The Book of Revelation and Church Leadership, PXII

beatitudes-righteousnessRead Revelation 2: 8-11

“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The one who conquers will not be hurt by the second death.” Revelation 2: 11

Ironically, the city of Smyrna was known for their faithfulness to Rome, but its church started to withdraw their faithfulness to our Lord! So, even though the churches of Smyrna and Philadelphia were the only two fully praised by Christ, they still had to heed to Christ and listen or they too will start to fall like the other five.

Jesus earned the right to be listened to. Not just by being God, Creator; conversely, as this passage reminds us, He lived life in purity and sinlessness for our benefit, to enable us to have eternal life and partake in His fellowship. He knows us more intimately that we can imagine and desires that we be with Him and glorify Him fully. Yet, we tend not to listen to Him in our personal lives and how we lead and mange His Church. Many leaders today tend to fill His call with the void of our stubbornness, recklessness, and selfishness.

Yet, Jesus is there, guiding us with a beacon that says I know your pain, I felt your pain, I have experienced your pain and I feel your pain now, too. He has taken our pain away. The tribulations we face are not the things that can derail us from Him; rather, they can form us more of Him in maturity and character.

He who has an ear. God means what He says (Ezek. 33:30-32; James 1: 21-27; 2 Pet. 1: 3-11)! This also means that God fulfills His promises. Do you take His Word seriously, learning and applying it? If not, why not?

Like the style of an O.T. Prophet and the oracles against the corrupt king and priesthood, issuing the call to repentance. Jesus calls to us “let’s get it right”. Jesus directly challenges these early churches with an application us, in how we operate our church, what we doing right, where we are straying away from His call and precepts, what is heinous about us, and what we can do to get back on track. Christ is here, caring, and is present in our church (Isa. 13-23; Jer. 46-51; Ezek. 25-32; Amos 2-4)!

“Synagogue of Satan,” meaning being an apostate is referring to the local Synagogue and of Jews who were very antagonistic to the Christians as they refused to acknowledge Christ as the Messiah and who called the Christians a Synagogue of Satan.

Jesus is passionately concerned with what we do and how we do with the leadership of His Church, and wants to be intimately involved (Matt. 7:20; 10:16; 2 Tim. 2:15; 1 John 4:1).

So what does this come down to?

The perspective in each of these letters is not just about future happenings, the Seven Churches were real, actual churches with tangible problems. Thus, the first four chapters of Revelation is also a practical guidebook on how to run a successful church and how to avoid the potholes that make a bad church. Each of these seven churches had characteristics that are a template to any church you can worship in today. These churches were real “alive” and “dead” churches that yours, in its vision and operation, are a footprint thereof. So, which one is yours? Which one are you called to be among today?

In Christian leadership, we are to hunger for righteousness and seeking the depths of God’s love, the Word and virtue, and in so doing, being committed to continue allowing yourself to grow in maturity, to be transformed, and to be renewed. At the same time, it is not allowing personal circumstances to disrupt your faith (Matt. 5:3-6; Rom. 12:1-3; 2 Cor. 8:8-12; Phil. 2:5-9).

Reflection

We have to ask ourselves, are we operating to the opposite tune that Jesus commands as this Synagogue and the church of Smyrna were starting to?

When we seek to engage His church on our own, we turn it into a church of evil, as it will be diametrically opposed to Christ, as Satan is opposed to Him. We may not be worshipping Satan, but when we run the church by our ways and agendas, we are, in fact, worshipping Satan, because Christ is not only ignored, He is being opposed! Just as this Smyrna was a church where people’s agendas were in opposition to Christ’s. They had sufferings to overcome and learn from, but most chose to run the course their way and tarnish His Way.

Let us learn, refocus and always and joyfully point ourselves and church to Christ as LORD!

The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 2 Corinthians 4:4

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The Book of Revelation and Church Leadership, PXI

church of Smyrna

“‘I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich) and the slander of those who say that they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. Do not fear what you are about to suffer….” Revelation 2: 9-10

 

Read Revelation 2: 8-11 

How would you appraise your church from this letter to the church in Smyrna? 

