Heaven is Here Now…

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On Sunday we talked about the end of the story. We explored the last two chapters of Revelation. These chapters are full of images of life and hope. We read of living waters flowing, bringing healing to every person. We read of a place where chaos no longer reigns. We read of God restoring everything. We read of a place where the sun continually shines bathing people in life, light, and love. We read of how the presence of God is fully there unmediated, and fully available.

And we asked the question that is most obvious: when will these things happen?

The difficult, astounding, and Biblical answer is that in some way they already have. That with Jesus’ resurrection God’s presence is available for all us. Healing of our spirits and souls can now be found. Chaos is beaten, and light begins to stream from the tomb. The hard to grasp beautiful truth is that the future of hope is coming towards us, but it began at Easter with resurrection. So we do not need to wait till the end of time to experience, we can experience heaven now. Because the truth is wherever Jesus is fully present so too is heaven. Heaven is his presence.

We closed with reading a promise, a prayer, and an invitation to all of us today:

“The Spirit and the bride say ‘Come’. Let each one who hear them say, ‘Come’. Let the thirsty ones come – anyone who wants to. Let them come and drink the water of life without charge”.  Revelation 22:17

This promise isn’t about the future but the present. This promise isn’t about what will happen, but what can happen today. Today if you need life, love, grace, hope, and healing. Answer the invitation to come, answer the call and drink the water of life, letting it give you life.

This is what we explored on Sunday and what we will explore for the rest of our lives…how to live in light of God’s presence that is with us today because of Easter.

Sermon Notes

Big Idea: The end of the story is beautiful but it begins today…

Take Aways…

  • What does Jesus death and resurrection mean?
  • God doesn’t cancel our current creation but restores it
  • In Jewish thought the sea can be a metaphor for chaos
  • We can experience living water today
  • You experience heaven now by finding Jesus today

Adult / Group Discussion Questions: What surprised you? What made you think? What made you laugh? What did you take away? What would your life be like if you lived without guilt, shame, or brokenness? What do you need to experience today (life, freedom, hope, etc)? How can you Easter become a reality? How can you welcome Jesus into your life today?

Discussion Questions for Young Families: Talk to your kids about how following Jesus isn’t about just going to heaven, but experiencing heaven here. Ask them what they think heaven is like. Talk to them about how heaven is full of joy, grace, love, fun, and hope. Talk to them about how Jesus wants them to experience that now. Ask them when they’ve felt those things and if Jesus has felt close when they feel loved. Take a moment and pray with them to experience “heaven” in their lives today.

Challenge for this Week

Come to Jesus today…

Hot or Cold? – Letter to Laodicea

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On Sunday we explored the letter to Laodicea in Revelation. The letter begins by Jesus saying, “I wish that you were one or the other! 16 But since you are like lukewarm water, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth!”

His point here isn’t connected with passion or enthusiasm (as is often thought in our “feeling” orientated culture) but with usefulness. The two major towns nearby Laodicea were each known for their unique water properties. One town had naturally occurring hot springs that was thought to be a source of healing. The other town had natural cold springs from the mountains, which is incredibly useful in the hot middle east. And what would happen is the water that would travel to Laodicea would become lukewarm by the time it got there, and because it picked up many of the minerals along the way in the aqueducts it would become undrinkable. You’d have to spit out the lukewarm water.

So what is Jesus’ point? It’s simple, he would rather the church be useful like hot water, or useful like coldwater, but right now they are like the water in Laodicea lukewarm and useless. Jesus continues that because of their wealth, their style, and their dreams of grandeur they have become indifferent towards him. And Jesus says “I stand at the door and knock” asking to be invited in. Their indifference and lack of action has actually expelled Jesus from the church. He stands at the door, on the outside, asking to be let in. So he says repent, start following me and not wealth, start focusing on my kingdom and not your standing, stop focusing on your style and focus on being faithful. This is the message of the letter to Laodicea. It’s not about passion for Jesus per say, it’s really about being useful for Christ. This is a letter that encourages action. Jesus encourages us to buy gold from him, to buy ointment, and to buy white cloths. These are all things connected to action.

So on Sunday we landed on the main idea of what is Jesus asking us to do? How can we be active in spreading his grace and revealing his Kingdom? How can we be either hot water or cold water actively demonstrating his gospel rather than being listless and lazy lukewarm water?

