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EARLY CHURCH HISTORY 101 (Lesson 17)

He did the impossible. He defeated death on our behalf. Peter continues his Pentecost message by telling the throng that “Death Could Not Hold Him.” Neither will it hold His real followers.

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INTRODUCTION   

Ch 1: LESSON 1   LESSON 2   LESSON 3   LESSON 4   LESSON 5   LESSON 6   LESSON 7

Ch 2: LESSON 8  LESSON 9  LESSON 10  LESSON 11  LESSON 12  LESSON 13  LESSON 14 

Ch 2: LESSON 15 LESSON 16

LESSON 17:

Acts 2:22-24

22 “Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know— 23 this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death. 24 But God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power.”

Imagine that. He defeated death. One of the first sermons I ever remember hearing from my first pastor was entitled something along the lines of “Death Could Not Hold Him.” This man was a great preacher. He could paint a word story that kept us enthralled, filled with emoting and tone changes, teaching all the while. He made a man feel like he was there.

So one thinks about this tricky human condition called death. We seem somewhat invincible in our youth—working all day at hard physical toil, staying up late at night, always having so much energy, a few hours of sleep and we’re back at it. But then slowly but surely a few things start going south. The only thing to do is continue staying a step ahead of the grim reaper. We go from laughing in his face to eventually facing the fact that he will win. Facing this reality can be a killer.

SAVED

But thanks to the Lord He saw a young man with a hungry heart longing for truth and presented an opportunity I did not mess up. Dodging a million bullets since—those unseen slugs that often otherwise find their mark— the Lord blessed with a never-say-die desire to keep moving forward. This comes only by His Holy Spirit. If you live for God you will get knocked down. You can either stay there or get back up. And this is not because death does not await, but because death will not win after all. Because my Father GOT BACK UP, I will too, and so will you if you put your trust in Him. In the meantime the victory comes by laughing death in the face anyway and trying to live absolutely as long as possible working and living for the Lord the whole way. My advice is quit thinking in terms of years remaining and start thinking in terms of decades remaining. More decades means having that many more opportunities to serve the Lord who saved us from death because He died in our place.

There was an old church song we sang in my rookie year that sums up what our attitude should be in this regard. It had a big impact on me because it wasn’t just a song but my life. It was called The Old Account. It featured these lyrics:

There was a time on earth when in the book of Heav’n

An old account was standing for sins yet unforgiv’n;

My name was at the top, and many things below—

I went unto the Keeper, and settled long ago.

Long ago, long ago,

Yes, the old account was settled long ago;

And the record’s clear today, for He washed my sins away,

When the old account was settled long ago.

The old account was large, and growing every day,

For I was always sinning, and never tried to pay;

But when I looked ahead, and saw such pain and woe,

I said that I would settle—I settled long ago.

Until one becomes a real Christian one will never know just exactly what the Lord did by becoming one of us. He actually risked everything. Now, stay with me here because this might get a tad deep. God wanted to ransom humanity. But it obviously could not involve coercion. Each person must decide on his own. But no one could ever defeat death because no one could live without sin. Once Adam released sin into the world all humans have become smitten with it, or might I say slapped upside the head. Someone would have to enter humanity and live a full life without ever committing even a single sin. Someone must be able to actually keep the Law of Moses without violation. You see where this is going.

And no, God didn’t spy His good young Son and tap him on the shoulder and tell Him to go. No father would ever do that to his son. A real father would always go in place of his son. The reality is that the Son did not exist until the Incarnation. There was no such “Eternal Son” in heaven. The only God there was God. And He would have to go Himself. But when He arrived on earth He would have to live a perfect life, something otherwise impossible for us mere mortals. Yet, if He had only sinned once, and it was certainly possible, the entire plan would have been wrecked. There would be no spotless Lamb of God to sacrifice. There would be no Blood of the Lamb to cleanse us of our sins. All humanity would be lost including the Lord Himself. And death would win. And the devil would win the universe.

The Good News is that the Lord did not sin. Not once. And because of that He confidently looked death square in the face with no fear. He would certainly die but would not stay dead. Why? Because “Death Could Not Hold Him.” 

For many Christians, a probable majority, there is little or no self-identification with the Lord’s great sacrifice. His sacrifice may be acknowledged but that’s no good. It must be applied. And that can only happen if a person surrenders to Him completely, holding nothing back, and burning all bridges in the process. We must throw ourselves upon the altar of burnt offering and die in order to receive His help and be reborn. There is no other way. Halfway Christianity takes people all the way to hell.

