Thursday Reflection: Oreo Perspectives

oreos source

During a Bible study on Matthew 5:17-20, we read about Jesus discussing the importance of the law and regulations that preceded him and how they related to his Gospel ministry. 

17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.
18 For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.
Matthew 5:17-20

After we read the passage, the question was posed as to how one would explain this passage to someone with little to no background on Jesus, or the Law and prophets he talks about.  The answer we found was unconventional, but effective: the Oreo.

First, I am a lover and devotee of all things snacks. In all honesty, I would be totally content to entirely replace all large meals with unending and continuous snacking. Of course the problem is that doing so is a slippery slope, a diet with no boundaries or limitations and no cap as to when enough is enough. Because, although our stomachs can correctly inform us of our physical satisfaction, one glance at a bag containing what, in that particular moment, is all that is good in this world, “what’s just one more handful?” Oreos can be your best friend and worse enemy.

Oreos are unique cookies. The two chocolate cookies are separated, yet united, by a thin, or sometimes if you’re lucky, double-layered, cream filling. The Oreo is unity in contrast. The cookies, while delicious if eaten on their own, leave something to be desired apart from the filling. They are quite dry and the richness and crunchiness of the chocolate can be somewhat overwhelming. On the other hand, the filling in the middle, while sweet and easy on the palette, is simple and one dimensional without a contrasting texture or flavor.

The only way to fully appreciate an Oreo, the Oreo that everyone knows and loves, is to eat the cookie in its entirety with both the cookies and filling contributing equally to the experience.

What does any of this have to do with Matthew 5? In the Bible we see two contrasting sides. On one side we find the Old Testament, beginning with Genesis and ending in the prophet Malachi.  On the other, we find the New Testament, beginning with the Gospel of Matthew and ending in Revelation. One’s approach to the Bible and how these two sides interact or contrast with one another can radically determine on’s approach to God and his son Jesus.

Compare the Old Testament to the chocolate cookies. For some people, the experience of the Old Testament is less than positive. The Old Testament can be difficult to understand, difficult to relate to and difficult to find any use for in the present day. One might say that the “texture” of the Old Testament is too “crunchy” and the flavor is too rich and overwhelming in too large of quantities.

If the Old Testament is the cookie layers, the New Testament is the cream filling. The New Testament is seen as a welcome departure from the Old Testament: the language seems easier to understand, the stories seem more heart-warming, and Jesus seems quite loving and gentle as opposed to the God of hell, fire and damnation of the Old Testament. The stories of Jesus often concern healing, grace and redemption. One might say that, like the Oreo Cookie filling, the New Testament is sweet and enjoyable and a welcome respite from the crunchy rich chocolate cookies.

This brings us finally back to the scripture in Matthew. In the passage Jesus stressed the importance of the Old Testament scriptures and how necessary they are to fully understand his Gospel ministry. One can view his mission as a circle. Prior to Jesus, the circle was forming but not complete. Jesus did not come to create a new circle but to complete the circle already being made. Without a strong understanding of the prophets and the history preceding Jesus, nothing about his Gospel ministry in Israel makes sense or matters.

In fact, it is because of the entire Old Testament that Jesus did the things he did and say the things he said. The more we read the Gospels, the more we realize that everything Jesus did was motivated by the desire to connect the listener to the past, where God spoke in the same words and acted in the same ways. His entire ministry was overflowing with a consciousness that he is the great “I am” from Exodus, completely unchanged.

For the purposes of our Oreo analogy, Jesus is saying that the filling of his Gospel ministry is sweet but without the cookies of the Law and prophets, the product is incomplete. Filling without the cookies is not an Oreo, it’s simply filling. The writer of Hebrews expounds on this point by saying:

39 These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised,
40 since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect. 
Hebrews 11:39-40

With cookies and no filling, or filling but no cookies, you don’t have an Oreo.

Many of us spend 90 percent of Bible-reading time swimming in the New Testament. While I do this myself from time to time, we cannot disregard the Old Testament as disconnected from the New. The Old Testament is the foundation of the New, and the New is the revelation and completion of the Old. The Bible is two sides that cannot exist independent of each other. Jesus came to connect and reveal the two. To focus only on one is to misunderstand the teaching of Jesus himself and to misunderstand the relationship of God to us.

