Bought by the Blood

January 9, 2012

Soul Mate Myth

Filed under: Gospel,Meaning of Marriage,Tim Keller — cubsfan1980 @ 3:20 pm
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Tim Keller has a new book out that I am hoping to read this year called, “The Meaning of Marriage.” Here is an excellent from it that I copied from an article on the Relevant Magazine website.

The Gospel is—we are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared to believe, and at the very same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope. This is the only kind of relationship that will really transform us. Love without truth is sentimentality; it supports and affirms us but keeps us in denial about our flaws. Truth without love is harshness; it gives us information but in such a way that we cannot really hear it. God’s saving love in Christ, however, is marked by both radical truthfulness about who we are and yet also radical, unconditional commitment to us. The merciful commitment strengthens us to see the truth about ourselves and repent. The conviction and repentance moves us to cling to and rest in God’s mercy and grace.

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July 16, 2011

The Deep Things of God by Fred Sanders: A Review

In today’s evangelical culture where phrases like “Christ-Centered” are in vogue and topics of the Gospel and Christ finished work are common place, I found reading “The Deep Things of God: How the Trinity Changes Everything,” by Fred Sanders quite refreshing. Many of the books that I’ve read lately have been more on the topic of practical application, parenting and other assorted topics.  This was my first time reading a theology book in ages, and being a parent of a toddler my brain has limited bandwidth and I definitely noticed this book stretching my brain in ways that it hasn’t in a while.  With all of that said, I would not recommend this book if you are looking for a light read.

Starting the book, the first chapter was definitely intimidating.  Sanders lays out a philosophical argument for why the trinity should be important for Christians today. To be honest, this chapter was hard to read and my fear was that if the rest of the book was like that then it would be hard to finish.  I did finish the book and after the first chapter, the information became easier to process.  Sanders uses the first chapter to lay a foundation for the rest of the book, from there he spends the bulk of book talking about how the gospel finds its root in the trinity.  The book concludes with reflections on how the trinity relates to Bible reading and prayer.

Theology for theology sake is useless.  What Sanders excels in with this book is taking the reader past a knowledge of God and to the worship of God.  In chapter two I found myself worshipping God for who He is, particularly His self-sufficiency within the trinity and how He doesn’t need anyone or anything else to complete or satisfy Himself.  In chapter three I found myself worshipping God for all of His acts, particularly that of saving me.  In chapter four I found myself worshipping God for the access He has provided by adopting me through the work of the trinity.  In chapter five I found myself worshipping God for the specific roles He fulfills in the trinity and how He welcomes me to commune with each specific role.  In chapter six I found myself worshipping God for allowing me to encounter Him through His Word which is the breath of His Spirit.  In chapter seven I found myself worshipping God for how as His adopted child I get to each experience person of the trinity in prayer.

If you are wondering why you should buy this book, I will let  the author tell you why from a chapter called, “Into The Saving Life Christ,”

When evangelical Christians come to understand the trinitarian soteriology we have been describing in this book, they tend to describe it as a moment of insight that changes everything about their life and faith. At the very least, they see it as a breakthrough to a new level of depth in the things they had known before.

There is nothing wrong with being  Christ-centered, problems arise when this causes us to becomes Father-forgetting and/or Spirit-ignoring.  When we are Spirit-ignoring and Father-forgetting we shrink the size of the gospel.  The trinity is important because it expands our size the gospel.

A gospel which is only about the moment of conversion but does not extend to every moment of life in Christ is too small. A gospel that gets your sins forgiven but offers no power for transformation is too small. A gospel that isolates one of the benefits of union with Christ and ignores all the others is too small. A gospel that must be measured by your own moral conduct, social conscience, or religious experience is too small. A gospel that rearranges the components of your life but not put you personally in the presence of God is too small.

June 4, 2011

Give Them Grace by Elyse Fitzpatrick – A Review

With some parenting books, it is hard to read them cover to cover.  Often times when reading a parenting book I’ll go to the table of contents and flip to the section that covers the age range of my child.  “Give Them Grace: Dazzling Your Kids With The Love of Jesus” by Elyse Fitzpatrick and Jessica Thompson is different, you will not only read it cover to cover, but also find yourself reading it again and again.  This book will help you to see that your child’s biggest problem isn’t their sinful action, but their sinful hearts.  When reading this book you will see that your parenting can never be good enough, but only God’s grace can make your parenting sufficient to transform your child.

