Berkeley Blitz: Day’s Two and Three

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The first week of the “Berkeley Blitz” is over.  Today is Monday, March 10, 2014, a time to reflect on the past three days before I leave the house in less than an hour to start week two.

The photo above is taken in front of Sather’s Gate, a main conduit for UC Berkeley students; thousands pass through here every day and we have one of our preaching spots right here.

UC Berkeley is much different than any other major university I have ministered on.  To put it kindly, there are a lot of strange people that float in and out of this campus.

For example, while Don Harman was preaching, an elderly, white-haired man was performing some bizarre antics near him.  He pulled his camouflaged jacket over his head and, bent over, began to slowly turn in circles while waving his arms and hands up and down, whispering occasional chants while doing this slow-motion dance (see the video below).

Again, while Don was preaching, another man, a non-student, would stand near Don and raise his voice, telling the students that there is no such thing as a Christian.  He held in his hand a piece of paper with verses from the Sermon on the Mount printed on it and saying that no one lives up to its standards.

Along with the bizarre, there are also the curious.  I was blessed to have many conversations with students who stopped to engage in fruitful conversation.  Yesterday was an example of this.

I was standing with one of my posters that asks, “Are you right with God?” in bold, white lettering on a black background.  On the bottom is reads, “Repent and believe the Gospel.”  (Mark 1:15)  This is my favorite sign because of the power behind the question.

I like to ask the students questions to try and engage them in conversations.  For example, when a student passes by me I will gently ask, “Young man, are you right with God today?”  Their reactions can be startling; it’s not something they are usually asked on this liberal, anti-God campus and it pulls them up short.

Sometimes they respond, “F**k God!”  Or you will hear the occasional “Hail Satan!”  I might get the silent treatment with their only response being to show me their middle finger as they walk  by.

Many smile and say, “Yes, I am.”  And then I say something like, “Have you repented and believe in the Gospel?  Because that’s what Jesus said is necessary in order to be right with God.”

Many don’t like to hear that.  The smiles quickly fade and their jaws set, no doubt because this is something that clashes with their false, preconceived notions of how one gets right with God.

But then there are some who continue to smile even after I tell them of repentance and belief in the Gospel.  They might say, “Amen!”  I will then ask if they are Christians and some will enthusiastically reply that they are.  These are the ones that warm and encourage my soul and I praise and encourage them in their faith in Christ.

A teen-ager, probably not even a Cal student, with bright, dyed red hair and torn jeans, came up to me.  She asked me about one of my signs, the one that reads “Evolution is a lie,” a sure conversation starter.

I was struck by her friendliness, freshness and innocence.  She was respectful and curious, and I felt that I was speaking with one who had yet to be corrupted by the wicked culture of the San Franciso/Berkeley area (she is in the video).

Hopefully, the few seeds I was able to share with her will take root in her life and she will give her life to Christ before she becomes one of the countless other young people who succumb to drugs, alcohol and loose living.  I am thankful to be there, to offer hope, warning and reconciliation to God through Jesus.

I am blessed to have other brothers in the faith joining me in this tough mission field:  Larry, Don, Dave and others.  Their faith, boldness and love of Christ inspires and motivates me, pushing me forward in this great cause that binds us together:  a band of regenerated brothers.

Nick is another student attracted by my “Evolution is a lie” sign.  I was busy talking with another student when he first came up and didn’t have a chance to speak with him before he left, no doubt to his next class.  About an hour later he returned and stayed for over two hours to stand and talk, along with a small knot of other students.  They are hungry and they are searching.

Nick is proud of his Catholic background and education.  At the end of our conversation, I ask him if he is born again, quoting Jesus in John 3:5.  He replies that yes, he has, but through the rituals of the Catholic church:  baptism and confession.  It is clear as we talk that he has little clue of the true meaning of being “born again.”  Few Catholics do.

He is relying on the fact that he is a member of the Catholic faith and that doing good works is how one becomes “born from above.”  I quote to him Ephesians 2:8-9 and gently explain that this kind of thinking is going to send him straight to hell.