“Smyrna” is a Greek word for myrrh, a bitter herb used both as an anointing oil, and for embalming, and was one of the gifts the wise men brought to Jesus as a young child (Ex. 30:23; Esth. 2:12; Psalm 45:8; Prov. 7:17; Matt. 2:11; John 19:39). 

The churches of Smyrna and Philadelphia were the only two of the seven that were fully praised by Christ. Even though Smyrna was praised, they were treading on dangerous ground. They were starting to be bitter as their name applies. After facing much persecution, they became belligerent against Christ and turned against one another, forsaking their call and duty. They had the opportunity to learn and grow from their situation, but instead, they chose bitterness and strife. They embraced fearfulness instead of faithfulness.

Like the church of Smyrna, we will all face sufferings and trials. It is not the questioning of them to help us cope, but how we learn and deal with them that help shape our spiritual formation.

The trials we face will be used to enrich our own lives and make us a beacon to help others in their trials, too. When we cave in to our fears, we will only be insolvent in real poverty, bankrupted spiritually because of our opposition to Christ as our Lord and Sustainer.

These letters to the seven churches echo the good, the bad, and the ugly in all churches.

Jesus directly challenges them, and us, in how we operate our church, what we doing right, where we are straying, what is heinous about us, and what we can do to get back on track. Christ is here, caring, and is present in our church! He is passionately concerned with what we do and how we do it, and wants to be intimately involved (Matt. 7:20; 10:16; 2 Tim. 2:15; 1 John 4:1).

“Church” means a body of believers who come together for worship, instructions, and to serve. This does not refer to a building. Many churches have many different types of people, liturgies, and government. Many are not always true Christians or have God’s interests at heart; rather, they are driven by personal agendas or trends that are contrary to the precepts of our Lord. Jesus is attacking our placing personal agendas and power struggles over His lead!

Smyrna, now called Izmir in Turkey, was a beautiful, large, prosperous, and loyal city and the center of the Emperor worship practice. Furthermore, there was a tough, antagonistic Jewish Synagogue there, giving the Christians a squeeze in the middle of persecution and hostility. The city officials were betraying and falsely accusing the Christians. The Jews kicked them out of their fellowship, a scandalous act for a Jew.

This Smyrna church was composed of people who were burnt out and were starting to lose their faithfulness.

Thus, instead of continuing to fight the ravages of persecution with trust and obedience to Christ, they decided to ignore His precepts and do their own thing. Even though they professed to worship and honor Christ, they did not do so fully in their deeds and attitudes (2 Cor. 4:4). They were once a vibrant, healthy church, but were starting to die.

This city of Smyrna was destroyed and laid in ruins, then rebuilt, as in resurrected (800-300 BC). The application is that a dead or dying church with faithful, Christ-empowered people can be turned around and resurrected! John’s disciple, Polycarp, became the Bishop there and did resurrect it until he was martyred 30 or so years later (or at this time, depending how you date Revelation-another proof for a late date for Revelation if he is the “Angel”).

So what does this come down to? 

Your church can remain faithful no matter what, if you are focused on Christ as LORD and not circumstances!

The troubles we face can cause us to fear so we seek to cover them up with our pride and/or bitterness. We try to go it alone when Christ is beckoning us to trust in Him, go His Way, and give our fears to Him. When we refuse to heed His call, it will just be a short time until we are thrown away, given to the devil, since we are working for him anyway. Ironically, our sufferings are far less of a venture and sentence than our poor choices.

When we work our lives and church with our corrupt personal power we are in fact abandoning His power and Fruit. Consider this: when we are independent from Christ in our personal lives and in running our churches, we are forsaking and opposing Him. Thus, it is not that much of a stretch or even a job relocation to be a church of Satan, since we are already such a place. But, when we trust in Him, He will give us the strength to endure.

Reflection

How can the fact that Jesus knows us more intimately that we can imagine, and desires us to be in Him strengthen your churches collective faithfulness? What can you do to grow your church in this area and to glorify Him more fully?

When we are faithful, we become beacons of hope and encouragement to others, too. We will become lifesavers, thrown to those who are drowning. Christ will use us in the plights of others as hands to grab on to and pull others up when they are sinking. But, if we are not faithful, there is no outstretched hand, only missed opportunities and an infamy to a community, a life wasted, a church of dysfunction, and a crown of shame instead of a crown of life. God asks us to be conquerors and faithful witnesses to whom and what He is! We cannot do that as a church of Satan!

