at that point, as I sometimes thought in the past. He knew only a life completed by worship. He didn’t contemplate abandoning worship of God. Worship was as natural as breathing.

He did contemplate the idea of becoming like God, however, able to understand and fellowship with God in a better fashion – doesn’t that sound like an excellent idea? What a wonderful gift that would be to present to creator God!

Genesis makes it clear that Adam was by Eve’s side during this conversation with Satan. Eve, the efficient helper, checked out the delicious fruit first to be sure it was okay, then passed it along to Adam.

The moment they took and tasted it, they did it in agreement (read obedience) to a perfectly sensible suggestion from a charming and wise and beautiful person. Their allegiance switched from creator, the real God, to Satan the false god.

Their constant spiritual link to the creator vanished, like losing the signal on your cell phone.

Think what would have happened if they stayed in the garden and decided to partake of another delectable fruit, from the tree of life. Their only chance to ever re-establish their link with God would disappear. In his infinite mercy, God took steps to prevent that further disaster. He removed them from the garden.

Being removed was for their protection, more than a punishment. Through the eventual  efforts of Jesus and the Holy Spirit, the spiritual link between God and human beings was re-established. It seems like it took a long time, to us. But what is a few thousand years to God? Considering eternity…

One more thought. Matthew 27:52-53 may include Adam and Eve, who knows. This refers to the bodies of saints (i.e. those who died in faith, looking for the coming of the Messiah) being raised from the dead after Jesus’ resurrection and being seen by people living in Jerusalem. Neat.

War is planned.

War is planned.

I was thinking about all the wars and rumors of wars in the news the other day. Then as I listened to Christmas carols and thought about the Bethlehem story, the Lord began talking to me.

Men speak peace but they plan war.

Don’t pray for world peace. The angels at Bethlehem didn’t declare peace on earth – they declared peace on earth to men of good will – i.e., men of God’s choosing.

Peace happens in pockets. As one individual at a time is offered terms of peace, he himself must accept those terms, must declare peace between himself and God. As the evidence and benefits of the obtained peace become obvious to others, they may seek peace with God also. On God’s terms, of course, not theirs.

The problem isn’t that God declared war on mankind. Mankind’s beautiful false friend planned war the moment Adam was created. Satan planned it, declared it, and conscripted humans into his ranks to wage it. But he cannot win; God is too skilled a warrior to lose this battle.

Winning the war isn’t the enemy’s only goal, however. It’s his ultimate goal, perhaps, but in the interim corrupting humanity will do, one man at a time. Weaken his faith, strengthen his doubt, neutralize his fighting ability and there’s one less warrior to worry about.

Oh yes, war is planned. It’s a major occupation of the tempter to plan it and plant it in the minds of susceptible human beings.

Whether in little skirmishes or horrific battles, men attempt to gain something by other than honorable means. What is it they want? Control. Power and authority. Godship of themselves and others.

A primary temptation from the beginning of time, this is the first of the ten commandments. Have no other gods before me, the Lord said. Being your own god, making your own rules, ruling your own life and that of other people is so attractive! That’s why war will exist for at least a thousand more years.

Daniel learned about warfare from the angel Gabriel, and he wrote about battles between nations that would happen far into the future from his own time.

He also learned about battles raging even then, fierce enough to delay delivery of a message from an angel (Daniel 10:12-13). The book of Daniel offers fascinating insights into what goes on around us unseen to the human eye, yet affecting us both personally and politically.

So, rather than praying the usual generic, seasonal prayer for world peace, let’s pray for peace between God and individuals; that kind is actually possible.

Dominion of heaven, set in the earth

orion-beltJob 38:31-33, “Canst thou bind the sweet influences of Pleiades, or loose the bands of Orion? Canst thou bring forth Mazzaroth in his season? or canst thou guide Arcturus with his sons? Knowest thou the ordinances of heaven? Canst thou set the dominion thereof in the earth?”

Dominion thereof, set in the earth… Now there’s a concept that bears some meditation. Dominion means government. Governing requires subjects, citizens to govern. Subjects, citizens, residents, in those far-flung corners of the galaxy. Interesting!

Here are a few notes on these places from http://www.Bible411.com.

About Orion…

“Canst thou…loose the bands of Orion?” Garrett P. Serviss, the noted astronomer, in his book CURIOSITIES OF THE SKY wrote about the bands of Orion.