That’s what Protestants believe, he counters, and I tell him that’s what the Bible teaches.  I urge him to read the entire third chapter of the Gospel of John and also Ephesians 2:8-9 when he goes home.  He tells me he will and I hope he does.

On Sunday, I attend an on-campus church called “In Christ Alone,” made up predominantly of Asian students.  I met one of the pastors, Vieng Wong, while open-air preaching and we hit it off.  He is very evangelistically minded and their church, made up of approximately 30 people, has been on campus for about ten years.

Afterwards, Vieng buys me lunch at a Korean restaurant off-campus. Joining us is Arnold, a young Asian student from Hong Kong on fire for the Gospel.  You will see both Veing and Arnold in the first few seconds of the video.  Arnold is young firebrand, full of zeal and passion, and young men like him, mentored by committed pastors like Veing, will turn UC Berkeley upside down for Jesus.

Veing invited me to speak at his church and also to dinner this week at his house.  He is excited to learn how to open-air preach and wants me to “show him the ropes.”  Hopefully, this week, March 10-14, 2014, I will be able to do just that.

My first three days at UC Berkeley has been nothing short of remarkable.  I am astonished at how many people I have met and been privileged to share the realities of the kingdom of God with.  Not every conversation is easy and friendly; there are haters of the Gospel here and the spiritual battle is very real, but I could not ask for a better start to the “Berkeley Blitz.”

If you feel led, please keep us in prayer.  We desperately need it.

 

 

 

The Berkeley Blitz: Arrival Day

I arrived safely at the Oakland Airport, always grateful to God for a safe take-off and landings when I travel by air.  My almost three week evangelistic outreach to UC Berkeley was beginning.

Walking to the baggage claim area, I notice something becoming more commonplace:  Jehovah’s Witnesses.  Lately, they are becoming even more high-profile than what they already are.  Not content to go door-to-door, they are now setting up their literature tables in many public places.

There was also a group of approximately 20-30 young Mormon missionaries that had arrived at the Oakland airport.  The women all wore dresses and the men, suits and ties.

Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses, both in one place intent on deceiving the California population.  It was a strange moment.

When I saw the JW table with two middle-aged black women sitting behind it, I smiled.  Why?  Because it is the year 2014, the 100 year anniversary of one of the major false prophecies of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society (WTBTS).

The WTBTS falsely predicted that the 1914 generation would not “pass away” before they saw the return of Christ to earth and Him reigning in peace.  There is far more to this 1914 date than what I can explain here, but this link will help those who are interested:

http://www.jwfacts.com/watchtower/failed-1914-predictions.php

For JW’s, 1914 is an important date.  But as the years pass and this entire generation is dying off without the world seeing the fulfillment of this “prophecy,” this has become yet another embarrassing black eye for an arrogant organization who claims to be God’s only true mouthpiece.

I made a Youtube video on this:

2014 should prove to be a tough year for faithful JW’s, knowing that they are in an organization who can’t seem to stop embarrassing itself.

I approached these ladies at the Oakland Airport and asked them what they thought of this failed 1914 failed prophecy, the “generation that would not pass away.”  One said she knew of some JW’s who are still alive, so my claim that this generation has passed away is not true.

I pointed out to her that the Watchtower magazine that had various elderly people on its cover which said that they would not pass away were all dead (please see my youtube video for a complete explanation)…every single one of them.

“Well, it is true that we have made some mistakes in our past, but we have publicly apologized for these.  We are not prophets, nor claim to be,” she replied in defense.

“Really?” I asked.  “How much money do you two ladies have between you?  Because I will bet all the money you both have that what you just said is incorrect.  Your organization has claimed to be a prophet, and this is the entire problem.  True prophets cannot make false predictions.”

“No, we never claimed to be prophets.  You’re wrong.”

“Then let’s make a bet.   How much money do you both have?” I pressed.  I saw a simple way right in front of me to help pay for my evangelism trip to UC Berkeley.  This would be like taking candy from a baby.

“We don’t gamble,” she replied.

Of course they don’t, and if they were lying, they would be making a fool’s bet; I had this one in the bag.

