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making the connection | July 5, 2020

July 7, 2020

12Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel. 13As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. 14And because of my chains, most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear. 15It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. 16The latter do so out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. 17The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. 18But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice. Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, 19for I know that through your prayers and God’s provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance. 20I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. 21For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. – Philippians 1:12-21

We see four kingdom mindsets in these verses:

  1. Confidence despite being a victim (verses 12-14)
  2. Joyful in spite of others (verses 15-18)
  3. Hopeful regardless of circumstances (verses 19-20)
  4. Content because Jesus was central (verse 21)

Take some time to think about these four kingdom attitudes in your own life. Here are some questions to help you process:

Do you struggle with victimhood? Why do you think that is the case? Paul, who truly was a victim, saw his circumstances as an opportunity. How might you see your current circumstances as a way to advance the Gospel?

Do you let others affect you too much? Do you let others steal your joy? Do you blame others for how you’re feeling? Why do you think you do that? How can you shift your thinking so you don’t react like this? What are some ways you can choose to rejoice? How can you use your energy to build the Kingdom of God?

Do you let yourself be too affected by circumstances? Do you lose your hope too quickly? Why do you think that is? What could you do to change that? How can you switch your focus to what really matters: whether Christ is exalted?

Are you content? Is your contentment connected to Jesus’ position in your life? If you’re not there yet, do you at least want to be? What baby steps could you take to start growing in your contentment?

After your time reflecting on the four kingdom mindsets found in Philippians 1:12-21, spend some time in prayer. As you pray, ask God to reveal how He wants to grow you in these areas. Ask Him to help you open up to His leading in your life. Ask Him to change your perspective and help you see the world and your circumstances through His eyes.

Bible Reading Plan | Devotion for the week of June 28, 2020

June 30, 2020


Weekly reading: Matthew 16-20
Passages referenced: Matthew 18:21-35

As we read through the book of Matthew, it becomes very clear where Jesus’ values and focus lie. If someone were to ask you what are some of the key themes you have seen through Jesus’ ministry activities and stories He told, what might you tell them? Here are some that stick out to me from this week’s reading (Matthew 16-20):

  • Your beliefs and worldview largely determine how you live
  • Investment of your life
  • Jesus follows God’s plan and not His own
  • Faith in God’s power over our circumstances
  • Submission to authority
  • Freedom and joy found in child-like faith
  • Everyone matters to God
  • Being generous vs. being fair
  • Living out God’s undeserved grace to others

With so many great themes, it’s difficult for me to pick just one. However, I think it’s important right now to consider God’s perspective on how He deals with people and, in turn, wants us to as well. Growing up, I was always taught to treat people fairly. If I gave one of my friends some candy, then I should offer it to the other non-friends standing with us as well. When you read the parable of the workers in the vineyard, how do you feel about everyone getting paid the same? For me, I don’t like it. As parents, my wife and I often had to respond to a kid’s complaint, “They got something I didn’t, that’s not fair.” We would try to justify why things appeared to be uneven. When I look at this story through the eyes of an employee or employer, I don’t like it any better – unless I’m the guy who works a couple of hours and gets paid a full days’ wages.

The only way to get our minds and hearts around this story is to stop evaluating it with the world’s standards. We would do well to apply this truth: God’s ways are not our ways. In this story, Jesus is trying to help us see how much God loves everyone. He is not trying to give us a couple of tips on how to handle new hires. We love this approach when we are the person receiving more than we deserve. However, when it comes to us having to extend forgiveness, money, or time to someone we think doesn’t deserve it, we often struggle. Why is this?

When we look around, we are conditioned to evaluate others: their dress, the car they drive, the home they live in, how their kids behave, their political bias, etc. Typically, what is more important to us in life are the areas we focus our judgment on – how people spend their money, who they hang out with, where they go to church, or if they go at all. Our brains get reinforcement when some person we have deemed less than us in whatever category struggles or fails at something. We may then consciously or subconsciously think that our way is better. This then puts us in a position to hold back on extending assistance, love, or grace.

Let’s try to consider what is really holding us back. Yes, I understand that the base cause is our sin nature.  However, I believe that if we can dispel the faulty thinking, we can be better prepared to allow the Holy Spirit to lead us into responding more like God would when the circumstances arise. Reflect on the questions below. Be honest with yourself. Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal hidden biases or lies you have been operating from.

  • When you have the opportunity to extend kindness to a person you think doesn’t deserve it, what do you think will happen if you go ahead and help them?
  • Do you think people will not truly value or wisely use your help to them?
  • Do you think Jesus enabled people to stay stuck in the problems of life? If not, why can’t we show a similar kind of love and kindness towards people?