In my Bible studies we spend a lot of time with people who are new to Jesus and the Bible. With this being the case, we often spend more time in the New Testament introducing people to the Gospel and Jesus. However, once these individuals witness Jesus’ Gospel ministry, we see them diving head first into the previously offensive and at one time overwhelming Old Testament, where they begin to see the pearls that the Spirit begins to reveal.

While one side of the Bible might be more appealing to you, never neglect the other. It is in the marriage of the two that you see the truest picture of God and how he relates to us. Once someone asked me how I could say that, by reading the Bible, I can gain a better and more complete picture of who God is and what he is like. My response was that reading the Bible is like building a jigsaw puzzle. By reading the Old with the New Testament together, we are given the pieces to the puzzle. While we will never possess all of the pieces to the puzzle and the picture will always have missing sections for our faith ponder, the pieces provided by both the Old and New Testaments reveal enough to us to see God and understand him, as he desires us to.


Tuesday Devotional: 2 Corinthians 2-3


Read 2 Corinthians 2:12-3:18bible

The human heart longs for beauty.  We seek it every day of our lives, and we recognize it when we see or experience it.  It is no coincidence that we are taken aback by the beauties in nature or in the human spirit.  While many differences separate us, we all find a commonality in this search for and discovery of beauty.  Found in the message of Christ is the epitome of beauty.  At the heart of the Gospel is the story of a God who has never given up on his children. Due to his desire to witness his love for them manifested and recreated in their relationships with each other, he even sacrificed his own Son to accomplish his objective.  The message of the Gospel is radical and incomprehensible love.  It is heart wrenching self-sacrifice for the undeserving and unfaithful.  It is intimacy, healing and peace.  This Gospel in its essence unaided, unaltered and uncompromised is beautiful and sweet to the one who finds it.  Every human being is seeking this message in the deep recesses of the heart.  But our every attempt to fulfill our desires through worldly means fails, leaving us rethinking our plans to fill this void.  Like a hole in a leaky roof, this void in the human heart can only be filled by something its precise shape and size.  The void is the result of our rejection of the Father’s love, and therefore the only thing that can heal that void is precisely that, the Father’s love.  Other solutions will temporarily mend the wound, but over time weaknesses will cause the gradual deterioration of the heart.

The message and life of Christ is “a sweet fragrance”: however, this fragrance is a delicate one.  In the control of our sinful tendencies, the sweet aroma of the Gospel can quickly become the stench of something we would rather avoid.  The aroma of the Gospel is only preserved through the Word of God, handed down to us through the power of the Holy Spirit.  The aroma of the Gospel, represented in the lives of those who profess faith in it, will only be sweet if the Holy Spirit has transformed those lives as well.  Anything short of this will result in sinful men speaking to sinful men as sinful men, incapable of spreading a message that was not from men to begin with.   Allowing the Holy Spirit to speak for himself, allowing Him to present the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the world, will unleash that beautiful aroma that we all crave.

The Impossible Religion: Purpose




This reflection series,  “The Impossible Religion,” reveals five specific problems that people have with the gospel of Jesus. These impossibilities arise when Christianity is a religion to achieve, rather than simply the “good news” of grace and redemption that will naturally transform us. Christianity outside of Christ’s redemption is in fact impossible, but with God nothing is impossible. For the next five weeks, we’ll go through Scriptures from five different areas of the Bible in order to confront these impossibilities:

Impossible Purpose (Revelation 4)

The Book of Revelation is one of the most difficult books in the entire Bible to read and understand.  It is filled with symbolism that is not only hard for us to picture mentally, but hard for us to understand spiritually.  Amidst the creatures, events and objects found throughout John’s vision is one simple image repeated: a Lamb on a throne.

The lamb is actually absent from Chapter 4, appearing first in Chapter 5.  However, what we do see is that the throne in the vision is important and extremely valuable.  The throne is the centerpiece of heaven.  The throne is the reason for everything surrounding it.  Without the throne nothing else matters, and nothing else makes sense.