And I think these are questions worth asking during Lent because they reveal a remarkabel truth. God wants to use you to spread his grace. God wants to partner with you in his Kingdom. God wants to reveal himself through you. That is an amazing calling. So this week focus on revealing God in all things, focus on being hot or cold, focus on actively following and watch what God might do in and through you.

Sermon Notes:

Big Idea: Be useful for Jesus

Take Aways…

  • The Jesus Test: if a passage doesn’t look, sound, or love like Jesus…dig deeper
  • Jesus is always more concerned with action than passion
  • Jesus is saying…be useful
  • Jesus isn’t judging their enthusiasm but their usefulness
  • They have focused on what they have, rather than what they are called to do
  • Long-term indifference can push Jesus aside and out of the church
  • Jesus wants to partner and use you
  • You might not be called to change the world for everyone, but you are called to change the world of someone around you

Adult / Group Discussion Questions: What surprised you? What made you think? What made you laugh? What did you take away? What would Jesus see if he examined your actions? How are you being useful for God’s kingdom? What gifts has he given you? What abilities? What talents? How does it feel to have Jesus actually want to partner and use you in his Kingdom?

Discussion Questions for Young Families: Talk with your kids about how not only does Jesus love us, but he wants to use us to make the world a better place. Ask them if they have any ideas how to make the world a better place…and no matter how out there or amazing, act on their ideas and try them out!

Challenge for this Week

Let Jesus use you to grow his Kingdom

Does Jesus Really Spit Out “Lukewarm Believers”?

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On Sunday we are looking at a passage of text that as a teenager was quite terrifying to me. The passage is found in Revelation 3 with the letter to the church of Laodicea. This is what it says:

“I know all the things you do, that you are neither hot nor cold. I wish that you were one or the other! 16 But since you are like lukewarm water, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth!

Here is why this passage scared me, because I always thought that Jesus was talking about my level of passion for him. As a teenager my passion for Jesus was rather low. I’m a thinker, and I’m slow to build trust and to engage in general. This meant that for my faith there were a lot of questions, thoughts, and decisions that took place over a long period before my passion grew. The problem was that I saw all these youth around me singing, dancing, and crying with passion for Jesus. These are not bad things at all, these are actually  often very beautiful things. But when I came to that verse my worry was that I was lukewarm, that I wasn’t as passionate as those around me. I wasn’t really committed. I wasn’t really sure. I wasn’t very enthusiastic.  I went to church but wasn’t completely in. My fear was that Jesus would spit me out because I wasn’t that “in love” with him.

Maybe you’ve had this fear too. Maybe you’ve sensed this at one point of another. Maybe you’ve even heard this verse taught this way. In fact, I have as well. The question is, does this interpretation of this verse make sense in light of who Jesus is? In the gospels does Jesus spit out those people who are lukewarm, questioning, struggling or unsure? Does Jesus really want us to be completely turned off to him rather than semi-interested? Is Jesus really that concerned with our emotional connection?

This is an important question because for many years I was concerned with amping up my passion, with generating deeper emotional enthusiasm for Jesus, to become hot rather than lukewarm. But as I’ve grown, and matured and dug into this verse I’ve discovered something startling that I believe is true. Jesus cares much more about our actions than our passion. Jesus cares much more about how we live than our emotional enthusiasm. And on Sunday we are going to unpack that idea and how once we dig into this verse we realize Jesus isn’t talking just about passion, enthusiasm and connection. Jesus is really talking about being useful, being active, and partnering with him.

And on Sunday we are going to ask a really important question that is reflecting on even today. Rather than asking “how passionate are you for Jesus?”, we are going to be asking, “how active are you in following Jesus?”. So come Sunday we are going to be unpacking this whole passage realizing that it’s not just our passions Jesus is interested in but our actions.

Open Doors and Open Hope

976656_70015868On Sunday we talked about the letter to Philadelphia. We also talked a little bit about Rocky and underdogs. We talked about how to preserve in the midst of difficulty, when the odds are stacked against you, and when hope seems low. Jesus realizes that the church in Philadelphia has little strength, that they are persecuted, and things are looking stacked against them. In essence they are underdogs. But Jesus believes that they can still succeed, overcome, and preserve. The reason that they are able to do this is the same reason that underdogs all over the world create upsets and win. It isn’t because of strength, skill, or even heart. Underdogs win because they begin to believe that they can win. That they can preserve. That they can make it.