“Let me prove it to you,” I said.  I pulled out my iphone and googled something like “Watchtower claims to be a prophet.”  Within seconds, I had my evidence.

Here is the link I shared with them:

http://www.jwfacts.com/watchtower/jehovahs-prophet.php

By now, these ladies were looking a bit stunned, like what a cat or raccoon looks like when caught in a trap.  I felt sorry for them.

John Adams wisely said:  “Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the states of facts and evidence.”

It is a fact that the WTBTS has claimed to be a prophet of God.  History has proven them to be a false prophet, time upon time.  Like any other false prophet that caught with their pants down, you would expect some creative damage control to be done by them in an attempt to save face.  This is exactly what the WTBTS has done.

One of the ladies said that there are people still alive who knew some of the 1914 generation.  These are known as the “overlapping generation” and are thus included in the original 1914 group.  Thus, the WTBTS has conveniently extended the false prophecy by at least another hundred years or so.

But thinking people see through this nonsense.  Unfortunately, people like these kind women are prisoners of a mind-bending cult which, sadly to say, may hold them captive for the remainder of their lives.

Hopefully, my words may help to loosen their chains, to put yet another chink in their armor that someone else will gently widen with more information until they can finally break free.

 

 

Wisdom is better than gold

“How blessed is the man who finds wisdom
And the man who gains understanding.
For her profit is better than the profit of silver
And her gain better than fine gold.”  Proverbs 3:13-14 (NASB)

What is wisdom?  How does one find it?

There are many definitions of wisdom, some better than others.  I could spend an entire blog on just defining the word, but for now, here is a description I find helpful:

“The purpose of Proverbs is to guide the reader into wisdom, a word with many nuances.  It is related to the intellect and the control of human behavior.  It is a way of thinking about reality that enables us to pursue what is good in life.  Through wisdom, God reveals what the values of life are and how they may be achieved.” *

As mentioned in my previous blog, I have been an ardent pursuer of wisdom for most of my adult life, starting in my late teens and continuing to this day.  It is an unending fascination as I strive to incorporate the principles of godly wisdom into my daily life.

Proverbs tells us that wisdom is better than silver or gold.  Who talks like this today?  What financial pundit gets on television and says, “Stop spending so much time worrying about your stock portfolio and take time to study the book of Proverbs.  It will be better than all the money tips I could ever give you.”

That person would lose their job, replaced by another who will dutifully carry forth the party line of “money is the answer to everything.”

Wisdom is intricately intertwined around the kingdom of God.  Jesus said, “But seek first His kingdom of and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Matt. 6:33

These “things” that Jesus said will be added to those who seek first His kingdom are the necessities of daily life: food, clothing and shelter (see Matt. 6:25-32).  Being a practical God, He knows full well that His creatures need to eat every day, wear clothes, and have a place to sleep.

The problem arises when our priorities become skewed, a situation that is doubtless true for most of us.  Instead of seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, we pursue money and all the dainties and treats that it can buy.

This is where wisdom comes in, speaking softly to us, wooing us away from the ceaseless false chatter of materialism.  But there is a catch to knowing wisdom: we must seek her as ardently as a lover pursues his first love (Jeremiah 29:13).  Wisdom will be found only by those who appreciate and diligently seek her.

I again encourage my readers to spend time in the book of Proverbs.  For starters, read the first chapter.  Mine the rich ore you will find there and become delighted in the discovering the riches found only in the kingdom of righteousness.

* Note from “The Reformation Study Bible” by Ligonier Ministries.

The power of self-control

“A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls.”  Proverbs 25:28 (ESV)

 An individual who has mastered both their emotions and bodily appetites will be someone of wisdom and maturity.

Are you a person of self-control?  The above proverb informs us that if any one lacks self-control, they are like a city that has lost its all-important defenses.

Ancient middle eastern cities relied on high, fortified walls to keep enemies at bay.  Any breach, or opening, into these walls was a place for violent intruders to enter the city.

Solomon, the writer of most of Proverbs, used this striking metaphor to instruct readers of the importance of self-control.  Without such, he warns, we become vulnerable to any number of enemies.   We are left spiritually naked without necessary defenses.