In the first section of this series we learned about the Nazirite vow, the vow of complete and unwavering devotion to the most-high God.  We also learned that the Nazirite, in a life of selfless sacrifice and devotion, was ever aware of the shortcomings of the human heart in the “Creator-Creation” relationship.  Although these individuals devoted themselves to living for God completely, they knew that regardless of all of the sacrifices, actions and words, they could never overcome sin through deeds of their own.  The presence of sin in a life of pure devotion is due to the broken original covenant between God and man. Something had to be done in order to reconcile the sin in each of us with the overwhelming presence and purity of God.

The way in which the ancient Israelites acknowledged this need was through animal sacrifices.

When I read the Bible for the first time I was caught up on certain issues that left me scratching my head in confusion and disbelief.  Certain things made sense and certain things were understandable, albeit foreign to me.  Animal sacrifices were one issue that I wrestled with, and I eventually resigned this area of scripture as a subject left in mystery.  I simply could not understand the need or purpose for such unthinkable amounts of animal death.

I love meat (and I actually love lamb). However, my animal-loving self sided with all of these helpless lambs being sacrificed for the sake of human sins.  It simply did not seem fair.

Imagine you pull out of a parking lot and scratch the car parked next to yours, causing visible damage.  As you evaluate the damage done to the other car, the owner of the damaged car arrives and sees that you are responsible for the damage. You have been caught as the responsible party, and prepare yourself for the repercussions.  But the owner spots a young child walking by and places the responsibility of paying for the damage on her (stay with me here). Now, the owner claims, it is the child’s responsibility to pay for the damage.

Naturally, we would protest and demand that the responsibility be placed back where it belongs, and to let the child go free.

This is how I viewed the lambs.  I felt that to put the mistakes of a man on the life of an innocent animal seemed cruel and unfair.  Until, that is, I found what awaited me on the hill called Golgotha.

There are many references to Jesus as a “lamb” in the Bible, whether directly or through implication.  John the Baptist referred to Jesus the first time he saw him as, the Lamb of God.  Isaiah referred to the Messiah as being, “led like a Lamb to the slaughter.” Also, Jesus hosted a Passover dinner with his disciples that distinctly required the presence of Lamb on the table to be served, however, at this particular Passover meal there was no Lamb to be found except Jesus saying that it was his duty to be “broken for them.”

The timing of Jesus’ execution was also interesting, given that on the Passover the Lamb was to be sacrificed by each family to remember the protective qualities of the Lamb’s blood on the doorframes during the Exodus that protected each Israelite from the plague of death and brought them into new life in the promised land.  Each sacrificed Lamb on Passover was to be sacrificed without defect or broken bones.  In an attempt to hasten the death of the criminals adorning the crosses on Golgotha, the knees of all but one were broken.  Jesus’ bones were left untouched. Not until I saw Jesus fulfill the role of the sacrificial Lamb did I gain perspective on the animal sacrifices of the Old Testament.

I reflected on my sympathy for the innocent lambs, and was confounded by the fact that hanging on the cross was not an animal, nothing in common with myself.  The sacrifice hanging on the cross was a human being.   This man understood the words of those who sacrificed him.   He understood the realities of the suffering and injustice he was facing.  Above all, he was slaughtered with love and prayers on his lips for those who deserved no such compassion.  He had no place being hung from a tree, and every right and reason to demand justice and freedom from such a responsibility.  Yet, the story unfolded differently: “the Lamb” remained silent.

In Revelation 4, we find a magnificent throne, adored and praised by all in its presence.  On the throne sits a Lamb who willfully gave his life for a creation that willfully chose to sacrifice him.  It is the throne toward which all Scripture points, and it is on the Lamb who occupies it that all creation rests.  Without the Lamb, without Jesus, Christianity is in fact an “impossible religion.”  Without Jesus we are instantly overburdened by the expectations of our faith.  Without Jesus, the standards are impossible to reflect in our daily lives.  Without Jesus, we will never trust this stranger God with our everything.  Without Jesus, we will never be changed by the claim of resurrection beyond momentary inspiration or habitual tradition.  Without Jesus, the purpose of our lives, why we are called to live the way we are, will ever remain unknown to us, and will collapse under doubt and distrust.