When I consider my personal hesitancy to help or love those I don’t think deserve it, I realize I am playing God and somehow justify my lack of response. One of the ways we can grow in this area of our lives is to stop being concerned with whether or not people deserve something and quit worrying about the outcome. When God loves us, He doesn’t consider whether or not we will be faithful in responding and always being thankful for His grace and provision. Go back and re-read the story Jesus tells in Matthew 18:21-35. Ask the Holy Spirit to change your heart and mind to respond more and more like our loving God does with us.

Scott Nieveen

making the connection | June 28, 2020

June 30, 2020

 

I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart and, whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me. God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus. And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight. – Philippians 1:3-9

Through this passage we see that there are a few ways we can nurture joy in our lives. The first is relationships. We need relationships with people further along in their faith journey who can act as models and guides for us. And we need relationship with people who are less mature in their faith that we can pour into them like others have done for us. Take some time to think about your relationships. Do you have anyone in that mentor position in your life? And are you acting as a mentor for someone else? If the answer is no to either of those questions, spend some time in prayer asking God to reveal opportunities for you to grow in these types of relationships.

The next way to nurture joy in our lives is to grow in our knowledge. We need to grow in our knowledge of God rather than our knowledge about God. When you spend time reading the Bible, listening to sermons, praying, or attending Bible studies, what kind of knowledge are you focused on? Are you more focused on growing in your Bible knowledge, on being book smart? Or are you intentional in seeking to know God rather than know about Him? If you struggle with this, spend some time in prayer asking God to help you focus on knowing Him. Ask Him to guide you and show you specific ways you can change to focus more on your relationship.

The third way to nurture joy in our lives is to grow in insight. In addition to growing in our knowledge of God, we need to grow in our discernment. This is something that becomes easier the more we grow in our knowledge of God. As we get to know Him we gain a better perspective on His ways and how we can better align with Him. We also grow in wisdom as we grow in our knowledge of Him. And with that wisdom comes insight. As we lean into our relationship with God and the knowledge we have of Him, we begin to better discern His will. Take a couple minutes to think about your level of discernment. Is this something that you see already in your life? Or is this something that really needs to be cultivated? Whatever you feel your current level of discernment is, we can all benefit from having more. James 1:5 tells us that, “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” So spend some time in prayer right now asking God to give you more wisdom and discernment. Ask Him to help guide and direct you.

The encouragement for us in this quest to nurture joy in our lives by growing in our knowledge and insight is that it’s a process and we can join together to pray Paul’s prayer in verse four: “And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight.” While that was Paul’s prayer for the church in Philippi all those years ago, it can be our prayer for ourselves today as well.

making the connection | June 21, 2020

June 23, 2020

 

As we begin our new series on Philippians, now is a great time to become better acquainted with the book. There are a few things you can do this week to do just that.

First, read through the whole book. There are only four chapters, so you can totally manage that. In fact, it wouldn’t hurt to read it through at least once a week during this series to become really familiar with it and prepare for Sunday messages.

You can check out The Bible Project’s overview video here: https://youtu.be/oE9qqW1-BkU. The Bible Project describes it as a video that, “breaks down the literary design of the book and its flow of thought.” It is an excellent resource for those who appreciate some visuals while learning.

And you can read the introduction to Philippians from the Zondervan NIV Study Bible below. It will provide you some great background information on Philippi, its residents, and the content of Paul’s letter to them. Check it out:

Philippians Introduction

Author, Date, and Place of Writing

The Early Church was unanimous in its testimony that Philippians was written by the Apostle Paul (1:1). Internally the letter reveals the stamp of genuineness. The many personal references of the author fit what we know of Paul from other New Testament books.

It is evident that Paul wrote the letter from prison (1:13-14). Some have argued that this imprisonment took place in Ephesus, perhaps circa A.D.53-55; others put it in Caesarea c. 57-59. Best evidence, however, favors Rome as the place of origin and the date as c. 61. This fits well with the account of Paul’s house arrest in Acts 28:14-31. When he wrote Philippians, he was not in the Mamertine dungeon as he was when he wrote 2 Timothy. He was in his own rented house, where for two years he was free to impart the Gospel to all who came to him.