Too many of us lack self-control, hurting not only ourselves, but those around us.

For example, the ever increasing rates of obesity in this country is shocking.  Individuals who are within their normal weight level are becoming the exception rather than the norm.

Recently, while riding my bike to the park where I exercise, the  people I saw walking to their cars or driving on my neighborhood street were each grossly overweight.  I made a mental note of this travesty without having any clue that I would be writing about it the next day.

I spend much time among university students and have front-row seats to an entire population that, in general, lacks self-control.  One predominant area where this is seen, or rather heard, is in their foul language.  They drop more f-bombs in one day than what the US military dropped over Vietnam in its multi-year conflict.

Over-eating and not being able to control the tongue are unmistakeable signs of a lack of self-control.  According to the wisdom of Solomon, this signifies that the walls of these people’s cities have been breached by an enemy, creating vulnerabilities into its defenses.

Experience teaches us that sin never operates by itself.  It loves company.  In other words, an individual guilty of over-eating will surely lack self-control in other areas of their life.  They might regularly get angry over trifles, burst out in foul language, incessantly gossip, be frequently overcome by lust, etc.

This is a fact established in Scripture.  Paul exhorted us in the New Testament book of Romans to “not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts, and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness (6:12-13a)…for just as you presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness, resulting in further lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness, resulting in sanctification (vs. 19b)

Sin breeds more sin as surely as righteousness breeds more righteousness.  This is a “Law of the Spiritual.”

Strive to become a person of self-control.  Ask God for this wonderful gift.

 

 

Lies hurt

A friend of mine recently lied to me.  That hurts.

It wasn’t one of those insignificant “white lies” that some people claim are no big deal.  This particular lie damaged our friendship.

Lying is a serious matter.  Lies breed distrust and can cause serious emotional pain.  Her lie makes me question whether anything she has said is true.

“Lying lips are an abomination to the LORD, but those who deal faithfully are His delight.”  Proverbs 12:22 (NASB)

The NET Bible puts it this way:

“The LORD abhors a person who lies, but those who deal truthfully are his delight.”

Note how God views lying; it is an abomination to Him.  This is a strong word, defined as, “a person or thing that is disgusting; intense aversion or loathing; a vile, shameful, or detestable action, condition, habit, etc.”

I have learned that habitual liars cannot be trusted, with emphasis on the word habitual.  Even the best of us, those who detest lying in all of its wretched forms, occasionally stumble into lying.

For example, imagine I ask someone I trust to read my blog and tell me what they think of my writing.  Not wanting to hurt my feelings, they could say, “Great…some of the best writing on the Internet!”  In reality, though, they might actually think, “My two-year-old can write better than this garbage.”

I’m not talking about this type of lying, as regrettable as it is; I’m targeting those whose lying is a normal part of who they are.  These people lie as easily as they tell the truth.  If telling the truth benefits them, they are truthful, but if lying is more expedient and advances their agenda, then telling lies is acceptable.

I was aware that my friend was not the most truthful person because I heard her lie to her own family members.  In my more clear headed moments, I understood that if she lied to those closest to her then she was capable of lying to me.  But I never thought she would actually lie to me.

When that moment arrives when you realize that someone you trusted has lied to you in a matter of importance, it’s shocking.  You feel violated and angry, disbelieving that this person could do this to you.

Worse, you question every thing they now tell you, thinking, “Are they lying to me again? ”  That sacred trust you once shared is shattered.  Putting the pieces back together might be impossible.  Something in your relationship has changed forever.

I don’t believe most of us realize how grave a matter lying is.  The Bible lumps liars into the same group of the following unsavory characters:

“But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.”  Revelation 21:8

Maybe its time for some of us to do some serious soul-searching, followed by repentance.

 

The slavery of debt

“The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower becomes the lender’s slave.”  Proverbs 22:7

The practical wisdom found in Proverbs, if diligently followed, can save us from pain and anguish.  This is why I have tried to regularly incorporate the reading of Proverbs into my morning quiet times for decades.