Christianity is not an impossible religion.  At its center is a God who came to us as Jesus Christ in order to share with us “the good news.”  This good news claims the power to transform a life that goes beyond our power to change ourselves.  Because of the slain Lamb, this “good news” claims things that no other religion dares to.  The God of creation lowered himself to be one with us.  He called himself Immanuel, God with us.

As the final hours of his life drew near, Jesus told Governor Pilate that “everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”  Christianity is impossible only if we refuse to listen to this truth.  If we choose to stop and listen to the message, Christianity has the power to achieve the impossible.

Tuesday Devotional: 1 Corinthians 1


bibleRead 1 Corinthians 1:10-17

It is far too easy for us to place unjustifiable importance and honor on those men and women who lead us, while forgetting the role they play within the framework of spreading the Gospel of the one and only Jesus Christ.  There was only one sacrifice.  There was only one redeemer.  There was only one who became a servant to all in a mission to save all.  Church leaders, called to instruct others in the Gospel, are by nature sinners like you and I.  They could not save themselves, and required the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

Becoming distracted by leaders and forgetful of the man Jesus Christ bypasses the necessity of faith in the life of a Christian.  Following a human requires little to no faith in the gospel: they are physically in our presence, we can hear their words directly as they speak them, and they can likewise hear ours.  We are tempted to accept these leaders as advisers with good stories and useful life lessons, and not representatives of Jesus Christ.  In fact, it is quite possible for one to attend church, read the Bible and pray without the deeply personal need for the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.  When we hope in man and not Christ alone, our transformation in the image of Christ is cut off at the source. We will never truly change, we will never be free and we will never truly have life in its purest form.  No man can change another man and make him new.  Only the work of Jesus Christ, and faith in Him as Savior, Lord and God can do that.  Church leaders are stewards of this love story of God and his children, but they are not characters in the story.  They, like us, have been given the story, blessed by it and now share it with others.  We must never forget the purpose of this story, that its focal point is always Jesus. By His name and by His stripes we are healed.

The Impossible Religion: Power


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This reflection series,  “The Impossible Religion,” reveals five specific problems that people have with the gospel of Jesus. These impossibilities arise when Christianity is a religion to achieve, rather than simply the “good news” of grace and redemption that will naturally transform us. Christianity outside of Christ’s redemption is in fact impossible, but with God nothing is impossible. For the next five weeks, we’ll go through Scriptures from five different areas of the Bible in order to confront these impossibilities:


Impossible Power (Mark 16)

In Mark 16, what Jesus had been promising all along had finally come true.  The stone was rolled away and what he foretold would happen actually happened.  He was risen.  He was the Christ.  He was who he said he was.

If, that is, you believe the Gospel account.

What happened on that third day is amazing, yet for many, impossible to believe.  The idea that Jesus could resurrect himself and then appear for forty days teaching, speaking, eating and living in human form seems like a myth or fairytale: fun to talk about but foolish to have faith in.

The world we live in simply does not work that way. When we die, we die.  But if you read the Gospel of Mark for fifteen chapters before reaching that final sixteenth chapter, you will have already encountered a Jesus who claims to be removed from this life and beyond our understanding of it.  Throughout each of the four gospels Jesus consistently tells us that he is “The Life.”

Initial reactions to the resurrection often take two forms, one from the side of belief and the other from non-belief. Both are incorrect in their foundations.

For many Christians, the reading of the Passion narrative, ending in the empty tomb, is a tradition to honor and a story to recite.  Reading about the Resurrection is similar to watching the end of “Sleeping Beauty.”  How nice, we think, how romantic. Wouldn’t it be nice if life were really like that?

To my knowledge, no one has ever finished watching “Sleeping Beauty” saying, “Isn’t it great that that happened!  How amazing! I wish I could have been there to see it!”  If someone were to react that way, we would respond to them in judgmental, sympathetic and annoyed disbelief.  We all know that “Sleeping Beauty” is a fairytale and we end the discussion there.  We aren’t wrong for doing so, because we know that the story doesn’t claim to be true and to change our lives forever.  It’s a story.  That’s it.