 

The Book of Revelation and Church Leadership, PX

 love lost bRead Revelation 2: 1-7 

Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.”  Revelation 2: 5

How would you appraise your church from this letter to the church in Ephesus? What is your church doing right as listed here, and what is it doing wrong? 

Keep in mind as you read Revelation, it was a letter written to the Seven Churches of Asia Minor, which is now modern, but has implications and applications to our church and lives today Turkey (Rev. 1:4, 11). 

The church in Ephesus was both good and bad. They were doing some good because of their endurance in persecution. They did not tolerate false teaching or those with bad agendas that were contrary to God’s precepts. They were doing so well, most people in their busy-ness who would go to a church like this might not have noticed anything was missing. Or, perhaps they would be the victim of the ugly that happens when a key component of doing Church is left out. They had discernment, but had trouble with loving.

They lost the most important thing about being in Christ-the Fruit of His Love flowing through us so it touches others.

No amount of sacrifice or good teaching can make up for a lack of love! People see Christ by how we exhibit character and love, and this church was not doing that. Then, Jesus passionately challenged them to get back to Him, get back to loving. To solidify His point and the importance of love, He warned them that if they refused to love, they would be refusing Him, and that they would be judged for it.

I hold this against you… first love… Forsaken. They had forgotten the most important aspect of a church! This may also mean they had bad attitudes, too, that they were once enthusiastic but now are apathetic. They stopped the love that they had for Christ and for one another. They abandon, as in abandoning a child. There, love was left out. Sound doctrine without love and care is like salt poured in dirt; it is useless (Jer. 2:2; 1 John 4; Rev. 2:19).

Repent. Jesus is calling them back to His love. He asks them to remember who they are and Who He is, to hold on to Him and to dwell in Him.

When we slip, it is gradual and we do not notice; sometimes, we do not care or see this as a problem. Thus, to call us back, Jesus sometimes must threaten judgment unless we start running our churches as they and we have been called to do. Like yelling at a child running into the street who is not looking or listening. This is serious business! If an unloving church repents, it can be saved and rebooted to serve and glorify Christ. If not, it will close and be a rotten memory to the community and to Christ! So, deliberate with our leadership how is your church at loving?

Who are the Nicolaitans? They were a heretical group that venerated Jezebel and Balaam with their horrible demeanor, false teachers, and manipulators. They also were experimenting with Gnosticism, believing that their Christian liberty gave them the freedom to practice sin, idolatry, immorality, and engage fully the pagan culture while remaining Christians (Acts 6:5). What angered Jesus further is that they taught they were “improving” Christianity by teaching people to compromise their faith so they could join in the culture and avoid persecution. ”

So what does this come down to?

Does this sound like the new liberalism infesting the church today to tell us to compromise on Biblical principles?

Nicolaitan” means conquer the people. Apparently, this church also micromanaged and lorded over its people just as a cult does today, which is also very bad and ugly (Matt. 21:20-27; 23:1-12; Acts 6:5).

The Spirit means hear the Word of God. It refers to the vision of the prophecy and perhaps the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, too (Amos 3:1; 4:1; 5:1; Rev. 1:10; 14:13).

We are told that we can conquer like winning an athletic event or military campaign. To persevere in the face of adversity and being better for it. This does not mean we earn our salvation nor have any effect regarding it; rather, it means to be faithful.

Reflection

Our growth in Him demonstrates our faith; it is our growth in Christ that keeps us here on this earth. No matter what is facing us and no matter what we have experienced, what we go through in life is meant to form our character and maturity. What we learn is what we carry into eternity. When we fail and do not overcome, it is disappointing in our Lord’s sight. Being faithful is the key that opens to us the door to living in the New Jerusalem (John 13:34; 16:33; Phil. 1; 1 John 4:20; 5:4-5; Rev. 2:11, 17, 26; 3:5, 12, 21; 21:1-22:5).

What can you do to carefully and seriously examine your own church so you are all doing your best for His highest? What would it take to make the needed improvements? How would the people in your church handle some examination?