Purpose

Paul’s primary purpose in writing this letter was to thank the Philippians for the gift they had sent him upon learning of his detention at Rome (1:5; 4:10-19). However, he makes use of this occasion to fulfill several other desires:

  1. To report on his own circumstances (1:12-26; 4:10-19)
  2. To encourage the Philippians to stand firm in the face of persecution and rejoice regardless of circumstances (1:27-30; 4:4)
  3. To exhort them to humility and unity (2:1-11; 4:2-5)
  4. To commend Timothy and Epaphroditus to the Philippian church (2:19-30)
  5. To warn the Philippians against the Judaizers (legalists) and antinomians (libertines) among them (chapter 3)

Recipients

The city of Philippi was named after King Philip II of Macedon, father of Alexander the Great. It was a prosperous Roman colony, which meant that the citizens of Philippi were also citizens of the city of Rome itself. They prided themselves on being Romans (Acts 16:21), dressed like Romans, and often spoke Latin. No doubt this was the background for Paul’s reference to the believer’s heavenly citizenship (3:20-21). Many of the Philippians were retired military men who had been given land in the vicinity and who, in turn, served as a military presence in this frontier city. That Philippi was a Roman colony may explain why there were not enough Jews there to permit the establishment of a synagogue and why Paul does not quote the Old Testament in the Philippian letter.

Characteristics

  1. Philippians contains no Old Testament quotations.
  2. It is a missionary thank-you letter in which the missionary reports on the progress of his work.
  3. It manifests a particularly vigorous type of Christian living:
    1. Self-humbling (2:1-4)
    2. Pressing toward the goal (3:13-14)
    3. Lack of anxiety (4:6)
    4. Ability to do all things (4:13)
  4. It is outstanding as the New Testament letter of joy; the word “joy” in its various forms occurs some 16 times.
  5. It contains one of the most profound Christological passages in the New Testament (2:5-11). Yet, profound as it is, Paul includes it mainly for illustrative purposes.

Outline

  1. Greetings (1:1-2)
  2. Thanksgiving and prayer for the Philippians (1:3-11)
  3. Paul’s personal circumstances (1:12-26)
  4. Exhortations (1:27-2:18)
    1. Living a life worthy of the Gospel (1:27-30)
    2. Following the servant attitude of Christ (2:1-18)
  5. Paul’s associates in the Gospel (2:19-30)
    1. Timothy (2:19-24)
    2. Epaphroditus (2:25-30)
  6. Warnings against Judaizers and antinomians (3:1-4:1)
    1. Against Judaizers or legalists (3:1-16)
    2. Against antinomians or libertines (3:17-4:1)
  7. Final exhortations, thanks, and conclusion (4:2-23)
    1. Exhortations concerning various aspects of Christian life (4:2-9)
    2. Concluding testimony and repeated thanks (4:10-20)
    3. Final greetings and benediction (4:21-23)

Philippi in the Time of Paul

The Romans colony of Philippi (Colonia Augusta Julia Philippenis) was an important city in Macedonia, located on the main highway leading from the eastern provinces to Rome. This road, the Via Egnatia, bisected the city’s forum and was the chief cause of its prosperity and political importance. Ten miles distance on the coast was Neapolis, the place where Paul landed after sailing from Troas, in response to the Macedonian vision.

As a prominent city of the gold-producing region of Macedonia, Philippi had a proud history. Named originally after Philip II, the father of Alexander the Great, the city was later honored with the name of Julius Caesar and Augustus. Many Italian settlers from the legions swelled the ranks of citizens and made Philippi vigorous and polyglot. It grew from a small settlement to a city of dignity and privilege. Among its highest honors was the ius Italicum, by which it enjoyed rights legally equivalent to those of Italian cities.

Ruins of the theater, the acropolis, the forum, the baths, and the commemorative arch (about a mile west of the city) have been found. A little further beyond the arch at the Gangites River is the place where Paul addressed some God-fearing women and where Lydia was converted (Acts 16:13-15).

Bible Reading Plan | Devotion for the week of June 14, 2020

June 17, 2020


Weekly Reading: Matthew 6-10
Passages Referenced: John 16:13; Matthew 6:9-15; Psalm 143:10; Philippians 2:13

In times of war, natural disaster, and persecution, the church suffers together and witnesses to a watching world by showing the reality of Christ’s love. – Dr. James C. Wilhoit

In this week’s reading, Jesus is already knee-deep in the sermon of all sermons, “The Sermon on the Mount.” Starting with this profound message and continuing through Matthew 11, Jesus is announcing the Kingdom through teaching, preaching, and healing. One of the key moments in this section is the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus describes a way to pray that helps us grasp God’s character and His relationship with the world. Prayer, in the way Jesus describes, changes us and frees us to show the reality of His love to a suffering world.