There are many self-professing Christians who read Mark 16 in the same way they watch “Sleeping Beauty.”  They read the story and feel nice and warm inside, but it never transcends the pages to impact their real lives.  The purpose of “Sleeping Beauty” is to entertain, to tell a made-up story.  The Gospels are different: they proclaim truth and promise change.  The apostle Paul confronts this attitude in 1 Corinthians 15, telling is that if the tomb wasn’t actually empty, if the Resurrection did not occur in fact, then everything we do as Christians is not only without purpose but is harmful, foolish and pitiful.  Living life under the belief that “Sleeping Beauty” is a true story would be something to be ashamed of, not proud.  No one, at least to my knowledge, has faced death joyfully professing confidence in the story of “Sleeping Beauty.”  Yet thousands, including eleven of the twelve original disciples of Jesus Christ, have died full of joy in the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the story of the empty tomb.

Somehow, belief in the cross is easier than belief in the empty tomb.  However, to stop at the cross makes the life of Jesus the story of a failed and dishonest teacher that does not deserve our attention or worship.   There are many other teachers and wise men throughout history who did not make the outrageous claims of deity that Jesus did, and if he were not actually who he said he was we could follow the teachings of any one of them.  However, to believe in the empty tomb means to acknowledge the life of Jesus Christ as he proclaimed it.  He called himself “the way, the truth, the life,” even “the resurrection and the life,” and to believe in Jesus Christ means to believe in life beyond the tomb.

For non-believers, the main difficulty in believing in the empty tomb originates with distrust in the Gospels.  This distrust which I myself displayed for many years comes from ignorance in the facts behind the four Gospel narratives of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

Non-believers see the Gospels as simply legends that were written many years after Jesus died, and the stories, including the Resurrection, came out of the desire to create a version of Jesus that was more what the writers wanted him to be and less what he actually claimed to be.

If one takes this view of the Gospels, we have to ask several questions.  First, when were the Gospels written?  Given the span of time separating the death of Jesus and the first account of the Gospels, was there sufficient time for “myth” or “legend” to arise?  What would be the motivation for the writers to write such an account the way they did?  Lastly, what if any incentive would there be in doing that for them personally?

First up is the issue of time.  According to the most current historical and archaeological research, the general consensus is that they were written much closer to the life of Jesus than what most people believe.   Since we are focusing on the Gospel of Mark it is sensible to discuss the most widely accepted view in its original date of composition.

Most scholars believe that the Gospel of Mark was written close to 20-25 years after the death of Jesus.  For those of us outside the historical evidence arena, this might still seem like a long time passed beyond the actual events being recorded.  However, when we look at the written accounts of prominent historical figures, like Alexander the Great, we find that the earliest account of his life was written close to 300 years after Alexander’s death.  Yet, we believe that Alexander the Great lived and did the things we are taught he did.  1 Corinthians 15 has Paul receiving the story of Jesus– living, teaching, being crucified and rising from the dead on the third day– within five years of the crucifixion.  Five years!  In the historical context, that is barely a moment. To recount stories with accuracy given such a short period of elapsed time between the actual events and the recording of them is more than plausible.

Secondly, we must consider motivation and incentive.  How would writing the Gospels affect the lives of the authors as individuals?  Some imagine 21st century televangelists with white-toothed smiles and expensive suits, lining his pockets.  From this perspective, the motivation to write these stories would be to materially benefit their own lives. But this is to completely neglect the realities of their world.  For these men, to identify as a Christian was a death sentence.

To be Christian during the time when the Gospels were written meant to be threatened from all sides.  Due to the horrifying persecution from men like Nero or Diocletian, Christians were motivated to construct the catacombs in Rome and the tunnel dwellings of Cappadocia, where they could feel at least a small sense of security in their worship and Christian lives. It is in this environment that the Gospel writers wrote their “stories.”

Not only were they heavily judged and persecuted outside of Israel, they were also fought from within as their Jewish brethren attempted for years to squelch the worship of Jesus Christ.  Eventually one of the most notable preachers of the Gospel, Paul started as a prominent persecutor of the church.   We now know through the historical records that all but one disciple of Jesus were executed for their belief and continued support of the Christian church and the gospel of Jesus Christ.

By writing the Gospels, these people were literally risking their lives, and many lost their lives.

No matter who you are, your life will be defined by what you believe about the empty tomb.  Those who believe will understand that not even death is to be feared.  Those who do not see this world as all there really is.   The power of the Resurrection of Jesus is there for everyone to see and find, but the question to each person is, do you want to find it?