MISSION POSSIBLE

“Your mission Jim, should you choose to accept it, is to get the big idea that God became a Man, lived a life of absolutely no sin, followed the path and plan perfectly, and then sacrificed it all for you. He knew He would be getting back up, but what He really wants is to see you get back up.”   

I will leave you with one of my favorite sayings of the Lord Jesus that perfectly typifies His powerful no fear approach to His coming death. He always knew what would happen. It was why He came. That didn’t make it any easier but that much more difficult. How many of us guys, if we knew the death we were about to die, would stick with the plan? But not only did He stick with the plan, He slammed death, hell, and the grave as wimps! He called them out for the lowdown disgusting sorry idiots they are and was even willing to let them hit Him first with their best shot. And boy howdy, did they ever comply. Even then, though, it was not enough. They knew the stakes. They had their opportunity. And they failed. They failed because He was too much Man for them. They simply did not understand who they were messing with.

“Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up!” [John 2:19] [1]

© 2020 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved.


[1] Unless otherwise noted all Scriptures are taken from the New American Standard Bible, © 1960, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

JESUS IS THE ONLY MESSIAH: Whoever Denies the Son Denies the Father

REVEALING THE ANTICHRIST

         For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is the deceiver and the antichrist. Watch yourselves, that you do not lose what we have accomplished, but that you may receive a full reward.          

         Anyone who goes too far and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God; the one who abides in the teaching, he has both the Father and the Son.

         If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house, and do not give him a greeting; for the one who gives him a greeting participates in his evil deeds. [2John:7-11]

EVIL DEEDS

         There are people in this world who insist one does not have to be in covenant with the Lord Jesus to be in covenant with God. The Word of God, however, makes it clear that one cannot possibly be in covenant with God if one is not in covenant with the Lord Jesus. Even most Christians are unclear on this concept. The enemy has muddied the waters and thus muddied their thinking, deceiving them into believing in something that does not exist. Many Christians are actually not in covenant with God even though they believe they are. Many others insist they are in covenant with God though they reject the Lord Jesus.

REAL COVENANT

         The promises of God only exist within a covenant relationship. If there is no covenant, the promises do not apply. The Word of God says that whoever does not have the Son does not have the Father, therefore one must be in covenant with the Lord Jesus in order for the promises to be active and applied.

         The New Covenant with the Lord Jesus is a blood covenant. He shed His perfect, precious blood for each member in covenant with Him. He gave everything He had for His people. He loved us before we ever loved Him and He proved it. We must also be in blood covenant with Him as He is with us, in that each of us must give a totality of our entire life to Him, including our entire heart.

         We begin the process of entering into covenant with Him, of beginning the new birth, by expressing belief in Him, by having faith. Faith must always come first. This faith, however, is a 100% faith. The covenant cannot work any other way. He gave all. He demands all from us.

         The second condition that must be fulfilled entirely is full repentance. Sin must be dealt with. Each person to enter the covenant with God, who is holy and pure, must also be holy and pure. Only the blood of Jesus can wash away sin. Without the Lord Jesus one is still in sin. Period.

LOVE ON THE ROCKS

         To illustrate, imagine a man and woman about to become married but one partner refuses to give his or her entire heart to the marriage relationship. Imagine one of the partners insisting that he or she must keep their options open. It should be obvious that a marriage based on such a faulty foundation is doomed to fail. The reason many people enter into such relationships is because the uncommitted partner pretends to be committed and deceives the other partner.

         Many so-called Christians do exactly the same thing with the Lord. They enter into covenant on their terms and not His. Of course, He is not fooled. There is actually no covenant at all if it is not His covenant. He never agreed to the terms and never entered into it. Christians deceive themselves and are deceived by false leaders into believing in a false covenant and that they are in covenant with God when they are not. They do not have full faith in the Lord. They have never fully repented. They remain in their sins.

ONE WAY TO GOD

         No one is in covenant with God without being in covenant with the Lord Jesus. If one does not have the Son then one does not have the Father. One is either in full covenant with the Lord Jesus or one is not. There is no in-between and there are no exceptions. There exists only ONE New Covenant. It is a blood covenant. There is only one Son. There is only one Messiah. There is only one way to God.

         Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” [John 14:6] [1]

         © 2016 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved.