This book is written without being divided into practical application for the age range of children.  The reason for this is because when dealing with toddlers, teenagers and even adults there is no difference with the root of issues that come up.  Kids, just like adults, don’t need more rules to make them good and bring them closer to God.  “Give Them Grace” does not ignore the need for rules, training and discipline but it gives the crucial reminder that all of that is meant to lead to kids to Jesus.  “We are commanded to give them the law so that they will be crushed by it and see their need for a Savior. The law won’t make them good. It will make them despair of ever being good enough and in that way it will make them open to the love, sacrifice and welcome of their Savior, Jesus Christ.”

It isn’t just kids who need Jesus, but also parents.  The task of parenting is impossible without God’s grace.  Our best effort at parenting might produce “good kids” but it won’t change their hearts.  “Raising good kids is utterly impossible unless they are drawn by the Holy Spirit to put their faith in the goodness of another. You cannot raise good kids, because you’re not a good parent. There is only one good Parent, and he had one good Son. Together, this Father and Son accomplished everything that needed to be done to rescue us and our children from certain destruction.” One of the things I appreciated about this book is the humility of the authors.  They don’t claim to have it down or be good parents.  They are in the same boat as all of us and write with humility as they proclaim their own need for grace.

I wish Crossway would allow me to give out one free chapter of this book for you to read because by just reading one chapter I know you’d be convinced to buy the whole book.  Even if Crossway would allow me to give away one free chapter to convince readers to buy the book, it would be hard for me to pick just one that I think people should read because they are all so good.  If you want to apply the gospel to parenting and have your parenting be saturated in the gospel then I could not encourage you enough to buy this book.

A quick note to the men: this is the first Elyse Fitzpatrick book I have ever read.  My wife has read me selections of “Because He Loves Me” and I thought that book sounds good, but the cover is to feminine for me, maybe I’ll read it when an edition comes out with a camouflage cover.  Next my wife shared portions of “Comforts From The Cross,” the cover was less girly, but I feared losing man points because this wasn’t “Strength From The Cross.”  Please don’t make the mistake that Elyse Fitzpatrick only writes for a female audience.  This book isn’t just for mom’s, but also for dad’s.

May 9, 2011

A Review of The Greener Grass Conspiracy by Stephen Altrogge

As I was reading “The Greener Grass Conspiracy: Finding Contentment On Your Side Of The Fence,” by Stephen Altrogge my first thought was that this is a book that the devil does not want you to read.  Satan is the father of lies and he has created a conspiracy based on the lie that God is not good and that someone else has a better life then you.  Stephen Altrogge’s aim in this book is to equip the reader with gospel truths to be on guard against Satan’s lies.  Altrogge does not write as someone who has it all together or as someone who has vanquished the sin of discontentment in his life.  The attitude of Altrogge is that of a seasoned soldier who has been to war with discontentment and has the battle scars to prove it, as well as strategies from battle that have kept him alive.

The truths that Altrogge presents the reader with to help them fight for contentment are not psychological, self-help, therapeutic answers to tickle your ears.  The key to contentment is found in worship and understanding how the great the God is that we are called to worship and how little we are. “Content is created in the shadow of the majesty of God. I become content when I see and treasure and embrace the glory of God. I find contentment when I grasp the fact that life is not primarily about me and my comfort and my happiness. My soul is satisfied when I stop trying to elbow my way to the center of the universe and instead rejoice in and worship the God who really is at the center of all things (P.23)”

Altrogge goes on in the book to flesh out what contentment is and what contentment is not.  Using the example of King Solomon, the man who had every reason to be content Altrogge presents a character study of how all in this life is vanity and can provide no true satisfaction.  Later on Altrogge presents another character study using the apostle Paul and how he learned contentment.  Learning contentment isn’t easy, but it is a requirement for all who have Heaven as their home and desire to be transformed to be like Christ.

For those unfamiliar with Altrogge, definitely pause from reading this to get familiar with him through his blog, twitter and facebook.  Blog: www.theblazingcenter.com/ twitter: twitter.com/stephenaltrogge facebook: www.facebook.com/StephenMAltrogge One of the first things you notice as you become familiar with him is his amazing use of wit and humor.  Sometimes he may appear over the top, but if you like Brian Regan and Jon Acuff then you will definitely appreciate his musings.