Tuesday Devotional: Romans 1


Read Romans 1:18-32bible

“Punishment” is often attributed to God long before “love” or “grace.”  The wrath of God is far more interesting a headline than his humble sacrifice and endless love for those who have not loved him.  For many, the creator God is an authority figure to his inferior creation, small beneath his heavy hand.  In this vertical perception of holy hierarchy, there is far too much room for rules and consequences and far less room for love and grace.  While God has established his law and standards and there are indeed consequences to breaking them, the punishment of God is often misunderstood.  As most of us experience punishment, an act of disobedience is swiftly followed by an act of punishment intended to end the disobedience.  This is reactionary punishment.  While this approach to punishment is effective, the punishment of God is typically far more lesson driven.  God’s desire is not limited to putting an end to our misbehavior, but shows us how our misbehavior has terrifying effects on not only our own lives but others as well.  When punishment is associated merely with our own actions, isolated to us as individuals, we learn obedience and punishment in a system of self-preservation and self-service.  Godly wrath and punishment is far broader and more terrifying.  God’s punishment intends to show us that with freedom to seek the satisfaction of our human desires, we are capable of far more destruction than one single act.

Will a child learn and understand the consequences of stealing the car keys and driving the family car more if stopped before leaving the driveway, or if allowed to drive around the city for a single hour?  The first is a warning of things that could have been.  The second is an experience of consequences.  The second leaves no room for hypotheticals or what ifs.  It locates the disobedience directly within the consequences.  Therefore, the punishment of God in terms of letting us carry out our desires without correction is far more terrifying than a direct rebuke by the Lord Almighty before a false step is taken.  However, in this way we are better able to understand the purpose of his law when we face our own destructive tendencies.  Only by experiencing the dangers of our own nature can we not only accept but desire his laws, decrees and protection from ourselves.  Save us from ourselves, Lord God Almighty!


Read your Bible with Bible Steps!


biblestepsMobile Word Ministry is excited to release our new Bible reading program called, Bible Steps.

While reading the Bible cover to cover can seem daunting it is only by reading the entire Bible that we can truly understand its purpose, God’s purpose and our purpose.  Bible Steps is designed to help you understand the complete theme and narrative of the Bible by taking short passages from the Bible in each book and discussing their place within the context of the Bible’s message in sixty-six small steps.

Our hope is that Bible Steps can help you read your Bible more and understand it better so that the power in the word of God can truly be found by you personally and transform your life.

If you have any questions, please contact us at

Mobile Word Ministry Chapter Studies!


reasoningr and c

Mobile Word Ministry is excited to release our two part chapter study series.  The first part, “Reflections and Connections” covers some of the foundational aspects of the Christian faith using easy to understand analogies taking typically beyond our reach topics and putting them well within our grasp.  The second part, “Reasoning the Rest” discusses Christian beliefs and practices that are often left untaught or unexplained leaving many people simply believing for the sake of obedience or tradition.  Here at Mobile Word Ministry we refuse to except belief, “Just Because.”  We need to know why we do the things we do and at Mobile Word Ministry we want to help you find the answer to that question.

Our chapter studies can be downloaded free of charge as pdf files and we encourage you to use the chapters for your self-study or in a group setting.

As always, if you have any questions please contact us at

ASK Bible Study Guide!



The ASK Bible study guide is not new to Mobile Word Ministry but it might be new to you.  We have been using the ASK Bible study guide for about 6 months in both English and Korean (you can find the Korean guide under “Mobile Word International” and it has proven to be an effective tool in focusing each group on the priorities of scripture.  Download the guide for free and try it out with your group.

If you are interested in using the ASK Guide, please download the Leader’s Guide as well to understand the thought process behind the ASK format.  If you have any questions, please email us at

Take a closer look!




New sections have been added to the “About Nathan” section of Mobile Word Ministry.  Take a closer look at how Nathan met God in “Meeting God,” how God used Nathan in South Korea to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the past 5 years in “Making Disciples,” and how God united the body of Christ in Daegu, South Korea in “Connecting the Church.”  Enjoy and if you have any questions feel free to send us an email at