The same thing is happening in the passage in Revelation. The church in Philadelphia can preserve because no matter how bad things get they can believe they can make it through. No matter how weak their strength gets they can still have hope. The reason for their hope is because of Jesus Christ. Jesus promises to hold open the door for them. Jesus promises that no one will be able to shut it. Jesus promises to be with them, to make them unshakable, claimed by God, and living in God’s city. So the Philadelphians can believe that these wonderful things will happen not because of their strength, but the strength of their Lord. They can trust and believe they will win even as the odds are stacked against them, because of Jesus Christ. Jesus is holding open the door to life and love, and no one will close it.

So on Sunday we landed on a simple point trust that in your difficulty Jesus is holding open the door. Let that truth give you hope, and strength. That even as things seem to stack against you, Jesus is holding the door open and no will ever be able to close it. Trust that he will lead you through it, and into a better future. Because the reality is our future depends much more on Jesus Christ than all the situations that surround us…

Sermon Notes:

Big Idea: Jesus will hold open the door…

Take Aways…

  • We root for the underdog because we can relate to striving in difficult situations
  • Jesus examines our actions to see what we believe
  • What do your actions say about you
  • Don’t we want to have a life that is firm, secure, everlasting and in the presence of God?
  • Underdogs win and preserve because of belief
  • You might have little strength but you can still have hope. Why? Because Jesus is holding the door open for you
  • Your future isn’t dependent on just you, but on Jesus Christ who holds the door open

Adult / Group Discussion Questions: What surprised you? What made you think? What made you laugh? What did you take away? What would Jesus see if he examined your actions? Where in life do you feel like the underdog? Where are you currently struggling? How might Jesus “hold the door open for you” in that situation? How would it feel for Jesus to claim you as your own? How might that help you keep going, and persevering?

Discussion Questions for Young Families: Talk about with your kids that sometimes life gets difficult. Ask them when they’ve had difficulty in their life? Get them to share about any school troubles, or friendship issues. Remind them that Jesus promises even in the midst of real difficulty that he will be there for us, holding an open door to deeper life.

Challenge for this Week: Walk through the open door, and pray to Jesus as you do.

Rocky, Revelation, and Underdogs

On Sunday we are going to be learning from the movie Rocky. Yes it’s true, and there is a lot to learn from the movie besides the 215px-Rocky_posterfact that Sylvester Stallone was quite athletic in the day. Rocky is actually quite revealing about the book of Revelation. While it is odd to think about, it’s true. And on Sunday we are looking at the letter to Philadelphia (which of course brings us back to Rocky).

The question we will really be exploring though is a good one: “how do underdogs win?” This is important because many of us in life feel like underdogs. We feel like an underdog in our business that the odds are stacked against us. Some of us feel like an underdog in our families, that the stress and pressure of the world is tough to overcome. Some of us defiantly feel like an underdog in our finances, that no matter how hard we try we can’t quite make it out.

So that is why it’s a good question to look at on Sunday. It’s an even better question to look at because Jesus talks about it. He says to the church in Philadelphia, “I know you are weak and have little strength left.” And many of us feel that way, but he gives that church a wonderful promise that he wants to give to us as well. He says that we will become pillars in God’s temple, that he will write the Father’s name on us, and we will be citizens in the new city. These are beautiful promises that I think we’d love to experience. The question is how? How do we, as underdogs who have little strength, win? How do we overcome the odds to have healthy families, businesses, relationships, and finances? How do we overcome?

Thankfully the answer Jesus gives is the same answer that is found in Rocky. But to figure out that answer you’ll either have to take a guess, show up on Sunday, or wait till next week. Until then why not watch Rocky, watch your favorite failing sports team, or read a book about an underdog and cheer for them. Just remember Jesus cheers for the underdog too – even you and me!