         Real Christianity—The Nature of the Church


[1] Unless otherwise noted all Scriptures are taken from the New American Standard Bible, © 1960, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

DEFINING SIN: The Lord Jesus Endorsed the Old Testament Definition of Sin (2)

        Many Christians erroneously believe the Old Testament has been eliminated by the New Testament but the Lord Jesus NEVER said this. In fact, He said the following:

         “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” [Matthew 5:17-19] [1]

         In this passage, the Lord Jesus grants full approval of the entire Torah, accepts it in every respect without question, and allows for no elimination of any single law. He is saying that the Law of Moses is perfect and complete, just as the apostle Paul later taught in his writings, and He endorses the Law wholeheartedly. The Lord Jesus put His entire ministry and mission on the line by doing this, tying Himself entirely and absolutely to the Torah and its existence at least until heaven and earth passes away.

         Therefore, the notion that the Old Testament or the Law of Moses is no longer viable or in play could not be more wrong: Every definition of sin regarding personal human behavior is still 100% in effect. So if people say, “Well, since Jesus never said anything about this sin or that sin, it must be okay to practice such,” the correct response is that He actually did since He endorsed the Law and the Prophets. If the Law of Moses said something was a sin, it is still a sin to this day and the Lord Jesus agrees.

         Also, if the Torah said a particular action or behavior was a gross sin, or a complete violation of God’s intent, or an abomination, then it was and remains an abomination. You can tell which sins were the worst by the penalties attached to them. The worst sins had the sentence of death as the penalty, signifying the outright heinousness of the behavior and ultimately the total contempt for the Lord and His Law.

         Therefore, even though the Gospels do not address every single specific sin or the worst sins that required the death penalty, the Lord endorsed the written Torah, which does.

THE ORAL LAW

         Of course, the original written Torah was added to in a sense and amended with the addition of the unwritten oral law, which began about the time of the Babylonian Captivity and grew in content until the first century A.D. This oral law did not change the written Law (the Torah—the Law of Moses) which remained intact, but it had changed and corrupted the original intent of the written Law. The Lord Jesus addressed this corrupting influence on many occasions, rebuking those Torah-teachers who advocated for its use in altering the original.

         (Many Christians are guilty of the same practice, having altered the original teachings of the Lord Jesus to suit their own taste and limited understanding, and in some cases changing His intent and meaning entirely.)

         Since the New Testament thus defines sin by the Lord’s support of the Law and the Prophets, there is actually no distinction between the two in defining sin. Sin is still what it has always been and it still incurs a penalty. Many people do not understand they are paying a penalty for sin in some form or another at present based on some past or present sin, which they do not recognize as sin. They do not consciously make the cause and effect connection between the two.

         But God is not mocked. What we plant is what we will harvest. The ultimate penalty for unconfessed sin comes after physical death. It is not the Lord’s fault if people choose to die in their sins having rejected the only cure and the only cleansing agent—the Blood of Jesus.

         The worst sins require the death penalty. The Lord Jesus paid that death penalty in full on our behalf. He fulfilled the requirements of the Law regarding sin and whoever applies the penalty He paid toward their own sins will have their long list of violations against God and man expunged, and their official record of sin will be erased as if it never existed.

         This is the Lord’s grace. This is His mercy. This is His love.

         © 2016 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved. [To Be Continued…]

         Real Christianity—The Nature of the Church


[1] Unless otherwise noted all Scriptures are taken from the New American Standard Bible, © 1960, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

PLEASE SUPPORT THIS POWERFUL SERIES:

DEFINING SIN: The New “Evil is Good-Good is Evil” Paradigm (1)

Throwing Down the Hammer: Conviction of Sin (3)

         Animals do some strange things and may be perceived as evil, especially if one finds himself alone in the woods with a hungry bear. But a hungry bear on his own turf cannot be blamed for eating a dumb human (should have had a proper weapon instead of a can of mace).

         The great predator cats like lions and tigers may be seen as evil when they run down, kill, and eat slow, sick, and dumb antelopes. But they are actually doing a great service to the antelope herd by keeping it strong and alert.

         The humans who used to live in the wild among ferocious and deadly beasts were without doubt very strong and alert, since those who were not did not survive.

         The same thing happens with sin. The righteous people who flee sin and find sin abhorrent are morally strong and live on, but those who embrace sin do not and should not survive. And since sin is progressive, it spreads rapidly throughout a populace and always consumes the majority in time, since only a few are willing to do the work associated with living righteously against the tide of popular opinion.

         This is presently taking place worldwide, but especially in America, where the righteous were formerly in the majority. The morality of America has fallen rapidly and, barring a very strong corrective such as great judgment or a spiritual awakening, will never recover.