“My heart and my flesh cry out for the living God” Psalm 84:2.

The Book of Revelation and Church Leadership, PVIII

love lostRead Revelation 2: 1-7

These are the words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstandsYet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first.” Revelation 2: 1, 4

How important is it to you to be loved? How important is it to you to love others? How does your church show love? How are these three connected? If you get this, you can grow your church! Thus, consider the ways your church can do to make sure you are a golden lampstand that radiates Christ’s love, and never forget or lose our first love? 

John is asked to write a letter to seven churches, giving them encouragements, blessings, and condemnations. These are areas we all must carefully and seriously examine our own church to see if we are doing our best for His highest! As you read Revelation, consider that each of these seven churches is an actual church, then, and a representation of every church that has ever been, including yours. Read Revelation 2-3 and examine and pray, which one are you?

The letter is a clear proclamation of the sovereignty and eminence of Christ, who stands in authority and judgment to show that He is in charge, that He does care, and that we need to get aligned with His will or else suffer the consequences. His Church is His Church; it does not belong to us even though we are the Church in unity and being. We belong to Him with a distinction and a purpose, we must heed, take to heart, and practice to the best of our abilities and endeavors.

Thus, we need to have the mindset we are in worship and disciple and be effectual stewards of this endeavor to glorify Christ. 

Golden lampstands” refers to God’s Light, as the Church is the light to the world for God’s Glory. Christ is the destiny and pattern we follow and emulate. This shows His care, that Jesus is God and omniscient (all knowing and all seeing), and the One who is to inspire us, lead us and Who we worship.

So, why do so many churches fail and close down?

Because we did not do as we are called to do and as the letter states, as the warning proclaims, remove your lampstand. Judgment will be at hand soon, unless they repent!  The same for us, unless…  Jesus threatens them with judgment if they do not start to love again! This is also a parody of words, since the city of Ephesus had to be removed and then moved. So, is your church a golden lampstand or one whose has flamed out? All you have to do is repent and catch the love again (1 Cor. 13; 1 Thess. 1:3). 

So, keep in mind the principle purpose of the writing is to encourage and chastise them for how they were running their churches (Rev. 2:1-3:22). Which should cause us to heed how we run the ones we are called to steward?

John restated the importance of discipleship and Christian formation so they (we) could be authentic Christians of excellence and distinction, bringing no disrepute to Christ or His Church.

Jesus ends this letter with the importance of listening and heeding His precepts. God wants His Church to succeed, He wants you to succeed. John was fully convinced that Christ would triumph over the forces of Satan and his work in the world. As can we. He then exhorted them to be faithful and discerning between what is false and what is truth, and warned them not to worship the Emperor or to comply with evil, apathy, or compromise.

So what does this come down to?

We are to allow the flow of the Holy Spirit, and to be Love led, Sprit-led and Word led, not self-led, especially with how we lead the Church. A church can only be successful as long as love is penetrating and being modeled from its leadership and members with a zeal for Christ and His love. When love is lost, so is the church (1 Cor. 13; 1 John 4:19)! 

Reflection 

Why do you suppose this church in Ephesus had trouble with loving? Do you think people could become victims of the ‘ugly’ that happens when a key component of doing church is left out? 

What does it mean to your church that Jesus is in charge and that He does care for you? How can this help you be aligned more with His will?

What if your church refuses to heed Christ as Lord? Does He have the right to judge your church? Would you deserve to suffer the consequences? Why do many Christians feel the answers to these questions is “no?” 

What are you going to do now about God’s call to heed Him and love them?

 

The Book of Revelation and Church Leadership, PVII

Revelation 1 17

Read Revelation 1: 17-20

“… When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead…” Revelation 1: 17

Why is it important that when we run our churches, we do so with God’s power and precepts leading us and not our ways or trends?

Read Revelation 1: 17-20. What do you see in this passage that you can apply to your church today? Consider, what should be the essential framework to build your church into a healthier church? And then compare it to what are you doing now and what was done in the past? 

We are shown a plan. Christ, with His full mercy and grace, allows John to stand, gives him comfort, and gives him the important task of recording His precepts. We are shown Who and What our Living Lord is and does. Then we respond by living it out, preaching it out and follow-through it all out. Take a look at verse 19, it is interesting; it may set a tone for the meaning of Revelation, not necessarily literally, but as imageries that have a meaning for a purpose that is for us now and will still be so in its culmination. 