Sleeping Sickness and Staying Wide Awake

On Sunday we looked at the letter to the church in Sardis. Sardis was a well known city for being wealthy and powerful. In fact, Sunrise on Fieldsthey were thought to be unconquerable. They were thought to be almost invincible. And some of us have felt that way about some of the relationships around us. But Sardis fell asleep…literally. Twice in their history they were conquered by invading armies because of stupid mistakes, falling asleep, and becoming complacent. Once a soldier went down a secret path to gather a dropped helmet…leading an army in to conquer an unprepared city. And then unthinkably it happened again. A city that was wealthy, powerful, and had all the potential to excel was conquered and devastated.
Maybe you’ve seen the same thing around you. Maybe you’ve seen relationships that we’re so full of potential, and promise but they fell apart. How do these things happen? Slowly and subtly. People fall asleep, they stop making an effort, they forget that all relationships require effort and faithfulness. So Jesus tells the church in Sardis wake up and be faithful. Wake up and be faithful. Don’t fall asleep, don’t become complacent, don’t think you have it all going on and forget to follow. This is the temptation in any church, marriage, or relationship…we become complacent. We start to take our calling, our spouse, or our friends for granted. And whenever this happens…soon things fall apart.
Jesus gives us this advice though. He says wake up and start again. Go back to the beginning and start to try to love again. Love afresh, put effort in, don’t let what was is good slip away because of forgetfulness. And yes it is hard. That is why in the letter to Sardis Jesus reminds them that some have been faithful. Some are doing it. Yes it is hard but it can be done, and if you wake up and are faithful you will win life.
So the main point is this: faithfulness and effort are needed for relationships to last. So are there any relationships where you need to wake up? Where you haven’t been faithful, where you have been forgetful, where you haven’t put forth effort? This is the perfect time during Lent to be reminded and to reflect on our relationships. But more than that it is the perfect time to act and even repent. Repenting means turning around and starting again. So in your marriage start again, give love like you used to. In your friendship start again, listen like you did in the start. In your church start again, remember your calling to care and act on it. Because whenever we fall asleep in our relationships death isn’t far away, but whenever we are faithful in them life is there to stay…

Sermon Notes

Big Idea: Wake up!

Take Aways…

  • Have we fallen asleep in our Christian walk?
  • What do our actions show we believe?
  • If you stay true, you will be victorious
  • Relationships fall apart slowly and subtly
  • Practical Points:
    • Realize if you are sleeping
    • Wake up and Take Action
    • Stay Awake by being Faithful

Adult / Group Discussion Questions: What surprised you? What made you think? What did you take away? When have you asked the question – “How did this happen?” How have you seen things fall a part slowly and subtly? Where in your life do you need to “wake up”? Are there any relationships in danger? How can you stay faithful and walk forward with Jesus? Where is he asking you to remain faithful?

Discussion Questions for Young Families: Spend some time talking with your kids that important things mean putting effort into them. Tell them how family is important so you will be putting effort into it so that it won’t fall a part. Ask them how they’d like you put in effort – what they’d like you to do. Maybe it will be to play with them more, or to go to their hockey games, or other ideas. Listen and then put it into practice.

Challenge for this Week:

Recognize where your sleeping, wake up and take action, stay awake by being faithful…

 

 

How Did This Happen?

1236829_46998155There is a question that everyone asks at some point in life. It’s this: “How did this happen?”

You might ask this question when you see a marriage that was strong…shatter. You might ask this question when you see a family fall a part, or when you see a church split. Often in the aftermath of deep loss and tragic fractures we ask “How did this happen?” Things looked to be going well and all of a sudden there was a divorce, a break, a fracture, or a split.

This is the question we’ll be looking at on Sunday. How do these things happen? How do relationships fall a part? Why do churches falter and fail? Why do some marriages that seem healthy end in so much hurt?

And most importantly, while we’ll be talking about how these things happen, we want to ask a second question. We want to ask an even more important question, “How do we keep these things from happening”. So on Sunday we’ll discover what Jesus has to say about this.

But before we get there what do you think? How do you keep a relationship whole? How do you keep a relationship fresh? How do you ensure that difficulties don’t turn into fractures and breaks? What is it that you do with in your marriage and friendships to prevent decay and difficulty?