         The Lord Jesus said the very last days would be like the days of Noah just prior to the great flood, and this fact should give everyone serious pause. Back then, God had to wipe out all humanity except Noah and his family, for example, because humanity in toto had become a vile collection of filthy vermin completely beyond repentance or salvation. Their sin disease had become terminal. He did the same with Sodom and Gomorrah. Yet, as vile and egregious as their sin was, He angrily charged certain cities of His own people with a greater sin:

         “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles had occurred in Tyre and Sidon which occurred in you, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. Nevertheless I say to you, it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment than for you.

         “And you, Capernaum, will not be exalted to heaven, will you? You will descend to Hades; for if the miracles had occurred in Sodom which occurred in you, it would have remained to this day.

         “Nevertheless I say to you that it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for you.” [Matthew 11:21-24]

         In spiritual terms, this is what is known as throwing down the hammer. Not only were the majority of the inhabitants of these first-century Galilean cities vile, they were most likely extremely self-righteous and deceived by false religion, in that they refused to honor the very clear ministry of the Lord.

         Miracles had no effect upon them. Preaching the Word of God had no effect upon them. Imagine how enraged they must have become when the Lord said the people of Sodom were not as evil as they were!

         In general, the Lord also prophesied the disastrous fate of His own people, stating that the remaining remnant of the kingdom of David would be destroyed, as well as Jerusalem, and even the great Temple. Which begs the question:

         Why do we not think the same won’t happen to us? The sin of this present world far exceeds the sins of those in the past. Present humanity is more disgusting, more vile, more evil, more rebellious, more hateful, more immoral, more damaging to the planet, more in love with power and wealth, more materialistic, more shallow, more stupid, more self-righteous, more headstrong, and much more prideful. And in the good old USA upwards of 60 MILLION innocent defenseless babies have been legally murdered in extremely violent ways with the full compliance of the government through officials put in power by free elections. And abortions continue as you read this.

         Intelligent and well-informed people know exactly what humanity in general has done to this planet. They know humanity has become a vile disease-carrying parasite destroying the world. This is just fact. But why can’t many of these same people acknowledge the cure? They continue to propose correctives that either don’t work, can never work, or merely work in part but have the overall effect of destroying freedom and liberty.

         God does not want that. God loves humanity. He has a better plan. He proposes to cleanse us through and through and restore our liberty. He made us to be morally strong, free, and holy. Without Him the opposite happens, and is happening.

         We say we understand when mankind throws down the hammer, often by force, to fix something or another, but we have a real problem when God does it. Thus, the hammer must come down, is coming down, and will continue to come down. It is designed to help us all toward repentance. Judgment is a viable part of the cure.

         The majority will still squeal about the cure, though. Most will refuse to get right with God, will dishonor God, will pick a fight with God, will think God is an idiot, and hate God, which means many are not only vile but crazy. Once sin permeates and takes over the brain it transforms an otherwise healthy individual into a pompous little dictator, a mouse that roars, or an uproarious little nitwit. What ultra pride is this?

         “Woe to the one who quarrels with his Maker—An earthenware vessel among the vessels of earth! Will the clay say to the potter, ‘What are you doing?’ Or the thing you are making say, ‘He has no hands?’” [Isaiah 45:9]

         Whatever any individual may want to fix regarding the evil humanity is inflicting upon the world, it is a complete waste of time and effort without repentance and the application of the cleansing blood of God. There must be a circumcision of the heart. One cannot get good from evil or fresh water from a polluted pit. Unless a person is cleansed from and given power over sin and becomes a new creation, unless he or she submits to the Lord Jesus and follows Him and obeys Him, and unless he or she goes forth to help humanity with the real corrective, he or she remains subjected to the problem and is also part of the problem.

         But Jesus looked at them and said, “What then is this that is written: ‘THE STONE WHICH THE BUILDERS REJECTED, THIS BECAME THE CHIEF CORNER stone’? Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces; but on whomever it falls, it will scatter him like dust.” [Luke 20:17-18]

         Here we see the fate of sinful humanity—Repentance or Judgment. The spiritually proactive deal with their sin properly and allow the corrective to be applied and by this attain eternal life.

         For those who choose life, it is possible to lay our burdens down. There is relief. Someone really does care. And He proposes the exact and perfect solution. It’s amazing what good can happen if we just get out of the way, let God lead, recognize our place in the order of things, acknowledge the fact that we have a very serious problem and that God has the only corrective, have a respectful attitude toward the Lord and become a servant, and simply let God be God.

         “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.

         “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS.

         “For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” [Matthew 11:28-30] [1]

         © 2014 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved.