This book is written in an accessible fashion for anyone to be able to grasp and benefit from.  Each chapter ends with application questions that make it great for a group study or to read in your own personal devotional times.  A chapter that is worth its weight in gold is the one on the sin of complaining.  Complaining is a fruit of discontentment and does not get enough discussion in most Christian circles.  That chapter is worth the price of the book alone.

Here are a couple more prize quotes from this book to whet your appetite:

“True contentment is found in a Person. It’s not found in getting what we want or in having difficulty removed from our lives. Contentment isn’t the result of the absence of pain or the presence of material blessing.  It’s found in Jesus Christ. Period. Without Christ we can never be truly content, regardless of the blessing that surround us. And with Christ we can be content in the midst of every circumstance. (P. 87) “

“Every event that occurs in our lives has been ordained by God for our good. God is moving all things – singleness, sickness, riches, poverty, children, and infertility – toward one destination: our good and his glory. God is using your constant headaches for good. He’s weaving together your recent job promotion, sick daughter, and inability to fix your flooding basement into something glorious and good. There is nothing us to us that God won’t use for our good. In fact, the very things that tempt us to be discontent are being used by God for our good (P. 92).”

July 25, 2009

Who Do You Say That I Am

Filed under: Glory Road,Islam,Jesus Christ,Thabiti Anyabwile — cubsfan1980 @ 8:52 pm
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He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. – Matthew 16:15&16

I am currently reading Glory Road and I am about halfway through am really enjoying it.  One of the essays is on Thabiti Anyabwile and his journey from Islam to Christianity.  If you haven’t heard Thabiti’s testimony you can listen to it on the CLC website.    In Glory Road Thabiti tells about his struggle with what Islam says about Jesus:

The Qur’an tuaght the Jesus was virgin born (Surah 3:45-48; 19:20ff) and that he was helped by the Holy Spirit (Surah 2:87, 253).  The Qur’an and the Hadith taught that Jesus was faultless.  And some eleven times the Qur’an referred to Jesus as “The Messiah.”

How could Jesus be virgin born, helped by the Holy Spirit, faultless, the Messiah, and not the Son of God, a member of the Trinity, and the Savior that the Old Testament prophets looked for?  Every Muslim believes that Jesus is a prophet, and that a prophet speaks the very words of God, and that the Torah, Psalms of Davd, and the Gospels were revelations from Allah.  How could I consistent hold that view and reject Jesus’ teaching about himself and the way to eternal life?

In case you are wondering, this is not the turning point where Thabiti accepts Christ.  If you want to know more you have to read the book or listen to the message that I linked to above.

February 7, 2009

Tough Questions – Chapter 8

This chapter “The Cross According to the Scriptures.”  Instead of writing my own summary of this chapter, I am going to use the one from the study guide of the book because I do not feel like I can sum it up much better.  This is my favorite quote of this chapter:

On the one hand, at the cross Christ bore the weight of all my sin against him.  All my hatred and rejection of God, all that i have been, or could be capable of, in my sinful rebellion against my creator was part of what Christ suffered.  I stand among the enemies of God as one of those who sin nailed Jesus to the cross…

On the other hand, at the cross, Christ bore the weight of God’s judgment on my sin.  He bore not merely the brunt of my sin against him but the consequences of my sin upon me.  He took not only what my sin could do, but what my sin deserves.

Review from http://www.zondervan.com/media/cms/Lead_Teach/gidu_study_guide_cms.pdf

The cross is simultaneously the moment when Christ takes on the worst of human sin and when he takes on God’s punishment for sin. To understand this we must see Jesus’ death in light of the story of Israel, for Jesus is the fulfilment and climax of that story. In his death Jesus relives the exile, and what is true about the forces behind the exile is also true for the cross. In both, divine judgement is working through human agency. Israel received God’s punishment through the Babylonians, and Jesus through the Roman and Jewish authorities. What makes Jesus different is that he did not deserve it. As we look at the Scriptures and think about the morality of justice, we see that sin does deserve to be punished, and punished by God. On the cross, Jesus assumes on himself the worst we could do to him but also the punishment we deserved. In this there is still great mystery, but mystery that leads to praise.