In the Upper Room, John reclined with Jesus for His last Supper and leaned on Him to show his devotion and love (John 13:32). Now, he falls at his feet. Jesus shows John His love by helping him stand. The lesson for us is we must understand the importance of reverence. We come before a holy God. He is not just a pal or friend or guide to dispense feel good sound bites; rather, He is our Savior and our Lord (2 Cor. 5:16). He has the keys in His hand; we have no need to fear our future when He is our Light, Guide, and Lord!

This is Who we bow to, Who we proclaim, Who we teach about and inspire and equip our people too. 

The hair on his head was white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire.  

Let’s see what the Word has to say with these key words:

Fell at his feet” is an attitude and posture of great respect and awe. This can also mean the terror that was felt until the Angel touched and relieved them (Gen. 15:12; Deut. 3:2; Josh. 8:1; Jer. 1:8; Ezek. 1:28; 11:13; Dan. 8:18; 10:10; John 6:35; Rev. 4:10; 5:8; 7:11; 19:10; 22:8).

I am the First and the Last” is the same as the Alpha and Omega in verse eight. Christ is eternal and fully God in all areas, attributes, power, character, and sovereignty (Isa. 44:6; 48:12; Rev. 2:8; 22:13).

Living One” refers to the resurrection and the triumphant Christ as the living God who gives us life, and then new life, renewal, and reason, and how He will renew the entire world. This is a contrast to paganism and the “gods” of wood and metal who are lifeless, careless, petty, and meaningless; our God is living and involved (Jos. 3:10; Psalm 42:2; 84:2; Isa. 41:4; 44:6; 48:12; Rev. 2:8; 5:9; 20:4-5; 22:1-2).

Keys of death and Hades” indicates that Christ is in absolute control over all domains and also points to His future role. Hades is the general realm of the dead; thus, Christ’s power is all encompassing. Keys were a symbol of power and influence. The one who held the keys was the authority and the one in control. It is very encouraging to those who are facing death to know that Christ is there and in control, and can open those gates at any time, including at the last days (Psalm 9:13; Isa. 22:21-22; Matt. 16:18; Acts 2:27-31; Rev. 20:14).

What is now and what will take place later” indicates past, present, and future, and refers to what is in Revelation references. It is for the present and future as well as rooted in the past, but not completed as of this writing. This can also refer to Revelation being divided into three parts: past in chapter 1:12-16, present in chapters 2-3, and future in chapters 4-22. However, each section contains content of all three “then, now, and later,” and does not necessarily refer to the entire structure of the Revelation (John 19:35).

The mystery,” this does not mean something not understandable or hidden; rather, it is something known to God that He reveals to us in His good time. We cannot guess what we do not know; however, Christ does know. Here, John plainly tells us the meaning, just as Jesus did with the parable of the sower (1 Cor. 2:7; 2 Thess. 2:7).

Angels,” meaning “messengers,” can mean people used by God to convey His message, such as pastors, or heavenly beings who live and work in Heaven. We are to realize our place and position to be holding on to Christ. The context seems to indicate the latter. Or, it can mean the significance of the churches in Heaven, that they are spiritual entities. This can also mean the prevailing characterization of the theme and “spirit” of each church or a “guardian angel.” In all practicality, it could refer to the seven different messengers John is sending with copies of his Epistle (Dan. 10:10-21; Matt. 18: 10; Luke 7:24; 9:52; Rev. 1:11; 10:1; 22:6). 

So what does this come down to? An indicator to see what is the condition of your church?

Is He properly reverenced and referenced, taught about and honored, or is He just a self-help guide?

Does Jesus control your church or do you or others think they do? How is your light shining before others?

Our Light is Christ and we are called to show Him in our lives and in our Church! How can you do this better?

Why are Christians so interested in chasing fads? PII

 

Read Revelation 17-18

Here in this passage, being a “harlot” does not just mean standing on a street corner soliciting for unlawful relations; rather, it means for church leaders that we are engaged in and promoting apostasy!