[1] Unless otherwise noted all Scriptures are taken from the New American Standard Bible, © 1960, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

Throwing Down the Hammer: Conviction of Sin (2)

         God reveals sin. He knows our thoughts and intentions. He knows our secret sins. We may be able to fool many or most, and even ourselves, but we can never fool God.

         Yet strangely, many of us apparently think that if God is the only one who knows, it’s okay, because He’s a nice guy and doesn’t seem to care too much. He is loving and forgiving and kind, and would never want to embarrass us.

         Part of this characterization has some validity, but it’s simply not true overall. God is Love and He is very loving, but it’s not very loving to know someone has a fatal disease and never disclose the information. Imagine a doctor saying to an assistant, “Oh crud. The tests have uncovered something very bad! But I just don’t have the heart to tell my patient!”

         God wants us to know. So He tells us. Or actually, He tries to tell us. But humans generally do not listen, or they cover the ears. Or they get very angry when conviction comes upon them. Imagine getting angry at the doctor for being the bearer of bad news: “Why you! What’s your problem? I don’t need this!” (And then you die.)

         Actually, when people get such news they usually make the decision to comply with whatever the doctor orders and tell their friends and family they will fight the disease and win. They approach it with a great attitude. They show courage and strength, and trust their physician, the medical testing procedure, and the established program that attempts to rid their body of the sickness.

         But when the aforementioned type of belligerent person hears the Word of God and suddenly knows he is a disease-carrying sinner in need of repentance, he often gets angry and stomps out of the room and gets mad at God and all those sorry Christians who think they’re better than everyone else and goes back to family and friends who he knows will agree with him and thus surrounds himself with fellow angry enabling deniers who refuse to acknowledge the truth. (And unless they repent they all go to hell.)

         Others, though, fall flat on their faces before God repenting with much anguish over their many failures and violations of God’s standards and laws. And they continue at this until they are cleansed by the only cleansing agent for a filthy human soul—the Blood of Jesus. They then find peace “that passes all understanding” and receive the abundant life of God. And when God brings His Good News to a people and some hear it and respond properly and positively, He rejoices over their salvation. He paid the highest price for their welfare and is overjoyed when people apply it and their disease of sin is cured.

         He also brings the Good News to those who refuse the opportunity. Such people become that much more strident against Him. They angrily sign their own death certificate. All they do after that point is a detriment to society as a whole. They become rebellious and hard core carriers of the sin disease and infect all they come in contact with. If it is a good thing to quarantine the diseased, is it not also a good thing to quarantine those with the sin disease?

         In effect it certainly is, but since God wants no one to lose his soul, He will usually remain patient and hope they will change their hearts before passing from this realm. Plus, even though it can be difficult to deal with, He would rather such sinners have interaction with those who are set free, in hopes that their living or spoken witness will bring salvation, as in the wheat and tares parable (Matthew 13:24-30).

         The Word specifically states, however, that real Christians must not have close relationships (being yoked together) with willful sinners. This is their method of quarantine.

         Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever?

         Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; just as God said, “I WILL DWELL IN THEM AND WALK AMONG THEM; AND I WILL BE THEIR GOD, AND THEY SHALL BE MY PEOPLE. Therefore, COME OUT FROM THEIR MIDST AND BE SEPARATE,” says the Lord. “AND DO NOT TOUCH WHAT IS UNCLEAN; And I will welcome you. And I will be a father to you, And you shall be sons and daughters to Me,” says the Lord Almighty.

         Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God. [2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1]

         This may be termed a pre-separation, since at the end all sheep will be separated from the goats. In fact, if there is no “pre-separation” for believers there will likely not be any later separation either, since hanging around goats all the time often turns one into a goat. Real Christians must be separate from the world.

         Though most people do not understand the truth and refuse to try to understand, willfully sinful human beings are basically disease-ridden vermin, regardless of outward appearances, and God must sometimes rid the world of such vermin to protect the world and those who try hard to live right. Hardened criminals who engage in vile practices with no heart for others often shuck all pretense, and their mug shots reveal them for the vermin they are.

         But many less obvious willful sinners engage in unseen or unacknowledged sins (though just as deadly) and are mere posers who successfully transform their outer appearance to appear upstanding. For such confidence people, outward beauty is not merely skin deep but transcends to the soul. Some of the best posers are religious posers.

         “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. So you, too, outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.” [Matthew 23:27-28] [1]

         I wonder if that brought on any conviction?

         © 2014 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved. [To Be Continued]


[1] Unless otherwise noted all Scriptures are taken from the New American Standard Bible, © 1960, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.