February 3, 2009

Tough Questions – Chapter 7

This chapter is entitled “The Cross – How” and focuses on the doctrine of penal substitution.  The doctrine of penal substitution has come under attack in recent year and honestly, I have had trouble grasping the arguements of those that don’t agree with penal substitution, as I feel like all of those arguements have a disorted view of Scripture.  As I read this chapter, it was hard for me to feel engaged in it as this is an area that I feel like does not to be defended and find this doctrine to be one that is pretty common sense.  Wright defines penal substitution as:

God is the judge.  Sinners are guilty of having broken God’s law.  The penalty is death.  But God in Christ bore that penalty in our place, so that we can be pardoned by God, be declared in the righteousness of Christ, and gain eternal life instead of eternal death–wich would otherwise be the just penalty of our sin.

Many opponents to penal substitution believe that if God is love then he cannot be angry at evil or be a God who punishes those who do evil.  Wright presents a solid case that you can’t have the love of God without Him being angry at sin.

Miroslav Volf is a Christian theologian from Croatia.  He says that he used to hold to the fashionable view that dismissed the wrath of God, that the idea of an angry God was somehow incompatible with the love of God.  But then war came to his country.  Terrible attrocities were done.  He found himself exceedingly and jusitifiably angry.  Then he thought – if God is not angry at such injustice and cruelty, then he is not a God worth worshipping.  Only if God is angry at such evil is he worh loving, or being loved by us…

The wonderful paradox, which lies beyond our understanding, is that the cross was simultaneously the outpouring of God’s anger and the outpouring of God’s love.  For in his love for us, God was absorbing, in Christ, his anger against sin.

Another fallacy presented by opponents of penal substitution is God the Father and God the Son working against each other, making the cross a form of cosmis child abuse with the Father being vindicative and the Son being a victim so that sinful man can be redeemed.  This is a view that misconstrues the atonement.  “It portrays the atonement as a play with three actos (God, Jesus, and us), whereas in reality the atonement involves only two parties  (God and us).

Lastly, Wright deals with how penal substitution does not make sense in a culture wit a developed sense of personal and objective guilt.  In postmodern America people are more concerned with their own shame and how they are affected by their own sin.  The resolution in this is that our guilt must be tackled before we can deal with our shame.  When Jesus took our sin on the cross he faced the shame and humiliation that should have been ours.  He was innocent, but took our guilt upon Himself so that we can be innocent and righteous.

January 30, 2009

Tough Questions of Faith – Chapter 6

This section of the book deals with the cross, the why, what and how of God’s accomplishment for sinful man through Christ death and resurrection.  In chapter 6 Wright deals with why Christ died for the sinners and what God accomplished because of Christ finished work of the cross.  To summarize the why of God’s love for fallen man Wright states the following:

We will never understand why God has chosen to love us, other than the revealed truth that God is love.  It is simply and essentially God’s character and nature to love.  That states the truth, but it doesn’t explain it.  Or rather, it does not explain it in relation to anything  that we can state about ourselves, other than that we are the creation of this God whose being is defined by love. The love of God is generated and motived withing God’s own being, just as the light and warmth of the sun that we fill on planet earth is generated within the sun itself and owes nothing to anything the earth or its inhabitants can do – other than to be orbiting within reach.

I love this truth!  There is nothing I can do to merit God’s love.  He doesn’t love me because I am lovable.  I am a sinner deserving of wrath.  He loves me because he is love.

In this same section is found my favorite quote from the book so far:

Whatever life brings, nothing can top the unbelievable love of God and his constanct mery, goodness, and eternal saving grace.  Such gratitude is a richly cleansing, calming, refreshing emotion.  Indeed it is more than an emotion.  It is a whole worldvier, a whole philosophy of live, the universe and everything, for it is the only proper response to the very being of God, that he is love, amazing love.