Because I think the reality is that making relationships work is harder than we often think. It’s easy for things to slip and break. But on Sunday we’ll discover how keeping things together has a lot to do with staying awake…

The Seriousness of Sin and Confession

On Sunday we talked about the seriousness of sin. Not a fun topic, but a revealing one. What I realized is that Jesus takes sin far more seriously than I do. I’m much more likely to ignore it, to cover it up, to forget it, or to compromise with it. Jesus calls it sin and deals with it.

At first I struggled with why. Why is there just not “grace” to all problems? Why do we have to name the sin, confess the sin, and repent from the sin? Why does it have to be so…personal.

Well, the answer should be clear. Because sin is personal, and it’s personal to Jesus. Sin brought him to death on the cross because that is where all sin leads to death. That is why Jesus is so insistent on dealing with it, because he doesn’t want us to go through the death he went through. He doesn’t want us to feel the force of death, sin, and darkness. So he comes to us and challenges us to name our sin, repent, and live in life. The goal of Jesus isn’t to be harsh, the goal is to bring healing.

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So on Sunday we ended with challenging ourselves to ask Jesus if there are any areas of sin, compromise, or darkness that we need to confess. I then challenged all of us to confess any areas of sin to a friend. Why make that step? Why not just confess it to God and be done? Well because sometimes our uneasiness of desiring to go to a friend in community reveals something about us. Dietrich Bonheoffer writes this, “Should we not find it easier to go to a brother than to the holy God? But if we do, we must ask ourselves whether we have not often been deceiving ourselves with our confession of sin to God, whether we have not rather been confessing our sins to ourselves and also granting ourselves absolution. And is not the reason perhaps for our countless relapses and the feebleness of our Christian obedience to be found precisely in the fact that we are living on self-forgiveness and not a real forgiveness”. If we want to avoid death we cannot live on self-forgiveness. If we want to live in life we need to do this together with community, and we can’t shy away from naming our sin.

Is it easy? No, naming our failures, regrets, guilt, and shame is rarely easy. The question though isn’t whether it is easy. The question is whether or not it is  freeing…and the answer to that is absolutely…

 

Sermon Notes:

Big Idea: Sin is serious business

Take Aways…

  • “Anyone who is willing to hear should listen to the Spirit”
  • I take sin far less seriously than Jesus.
  • Jesus takes sin seriously because Jesus died because of it.
  • Jesus doesn’t call it compromise, he calls it sin
  • The path to growing with him, involves dying to sin.
  • Whenever you are walking away from Jesus and his truth you are walking into the darkness.
  • Doing leads to becoming.

Adult / Group Discussion Questions: What surprised you? What made you think? What did you take away? What did you feel when you first read the passage? Were you surprised, shocked, or okay with it? When have you been tempted to compromise? What happened? Are there areas in your life now that you need to confess and change? How might you do that? Who are going to confess them too?

Discussion Questions for Young: Families Take a moment and ask them to tell you what they think sin is. Get any of their answers. Then tell them that a good way to think about sin is any action, thought, or desire that doesn’t look like Jesus. Share with them how when we don’t act like Jesus we miss the point, but that if we confess our sins Jesus will forgive us. Ask if there is anything to confess and make sure you confess your sins too. Share together and then walk forward together.

Challenge for this Week:

Confess and Repent of Any Sin to a Trusted Friend

 

A Difficult Passage to Preach

Here is a confession. I didn’t want to preach on Sunday.1344258_74138164

I know, weird right, because preaching is kinda my thing. And I don’t have a lot of other “things”. I can’t really build anything, play sports, or have any musical skill. But what I can do is preach, and I love to preach…well except I didn’t want to.

In fact, I thought of skipping Sunday’s passage, of making Dave preach on it, or calling in sick. The reason is because the letter out of Revelation for this Sunday – is just plain difficult. I was tempted to skip it or to just focus on the parts I liked. But that’s not preaching, and that’s not my calling. To get a sense of what I’m talking about take a read of Revelation 2:18-29