Before exploring the Lord’s Prayer, let’s pause and reflect on the practice of Bible reading and study. While we often treat Bible reading as a practice that is separate from prayer, Bible reading assumes we are praying and seeking the Spirit’s guidance. We need the Holy Spirit to illuminate God’s Word for us. We need the Spirit to take what we read to speak to our hearts and give us insight as to how what we read affects us, changes us, and helps us orient to the situation of the world around us (see John 16:13). The Word of God is timely when we engage with it prayerfully, open to the Spirit’s help.

The Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-15) also helps us orient to whatever situations we face in the world around us. It has been used by Christians since the church came into existence. As Wheaton professor James Wilhoit says, “Martin Luther used the Lord’s Prayer as a structure for long prayer times, going word by word or phrase by phrase, speaking with God about the significance of the words in his life.” The Lord’s Prayer includes (at least) four important emphases: Trust, Forgiveness, Persistence, and Community.

Trust – “Our Father”

At the beginning of the prayer, we are called to reach out to the God of the Universe in personal terms. He is our Father and we are His children. What better way to start than to orient around the truth that He is not distant and impersonal? He cares deeply for us, all of us.

Forgiveness – “Forgive us our sins, as we forgive”

Building on our understanding of God as a loving father, we are prompted to ask Him for the forgiveness we need. All of us are fallible. We sin. We neglect to love our neighbor. And with Him, there is forgiveness and a challenge to mirror His forgiveness in our lives.

Persistence – “Give us this day our daily bread”

We are encouraged to seek Him daily, or as often as we realize our need for Him. Because He is the most trustworthy and most able to help, we should depend on Him for everything we need to live another day. This is not limited to our physical needs; we depend on Him to guide our thoughts, our words, and our actions.

Community – “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil”

Throughout the prayer, Jesus encourages the disciples to pray corporately (as a whole). The model for prayer is that the church together seeks God and learns to depend on Him together. When our brother or sister is struggling, we pray to our Father just as much to lift them up as ourselves. He is faithful to lead us (as a body) away from temptation, protect us from evil, and guide us toward accomplishing His will on earth.

Prayer changes us. God often uses it to form and prepare us to act as ambassadors of His love in this world. In the book Experiencing God, Henry Blackaby says, “Prayer is designed more to adjust you to God than to adjust God to you.” We see several phrases tied to present action in the Lord’s Prayer: “your will be done on earth,” “give us this day,” “forgive us, as we forgive others,” and “lead us.” When we see phrases like this, we hopefully realize that prayer is not simply about giving concerns to God and sitting idle. God has a plan and a mission in this world and we have a part. Yet, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all task for us. Instead, we are taught to pray to prepare us to face whatever challenges we encounter in our lifetimes. So, we are called to pray in the spirit of Psalm 143:10, “Teach me to do your will, for you are my God; may your good Spirit lead me on level ground.” And we pray with the truth of Philippians 2:13 at the forefront of our minds, “For it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.” – Nate Metler

Joy Remains: The Book of Philippians

June 16, 2020

Are you troubled by the news or exhausted by life’s current circumstances? Maybe you’re somewhere in the middle, tip-toeing around your pain, just wondering where your happiness went?

Join us for a new series this summer as we dive into the four chapters of Philippians to learn about the contentment, freedom, and joy that Paul writes about while imprisoned, awaiting trial. Because, when we learn to find our hope and peace in Jesus first, we begin to recognize His bigger plan, and our collective place in it. Then, and only then, do we discover that, despite our suffering, by defiant choice… Joy Remains.

Services are on Sundays at 9 and 10:45am online and in-person. If you’d like to join us in-person, be sure to check out our guidelines and remember to reserve your seats at www.warsaw.cc/back

making the connection | June 14, 2020

June 16, 2020

“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one—in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world. Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.” – John 17:20-26

What an encouragement it is to know that Jesus prayed for us over 2000 years ago and continues to intercede on our behalf today (Hebrews 6:19-20). In the midst of all the uncertainty and unrest we find ourselves in these days, it is a comfort to know that we are not in this alone. Jesus said that He would build His church and all the powers of Hell wouldn’t be able to conquer it (Matthew 16:18). That means our political animosity isn’t more powerful than Jesus. And that COVID-19 isn’t more powerful than Jesus. And that our hatred and prejudice and unrest and misunderstanding and poor communication and lack of love aren’t more powerful than Jesus.