“At the present time this band consists of an almost perfect straight line, a row of second-magnitude stars about equally spaced and of the most striking beauty. In the course of time, however, the two right-hand stars, Mintaka and Alnilam, will approach each other and form a naked-eye double; but the third, Alnitak, will drift away eastward so that the band will no longer exist.

“In other words, one star is traveling in a certain direction at a certain speed; a second one is traveling in a different direction at a second speed; and the third one is going in a third direction and at a still different speed. Actually every star in Orion is traveling its own course, independent of all the others. Thus these stars that we see forming one of the bands of Orion are like three ships out on the high seas that happen to be in line at the present moment, but in the future will be separated by thousands of miles of ocean. In fact, all the stars constituting the constellation of Orion are bound for different ports, and all are journeying to different corners of the universe, so that the bands are being dissolved.”

The Pleiades:

“Canst thou bind the sweet influence of the Pleiades…?” Notice the amazing astronomical contrast with the Pleiades. The seven stars of the Pleiades are in reality a grouping of 250 suns. Photographs now reveal that 250 blazing suns in this group are all traveling together in one common direction. Concerning this cluster, Isabel Lewis of the United States Naval Observatory tells us:

“Astronomers have identified 250 stars as actual members of this group, all sharing in a common motion and drifting through space in the same direction. Elsewhere Lewis speaks of them as “journeying onward together through the immensity of space.”

From Lick Observatory came this statement of Dr. Robert J. Trumpler:

“Over 25,000 individual measures of the Pleiades stars are now available, and their study led to the important discovery that the whole cluster is moving in a southeasterly direction. The Pleiades stars may thus be compared to a swarm of birds, flying together to a distant goal. This leaves no doubt that the Pleiades are not a temporary or accidental agglomeration of stars, but a system in which the stars are bound together by a close kinship.

“Dr. Trumpler said that all this led to an important discovery. Without any reference whatsoever to the Book of Job, he announced to the world that these discoveries prove that the stars in the Pleiades are all bound together and are flying together like a flock of birds as they journey to their distant goal.

That is exactly what God said. “Canst thou bind the sweet influences of Pleiades?” In other words, Canst thou keep them bound together so that they remain as a family of suns?

INCREDIBLE! God’s laws of cosmology are loosing or dissolving the constellation Orion. Sometime in the far distant future, Orion will be no more. Conversely, wonder of wonders, every last one of the 250 blazing suns in the Pleiades are ordained of God to orbit together in their symmetrical beauty throughout eternity.”

Arcturus:

“Canst thou guide Arcturus with his sons?” Garrett P. Serviss wrote:

“Arcturus, one of the greatest suns in the universe, is a runaway whose speed of flight is 257 miles per second. Arcturus, we have every reason to believe, possesses thousands of times the mass of our sun. Think of it! Our sun is traveling only 12½ miles a second, but Arcturus is traveling 257 miles a second. Think then of the prodigious momentum this motion implies.”

A further observation of Arcturus by Serviss:

“It could be turned into a new course by a close approach to a great sun, but it could only be stopped by collision head on with a body of enormous mass. Barring such accidents, it must, as far as we can see, keep on until it has traversed our stellar system, whence it may escape and pass out into space beyond to join perhaps one of those other island universes of which we have spoken.”

Charles Burckhalter, of the Chabot Observatory, added an interesting note regarding this great sun:

“This high velocity places Arcturus in that very small class of stars that apparently are a law unto themselves. He is an outsider, a visitor, a stranger within the gates; to speak plainly, Arcturus is a runaway. Newton gives the velocity of a star under control as not more than 25 miles a second, and Arcturus is going 257 miles a second. Therefore, combined attraction of all the stars we know cannot stop him or even turn him in his path.”

When Mr. Burckhalter had his attention called to this text in the book of Job, he studied it in the light of modern discovery and made a statement that has attracted worldwide attention:

“The study of the Book of Job and its comparison with the latest scientific discoveries has brought me to the matured conviction that the Bible is an inspired book and was written by the One who made the stars.”

The wonders of God’s universe never cease to amaze us. Arcturus and his sons are individual runaway suns that seem to be out of orbit in our galaxy. Traveling at such immense speeds, why don’t they crash with other suns or planets? Where are they headed? Only God knows. Indeed they are not runaways. They will not crash. Why? God is guiding them.”

I love God’s sense of humor. He inspired these few verses, towards the end of the book of Job, thousands of years ago. And now with our modern telescopes, he lets us see just where he was talking about. Possibly see where we are going…? Amazing to contemplate, and exciting.