A Christian’s faith should not only affect the spiritual aspect of their being, but also the practical side of their daily lives.  We should not be accused of “being so heavenly minded that we are no earthly good.”

Money is a major part of this practical dimension of a person’s life.  As this Proverb teaches, money is something that we should be the master of and never the master to.

One sign that you are a slave to money is debt; how much debt you owe determines the degree of this voluntary servitude.  The greater the debt, the tighter the chains that hold you in bondage.

Romans 13: 8 (a) says “owe nothing to anyone except to love one another…” (NASB).  This verse, coupled with Proverbs 22:7, have been the greatest influences in guiding and shaping my financial life.  Effectively, they sum up my philosophy on how I decide to spend–or not spend–my money.

If at all possible, I try to avoid debt in every form, from credit card debt to mortgages.  Though at one time in my life I used credit (debt) to purchase a home and a new truck, I soon sold the former and paid off the latter.  I have been debt free for years.

I abhor paying bank’s interest and fees.  I pay off my credit card bills in full every month, only carrying a balance on those that do not charge me interest until the promotional period ends.  These are paid in full before the promotion ends.

Thankfully, I have no mortgage debt or car payments, discipling myself to live beneath my means.  This translates into freedom which I value far above slavery.  I don’t live in a fancy house, but at least I can call this humble abode my own.

We often speak of the power of God’s Word, of its supernatural ability to transform our lives.  As I mentioned above, we often fail to understand that this transformation should not only reach into the spiritual, but also the practical aspects of our lives.

The power of Jesus is able to deliver us not only from our bondage to sin (lust, greed, hatred, lying, etc.)–the spiritual aspect of our salvation–but also from the practical aspect of the poor choices we make in life, such as debt.

This is why reading and meditating on Proverbs can transform the practical, every day, nuts and bolts aspect of our lives.  I encourage you to mine its rich ore on a regular basis.

 

 

The problem with the tongue

“He who guards his mouth and his tongue, guards his soul from trouble.”  Proverbs 21:23

I’ve added a new page, titled “Weekly Wisdom,” where I hope to bring you various posts throughout the week highlighting “Pearls of Wisdom” from the timeless book of Proverbs.

If a teenager or young adult would like advice on how they can improve their lives, a systematic, daily reading in Proverbs ranks at the top of the “to do” list.

I have found Proverbs a “must read” for all of us, young or old, who need direction and guidance in life.  I look back on my immersion in the wisdom of Proverbs as one of the reasons I am even half sane today.

People have problems with their tongues and the things that come out of their mouths.  I have struggled with an unruly and undisciplined tongue my entire life, and this small member of my body has started many a raging forest fire.

Solomon, the writer of most of Proverbs, spoke much on the problems of the tongue.  In today’s verse, we learn that guarding the words that come out of our mouths will save us from a crushing weight of grief and pain.

But it was not only Solomon who warned against the destructive power of the tongue; the New Testament writers also warn us of the explosive and damaging nature of an undisciplined mouth.  James wrote the following:

“So also the tongue is a small part of the body, and yet it boasts of great things. See how great a forest is set aflame by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity; the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body, and sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell.” (James 3:5-6)

James gives some incredible insight into the destructive power of the tongue.  Most fail to realize that what comes out of our mouths so often determines the path of our lives.

I will return to this theme, but for now, let’s start our day with the understanding of the power of the tongue to literally shape the path of our existense.  Ask God for wisdom on how you can properly use the tongue for good.

Wisdom v. foolishness

I have a lifelong fascination with the difference between a life lived wisely and one lived foolishly.

Am I a wise man or a foolish one?  Socrates said  the “unexamined life is not worth living.”  To go through life and not thoroughly examine this question would be tragic.

Jesus talked about the wise and foolish man:

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.  The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.  But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand.  The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” Matthew 7:24-27 (NIV)

Jesus was clear on whom He considers wise or foolish.  The wise hear His words and obeys them; the foolish hear but fail to obey.   The difference cannot be overstated.

At one time in America, most children attended Sunday school.  They at least heard the words of Jesus; whether or not they obeyed them was a different story.  Contrast this with post-Christian America where few young people attend church at all, don’t go to Sunday school, so never have a chance to even hear the words of Jesus…much less obey them.