Next, Wright elaborate what God has accomplished through his finish work on the cross.  Our benefits through Christ death in our place are as follows:

  • Nearness to God (Ephesians 2:11-13,19)
  • Mercy (Ephesians 2:3-7)
  • Redemption (Mark 10:45 and Ephesians 1:7)
  • Forgiveness (Acts 2:23-24, 38 3:15-19)
  • Reconciliation with God (Romans 5:10-11 and 2 Corinthians 5:18-21)
  • Reconciliation with others (Ephesians 2:13-18)
  • Justification (Isaiah 53:6, 1 Peter 2:24 and 2 Corinthians 5:21)
  • Cleansing (1 John 1:7-2:2)
  • New Life (Ephesians 2:4-5)

How is this all possible?  Only by Christ dieing for us.

God in Christ substituted himself in order to bear in himself what we would otherwise suffer because of our sin, and to gain for us what we would otherwise eternally lose…Substitution is not metaphor for what God did; it is what he actually did.  God actually did choose to put himself in a place where we should be, to do for us what we could not for do ourselves.

January 29, 2009

Tough Questions of Faith – Part Two

Tough Questions of Fath – Part Two consist of chapters four and five that I plan on summarizing in one post.  This part of the book probably deals with the one of the most controversial aspects of the Old Testament to wrestle with, the Israelites conquest of the land of Canaan.

Wright focuses chapter four on three wrong view points to take when dealing with this piece of Scripture.  The first false view point is that the it’s an Old Testament story that has no place in the context of the New Testament.  Wright dispels this because the characteristics of God’s love and wrath are the same in the New Testament as in the Old Testament.  God is the same yesterday, today and forever.  His attributes do not change between testaments.  Wright also proves this view point wrong with pointing to how the New Testament validates the Old Testament and never critiques or attempts to show wrong in it.  Another view point that Wright disapproves of for dealing with the Canaanite conquest is that the Israelites were wrong in believing that God wanted them to drive out the Canaanites.  “The main problem with this view is that everywhere else in the Bible the conquest is never explained away as a colossal mistake; on the contrary, it is anticipated, commanded, achieved, and remembered as something that accomplished God’s will.”    The last view point that Wright tells us is unreliable is that of the conquest as being meant as allegory for spiritual warfare.  “We must remember that this kind of spiritual use (the use he is referring to is allegory) of the Old Testament narratives is secondary and derivative.  Their primary form is simply historical narrative.  In other words, we are not really dealing with allegory here at all.”

What then do we do with the conquest of Canaan?  Here is Wright’s conclusion:

I have wrestled with this problem for many years as a teacher of the Old Testament, and I am coming to the view that no such “solution” will be forthcoming.  There is something about this part of our Bible that I have to include in my basket of things I don’t understand about God and his ways…

What we really must do is what we should do with every part of the bible, namely, to put it in the wider framework of our whole Bible.  We must get into the habit of doing that when we read any Bible text, and never more so than here.

So we will look at three frameworks that help to put the conquest in perspective — not in such a way as to make it “nice” or to take away all the nasty questions it raises, but at least in such a way as to help us connect it to the rest of what we know about God and his ways.  We need to see the conquest narrative in the framework of the Old Testament story, in the framework of God’s sovereign justice, and in the framework of God’s whole plan of salvation.

Here are Wright’s three frameworks listed from above that we need to hold in our hands as deal with the conquest of Canaan

The Framework of The Old Testament Story:

There is a culture and a rhetoric of warfare for the Israelites that we are not famaliar with today.  The conquest of Canaan did not include a complete removal of them from the land, but only a subduing of them so that Israel can take the land.  Something else important to consider is that this is a unique and historical event, not something to be a model for a way of life.

The Framework of God’s Sovereign Justice

“The conquest was not human genocide.  It was divine judgment”  This is seen by the fact that it wasn’t an unconditional wiping out of all Canaanites.  For Canaanites who repented and followed Yahweh, like Rahab, they were spared.  This does not imply that Israel is more righteous, we even see God imposing the same judgment on them.

The Framework of God’s Whole Plan of Salvation:

The conquest of Canaan, is not the ultimate end, it is part of God’s plan of having Israel being His special and chosen people from which the Messiah will come.  The mission of Israel is to be a nation from which peace to God is made available and all nations comes to praise Him.  The conquest of Canaan might seem contradictory to this but, Wright states “The overall thrust of the Old Testament is not Israel against the nations, but Israel for the sake of the nations…What we need to see is that the Bible feels no contradiction between the ultimate goal of universal blessing and historical acts of particular judgment.”