But that doesn’t let us off the hook. We have work to do. We aren’t called to just passively let Jesus’ prayer come about. We are called to action. We are called to be people who love. We are called to be people who value and seek unity. We are called to admit when we’re wrong. We are called to be people who let Christ work in us and through us. And this is because we know that He is the answer. To everything. To our needs, worries, and hopes. And to the world’s needs, worries, and hopes. So, let’s love like Christ first loved us. Let’s love our sisters and brothers in Christ, which leads to unity. And then, together, let’s love those who have yet to experience the incredible, transformative, powerful, life-giving love of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

Read & Study

Read all of Jesus’ prayer for the disciples and all believers (us) in John 17. Use the following prompts to help you study:

Observation: Who? What? Where? When? Why? How? What does it say? What do I notice?

Interpretation: What are the key themes or truths? What is the writer’s intended meaning? What is the context? What questions do I have?

Application: How do I apply it? What are the implications in my life? What does this mean for me?

making the connection | June 7, 2020

June 9, 2020

God’s sustaining grace can be such a beautiful and powerful thing. We saw that to be true in the story of Elijah in 1 Kings 18. And that can be true in our lives as well. The three elements of God’s sustaining grace that we looked at Sunday are belief in God, prayer with God, and power of God.

The first element, belief in God, is knowing who God is and resting in that. That includes believing things like God is a promise maker and a promise keeper. Prayer with God, the second element, is about our relationship with Him. We shouldn’t just go to Him with our list of demands; we should go to Him to spend time with Him like we do with our other relationships. We should communicate to Him and be open to Him communicating to us as well. And the third element of God’s sustaining grace is the power of God. When we try on our own, we will fail, but God never will. He is infinitely powerful. As Psalm 73:26 says: My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

Let’s long to regularly experience God’s sustaining grace in our lives – not saving grace but grace that gives strength, encouragement, power, and wisdom. And as we long for that, let’s not forget the truth of Hebrews 6:19-20 that we’ve focused on this whole series: We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf. He has become a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.

Read & Study

Read some of Elijah’s story in 1 Kings 18 and surrounding chapters. Use the following prompts to help you study:

Observation: Who? What? Where? When? Why? How? What does it say? What do I notice?

Interpretation: What are the key themes or truths? What is the writer’s intended meaning? What is the context? What questions do I have?

Application: How do I apply it? What are the implications in my life? What does this mean for me?

Together

June 8, 2020

In John 17 Jesus prayed that we would be one – united in Christ. In times like these, how do we continue to love God and love others – together? Join us online or gather again in-person on Sunday, June 14 at 9 and 10:45am as Denny dives into Jesus’ prayer for us – that we would be TOGETHER.

 

Remember… if you would like to join us in-person beginning June 14, please review our Back in the Building plan guidelines and reserve your seats.

Bible Reading Plan | Devotion for the week of May 31, 2020

June 3, 2020

Weekly Reading: Romans 12-16
Passages Referenced: John 3:16 & Romans 15:13

I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit. – Romans 15:13

Without hope in Jesus Christ, the world can often be filled with fear and angst. When we rely on our hope in Christ, it brings joy, peace, and the confidence that this world is not our home. Often our final words to friends and loved ones are words that are personal and give reassurance. The same comfort that Paul expressed in his last words to his friends in Rome can be applied to us today.

What do these words reveal about the character of God and what He wants for his people? God desires us to not live life as if this is all there is. We have the hope of eternal life with the creator of the universe who loves us beyond what we can comprehend. (For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. – John 3:16) Through the power of the Holy Spirit, hope is strengthened in us the more we are confident in believing in the promises of God. He is the source of all hope.

Stop a moment and reflect on some of the promises you know about God. Here are a few examples for you:

God is…
a promise keeper (Romans 4:21)
your hiding place (Psalm 32:7).
your shield (Psalm 18:30)

God will…
be with you always (Deuteronomy 31:8)
give you rest (Matthew 11:28)
meet all of your needs (Philippians 4:19)
comfort you (Isaiah 66:13)

In addition to the seven statements above, what other truths or promises came to mind? Spend some time reflecting on how these have been true in your life. Repeat these in your mind as you start your day and when you rest at night. Sometimes, if I cannot sleep at night, I take each letter of the alphabet and identify the attributes and promises of God. For example: “You are all-knowing, God. You are not bound by time. You are in control…” Doing this prevents me from worrying about worldly things and puts my focus on the truths of who God is.

God desires us to be so confident in the hope we have in Him that this hope overflows. He doesn’t want us to have a little hope here and a little hope there. When something overflows, it is so full that the contents go over and beyond. How do you reflect the hope of the gospel to the world around you? Does it shine so bright that people are drawn to it?

Take time to pray and meditate on who God is, asking Him to fill you with a fresh hope in Him. May the confidence of heaven and an eternity spent with our loving, heavenly Father bring you joy and peace.

– Bonnie Swanson