Thus, betraying our Lord as in being a harlot to Christ. And this gives us a vital depiction on how God feels when we false teach, become prideful, lead His children astray, we are in fact betraying Him, insulting His Lordship; thus, being a prostitute with His Most precious Word!

What does this look like? The bad pastor and church leader is into themselves, and they lead their people away from God’s path, becoming disloyal to God and His true Truths to the point they blaspheme God. They focus their people to trust in materialism and trends that neuter the Bible, water down His Word and in so doing replace discipleship with mere entertainment and lead others to do so, too. In so doing, a harlot, just as Scripture shows us, is not ashamed, but rather boisterous and proud of sin.

What about factions, gossip, and pride? These are the things that God hates the most and cause the greatest destruction to any given church, something even Satan himself could never do.

Point? We are the real enemy, our sin building and conniving and converging upon one another, while we ignore Christ and His supremacy, precepts, and call!

God is calling you and me–those who lead and pastor churches, who influence people in the church, who sit on committees, teach, or the like to flee from manipulating and gossiping behind the scenes-to wake up and SEEK HIM, not ourselves or ideas or plans or trends!

Are we being “harlots” with His Church?

If so, stop, pray, and get right with God. If you can’t, then get out of leadership until you are right with God and His call and His precepts!

Keep in mind in this passage–it is a stern warning that sin will cause ruin. Their sins are piled high, and God wants to remove the sin. Instead of seeking God’s grace and mercy, they pile on more sin and seek the evils of pleasure without responsibility, which will bring them torment, sorrow, and extreme helplessness. Those who sought favor and wealth from sin will mourn, but those who are righteous will be joyful and jubilant. Those who trusted in luxury and splendor will mourn; those whose trust was/is in Christ will praise God. In a single moment, what they thought was important will be gone.

What really is important will remain and increase. God’s glory and eminence is steadfast and proclaimed; the hope of the faithful comes to its fruition!

 

Whose Dwelling is your Church?

The Living Stone is defined as a dwelling! Dwellings need to be cared for, maintained, preserved, and, of course, used. His dwelling is where we can take rest and comfort out of the “weather” of life, and then regroup, recharge, and go out into the world with His Word in our hearts, attitudes, and minds.

The incredible news of this is we still remain in His dwelling. When we go out, we are still inside His presence and care. His Living Stone is also the mobile Stone; thus, wherever we go, we are still under His shelter and care, no matter where we are or what we face.

When we care for Him, we are being “acceptable to God” (Rom. 15:14-16; 1 Pet. 2:5). God accepts us by His sacrifice for our sins (Heb.13: 15-16). Because of His work, we are complete in Him, we are deeply loved and accepted, and we do not need acceptance by any other person or means to be fulfilled (Col. 1:21-22; 2:13-15; James 1:4; 1 John 4:9-11)! 

The cornerstone in building construction was of the highest quality, and cut in precision to the design. It was either the top cap of an arch or the corner of the foundation, each one critical to design integrity and stability. If we guide our church incorrectly or without the pursuit of excellence and holiness, the structure—the purpose of His Church—will not be built accurately and might fail. The matter of choosing how we see and use our Cornerstone is essential to where we are going in our faith both personally and collectively. Do not go astray; do not compromise to please anyone, or your church will be the Church of Perfidy! 

The propose of the Church is to know Christ, encounter Him, worship Him, grow in Him, and then, when we leave those physical doors, make Him known to others. We cannot let our pride, petty whims, and trends derail us from our core principles distilled from biblical precepts.

The bottom line is that we must be willing and able to get rid of anything that contradicts or compromises the Word of God! It is OK to search and use insights from varying sources. In fact, that is what we do here at Into Thy Word as we research and develop curriculum to help you grow closer to Him personally, and run your church more biblically for His glory. However, it is never too late to repent and turn your church around! I have made many mistakes, personally. I have followed bad trends and have started some. I have been prideful and perhaps broken all of the above precepts from time to time. But, God is a God of grace and forgiveness; He still uses me, and He will use you, too. However, we can be better. Let us be willing to grow in Him and serve Him in love and faithfulness, setting aside our pride and will; then our churches will be healthy and vibrant for His wondrous glory!