Is it any wonder, then, that we find ourselves surrounded by so many foolish people?

I plan on often returning to this theme in my blogs.  Being a wise man has been a major goal throughout my life, but I’m not sure I have done so well in this critical area.

How about you?

Things no one likes to think about…

Abortion is one of those things.

It’s not a topic that you casually bring up to fill in those uncomfortable dead spaces over dinner with your girlfriend.

But it is a topic you will have to face, sooner or later, if you are sleeping with that girlfriend.

The other day on the University of Arizona (UA) campus, I asked a female student:  “What would you do if you found out you were pregnant?”

The question caught her off guard, even though less than a minute before she admitted she and her boyfriend were sleeping together.  Soon, she admitted to the obvious:  if you are having sex with someone, the reality of getting pregnant is simply part of the equation.  No birth control is 100% effective; you have to prepare for the unexpected.

This jarring reality, that an imminent pregnancy loomed in her future, was something–unbelievably–that she had not seriously considered.  It continually astonishes me how ill-prepared people are in regard to this all important issue.

Can I ask you, friend, what you would do if you found out you were unexpectedly pregnant?  Or what you would do if you received a call from your girlfriend informing you she was pregnant with your baby?

So many people choose to kill their own child when faced with this news, using all sorts of excuses why they must do so:  “I’m not ready to be a parent yet,” or “It will ruin my career,” or “It’s just a blob of tissue, so it’s no big deal.”

What if you are wrong about this being “just a blob of tissue”?  What if you discovered that the life growing within you is nothing less than a full human being…only developing and very small at the moment?  How would you feel if you knew you were killing your very own flesh and blood, denying him or her the chance your mother gave you?

These are just a few of the reasons why the unpopular issue of abortion is critical to discuss.  If we were not talking about ending human life,  I can understand people not being enthusiastic about bringing the subject up at the dinner table.

But if we are indeed talking about ending human life, the subject should be shouted from the housetops 24/7 with no time off for weekends or holidays.

 

What do you think of open-air preachers?

“Brother Jed” (Jed Smock) has been preaching on university campuses across the United States for approximately 40 years, using a preaching style known as “confrontational evangelism.”

If you are the object of this kind of “evangelism,” you might find yourself being called a whore, a slut, a hussy,  a masturbator, etc… all done, in Brother Jed’s opinion, for the glory of God.

Some of Smock’s more memorable sayings are:

“A masturbator today is a homosexual tomorrow.”

“I don’t know how the whorehouses in this town stay open with you sorority girls giving it away for free!”

But perhaps what Brother Jed has become infamous for is his singing of the “Gay Song.”  Here is a Youtube link:

I must confess to something:  I know that I should not laugh at this song, but I can’t help not to each time I watch Jed singing it.  When something is so over the top and as offensive as this is, you can’t help yourself.

When someone thinks of the stereotypical street preacher, Brother Jed is doubtless the caricature that comes to mind.  This is unfortunate, for what few people realize is that Jesus was an open-air preacher, as were virtually all of His twelve apostles and early followers.  Street, or “open-air” preaching, was how the Gospel was propagated throughout the known world in the early centuries after His resurrection.

Certainly, one cannot conceive of Jesus singing the “Gay Song” or speaking in the carnal, sexually  explicit manner that has become the trademark of Smock’s ministry.  Not surprisingly, Jed remains a lighting rod of controversy when he arrives on campuses and has his fair share of detractors, and curiously, has ardent supporters.

Sadly, those who pattern their preaching ministries after Jed’s are undermining the effectiveness of this powerful medium of proclaiming the “Good News.”

Not only this, they are bringing shame on the Name of Jesus, causing many who are offended by their unloving speech and antics to paint all Christians with the same broad brush.  This is the great tradgedy.

Jesus gave this pattern for anyone engaged in the “ministry of the soul”:

“But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”  Matthew 9:13 (NIV)

We would all do well to go and do likewise.

 

 

 

Fiat Lux: "Let there be light."