In conclusion, this is an episode, like all others, which must be viewed through the eyes of the cross.

And when I do set it in the light of the cross, I see one more perspective.  For the cross too involved the most horrific and evil human violence, which, at the same time, also constitued the outpouring of God’s judgment on human sin.  The crucial difference of course, is that, whereas at the conquest, God poured out his judgment on a wicked society who deserved it, at the cross, God bore on himself the judgment of God on human wickedness, through the person of his own sinless Son – who deserved it not one bit.

January 24, 2009

Tough Question of Faith – Chapter 3

This chapter is entitled “The Defeat of Evil” and honestly, I believe that this chapter is worth the price of the book alone.  I love the quote that Wright uses to start this chapter.  As you will see from this quote, he does redemptive theology as well as anyone else out there today.  Picking up from where he left out in the previous chapter about lament he goes on to say:

But the Bible takes us further, much further, and calls us to rejoice at the prospect of the defeat and final destruction of evil.  Evil will be eradicated from God’s creation.  This is the hope and promise of the Bible.

The whole Bible, indeed, can be read as the epic account of God’s plan and purpose to defeat evil and rid his whole creation of it forever.  That, it can be argued, describes everything between Genesis 3 and Revelation 22.  We cannot here retell or even summarize that great narrative, but we can unequivocally say that the cross and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth stand at the centre of it.  Here is the central and decisive moment of the victory of God over evil and the guarantee that it will ultimately be destroyed.

Wright goes onto state that when wrestling with the problem of evil there are three Biblical truths that we must hold in our ends.  Those truths are  1)the utter evilness of evil, 2)the utter goodness of God and 3)the utter sovereignty of God.   After explaining these three truths Wright proceeds to use two examples of these functioning in the Bible.  One from the Old Testament with the story of Joseph and the other from the New Testament with Christ being crucified.  Wright’s prose is prolific, so instead of summarizing, I will quote him extensively below:

Three truths applied to Joseph

There is no softening of the evil intent and action of the brothers or of their moral responsibility.  Their actions are inexcusably evil.  Yet the goodness and sovereignty of God not only overruled their intentions but used them for the ultimate good of saving life.

It is important to not suggest that God “turned evil into good”, or that because it all worked out in the end, it wasn’t really so bad after all.  The actions of the brothers were evil.  Period.  Evil in intent and evil in execution.  But God demonstrated his sovereignty by showing that he can take what is done as an existing evil in the world and use it to bring about h is own good purposes (emphasis mine). God remains good, and God remains sovereign.

On the cross:

The cross exposed the utter depths of human and satanic evil in hatred, injustice, cruelty, violence, and murder.  All of this was hurled at Jesus, with no justification or excuse.  Jesus died at the hands of  “wicked men.” At the cross, evil is seen at its worst for what it is and does.  

Second, the cross happened fully in accorandance with God’s sovereign will from eternity.  It is the supreme moment in history (which defines and enables all other such moments) in which God caused the wrath of human beings to praise him, somehow building the evil intent and actions of free creatures into his own sovereign purpose of loving redemption.

Third, the cross also expressed the utter goodness of God, pouring out his mercy and grace in self-giving love.  At the cross God drew the worst sting of human and satanic evil and concentrated it on himself in the person of His son, in order that it should be borne in the full depth of all its consequences and thereby release forgiveness.

Wright then goes onto to exposit Revelation 4-7.   Because Christ is the crucified one who is at the center of creaton and God’s saving plan He is worthy to open the scrolls.  When Christ opens the scroll he summons the four horsemen of apocalytpic terror.  The four hoursemen represent conquest, war, famine and disease.  Wright quotes George B. Caird on the horsemen in the following, “They are the result of human sin…The point is that, just where sin and its effects are most in evidence, the kingship of the crucified is to be seen, turing human wickedness to service of God’s purpose.”  Christ governs the universe and the evil of this present age cannot trump His sovereign and good purposes.

Revelation 5-7, then, affirms this awesome paradox that is crucial to the way we should think about evil.  All evil, disaster, and suffering stand under the sovereign control of God in Christ — and specifically under the authority of the crucified Christ (The lamb who was slain, who is in the centre of the throne, sharing in the government of God over all creation).

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