“Write this letter to the angel of the church in Thyatira. This is the message from the Son of God, whose eyes are like flames of fire, whose feet are like polished bronze: “I know all the things you do. I have seen your love, your faith, your service, and your patient endurance. And I can see your constant improvement in all these things. “But I have this complaint against you. You are permitting that woman—that Jezebel who calls herself a prophet—to lead my servants astray. She teaches them to commit sexual sin and to eat food offered to idols. I gave her time to repent, but she does not want to turn away from her immorality. “Therefore, I will throw her on a bed of suffering, and those who commit adultery with her will suffer greatly unless they repent and turn away from her evil deeds. I will strike her children dead. Then all the churches will know that I am the one who searches out the thoughts and intentions of every person. And I will give to each of you whatever you deserve. “But I also have a message for the rest of you in Thyatira who have not followed this false teaching (‘deeper truths,’ as they call them—depths of Satan, actually). I will ask nothing more of you except that you hold tightly to what you have until I come. To all who are victorious, who obey me to the very end, To them I will give authority over all the nations They will rule the nations with an iron rod  and smash them like clay pots. They will have the same authority I received from my Father, and I will also give them the morning star! “Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches.

Do you see the reason why I wasn’t excited to preach? I mean this text is so harsh, so difficult, and…judgey.

But here is what I realized…that the portions of the Bible that I react strongly against…often have the most to teach me. That my reactions reveal more about me, and what I need to learn.

So while I wasn’t initially excited (more like dreading) preaching this passage I now know better. That in the difficult passages we have the most to learn, and sometimes the learning can be tough. But often the tough things in life pay off most at the end…

So read the passage, take notes of your feelings, think about how you would preach it and come Sunday we’ll see what God has to speak through it.

The gods of Greed, Hate, and Sex

On Sunday we looked at a difficult passage in the Bible. Some passages are difficult because they are hard to understand, confusing, or out of our context.

This passage was hard for none of those reasons.

This passage was hard because it called us to repent. It called us to follow Jesus. It reminded us that we live in an age with gods all around us that vie for our attention, worship, and loyalty. We live in a world where greed, sex, hate, violence, power, and self-image seek to hgodsave us follow them.

But our calling as Christians is to follow Jesus because following the path of greed, sex, hate, or power simply ends in darkness.

So on Sunday we listened to the call of Jesus to leave those things behind. That just as how 2000 years ago people were called to leave behind Athena the goddess of war, Dionysius the god of sex and wine, or the emperor the god of power and image; we are called to leave behind all the gods of our age if our witness is to have any power.

Jesus is clear in Revelation that if we compromise our character, it compromises our message. That while each god has its own temple in the world; he has no temple but us.

So this Lent we ask a deep question: “What does it mean to live faithful to you in this world”

This is a question worth spending time and reflecting on today, this week, this month, or for the rest of our lives…

Sermon Notes

Big Idea: Stay true…Live Differently

Take Aways…

  • The Spirit is whispering…are we listening?
  • The gods of Pergamum
    • Asclepius ~ known as the savior who healed
    • Athena ~ goddess of war and wisdom
    • Demeter ~ bathed in bull’s blood goddess of grain
    • Dynoisus ~ son of a god and human mother, drank to connect with him
    • Zeus ~ known as creator, life-giver, and had a huge alter
    • Emperor ~ had the right “to give or take life”, known as “lord”, declared “son of god”
  • In a pluralistic world compromise dilutes and confuses the message
  • Deep witness is shown through difference
  • You are Jesus’ temple in the city, you are his representation
  • Jesus says don’t tolerate compromise, because it is killing your light, witness, and life.
  • Our world is dominated by subtle gods of Greed, Sex, War, Self-Image, and Selfishness
  • Stay true, and turn to follow Jesus

Adult / Group Discussion Questions: What surprised you? What made you think? What made you laugh? What did you take away? How has the Spirit been speaking to you over the past few weeks? What “gods of our culture” are the most difficult for you to resist? What are some reasons for that? How is Jesus asking you to follow him, and him alone? How does compromise kill our message? What message are your actions sharing about you?

Discussion Questions for Young Families: Spend some time with your kids watching TV. Yes watching TV. Look at the ads that are there. Ask them what they are showing, what they are teaching. Is it that if you have this “thing” you’ll be happy? Is it that if you look “this way” you’ll be accepted? Talk through the messages they receive, and share with them the message of the Bible. That God loves them as they are and that greed, lust, and hate lead to darkness.

Challenge for this Week

Repent from any of the gods of our culture that have captured you